Preserving ceramics – a work placement project

We welcomed three university students to the archives earlier this year to work on ceramic objects in our Holt Bairnsfather Collection and Graham Thomas Collection. The students were joining us on work placements as part of their studies, and were asked to complete a number of tasks to help us preserve, catalogue and make accessible these collections:

  • Reviewing: Carrying out a condition report for each item in the collection and photographing each item
  • Cleaning: Using conservation materials to gently clean the items to ensure they are free of dust and grime
  • Repacking: Creating custom enclosures for each item using plastazote and ‘Really Useful Boxes’
  • Listing: Creating descriptions for each item in a spreadsheet that will be imported into Calm, our Collection Management System

You can find out more about these collections on our catalogue:
Holt Bairnsfather Collection
Graham Thomas Collection

Harvey (Canterbury Christ Church University)

Working on the Bairnsfather Collection has been my first experience working as a part of an archival team. It has been an amazing experience and has taught me a lot about not only how working in an archive works but also about a part of history that I did not know a lot about before starting my placement here.

The work I did as part of the team was cataloguing, filling out condition reports, and packaging the items that were to be added to the collection. When cataloguing and completing condition reports it was vital to note down every important detail which people might find important when looking to study these items. Fully assessing the condition was also important as it could be that a detail that someone wanted to look at is damaged, or it could help the archival team know what needed to be handled with a little extra care. When looking into the items to write up their description I learned a lot about not only the items themselves but also about the history surrounding them. This was history I was unlikely to look into myself as I am more of a medievalist.

The beginnings of packaging being constructed

The process of creating protective packaging for the items was a very interesting one as it was not something I had considered as a part of working in an archive before this point. It was one of the reasons for which I applied to do my placement at the Kent Special Collections and Archives department. The way I created the packaging for the items changed throughout my placement.

The figure of President Wilson, depicted holding an ammunition shell.

At first I took measurements at every new layer of plastazote (the main material used in the creation of the packaging). However, by the end, I would measure the first layer and then use that as a template for the rest of the layers. Using scraps of the foam was also a way in which I could make layers on particularly unique shapes of items as it was easier to use the smaller, already-cut pieces than it would be to cut out new ones.

 

 

 

Overall, I found my time working with the Bairnsfather Collection to be very rewarding. The skills and history I learned are invaluable and I look forward to going back and helping out again.

Nirvanna (Canterbury Christ Church University)

This post is dedicated to commemorating the University of Kent’s Special Collections and Archives department and their continuative effort to make unique historical collections available to the benefit of wider society. This department houses and stores over one hundred and fifty collections which range from materials including memorabilia, ceramics, and publications. Throughout the duration of my time working alongside this department, I assisted with the archival processing of the Graham Thomas Collection.

The Graham Thomas Collection

This collection was gifted to the University’s Special Collections and Archives Department by the former lecturer in politics Dr Graham Thomas, after he passed away in April 2023. Dr Graham Thomas was an active participant in the founding of the British Cartoon Archive in the early 1970s. His addition to the Archives consists of the personal items he acquired throughout his lifetime, relating to theatre and cartoons, including the political and cartoon ceramics that will follow in this post.

F.C.G “Toby” Jugs

Fig 1. Pictured is the F.C.G “Toby” Jug Collection depicting seven of the eleven allied war leaders, President Woodrow Wilson depicted in navy blue to the left, Marshall Foch in the centre and David Lloyd George on the right.

A large part of this collection is the political memorabilia collected by Dr Thomas in the form of ceramics. An example of this is the F.C.G “Toby” series pictured in figure 1. This collection represents the full series created by political cartoonist Sir Francis Carruthers Gould in 1917, depicting eleven allied war leaders as decorative ceramic toby jugs. These figures include Winston Churchill (pictured in figure two below) and President Woodrow Wilson (pictured in figure one above), both of whom were widely influential during World War I.

Figure two: pictured Winston Churchill Soane and Smith Toby Jug, 1918, © University of Kent Special Collections and Archives

The accumulation of this series has proven to be a rarity as, upon research, only a limited number of each character toby jug was produced by the makers, Wilkinsons Ltd. Accompanying the figures of the Toby jugs is documentation explaining the release of this toby series as pictured in figure three below. The documentation briefly states that during the time the series was released, there was an increase of demand leading to a ‘reserve list’ for subscribers enquiring after these unique pieces, which consequently required buyers to pay a high price for them. With their existence being in demand from consumers it prompted the producers Soane and Smith to destroy the moulds after their creation so that others could not attempt to replicate them.

Background of Political figure ceramics

The use of ceramics to depict images has been historically significant to convey wider societal opinions on specific subject matters. For modern-day political artists, ceramics and cartoon depictions will be created with the intention to capture the common thoughts and reactions to the affairs of political leaders. The narrative behind these creations has followed the attempt to admonish their audience using satire to question political thought and encourage subversion in the public.

Fig 3: Documentation of a poster promoting the release of the F.C.G “Toby” Series © University of Kent Special Collections and Archives.

