Special Collections and Archives highlights: 2021 edition

Just like last year, 2021 has been unusual, interesting and busy in equal measure. The Special Collections & Archives team have been working from home, then in a hybrid style, then back to home again as the year has progressed. As the weather takes a turn for the cold and lights turn on ever earlier, we thought we’d use this end-of-term feeling to continue one of our favourite traditions: our highlights of the year!

Karen (Special Collections & Archives Manager):

At this time of year I am always amazed to look back and consider just how much my amazing team have achieved in the past twelve months. We may be in the grip of a pandemic but it has done nothing to impede their dedication and enthusiasm for our collections and the service we run.  Well done Team! This year has been one of changes – we have changed the way we work and now operate in a hybrid way dividing our time and our tasks between home and office. There has been a change in the make-up of our team -we were sad to say goodbye to Tom Kennett, University Archivist for over three years but delighted to welcome Beth Astridge, our Project Archivist for the UK Philanthropy, to the post. We also changed our digitisation capability with the arrival of our new digitisation equipment – thank you to UKRI AHRC Capability for Collections funding – you will be able to see the results of this in 2022. 

One of the huge advantages of hybrid working is that people have been able to take advantage of working from home to spend time on processing digital collections and digital preservation. The fruits of this labour are highlighted below by Rachel, Alex, Emma, and Mandy. We now have many of our great photographs catalogued and available online (shh don’t tell anyone… but my favourite is Bag Puss in his cap and gown!) and the University’s audio collections are being digitally preserved for posterity. Steve Bell’s digital cartoons are being catalogued from Emma’s home office and they are taking her back in time to the world BC (before Covid). Clair has taken full advantage of our new way of working and has catalogued a hybrid collection while hybrid working. The Meredith papers are now available via our online catalogue and they are definitely worth investigating. 

Peter Firmin and Bagpuss in the Cathedral getting an honorary degree

UKA/PHO/1/1488: Peter Firmin and Bagpuss in the Cathedral getting an honorary degree

It has also been great to be working on campus again and Jo and Christine (our Honorary SC and A assistant) will be telling you about the exciting things they have been getting on with including developing new seminar sessions and researching and selecting unique costume designs from the Drummond Pantomime collection for display in the Templeman Gallery. Beth has spent most of this year consolidating the work she has been doing in developing the UK Philanthropy Archive and will continue to oversee the collection development in the coming year.  And speaking of the coming year, we will be working on plans for 2023 when we will celebrate 50 years since the first cartoon collections arrived at the University – watch this space…! 

Rachel (Metadata Assistant, Collections Management):

“This year I embarked upon the enormous task of cataloguing the thousands of official University of Kent photographs in our University Archive, all of which are digitised and being added to the website as I catalogue them.

As a former student here at Kent and a member of staff for seven and a half years it’s been really interesting to see how the campus has changed from the mid sixties to the present day, but my favourite thing about these images is researching the people in them, and finding out stories of former staff and students (and admiring old hairstyles and fashions).

Queen signing the University visitor book when she and Philip came to open the Cornwallis extension (the Octagon)

UKA/PHO/1/1465: Queen signing the University visitor book when she and Philip came to open the Cornwallis extension (the Octagon)

Professor Peter McGill

UKA/PHO/1/1370: Professor Peter McGill who identified himself when I asked if it was him and gave me other names

Identifying staff is difficult so I am indebted to the former staff network and those academics I have contacted directly who have supplied me with names and job titles when I’ve needed them, but also with extra information about old university structures, events and even on one occasion golf handicaps! I’ve still got several thousand to keep me busy next year, and I’m looking forward to it!”

(Clockwise L - R): UKA/PHO/1/620: Stour River tours!, UKA/PHO/1/122: Duchess of Kent leaving the first graduation ceremony in Eliot Dining Hall, complete with page boy, UKA/PHO/1/140: Snow around the original Library

(Clockwise L – R): UKA/PHO/1/620: Stour River tours!, UKA/PHO/1/122: Duchess of Kent leaving the first graduation ceremony in Eliot Dining Hall, complete with page boy, UKA/PHO/1/140: Snow around the original Library

(Clockwise L - R): UKA/PHO/1/1157: 70s college bedroom, AKA Paddington Goes to University, UKA/PHO/1/807: Standing in the railway tunnel after the collapse beneath Cornwallis, UKA/PHO/1/747: Demolition of the corridor between Gulb and Cornwallis following the collapse of the railway tunnel

(Clockwise L – R): UKA/PHO/1/1157: 70s college bedroom, AKA Paddington Goes to University, UKA/PHO/1/807: Standing in the railway tunnel after the collapse beneath Cornwallis, UKA/PHO/1/747: Demolition of the corridor between Gulb and Cornwallis following the collapse of the railway tunnel

Jo (Senior Library Assistant – Special Collections & Archives):

“For me, 2021 has been a lesson in appreciating my role and the many opportunities I get to introduce students to our beautiful collections. We welcomed groups back into our seminar room from September and gosh I’ve missed facilitating these sessions.

Colourful Victorian children's literature books in our stores!

Colourful Victorian children’s literature books in our stores!

Particular highlights include the energetic reactions of Drama undergraduates when looking at material from our British Stand-Up Comedy Archive (“this is SO COOL! I’m having an out of body experience!”) and working with students from Canterbury Christ Church University for the very first time. The latter involved finding material from our collections relating to Victorian children’s literature which was honestly such a treat for me.

A tiny book found in our Victorian Children's Literature collection, containing a poem for every day of the year

A tiny book found in our Victorian Children’s Literature collection, containing a poem for every day of the year

I’ve also been leading on supporting University Open Days for the School of English, where we meet prospective students (and their parents), get them interacting with our material and chat about what it’s like to study at Kent. We’ve had some really positive feedback for these events and I’m looking forward to supporting Applicant Days next term for both English and History students.