The importance of archiving and housing records of such suggestive ceramics is so that there is an inclusive record of public opinion. Not only the fact of historical events, but the lasting effect of politicians on public lives. Many of which, during their time period, did not have a voice to change or challenge governmental authority on their own.

Concluding thoughts

In credit to the Special Collections and Archives department, the artefacts they collect continue to increase the exposure of unknown stories to the wider public. Thus, allowing the general public to access resources that sustain the education of past culture for current and future generations.

Further Reading

Books: Edith Garcia, Ceramics and the Human Figure, (A&C Black Visual Arts, 2012).

Open Access Articles: Deniz Onur Erman, ‘Ceramics and Humour,’ Procedia – Social and Behavioural Sciences, Vol. 51, (2012), p 413.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042812033198?ref=pdf_download&fr=RR-2&rr=87d0ff274cec888f

Its Inmates Absurd: The Velvet Underground at the University of Kent 1971

This is a guest blog from our volunteer Peter Stanfield, Emeritus Professor of Film at the University of Kent. Peter has been studying our editions of the University of Kent’s student newspaper ‘InCant’ to build our knowledge of the bands and artists playing on the University Campus in the 1960s and 1970s. If you have any memories of this gig – please do let us know! Email specialcollections@kent.ac.uk.

 

Its Inmates Absurd: The Velvet Underground at the University of Kent 1971

“After about the first two years we got talking. . .”

– Maureen Tucker on rehearsing with the Velvet Underground

As a live proposition, The Velvet Underground, sans Lou Reed, existed for an improbable 2 ½ years, which included two tours of Europe in 1971 and 1972. In England, Autumn 1971, most of their gigs were on the burgeoning university and college circuit. On November 4, they made an appearance at the University of Kent. The big recent attractions on campus had been The Who, Eliot Dining Hall, May 1970 and in March 1971, in the Sports Hall, Led Zeppelin. More generally, student entertainment was provided by middle-ranking progressive rock bands – Mick Abrahams, Colosseum, Blodwyn Pig and local heroes Caravan. Kent alumni Spirogyra were an ever present feature. In all likelihood, the bookers thought the Velvet Underground would fit right into this scene. For their drummer, Maureen Tucker, the VU were always the exception to such trends.

Image of Maureen Tucker, holding drum sticks, playing the drums for the Velvet Underground.

Image of Maureen Tucker playing in the Velvet Underground at the University of Kent, InCant Student Newspaper, 17th March 1971

The Velvets performed in the Rutherford Dining Hall to a positive response, if the reviewer for the student paper InCant was any indicator. He or she considered them to be a ‘genuine rock and roll band in the American sense, as opposed to the likes of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath’. The reviewer delighted in their choice of covers ­ – Dixie Cups’ ‘Chapel of Love’ and standards ‘Turn On Your Love Light’ and ‘Spare Change’. Lou Reed songs ‘Sweet Nuthin’, ‘Sister Ray’, ‘After Hours’ and, the ‘beautifully corny’ (!?!), ‘White Light/White Heat’ were highlights, with the latter described as ‘funky’ by Doug Yule. InCant’s critic agreed.

Black and white image of an article from InCant student newspaper about a Velvet Underground gig showing two photographs of performers and text descriptions

Review of Velvet Underground gig, InCant Student Newspaper, November 17th 1971.

The interview with the only original member of the band, Maureen Tucker, is a peach. Asked about the shifts in the line-up, she said:

It’s been such a gradual change that to me anyway there’s been no apparent effect. After about the first two years we got talking . . . it was a mutual agreement that we were kind of getting sick of going on stage playing 30 minute songs. It’s just not original after a while, so Lou (Reed) started writing more four minute songs, rock and roll songs. Now it’s even more regular rock and roll than it ever was.

 

What happened to Nico? She wanted to go off on her own and be a big star

Image of a text article from InCant newspaper about a performance by the band, Velvet Underground

News item on the Velvet Underground concert, InCant student newspaper, Nov 17th 1971

Like most of the events held by the Student’s Union, The Velvet Underground gig lost money; the organisers putting lack of interest, it was suggested, down to the fact the band’s line-up had changed. On that basis they had tried to cancel but were unable to break the contract. Steeleye Span proved to be a bigger draw.

Black and white image of a performer singing at a microphone playing a guitar. He is wearing jeans, a white mickey mouse t-shirt and a thin scarf or tie around his neck.

Image from news article in InCant student newspaper, Issue No 70, 17th November 1971, p6

Back in April 1971, student Helen Chastel had provided InCant with a review of Loaded, soon to be released in the UK. It is one the best summaries of the VU I’ve read.

Proposition: for consistent and versatile genius in rock the Velvet Underground (or V.U.s to the cognoscenti) are equalled only to Dylan and the Stones. Don’t ask questions if you dispute it, write your own review. If you deny it, you are a Quintessence or Andy Williams fan and not worth bothering with.

Helen clearly didn’t think they belonged with the progressive mediocrities. She was a total fan, she’d bought her copy of Loaded in Washington last Christmas while on an exchange to the States and she knew someone who knew Lou Reed – ‘virtuoso extraordinaire, ex-child prodigy, now repudiator of drugs and hippies, mythical recluse . . . Sainthood is all in the mind.’