Display of SC&A items for potential University of Kent English students, October 2021

Display of SC&A items for potential University of Kent English students, October 2021

On a non-outreach note, I’ve been working with Clair and our Marketing Team this year to design and update the SC&A website which should be going live in the near future. This has involved a huge range of work, from making the site a lot more visual to rewriting outdated biographies and creating new areas for our digital resources. It’s been a lot of fun and we can’t wait for you to see the results soon!”

 Alex (Digital Imaging Assistant – Collections Management):

“Despite the Pandemic and subsequent Lockdowns, I have been able to set up an effective Audio Cassette Digitisation Station at home. So, throughout these strange times, both at home and in the hybrid working environment, I have continued to digitise the University’s collection of recordings made on vulnerable analogue magnetic audio tape. I’ve now completed the digitisation of the entire series of University Open Lectures, T.S. Eliot Memorial Lectures and Keynes Seminars. This totals almost one thousand individual recordings dating back to the late 1960s.

Alex's Hybrid Working setup

Alex’s Hybrid Working setup

Following on from this I have moved on to the Audio Cassette recordings which form part of the British Cartoon Archive. These mainly take the form of unique interviews with cartoonists (ranging from Charles Schulz to Steve Bell) carried out by Keith McKenzie and Peter Mellini.

New photographic equipment being set up!

New photographic equipment being set up!

In addition, with grateful thanks to a generous external grant, we now have a recently installed photographic reproduction rig equipped with a state-of-the-art high-resolution camera. This set-up will enable us to digitise both flat artwork and 3D objects within the archive collections to an optimum level. I have been working with my colleagues Matt and Clair to develop efficient digitisation workflows with this impressive new equipment.”

More shiny new photographic equipment in its new home

More shiny new photographic equipment in its new home

Matt (Digital Imaging Team Leader):

“[Following on from our AHRC grant. which enabled us to invest in amazing new reprographics hardware] we have been progressing with testing the new Phase One digitisation equipment.

The rig setup for our new reprographics equipment

The rig setup for our new reprographics equipment

We have been practicing use of the equipment using material in various formats and have been collating questions to discuss with our contact at Phase One in the coming weeks. We will continue to develop our workflow, ready to begin our first large scale project (the Beaverbrook Collection) in 2022.”

Beth (Project Archivist: UK Philanthropy Archive, January – November and University Archivist, November – present):

“It is always a bit of a treat to look back at the year just passed and celebrate all the achievements and exciting things that have taken place, and 2021 has been no different. It turned out to be a very busy year for the UK Philanthropy Archive! A key achievement was that we were able to host the inaugural Shirley Lecture in May (delivered online) – where Dame Stephanie Shirley CH delivered a fascinating lecture giving us an insight into her life and how it influenced her philanthropy.

Annual reports from the FI Group - the software company started by Dame Stephanie Shirley

Annual reports from the FI Group – the software company started by Dame Stephanie Shirley

I was able to spend some time listing and cataloguing both the Shirley Foundation collection, and the collection of Amanda Sebestyen – both the catalogues will both be available in early 2022. Amanda Sebestyen is a human rights journalist and activist, and looking deeper at her archive has revealed a fascinating collection relating to her family settlement trust and the challenges of closing it down in order to donate the proceeds to ethical charitable causes in Australia.  Some great research potential there!

Postcards and press release from a project called 'Sea of Hands' in Australia funded by the family settlement of Amanda Sebestyen as part of her focus on supporting native and indigenous people

Postcards and press release from a project called ‘Sea of Hands’ in Australia funded by the family settlement of Amanda Sebestyen as part of her focus on supporting native and indigenous people

We were really pleased to receive the archive collection of the Marc Fitch Fund in September. The fund was set up in 1956 by Marc Fitch with a focus on supporting publishing work on local history, genealogy and heraldry, and we are cracking on with getting this interesting collection catalogued and available for use.

Coat of Arms for the Marc Fitch Foundation - awarded in 1979 in recognition for their support for heraldry and genealogy research

Coat of Arms for the Marc Fitch Foundation – awarded in 1979 in recognition for their support for heraldry and genealogy research

Close up of the Marc Fitch Fund Coat of Arms

Close up of the Marc Fitch Fund Coat of Arms

In November I was delighted to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the John Ellerman Foundation. It was brilliant to hear all about the ongoing work of the Foundation and the research taking place to explore their history. We have been working with the Foundation and have supported a project to translate 200 letters written in Afrikaans by John Ellerman as part of their history project, and we are looking forward to further collaboration in 2022!

At the end of this year I was also delighted to accept the post of University Archivist within Special Collections & Archives, so I can now look forward to continuing work on the philanthropy collections as well as the wider University Archives, so 2022 looks like it will be just as busy as 2021.”

Emma (Metadata Assistant, Collections Management):

“The British Cartoon Archive, housed in Special Collections and Archives, is a unique and ever expanding collection. Steve Bell, a well-known cartoon satirist, has produced cartoons for the Guardian for many years. Steve has deposited many digital copies of his cartoons with us and I have recently begun cataloguing these.

Sometimes it is hard to remember life before Covid, but I have suddenly been hurled back to the pre-Pandemic political arena of 2018 and it has been a welcome break from the issues we face at the moment. Steve has specific ways of characterising his political figures and I have had fun learning who is who. Teresa May always wears leopard sprint shoes and appears dressed as a clown and Donald Trump often has the top of his head in shape of a toilet seat!

SBD1892: French PM Macron riding on Theresa May

SBD1892: French PM Macron riding on Theresa May
Copyright Steve Bell 2018/All Rights Reserved

Describing the events satirised within each cartoon involves using the subject hints Steve has embedded in his metadata (thank you Steve) to investigate what was happening in politics that day.  This cartoon of Teresa May and Emmanuel Macron is one of my favourites so far.”

Mandy (Library Assistant – Digital Imaging):

“I have had the great job this year scanning photos of Canterbury from the Blitz to the City wall.