How many recognise themselves in the line ‘The deep sleep of a suburban upbringing can be shattered by sudden exposure to such a group’? Faced with VU & Nico, Helen ‘saw darkness of which I knew nothing, saw an extreme weariness, people born to die. Eliot (her college at Kent) life became petty, its inmates absurd.’ Reed, she wrote, had a ‘clear and cliché-less view of modern city life’, White Light/White Heat extended even further ‘into a chaos of light, blood, heat and noise . . . The third album is a surfacing, a return to verbal precision’. . . Lou Reed, Saint of the City. Helen Chastel, Saint of VU fans. . .

Image of a text article from a student newspaper titled "Velvet Underground", by Helen Chastel

Review of the Velvet Underground album ‘Loaded’ by Helen Chastel, published in InCant, the University of Kent Student Newspaper, issue No 62, 17th February 1971, p6.

On that same tour of British Universities, the VU entertained Warwick University’s student cohort. Genesis P-Orridge’s COMUS providing support (they also played at Kent in May 1972). Ad and review from the Warwick Boar student paper.

Image of an advert for gigs in Warwick

Gig advertisement for Warwick University

‘The Velvet Underground from whom great things were expected . . .’ Like at Kent, attendance fell below expectations.

Image of an article reviewing 'Ents' at Warwick University including two photographs and a text description of the gigs

Review of ‘Ents’ at Warwick University including the Velvet Underground

 

For Peter’s original blog see the following link:

https://www.peterstanfield.com/blog/2024/2/8/velvet-underground

Oral History Student Volunteers – Get involved!

Local Stories: Memories of Hopping around Brook and Wye, Kent. 

Do you…

  • Have an interest in oral history?
  • Want to receive free training in conducting oral history interviews?
  • Have an interest in local history or the history of hopping and hop picking in Kent?

If so – come and get involved with this fantastic new project in Special Collections and Archives – where you will interview people from the Brook and Wye area about their memories of hopping.

Special Collections and Archives are working in partnership with Brook Rural Museum on a project for students to explore local peoples’ memories associated with the experience of hop picking and farming in and around Brook and Wye, Kent.

Volunteering on this project will provide you with skills in oral history interviewing (with training from an experienced oral historian) and associated tasks, such as making transcriptions and recording summaries. Most interviews will take place in the villages of Brook or Wye, and expenses for travel will be available. Some aspects of the role can be carried out remotely.

The project will take place between March and June 2024 and will conclude in late 2024 with an exhibition in the Templeman Gallery and at Brook Rural Museum showcasing extracts from the oral history interviews.

Please get in touch at engagement@brookruralmuseum.org.uk to express an interest and receive information about the application process,. You can also talk to us in Special Collections and Archives if you need more information –  specialcollections@kent.ac.uk.

Places on this project are limited – and applications need to be in by 16th February 2024.

 

Greenwood’s Epitome (1838): of Kentish Manors and Sweeney Todd

With thanks to Rebecca Nesvet, Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin for this blog contribution.

Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, glares menacingly and a bit provocatively out of a 1927 picture postcard, a component of the Melville Collection at the University of Kent at Canterbury’s Special Collections. As played by actor Andrew Melville II (1882-1938), Todd is an eighteenth-century artisan, his hair bound back into a ponytail, his sleeves voluminous. He frowns at the viewer, refusing to share his terrible business secrets. Sweeney Todd, demonic personification of the man-eating metropolis of the industrial revolution, would seem to have little to do with the Kentish countryside, but at the Templeman Library’s Special Collections, they are connected.

Photograph of a black and white print showing Andrew Melville as Sweeney Todd in SWEENEY TODD (MEL/PHO/A II : 600643)

Among the Templeman’s treasures of local history are two copies of Christopher Greenwood’s 1838 Epitome of County History… of Kent. In 1838, Greenwood was Britain’s top practitioner of antiquarian mapmaking.[1] Many of his maps described counties or larger regions in England and Wales and he also published an Atlas of the Counties of England and Wales, ‘engraved with forty-six … vignette views’ (1828). According to Greenwood’s biographer J.B. Harley, Greenwood’s maps were ‘essentially transitional in character between the traditional features of eighteenth-century map-making and the new era of scientific cartography inaugurated by the Ordnance Survey’.[2] Greenwood was also exceptionally well-connected. He counted among his patrons many aristocrats and the late King George IV.[3]

An epitome of county history wherein the most remarkable objects, persons and events are briefly treated of the seats, redidencies, etc. of the nobility, clergy and gentry … : each county illustrated by a map. V. 1, County of Kent (Q DA 1001, Baldwin Collection)

Evidently, Greenwood planned a multi-volume series of geographies of several counties. In the end, he only completed the volume concerning Kent. This Epitome consists of an elaborate, up-to-date map of Kent (see above) and a description of its natural and human geography. A collection of plates illustrate Canterbury Cathedral and many of the county’s stately homes. In some surviving copies, the plates are bound into the volume, adjacent to Greenwood’s descriptions of the landmarks they illustrate.