Canterbury being rebuilt after the Blitz! Canterbury Photographs Collection, LH/CANT/PHO

Canterbury being rebuilt after the Blitz! Canterbury Photographs Collection, LH/CANT/PHO

It has been so interesting [to see] how Canterbury has changed over the years.”

More post-war building work. Canterbury Photographs Collection, LH/CANT/PHO

More post-war building work. Canterbury Photographs Collection, LH/CANT/PHO

Christine (Library Assistant – Learning Environment):

“‘Tis the season to be jolly –

The pantomimes I grew up with were a garish, bolshy composite of slapstick, sequins and sweeties, a night of misrule where hyperactivity was encouraged, Schadenfreude was permitted, and a happy ever after was guaranteed. I remember sets designed like candy shops, and ‘dames’ trussed up in ridiculous frocks. I remember catching a toffee tossed to the crowd, and ‘he’s behind you’ being yelled out. There was something magical about lines that rhymed, and watching a show well past bedtime!

Costume design for Robin Hood, David Drummond Pantomime Collection

Costume design for Robin Hood, David Drummond Pantomime Collection

Costume design for Maid Marion in Robin Hood, David Drummond Pantomime Collection

Costume design for Maid Marion in Robin Hood, David Drummond Pantomime Collection

Now that I’m older, magic is harder to find, but these pantomime costume designs from SCA’s David Drummond collection come pretty close. From 1880s-1950s, this collection holds examples by Archibald Chasemore, Antonio Comelli, C. Wilhelm and Doris Zinkeisen (amongst others). The collection also represents important aesthetic and cultural shifts that played out in the theatre, from the imperial appropriation underpinning the exotic spectacles of the late Victorian stage to the fanciful historicism of the mid-20th century, where medieval romance or Rococo chic transported the audience to a bygone realm. Just consider the bizarre Chinoiserie dominating Wilhelm’s 1889 Aladdin, and the contrasting merry olde England of Zinkeinsen’s Babes in the Wood (1956).”

Costume designs from Aladdin, David Drummond Pantomime Collection

Costume designs from Aladdin, David Drummond Pantomime Collection

Costume designs from Aladdin, David Drummond Pantomime Collection

Costume designs from Aladdin, David Drummond Pantomime Collection

Clair (Digital Archivist):

“It’s been another year of change and adaptation for many of us. Whilst at times challenging, we’ve also seen some positive outcomes of this change in Special Collections and Archives. A personal example of this positivity for me was the opportunity to catalogue a hybrid collection (by which I mean a collection of both physical and digital materials) of research papers related to the Meredith Family of Leeds, in Kent, called the ‘Sir William Meredith Research Collection’. Working both on campus and from home, the nature of this hybrid collection provided the opportunity to carry out this work in both locations.

Miriam Scott, a retired teacher and family historian, was inspired to research the Meredith family after admiring the Meredith Memorial at St Nicholas Church near her home at the time in Leeds.

Meredith memorial, MER/1/2/32-D

Meredith memorial, MER/1/2/32-D

Scott used documents and books from a number of libraries and records offices during her research, including the Public Record Office (now The National Archives), the British Library, and Leeds Castle Archives. The research led to an article being published in the Friends of the National Archives magazine entitled ‘Sir William Meredith, knight. A gruff Welsh voice in London’. Professor Catherine Richardson in the Department of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) at the University of Kent, supported the deposit of the research papers.

Sir William Meredith ([1560?]-1605) was a knight and Treasurer at War during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James. His family lived at what was Leeds Abbey in Kent, from around 1608-1758.

Leeds Abbey historic view, 1719

Leeds Abbey historic view, 1719

The Abbey was built on the site of the former Leeds Priory, which was left in ruin after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in the early 1500s. Sadly, nothing remains of the Priory buildings today, and the only remains of the Abbey are the ruins of the pigeon house and the Slype. The site is located near Leeds Castle.

Remains of the pigeon house, MER/1/2/8-D

Remains of the pigeon house, MER/1/2/8-D

Remains of the pigeon house, MER/1/2/8-D

Remains of the pigeon house, MER/1/2/8-D

The Merediths were a well-established family of Denbighshire, Wales, with a branch of the family remaining there until at least 1901. The research includes information regarding the history of Leeds Abbey, the families of Sir William Meredith’s children (including the Cottington and Wyche families), as well as his connection to family in Denbighshire, North Wales. If you’d like to see any of the material, please let us know at specialcollections@kent.ac.uk.”

Meredith family tree, MER/1/2/27-D

Meredith family tree, MER/1/2/27-D

The SC&A team wish you a very happy Christmas and New Year; we hope you can rest and spend time with loved ones. We’re closed for Christmas from Friday (17th December) and will be back in the office from Tuesday 4th January 2022. Our Reading Room will reopen at the start of term (week commencing 17th January 2022).

SC&A in review: 2020 edition

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a markedly different year from the one we anticipated when writing last year’s annual review blog post. Like many of you, the Special Collections & Archives team have been working frequently from home since March – but that doesn’t mean we’ve been any less busy. As the end of year (thankfully) draws to a close, we’re taking the time to reflect on what we’ve achieved and hope that this compilation sends a little bit of archive magic out to your screens!  

Karen (Special Collections and Archives Manager): “What a contrast 2020 has been compared to 2019! The SC&A team, along with most other employees at the University, moved to working from home on 23rd March and we are mostly still there. We still meet at least once a week but now instead of booking a meeting room or bagging a table (and coffee) in the Library Café we now get together via our computer screens (coffee included)!  

Working remotely has presented us with opportunities to tackle some of the tasks which get overlooked and pushed aside in a busy office. Early in lockdown much of my time was taken up working on a grant application to support a project to catalogue and promote our amazing David Drummond Pantomime Collection. Our application was not successful this time round – while it was disappointing news it has given me the opportunity to delve deeper into this wonderful collection and to discover some of its hidden treasures – I’m currently exploring boxes of libretti or books of words from the mid 19th century to the mid-twentieth century. Some of them are just books of words but some have gorgeous illustrations. So far, my favourite find is Sinbad the Sailor, closely followed by Mother Goose and Dick Whittington…I could go on…It feels especially important that we catalogue this collection given the devasting effect that the virus has had on live pantomime performances around the country this year 

Brightly illustrated programme cover for the Mother Goose pantomime at Drury Lane. [David Drummond Pantomime Collection]

Brightly illustrated programme cover for the Mother Goose pantomime at Drury Lane, 1902. [David Drummond Pantomime Collection]

Lavishly illustrated programme for the pantomime Dick Whittington at Drury Lane theatre. [David Drummond Collection]

Lavishly illustrated programme for the pantomime Dick Whittington at Drury Lane theatre. [David Drummond Collection]

The rest of the team have been keeping busy too: Tom has worked on and off campus on the ever-expanding University archive, while Jo has worked on new and remote ways of delivering our popular teaching sessions. Jennie has had great fun cataloguing some of Martin Rowson’s digital cartoons (so funny!) The Max Tyler Music Hall collection has benefitted from the attentions of Clair, who has now catalogued all the research files and Mandy enjoyed scanning some of the sheet music, some of which has been recorded and uploaded by Dan Harding, Head of Music Performance at Kent it really brings our collection to life. You can listen to this recording here. Beth, our project archivist for the UK Philanthropy Archive, has continued to spread the good news about our developing collection as well as delivering an excellent online event.  

Working from home has meant that much of our volunteer work stopped abruptly in the spring – we miss our volunteer community very much and hope that we can welcome back our regular team as well as some new ones – watch this space! Having said that we did manage to set up Daniella, who was able to transcribe and translate indentures from Ronald Baldwin collection from home. See her blog post here: https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/specialcollections/2020/07/08/exploring-early-modern-kent-in-the-archive-part-1-an-introduction-to-the-ronald-baldwin-collection/. Thanks to Daniella’s great work we have been able to enhance our catalogue records.”  

Tom (University Archivist): “This year my highlight was the opportunity to dedicate more time than usual to looking after and developing the University of Kent Archive. This large and important collection charts the development of the University of Kent through the initial planning and development of the site in the early 1960s, its foundation in 1965, and through the succeeding 55 years of educational achievement. 

Though records of the University’s activities and decision-making processes have always been collected, it was not until relatively recently these have been gathered together in a dedicated space within the Templeman Library. As a result, a considerable backlog of archival work has built up, and the collection requires sorting, duplicate-thinning, repackaging, cataloguing and being physically arranged in its dedicated storeroom. 

Because my other SC&A duties have been less pressing, this year I’ve been able to make proper headway in carrying out essential collections development work with this archive, including consolidating the various caches of documents in the library into a single space, commencing weeding of the various runs of published information such as annual reports and prospectuses, grouping similar records and records from the same department together, and commencing cataloguing of important papers like those of Eric Fox, the first Registrar of Kent. This interesting collection includes papers on the establishment and development of the University and the various crises (usually student led) that afflicted the university in its first 12 years.

Black and white photograph of Eric Fox, first Registrar of the University of Kent, and his wife Mary on the University of Kent campus.

Eric Fox, first Registrar of the University of Kent, and his wife, Mary. July 1982 [V.453]

Working from home has also given us the opportunity to catalogue the University’s extensive photograph collection which my colleague Rachel has been working on. Rachel is also a Kent alumna so her knowledge is proving doubly useful in getting context from the images.

Black and white photograph showing a party in the Registry Office, 1990, complete with Santa and a pantomime horse. [University of Kent Archive, 1471.2]

Black and white photograph showing a party in the Registry Office, 1990, complete with Santa and a pantomime horse. [University of Kent Archive, 1471.2]

The University Archive also took receipt of two large and significant collections in autumn 2020: records of Eliot College and records of the Faculty Office. Watch this space for updates to our catalogue throughout 2021 as these collections are catalogued and made accessible to our readers.” 

Jo (Senior Library Assistant): “Throughout this year I’ve often joked that because my job involves collections and people, 2020 has meant a definite shift in my working environment. Whilst this is true (I very much miss introducing students to our collections in person), it’s been a great opportunity to develop our digital learning offer and create content that will hopefully serve our communities for years to come.  

Gif showing slides introducing Special Collections & Archives to students. There is a lot of colour and spider diagrams.

Gif showing slides introducing Special Collections & Archives to students. There is a lot of colour and spider diagrams.

I particularly enjoyed making videos of some items from our collections to help support teaching; rather than single images, filming archives helps viewers get a sense of the physicality of the object and hopefully encourages them to come and see items in person when it’s safe to do so. Our Artists’ Books Collection was the perfect example of this: the books rely (and sometimes play with) our sense of touch to convey their meaning, and it was lovely to see some of these works and convey my knowledge and enthusiasm for them digitally. You can view an example of these videos here

On a completely different note, there has been a wealth of digital learning and training created this year and it’s been really nice to have the opportunity to develop skills that being on campus doesn’t always allow for. Thanks to Kent’s Learning and Organisational Development team I completed six weeks of British Sign Language training over the summer which will hopefully serve our users well in future. I also finally got certification for my MA, so I guess I’m ‘officially’ a Librarian now! 

Jennie (Library Assistant – Curation & Discovery): “My role is to describe the items in our Special Collections and Archives and make them easy to find on our library search systems. Traditionally this is done with the item in hand, but of course this year a new approach had to be found. Luckily, we have a large and ever-growing collection of political cartoons by Martin Rowson in digital format just waiting for someone to add them to the catalogue – and that someone was me!  

A complex cartoon by Martin Rowson entitled 'Giving up the Ghost'. Prime Minister Boris Johnson lies in a hospital bed with several other Conservative MPs looking rather ill as a ghostly Theresa May floats away. A curtain pulled back reveals a confused Jeremy Corbyn in the next bed.