Two very different copies of Greenwood’s Epitome can be found at the Templeman Library’s Special Collections. One was bound by local antiquary, a Mr Armitage, into four gilt-edged volumes. Besides Greenwood’s pages, the four volumes also contain other material illustrative of Kent’s topography and history. Interpolated throughout, this material reveals what important Kentish landmarks looked like throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and in media ranging from woodcuts and lithographs to early photography. Armitage’s bricolage of Greenwood’s Epitome and other representations of Kent is a meticulous, unique, labour of love.

An epitome of county history: Vol 1, County of Kent, presented by Mrs P.M. Armitage (Q DA 1001)

Recently, Special Collections acquired another copy of Greenwood’s volume. This copy consists primarily of plates. Bound in boards, it isn’t as elaborate or personal as Armitage’s project, but it showcases the lithographs of Kentish houses that Greenwood wanted his elite subscribers to appreciate. In these lithographs, published eight years after the ‘Swing Riots’ broke out in the Elham Valley and then convulsed rural England, the Kentish countryside appears tranquil. Agricultural workers go about their business in the fields surrounding their landlords’ estates. Paging through this prints-only volume feels like touring a pastoral panorama of Kent.

An epitome of county history wherein the most remarkable objects, persons and events are briefly treated of the seats, redidencies, etc. of the nobility, clergy and gentry … : each county illustrated by a map. V. 1, County of Kent (Q DA 1001)

The connection to Sweeney Todd is a detail of the plates. One of the Illustrators, “G. Rymer,” is apparently Gaven Rymer (c.1812-42), artist and engraver.[4] Rymer is the only artist-engraver of that era with his initials, and the publications of “G. Rymer” appear to end with his premature death at the age of approximately thirty.

Rymer was from Clerkenwell: one of London’s poorest parishes, but also a vibrant artisanal community, the home of many engravers, with a rich radical history. It is not unusual that Rymer worked for Greenwood, who kept an office in Bloomsbury. However, while one of Greenwood’s other artists boasted in the Epitome of having drawn his illustrations ‘on stone, from nature’, Rymer almost certainly drew his in London, exemplifying resourceful Cockney transcendence of urban surroundings through art.

In one of Rymer’s three illustrations, ‘Chilham Castle, the Seat of Ja[me]s] B. Wildman, Esq.’ (fig. 3), he might have made a small political intervention in the commissioned composition. Most of the second volume’s prints depict the houses in relatively close perspective, showing off their architectural detail, while a few keep them in the background, showing the vastness of the attached lands. In ‘Chilham Castle’, however, the stately house is centred but small and far away. In the foreground, farmers load a wagon with hay. They face forward and their mise-en-scene fills the lower righthand corner, causing the reader’s eye to travel from the manor house to the workers and finally the overflowing cart and dray animal. Without the title ‘Chilham Castle’, this image would seem more a portrait of the harvesters than a celebration of Wildman’s manor house.

Engraving by Gaven Rymer of Chilham Castle, An epitome of county history wherein the most remarkable objects, persons and events are briefly treated of the seats, redidencies, etc. of the nobility, clergy and gentry … : each county illustrated by a map. V. 1, County of Kent (Q DA 1001)

Chilham Castle, 21st Century. Wikimedia Commons (379208.jpg)

As for the Sweeney Todd connection, Rymer’s brother James Malcolm Rymer (1814-84) was a prolific author of “penny dreadfuls”: cheap, imaginative illustrated fiction serials, some of which are represented in the Templeman’s collections. James Malcolm Rymer created Sweeney Todd in his 1846-7 fiction serial The String of Pearls, a Romance. While James Malcolm Rymer invented a fantasy geography in which monsters waylay unsuspecting visitors to central London, his artist brother brought Kentish idylls to visual life. Now, their creations share a home at the Templeman Library.

The string of pearls, or, The barber of Fleet street : a domestic romance. Source: Internet Archive.

[1] J.B. Harley, Christopher Greenwood, County Map-maker, and his Worcestershire Map of 1822 (London: Ebenezer Baylis & Son, 1962), viii. Museum.

[2] Harley, Christopher Greenwood, 25.

[3] Harley, Christopher Greenwood, 27.

[4] ‘Gaven Rymer’, 1841 UK Census. Class: HO107; Piece: 660; Book: 8; Civil Parish: St James Clerkenwell; County: Middlesex; Enumeration District: 15; Folio: 34; Page: 23; Line: 8; GSU roll: 438777. Ancestry.com mistranscribes Gaven’s name as ‘Gravers’, but the facsimile makes the spelling clear.

Written by Rebecca Nesvet, Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin, nesvetr@uwgb.edu

Special Collections and Archives highlights: 2023 edition

2023 has been a year of challenges and delights, we’ve amassed new collections, colleagues and knowledge, and – as is tradition – we want to use this post to share some of our highlights with you.

Karen (Special Collections and Archives Manager)

2023 has been another exciting, as well as challenging, year in Special Collections and Archives. We’ve seen a number of changes in our team. In the summer we said goodbye to two members of our team, Rachel who worked with us as a part-time project archivist for the UK Philanthropy Archive and Matt who was our Digital Lead. While in May we welcomed Daniella to the role of Project Archivist – Daniella’s post is externally funded and she is working to make two of our collections accessible and discoverable. If you follow us on our social media channels you’ll already know something of what she gets up to but there is more in her section below. In July we also welcomed Sam to the team. Sam is working on the Laurie Siggs Archive, purchased earlier this year with support from the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and Friends of National Libraries. The collection includes, original artworks, rough sketches and sketchbooks as well as notebooks and correspondence. 