‘Giving up the Ghost’ by Martin Rowson, 9th June 2019, The Guardian. MRD1351, British Cartoon Archive

I was able to download the images at home and access our archival cataloguing system remotely to add some of Rowson’s fantastic satirical cartoons to our database. My personal favourite so far is Giving up the Ghost because it took a lot of detective work to figure out who all the politicians were, and because the Nigel Farage snake under the bed makes me laugh. It also features Rowson’s famous ‘fur cups’, which I make sure to add to the catalogue record when they appear. Rowson himself explained what the fur cups mean on Twitter: 

Screenshot of a Twitter conversation between John Waterworth and Martin Rowson. Waterworth asks Rowson, Great roller coaster! Can you say what the hairy teacups represent in your cartoons? Rowson responds, Fur cups. As surrealist tropes their name should be spoken with a French accent. Try it.

Exchange between John Waterworth and Martin Rowson on Twitter explaining the fur cups present in Rowson’s cartoons.

I’m sure you can work it out.”  

Clair (Digital Archivist): “I’m sure I’m not the first to mention that this year has been a very different experience of working in Special Collections & Archives! For the most part we’ve been distant from our collections in a physical sense, but this in turn has provided the opportunity for us to focus on some of the more admin-heavy collection tasks that we seldom get to focus on in the “normal world”.  

Triage of photographs of research files from the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection.

Triage of photographs of research files from the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection.

This year feels like a difficult one to draw highlights from, but there have certainly been some satisfying and enjoyable moments for me. First up, we’ve taken a few steps to improving access to our collections this year. I had the pleasure of cataloguing the entirety of Max Tyler’s research files. I won’t go in to too much depth here as I wrote a blog post on the subject back in October 2020, but just to say that it’s an impressive collection that touches on many subjects, performers, and music hall songs. You can browse the entire collection here. My colleagues have made tremendous progress with cataloguing our collection of Martin Rowson digital cartoons. This is an active collection with continuous accruals, so it’s great to see them getting added to our online catalogue. We have managed to clear our scanning backlog of newspaper cartoon cuttings with help from our Digital Imaging team. And last up, our collections can now be found on The National Archive’s Discovery platform 

Finally, I had the opportunity to develop my skills in social media archiving this year, collecting tweets on the subject of philanthropy during the covid-19 pandemic for the UK Philanthropy Archive. This piece of work not only enabled me to learn some coding skills in Python programming language, but also meant I got to work closely with my colleague Beth Astridge to develop a collection for our newest archive!” 

Mandy (Library Assistant – Digital Imaging): “I have really enjoyed scanning the music sheets from our Max Tyler Collection! They are so delicate and the pictures are so pretty. Seeing the music sheets as how they used to be has been great.”  

Colour illustrated cover of a music sheet from the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection entitled Victory and Peace Grand March

Colour illustrated cover of a music sheet from the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection entitled “Victory and Peace Grand March”

Beth (Project Archivist – UK Philanthropy Archive): “As with the rest of the Special Collections & Archives team – 2020 has been a year of challenges and disruption – but also a year of new ways of working and opportunities to explore. There are several things that happened in the UK Philanthropy Archive this year that I think are worth celebrating!  

I have focussed some time on making connections, spreading awareness about the UK Philanthropy Archive, and talking to potential donors about their collections. As always, it is so interesting to hear about the different trusts and foundations out there, to catch up with people who are passionate about the organisation they represent and the causes they support and begin to explore how they might ensure the long-term preservation of their archives.  

COVID-19 has had a notable impact on the philanthropic sector – with many funders pausing grants, diverting funds to COVID emergency schemes, and adopting more flexible grants programmes and support mechanisms. To capture a record of some of this rapid change in the philanthropic sector we have developed an archive collection of the tweets coming from many of philanthropic sector organisations and individuals during 2020. It has been fascinating to investigate how to do this, and my colleague Clair (Digital Archivist) has written about her work on this elsewhere on this blog!  

Screenshot of attendees at the official virtual launch of the UK Philanthropy Archive, November 2020.

Screenshot of attendees at the official virtual launch of the UK Philanthropy Archive, November 2020.

In March 2020 we had planned a big event to launch the UK Philanthropy Archive with a seminar and the inaugural Shirley Lecture to be delivered by the wonderful Dame Stephanie Shirley. Sadly, we had to postpone, and the event was split into two separate events. We held the first of these – a virtual seminar on Archives of Philanthropy in November, which officially launched the UK Philanthropy Archive! This brought together researchers, archivists, funders and others from the philanthropic sector to talk about the opportunities and challenges of keeping archives about philanthropy. It was well attended with lots of great presentations and interesting questions – and if you missed it – the recordings are available on our website! A big thank you to all the speakers who did an amazing job in communicating why collecting archives from the philanthropic sector is so important.  

There is so much to look forward to in 2021 from the UK Philanthropy Archive. As well as more collections being deposited with us, getting back to cataloguing and getting the collections available for research, and several oral history interviews planned, we have the inaugural Shirley Lecture (in May 2021), as well as another exciting seminar – so keep an eye out for more information on our webpages.”

The SC&A team wish you a peaceful and safe Christmas and New Year and we hope you can connect with loved ones near and far. We’re closed for Christmas from Friday (18th December) and will be back in the (virtual) office from Monday 4th January 2021.  



SC&A Highlights: 2019 edition

As once again we enter the season of festive goodwill and sparkling lights, the SC&A team are preparing for the winter break and the new decade – but not without a good look back at our favourite memories of the year. As ever, we’ve asked everyone across our team for their highlights and they’re curated for you below:

Karen (Special Collections & Archives Manager): “It’s hard to believe we have reached the end of 2019 already. This year has been a whirlwind of exciting activity in Special Collections & Archives (SC&A).  In March we welcomed our new project archivist Beth, who has joined the team to help develop our latest archive. See Beth’s post below to read more about it. We said to goodbye to Elspeth, our Digital Archivist, in September and welcomed Clair to the team soon after.

Pantomime, music hall and stand-up comedy all in one blog!

Pantomime, music hall and stand-up comedy all in one blog!

The Templeman Gallery space has hosted some amazing exhibitions throughout the year. In May we worked with Olly Double to mount ‘Alternative Comedy Now’, an exhibition celebrating 40 years since the arrival of alternative comedy. We displayed some fabulous items from the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive. ‘Keep Smiling Through: Humour and the Second World War’ was an exhibition showcasing items from the British Cartoon Archive. It certainly kept visitors entertained. We are ending the year with a double exhibition showcasing material created from projects we were involved with. Firstly ‘Diaries of the Here and Now’ in which people were asked to create a diary of the 11th November 2018, 100 years after the end of the First World War. Secondly we have’ Radical Roots and Dangerous Ideas’ created as part of the 50th anniversary since Gulbenkian was opened – see Tom’s post below. They will be up until the end of January 2020 so do pop in and have a look if you are passing.

We’ve made lots of new friends this year – including our four bursary interns and a whole host of new volunteers. The involvement of all these people really does help us to progress the work on our collections and enables us to make even more of our material available to our users. Clair and I attended the Comic Forum in Leeds, taking items from our cartoon collection to their market place event. This has led to some new links with other Universities and we hope to share more about this next year.

Clair (Digital Archivist): “2019 has been the year that I had the fantastic opportunity and privilege of joining the Special Collections & Archives team on a permanent basis.

Personally it’s been a bit of a whirlwind year, with lots of professional development alongside new challenges and exciting opportunities. One particular highlight for me was our Hands-on History event in June. This event saw us welcoming ten volunteers in to special Collections for a two week period to learn some archives and cataloguing skills, and to work on the Max Tyler Music Hall collection.

Volunteers are examining documents from the Max Tyler Music Hall collection in the Special Collections & Archives Reading Room

Volunteers working on our Music Hall collection

The first week focussed on the team sharing expertise and experiences with the volunteers in the form of presentations and workshops, whilst the second week was very much hands-on with the volunteers cleaning, repackaging and describing materials from the collection. This included music hall ephemera such as posters and programmes, Max’s research notes, photographs, musical and lyrical songsheets, audio cassettes and even Max’s suit and straw hat!

It was a really positive and productive week with the volunteers producing a total of 291 catalogue records, which is a testament to how dedicated and proactive the group was. It was an absolute pleasure to have them working with us, and we’re lucky enough to still have some of the group volunteering with us on an ongoing basis.

Another exciting project that I’ve been involved with this year is the return of the Beaverbrook Cartoon Collection to the University of Kent.

The Beaverbrook Foundation logo

This cartoon collection holds what is widely regarded as some of the most important British political cartoons from the twentieth century. It features work by artists David Low, Victor Weisz (‘Vicky’), Michael Cummings and Sidney Strube.

Selection of political cartoons found in the Beaverbrook Collection

Selection of cartoons found in the Beaverbrook Collection

The collection has been beautifully repackaged by the Beaverbrook Foundation and they have now loaned the artworks back to us so that they can be made available for teaching and research. Although the artwork can already be found on our British Cartoon Archive catalogue, we will be re-digitising the entire collection during 2020 to a high archival standard.

It’s a really exciting time for the Special Collections team with lots of exciting projects in the pipeline… I can’t wait to get stuck in in 2020!!!”

Jennie (Library Assistant, Digital Curation & Metadata): “This year I’ve really enjoyed working to add two collections to our catalogue – the Max Tyler Collection and the Peter Baldwin Collection.

One of the toy theatres in the Peter Baldwin collection undergoing preservation

One of the toy theatres in the Peter Baldwin collection undergoing preservation

Both archives are related to theatre, albeit toy theatres in the case of Peter Baldwin! I’m looking forward to our first request for these items to be brought up to the reading room for consultation – especially some of the scenery and figures for Peter Baldwin’s toy theatres. Describing them for the catalogue has been a bit of a challenge, but it is exactly the sort of thing I enjoy and I’m sure that 2020 will bring even more of it!”

Jo (Senior Library Assistant, Special Collections & Archives): “Since September 2018 we’ve been working regularly with sixth form students at Simon Langton Boys School. Under the supervision of their History teachers they’ve been coming up weekly to research the life of Hewlett Johnson, better known as the ‘Red Dean’ of Canterbury Cathedral due to his socialist views. As Hewlett was Dean from 1931 – 1963 he was well connected with hugely influential political figures and thus his archive is a fantastic snapshot of 20th century society.

Dean Hewlett Johnson smiling whilst holding a telephone; one of his published books is beside him.

Dean Hewlett Johnson

It’s been a real joy to see students develop their archival research skills across the year – many of the 2018/2019 cohort are now applying to read History at university which has in part been decided by their visiting us. The 2019/2020 cohort, having completed a training day about how to use archives, are now fully immersing themselves in the collection and are asking so many great questions along the way.

Artwork by Carl Giles for the Ministry of Information film 'The Grenade'

Artwork by Carl Giles for the Ministry of Information film ‘The Grenade’

My other highlight of the year was working with our two wonderful interns, Thomas and Nicola, to develop an exhibition exploring humour and the Second World War. This was a great chance to explore our British Cartoon Archive in a lot of depth; Thomas and Nicola established some great themes which allowed the exhibition to discuss political cartooning trends from 1914 to the present day. My favourite part of the exhibition was how Alex, our Digitisation Assistant, transferred two animations from VHS onto DVD: the films were created by cartoonist Carl Giles for the Ministry of Information during the war. They’re really funny sequences and added a lot of atmosphere to the exhibition.”

Beth (Project Archivist for the UK Philanthropy Archive): “The UK Philanthropy Archive is a new project to identify, collect and preserve archives that record the activities of philanthropists, philanthropic trusts and foundations, networks and other related organisations. These archives are important and are an essential component in supporting research in the history and current practice of UK philanthropy and charitable giving. Our aim is that the material in the archive will represent the history, experiences and perspectives of philanthropists, trusts and foundations and their impact on the UK and globally, and will form an important and well-used research resource, and a tool for engaging more people in philanthropy.