Beth has had an amazingly busy year; working with me on funding applications, completing a survey of artworks around campus as well as all the things she mentions in her piece. One of the highlights for me was the amazing exhibition commemorating 100 years since the publication of T. S. Eliot’s Wasteland.  It was a great example of collaborative working with our academic colleagues. It proved to be a great attraction and we had many visitors to the gallery. Beth and I were delighted when Faustin Charles contacted us about his archive. Beth shares more about Faustin below but what you may not know is that he is the author of The Selfish Crocodile – a fantastic book for children. Clair has had great fun working on some of our collections and I know she especially enjoyed working on the Mark Thomas collection. Thanks to her excellent efforts you can now enjoy it too through our online catalogue or by visiting our collections. 

Exhibition poster for 100 Years: TS Eliot’s The Waste Land.

Christine has gone from strength to strength in developing her skills and talents as our Coordinator. She has finished cataloguing her first book collection, of which you can learn more about below and the Childrens Book Collection has so many lovely books for us all to enjoy. Christine also helped to develop the sessions for Discovery Planet in Ramsgate, working with our academic colleague Stella, and our whole team. I hope we can do more to these amazing sessions in the coming year. Mandy continues to beaver away making sure our cuttings collection is kept up to date. At the same time she has been working on digitising the original art works of Hector Breeze. Hector’s cartoons were published in Private Eye, Punch, Evening Standard, and other popular Daily newspapers. Jacqueline completed cataloguing the Carl Giles books, and moved on to catalogue Arnold Rood’s collection (he had a very attractive bookplate) and Jack Reading and Colin Rayner’s collection. Jacqueline has uncovered some real treasures, which I’ve enjoyed seeing. We’re looking forward to seeing what she uncovers next year! Our colleagues Stu and Matthias have been working with us one day per week and have made great progress in dealing with our British Cartoon Library backlog as well as our Shirley Toulson Poetry Collection, making them available to everyone.  

Display of Special Collections and Archives materials at Discovery Planet, Ramsgate.

Our volunteer projects this year have been hugely successful, and we continue to be amazed by the talented people that come to support us in our work.  

Looking forwards to 2024, we have some recently acquired collections that will be announced very soon. One I can mention though is a beautiful collection of Caribbean literature, donated by one of our former academics. We plan to start work on this collection in 2024 alongside some work to process a collection of African literature including works in the African Writers Series. Keep an eye on our social media channels for updates. And if you are not already following us do have a look at the Special Collections and Archives Advent Calendar – it’s on X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram @UniKentArchives. 

Beth (University Archivist)

2023 has been full of highlights and it is hard to pick out a few special things to represent such a busy year!

With the University Archive collections this year I focussed on the archives of the Colleges. At the beginning of the year I started a huge (and still ongoing) project to sort and catalogue the enormous Eliot College archive. This has now been un-boxed and arranged in a logical way, and cataloguing is on-going. This is a huge step forward in preserving the history of these important institutions within the University, and there are many fascinating records coming out of this.

We also received a brilliant collection of literary manuscripts from alumnus Faustin Charles, a storyteller and poet, originally from Trinidad and who studied at the University of Kent from 1977-1981. Faustin is an important voice in Caribbean poetry and storytelling, and his collection of manuscripts and correspondence will provide a fascinating insight into his work.

The archive collection of Faustin Charles, Caribbean storyteller and poet, being catalogued at the University of Kent Special Collections and Archives.

With the UK Philanthropy Archive collections we have continued to build and expand this growing collection receiving a new collection from the Hilden Charitable Trust in the last few weeks! We have been involved with two great events to showcase the wider philanthropy collections and begin to share information about the content and its importance for research. In April we held a mini-display of material at the Understanding Philanthropy conference, and then later in November we helped organise the 15th Anniversary Colloquium for the Centre for Philanthropy, Philanthropy: Past, Present and Future, which included our 3rd annual Shirley Lecture. This year we were delighted to welcome Orlando Fraser KC, the Chair of Charity Commission of England and Wales, who delivered an interesting lecture of the role of philanthropy in the charity sector. We were able to showcase the UK Philanthropy Archive collections at this event, giving tours of the collections talking to participants about their value for research.

Display of philanthropy related items for the Centre for Philanthropy’s 15th Anniversary Colloquium in November 2023.

Our exhibition schedule has been jam packed this year beginning with the 100 Years: TS Eliot’s The Wasteland which was on until April, after which we installed the Migrating Materia Medica exhibition in collaboration with colleagues in the Schools of English.  In August we added a fabulous short term exhibition on zines and zine making, called “Zines Zines Zines!” which explored the history of this popular genre of self-publishing and allowed us to display some of our zine collections, modern poetry and artist books, and also a loaned collection of zines from the Queer Zine Library.

The zine we made to support the Zines Zines Zines exhibition this year.

We have ended the year by installing our new exhibition – which has been curated by a fab team of volunteers to kick off our celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the British Cartoon Archive at the University. The first cartoons arrived at Kent in 1973 and the Centre for the Study of Cartoons and Caricature opened in 1975 – which later developed into the British Cartoon Archive. Between 2023 and 2025 we are running a programme of events and activities to mark this significant anniversary. The 50/50 Project, where our volunteers have selected 50 cartoons reflecting the 50 years of the British Cartoon Archive, was the first of our celebratory activities and was launched in October. The exhibition will be on display until the end of February so do come along and see it if you can.

In addition to all of this – a particular highlight for me this year was in organising and delivering our Telling Our Tales series of workshops, held in June, in the run up to Refugee Week. This series of creative workshops related to our project and exhibition in 2022, Reflections on the Great British Fish and Chips. The workshops explored the ways in which we tell, share and preserve stories of migration and movement. Working alongside our amazing colleague Basma El Doukhi, we invited speakers to run artist-led workshops where participants learned about sharing migration stories and how these can be expressed and recorded through portraiture and photography. We held an In Conversation event between Basma and Rania Saadalah, a Palestinian Refugee, who shared her photography work where she lives in the refugee camps in Lebanon. Our final workshop was with Paul Dudman from the Living Refugee Archive at the University of East London, who talked about how to preserve stories of migration and the lived experiences of migrants living in Britain.

The workshops were all thoughtful and impactful events, that encouraged us to challenge stereotypes, build better relationships with people in our communities, and foster a spirit of understanding and compassion for others. This sentiment seems particularly important to highlight at this time of devastation and suffering in the ongoing war between the Israeli and Palestinian people. It remains vital that the stories and experiences of refugees and those with lived experience of migration are heard, shared and preserved to ensure their voices do not go unrecorded.

Poster for one of the Telling our Tales workshops, held by Paul Dudman and Beth Astridge.

Clair (Digital Archivist)

Once again, it’s been an incredibly busy year for Special Collections and Archives, and if you can excuse the cliché, it has really flown by! There’s been lots of enjoyable projects along the way, but I’ve chosen just three to talk about in this year’s round-up.

Firstly, we’ve had a bumper year for volunteering! Volunteers bring so much to our service, and help us achieve more than we could ever do alone with our small team. We’ve had the pleasure of working with over 20 individual volunteers this year on various tasks and projects. In particular, we’ve run two volunteer projects related to the British Cartoon Archive (BCA) this year. The first was the 50/50 project where volunteers were asked to research, select and curate an exhibition of 50 items from the BCA to celebrate 50 years since the founding of the collection. The second was the Cartooning Covid-19 project, where volunteers supported us in making over 400 cartoons published during the Covid-19 pandemic available to the public via our catalogue. It’s been such a pleasure working with all of our fantastic volunteers this year, and we hope to continue to work with some of them again in the next.

Our 50/50 volunteers.

In terms of cataloguing, I had a blast sorting and cataloguing material from our Mark Thomas Collection in the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive (BSUCA) this year. The Mark Thomas Collection has been part of BSUCA since its very beginnings, with the earliest set of records being deposited in 2013, and we were delighted to receive an accrual to his collection in 2020/21. This new batch of records contained notebooks, publicity, audiovisual material, and material related to his radio and TV work. In addition to this cataloguing, I also had the help of two work experience students in sorting and cataloguing the significant ‘100 Acts of Minor Dissent’ series. Records can be viewed on our catalogue now: https://archive.kent.ac.uk/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=BSUCA%2fMT

100 Acts of Minor Dissent: Act 61-63 – the BASTARDTRADE logo (designed by Greg Matthews) is trade marked and was created as a symbol of bad corporate behaviour (BSUCA/MT/3/8/26).

Finally, in the first half of this year I was lucky enough to take part in the National Archives’ peer mentoring scheme. I really enjoyed the experience of being a mentee and benefited from having a very knowledgeable, kind and supportive mentor. The scheme was the perfect opportunity for me to take the leap in creating a Digital Asset Register for our digital collections. Having a Digital Asset Register in place is important as it enables us to have control over our digital objects (both born-digital and digitised) and helps keep us informed of the file formats we hold so that we can make decisions about any preservation actions we may wish to take. It’s a huge step forward in improving our digital preservation maturity, so that’s definitely something to celebrate!

Computer Laboratory, Nov 1977 (UKA/PHO/1/1014)

Daniella (Project Archivist)

2023 has been an exciting year for me as I joined Special Collections & Archives as a Project Archivist, working on two cataloguing projects – Craigmyle Consultants UK Ltd’s archive and the “Oh Yes It Is!”: Cataloguing the David Drummond Pantomime Collection project, funded by Archives Revealed a partnership programme between The National Archives, The Pilgrim Trust and the Wolfson Foundation.