Beth and Dame Stephanie passing on the first items from the Shirley Foundation Collection

Beth and Dame Stephanie passing on the first items from the Shirley Foundation Collection

We are fortunate to be supported in this project by Dame Stephanie Shirley and the Shirley Foundation – the papers of which also form our founding collection. Dame Stephanie is a tech entrepreneur and philanthropist who focussed her giving on women in tech, IT projects, and autism research and education. One of the highlights of the year was our first trip to meet Dame Stephanie and talk about her collection. This was quickly followed by receiving the first deposit of material including the project files with details of all the projects supported by the Shirley Foundation over its lifetime. This collection is now being catalogued and should be available for research early in 2020. We are also fortunate to have the philanthropic papers of Amanda Sebestyen, a journalist, activist and feminist interested in human rights, women and social justice. This interesting collection is also being catalogued ready for 2020.  In the first year of the project we have been focussing on planning and developing contacts to encourage new donations – and we are delighted that this is now bearing fruit with negotiations underway with several trusts and foundations about their archives. Watch this space for more about this in the new year!

Some of the items in the Shirley Foundation archives

Some of the items in the Shirley Foundation archives

We have planned a seminar event about archives on philanthropy to mark the end of the first year of the project and to officially launch the UK Philanthropy Archive. This will be followed by a wine reception and our inaugural Shirley Lecture – to be delivered by Dame Stephanie Shirley. This will be a fantastic event on Wednesday 11th March and we are really  looking forward to welcoming people to the library to learn more about archives, philanthropy, and the life experiences of Dame Stephanie.

Another highlight for the project has been in developing our approach to collecting to ensure that the UK Philanthropy Archive reflects the variety and diversity of the philanthropy sector as a whole – including both the activities and perspectives of philanthropists and grant-givers, but also the impact that funding has had on grant recipients. We believe that collecting the records of some of the organisations and initiatives that have been supported by philanthropists represented in our collections will provide a more comprehensive picture of grant funding and philanthropic practice in the UK. We are very excited by the possibilities of this approach and we look forward to seeing how the collections develop as a result.

It has been a fantastic experience working in Special Collections & Archives so far – the collections are brilliant and have so much potential, the special collections team are wonderful and supportive – and I can’t wait to see what 2020 brings.”

Rachel (Liaison Librarian for the Arts and Humanities): “I was involved in the Hands on History event in June and talked about finding aids and online resources with a particular focus on the Gale Newsvault.

My daughter came to the library for her school Year 9 Welcome to Work Day in October and gained a valuable insight into the work we do as well as into the world of work. She particularly enjoyed her introduction to Special Collections and Archives.

Special Collections and Archives supported an ‘ArtsBites’ event in the library in November celebrating the academic output of the School of Arts, with a bookpod and accompanying talk by Dr Sophie Quirk, a drama lecturer in School of Arts.

Poster, 1980. Originally a venue, The Comic Strip collective quickly embarked on a national tour, released an LP and produced TV series “The Comic Strip Presents…”

Materials from the Stand-Up Comedy Archive were displayed alongside the bookpod and talk ‘Why Stand-Up Matters: Comedy and its Politics’ .”

Tom (University Archivist): “My highlight of 2019 was working with the Gulbenkian to help celebrate their 50th anniversary with their National Lottery Heritage Fund project ‘Radical Roots and Dangerous Ideas’. This saw us delivering a number of workshops using the University and Gulbenkian archives to help set the context for the establishment of the Gulbenkian and focusing on its place in the new university and the radical student politics of the time. Groups from the various youth groups of the Gulbenkian came to look at architectural plans, production files and posters, photographs, prospectuses and student publications and newspapers amongst other archive items. It was great to have a younger audience using our collections and to see how they responded to the archives. In addition to the workshops, the project generated an exhibition curated by ART31 and displayed Colyer-Fergusson, Beaney House of Art and Knowledge and the Templeman Gallery. We also recruited a team of volunteers and an intern to help repackage and enhance the catalogue records for the production files from the Gulbenkian collection (by the end of the project the first 20 years will be completed), improving the accessibility and ensuring the preservation of this collection.

Youth groups exploring the Gulbenkian archive

Youth groups exploring the Gulbenkian archive

One of the most exciting things about the project was that it generated new content for the Gulbenkian Archive, including oral histories with Kent staff and alumni from the late 1960s and early 1970s on their memories of the early years of the Gulbenkian. It also resulted in a zine containing original creative writing inspired by the collections, a copy of which will in turn become part of the archive.”

Zine from the Radical Roots project

Zine from the Radical Roots project

See this blog post for more on the Gulbenkian at 50: https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/specialcollections/2019/12/11/radical-roots-and-dangerous-ideas-archives-and-gulbenkians-heritage/

Alex (Digital Imaging Assistant): “The year 2019 began with a rescue mission – a collection of VHS Videotapes donated to the University by the late comedian and activist: Jeremy Hardy. To ensure that the British Stand Up Comedy Archive had digital copies of this material before the magnetic VHS tapes suffered any further deterioration I duplicated the relevant content to digital file.

Jeremy Hardy

Jeremy Hardy

Jeremy Hardy

Jeremy Hardy

Amongst the various sketches and stand up sets was a (possibly unique) American recording of a fresh faced Jeremy at the famous New York comedy club; “Carolines”.

From Spring 2019 I began work on archival digitisation of the more than 800 analogue recordings of Open Lectures given at the University over the past 50 years. These recordings feature many well know speakers and experts in their field. I have already unearthed many highlights in these recordings. Topics have included the truth behind the “Bridge over the river Kwai” myth by a soldier who lived through the experience and “Stonehenge Decoded” by a noted archaeoastronomer.

Our audiovisual digitisation equipment

Our audiovisual digitisation equipment

From the content I’ve digitised so far I’m sure that there will be many more gems as I work my way through this collection in 2020!”