Donated by the collector David Drummond, the collection contains materials relating to a range of pantomimes, such as Cinderella, Puss in Boots, and Sleeping Beauty, as well as ephemera and photographic materials showcasing Principal Boys and Principal Dames. There are also gorgeous costume designers by prolific costumer designers, such as Wilhelm and Archibald Chasemore. Positive steps have been made with the cataloguing and, so far, I have catalogued in draft materials relating to Florrie Forde, Albert Chevalier, Godfrey Tearle, and David Wood. My latest cataloguing work package has focused on items relating to the pantomime Aladdin, started to coincide with this year’s pantomime performance at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury. Watch this space to see these be added to our catalogue! Fantastic work is also being done by a wonderful group of volunteers who sorted and have been listing programmes and flyers for the pantomime Cinderella – they have made amazing progress and we can’t wait to share this with researchers.

Aladdin materials in the David Drummond Pantomime Collection.

Linked to the above, an absolute highlight of working on the David Drummond Pantomime Collection was going to the local pantomime at the Marlowe Theatre to watch Aladdin with my colleagues. We had an absolute blast watching the Dame strut her stuff whilst dodging the oncoming water guns!

Craigmyle’s archive is very different to the David Drummond Pantomime Collection and provides a different perspective to fundraising. It is interesting because the collection shows how this organisation, which was set up in 1959, helped charities across the United Kingdom fundraise. They work with a variety of clients ranging from Cancer Relief Macmillan to cathedrals and parish churches. Schools and education fundraising is of particular importance to Craigmyle. In fact, the company’s earliest focus was on this sector, with initial clients including The King’s School Ely, Tonbridge School, St John’s College Durham and Wycombe School. The project is well underway, and I have scoped what there is and begun to appraise and weed to select what we will be keeping for permanent preservation.

Working on Craigmyle’s archive has also given me the chance to meet staff in the Centre for Philanthropy, and Beth and I had the exciting opportunity to work with Professor Beth Breeze and Dr Karl Wilding to organise the Philanthropy Past, Present and Future colloquium. We had over 80 people register and attend, and has fantastic talks from Michael Seberich and Orlando Fraser, Chair of the Charity Commission for England and Wales. It was also a great chance to get the Craigmyle collection out and engage participants with what research can be done with this archive.

We’ve had an exciting end to the year by appointing two Archive Assistants, Cassie and Farradeh, who have joined me on the project to catalogue Craigmyle’s archive. We’re thrilled for Cassie and Farradeh to be a part of the team and they are sorting, listing, and repackaging appeal literature that forms a part of this collection. They have made an amazing start and have the following to say about their experience on this project so far:

Cassie: “I’ve only been working on the project for a couple of weeks so far but I already feel like I’ve learned so many new things about working in archives, and about the philanthropy sector. It’s been fascinating working through the new Craigmyle collection and I can’t wait to see what else we find and discover the ways in which this material can contribute to the UK Philanthropy Archive”.

Farradeh: “It’s really exciting to see what goes on behind the scenes at an archive, and have an active part in the formation of a new collection. It has made me see archives in a different light, understanding the thought and care archivists put into their craft, and appreciating the level of nuance that goes into executive decisions”.

Cassie and Farraday working on the Craigmyle Archive.

Outside of my collections work, Karen and I contributed to Dr Suzanna Ivanic’s module The Early Modern World: Conflict & Culture, 1450-1750. I gave a lecture about the recordkeeping revolution and archives between the sixteenth century and mid-eighteenth century. I also supported Karen and Christine in delivering the seminars for this module, during which students were able to examine and handle some of the spectacular early modern printed texts in the collection, including editions of William Lambarde’s Perambulation of Kent, William Somner’s Antiquities of Canterbury, and indentures ranging from the reigns of Henry VI to Elizabeth I that are found within the Ronald Baldwin collection.

Christine (Special Collections and Archives Coordinator)

This has been my first full year working as the Special Collections and Archives Coordinator, and it’s been a real opportunity to increase my knowledge of our collections and support a variety of digital and in person engagement activity – in the Autumn term alone, we engaged 177 UG and PG students through seminars, not to mention individual readers, school groups and prospective open day students.

Earlier this year I did a #FacsimileFridays series on Instagram to shine a spotlight on what is often underprized and overlooked – for facsimiles are copies, not originals. However, they increase the circulation potential of unique items and thereby fulfil an important place in telling the history of the book. The knowledge I gleaned from many of these items also became pertinent to my teaching of a seminar on Chaucer this December for third year School of English students, in which we were considering very early manuscripts and print technology.

Produced between 1330-40, the Auchinleck manuscript gives an idea of reading practices pre-Chaucer: it consists principally of romances (think Arthuriana) along with other secular tales and religious pieces. Chaucer died in 1400, just before the advent of the printing press, and no copies of his works survive from his lifetime. The most famous of 15th-century manuscript versions of his work is undoubtedly the Ellesmere Chaucer, which became the authoritative example for organizing the Canterbury Tales. It’s written in the hand of a single scribe, and is incredibly grand both in its use of blank space and famous miniature illustrations of the Canterbury pilgrims. You may even be familiar with one of these, for its portrait of Chaucer is blown up on the side of the former Nasons building in the Canterbury high street! Now in the Huntington Library, our monochromatic facsimile still gives us access to the scale and content of the original. The first printing of the Canterbury Tales was William Caxton’s 1476 version, and the earliest printed version of Chaucer that we hold dates to 1598. With ‘Dorothy Smallwood’ inscribed on the title page, we know this copy once had female readership and it is also fascinating for its marginalia showing just how much its readers relied on a glossary to make sense of Chaucer’s language just 200 years after it was first circulated. William Caxton was also responsible for bringing Mallory’s Morte D’Arthur to an English audience, and we are really lucky to have a facsimile of this work because only one and a half of Caxton’s original version survive to date. Given the depth of the book, and the pressure reading puts on the spine, this is not surprising – original copies would literally have been read to pieces.

The Ellesmere Chaucer (F PD 1865 Classified sequence).

Le morte d’Arthur (Q PD 2040 Classified sequence).

From the history of books to the art of books, I have had several opportunities this year to appreciate the variety of forms books can take and really get to grips with the non-textual components of books which is crucial to special collections cataloguing. In cataloguing our Children’s Literature Collection, I had to give condition and provenance notes as well as a physical description of each book, noting such varied features as illustrated fly-leaves, dust jackets, fold-out maps, pages of publisher’s advertisements, volvelle frontispieces and pop-up engineering. Children’s books are a joy to handle because they are so self-conscious of being tactile interactive objects, and they have proved inspirational – alongside our artist books – when displayed at book-making workshops led by Dr Stella Bolaki at Discovery Planet, Ramsgate. It has been a particular privilege for me to accompany our collections to a different venue off campus and engage different audiences, notably children, and witness them transpose their awe for special collections into creative responses.

This year : next year (PZ 8.3 DEL Children’s Literature Collection).

Les grotesques : en quatre tableaux (PZ 8 Children’s Literature Collection).

Mandy (Special Collections and Archives Assistant)

Over this past year I have been digitalizing our Hector Breeze collection, they are very interesting to scan and the way that they have been drawn.

HB0005, Hector Breeze Collection.

HB0011, Hector Breeze Collection.

I have also been scanning our cartoons collection, to see how they have changed over the last few years is so interesting, changes in the government also.

Sam (Project Digitisation Administrator)

In my first year as an official member of the Special Collections team, I have been cataloguing and digitising the charmingly offbeat world of Lawrie Siggs (1900-1972), a cartoonist who worked for various publications (including Punch, John Bull and Lilliput) for 35 years.

Here are a few examples to set the tone.

Pinch Me, SIG0307.

No He Doesn’t Talk, SIG0319.

Jacqueline (Curation and Discovery Administrator)

The theatre designer Edward Gordon Craig described himself as “fond of print.” His designs for theatre stage sets and scenery surpassed possibility in his time and he turned to typography and woodcuts. I have spent this year with the collections of three men who can all be described as fond of print. Arnold Rood’s collection is centred around Gordon Craig and his circle. It includes Craig’s woodcuts in print. I began the year at the end of Carl Giles’ collection (the cartoonist Giles) where I found a set of Puffin Picture Books from the 1940s-50s, their design and illustrations redolent of a return to delight in books after austerity. After Rood, I’ve been cataloguing the periodicals in Jack Reading and Colin Rayner’s collection; they were thorough collectors who focussed on theatre and literature. Last week amongst odd issues I came across a complete set of The Masque, a small and pretty journal of 9 issues each one on a theme. Issue 5 is The Masque of Christmas, presenting dramatic JOYS of the season to you.

The Masque, Reading-Rayner Literature Collection.

Stu (Curation and Discovery Administrator)

Over 90 titles added to British Cartoon Archive Library this year. Most memorable was probably the stunning cold war era illustrations in, Drawing the curtain : the Cold War in cartoons / Althaus, Frank.

Also Daily Mirror reflections : being 100 cartoons (and a few more) culled from the pages of the Daily Mirror. [Vol. I] / Haselden, W. K. (William Kerridge), 1872-1953, formerly owned by prime minister Stanley Baldwin.

Quite moving and of current topical interest, A child in Palestine : the cartoons of Naji al-Ali / ʻAlī, Nājī.- This collection of drawings chronicles the Israeli occupation, the corruption of the regimes in the region, and the plight of the Palestinian people. The images have bold symbolism and starkness to them.

The bottle / Cruikshank, George, 1792-1878, – This is a really interesting little pamphlet promoting temperance through a cautionary tale of the downfall of a family brought about by the evils of drink. No publication date but probably late 19th century.

Matthias (Curation and Discovery Administrator)

I have been working on the Shirley Toulson Collection this year, a collection of over 400 poetry books from the estate of the late author and poet Shirley Toulson. Handling a writer’s private library felt very special and personal. The books, many of them rare editions by small presses, often had personal notes and handwritten dedications by the authors. Often I found postcards or letters inserted between the pages. My personal highlight was a handwritten, seemingly unpublished poem by Shirley Toulson I found inside a W.H. Auden poetry volume.

Collected shorter poems 1927-1957, PR 6001.U4 AUD Shirley Toulson Poetry Collection.

Our reading room will be closed from 16th December 2023 and will reopen 16th January 2024 – we hope you all have a very happy and peaceful break.