On behalf of the whole SC&A team, we hope you have a lovely Christmas break and we’ll see you in 2020! The Reading Room reopens on Monday 13th January.

2018 Highlights from the SC&A Team

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but the end of the year has crept up on us remarkably stealthily! (Although all the Christmas decorations and festive events around campus may argue otherwise…) With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look back at 2018 and share with you our particular highlights – work you may know about, projects you may not, or collections that are waiting for you to explore them.

In no particular order…

Karen (Special Collections & Archives Manager): “2018 has been a fantastic year for Special Collections and Archives. In February we welcomed our new University Archivist, Tom, who began work almost immediately on the fabulous “Our Templeman” Exhibition. The exhibition was created to celebrate the completion of the library extension and refurbishment as well as 50 years since the Templeman Library first opened its doors.

We are Archive Accredited and therefore Awesome

In March we had a party! We were very excited and proud to receive the National Archives Accreditation Award – and of course like all good parties we had a cake. In the summer we were lucky to be able to recruit two Bursary funded Interns. Janee and Philip spent the summer working on the Maddison collection and revealed some interesting discoveries from this science collection through a series of blog posts and pop-up sessions.

Interning at SCA: far more fun than making endless cups of tea and photocopying

Interning at SC&A: far more fun than making endless cups of tea and photocopying

Tom Ritchie needed a venue to demonstrate a Meccano based reconstruction. SC&A were happy to play host to Tom and the Meccano Men (they are real people!). We eagerly watched as the Differential Analyser was constructed and then opened the doors to a whole host of diverse people who were interested to see how meccano played an important role in the development of computers.

What do you get when you cross archives and toys?

What do you get when you cross archives and toys?

And just to whet your appetite about what is to come next year – in the summer we received a new collection, which focuses on the history of Music Hall – in the New Year we will reveal more about it but here is a taster of what is to come…”

Your Christmas starter for ten: what links all these items?

Your Christmas starter for ten: what links all these items?


Helen (Library Assistant, Curation & Metadata): “The ‘Prescriptions’ exhibition of artists’ books, on wellbeing and medicine, took place at the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in 2016. Books by 82 artists, from 15 countries exhibited their work and many of them subsequently donated or deposited their works at the University of Kent’s Special Collections and Archives. The books deal with topics including “cancer, chronic illness, disability, mental health, surgery, medicine and wellbeing” (Bolaki & Ciricaite, 2017).

A rare sighting of the endangered cotton glove (Karen Apps, 'Losing Touch', 2016)

A rare sighting of the endangered cotton glove (Karen Apps, ‘Losing Touch’, 2016)

Working with these poignant, and sometimes harrowing, books proved to be a rewarding challenge. It was very moving to handle a succession of very personal artworks, created with care and documenting painful experiences. The collection as a whole captures a great breadth of different experiences. Many of the artists faced an initial shock and disruption around a diagnosis but came to terms with their illness and made peace with the impact it had on their lives. My experience cataloguing the collection took a similar trajectory, from a sense of intrusion and uncertainty to acceptance and even comfort.”

Rachel (Library Assistant, Curation & Metadata): “It’s been great to be part of a project to catalogue and digitise material from the Queen’s Own Buffs The Royal Kent Regiment Collection. It contains material from the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) and the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent regiment who merged in the 1960s. There’s a variety of material in the collection, ranging from prisoner of war accounts to the Buffs Golfing Society records, as well as plenty of books surrounding the history of the Buffs, who are one of the oldest regiments of the British Army, tracing their roots back to the 16th century. As part of my work I spent a lot of time with the Dragon and the Queen’s Own Gazette, the regimental journals of the two regiments. They’re full of information on the history of the regiments, as well as plenty of reports of their leisure time, giving a fantastically detailed picture of life in these regiments from the late 19th century onwards.

The Buffs are for life, not just for Christmas

The Buffs are for life, not just for Christmas

My personal highlight was finding Pte. A. Baker listed as missing in an issue of The Queen’s Own Gazette from 1916. Arthur Percy Baker was my great great uncle who worked as a train conductor before the First World War. He died at the Somme in July 1916 and is one of the 72,000 men listed on the Thiepval Memorial.”

Who Do You Think You are in action

Archives have all the answers (sometimes)


Jo (Senior Library Assistant, Special Collections & Archives): “This year we’ve been full steam ahead with our education and engagement offering, welcoming over 900 visitors through group sessions in the Autumn Term alone! It’s always brilliant to see people who’ve never looked at or touched historic material before engage with our collections, but two particular sessions stand out:

No books were harmed in the making of this photo, apart from the one which is art

No books were harmed in the making of this photo, apart from the one which is art

In the Spring Term, we revamped our sessions to support a final year English course where students write and self-publish their own book. In previous years, groups have come in to look at modern poetry exclusively – but this year we pushed things a bit beyond that. One Reading Room table focused on a history of print from the early modern period to the present day – spanning everything from rare books to playbills and zines. The other table was split into modern poetry on one section and artists books on the other. By looking at the history of print material first, students were then able to see how contemporary works play on printing traditions – and it worked so well, we could barely get them to leave after three hours!

We were very glad to have more responses than 'old dusty things'

We were very glad to have more responses than ‘old dusty things’

In the Autumn Term, we undertook the obviously-very-small challenge of welcoming every single first year History student into Special Collections & Archives through their mandatory ‘Making History’ course. Using some of the reading I’ve inhaled through my MA, we planned a detailed 50 minute session that was split into parts – and included hiding the archive material in boxes so students couldn’t get distracted from the first activity about physical and digital archives. We’re looking forward to working with the School of History further to improve our support next year, but it really was wonderful to meet the very enthusiastic first years.”

Tom (University Archivist): “My highlight of 2018 was working on the exhibition the “Our Templeman” celebrations in March, marking the completion of the Templeman extension and refurbishment and the 50th anniversary of the library first opening. This was one of the first tasks given to me after starting work here in February and it allowed me to totally immerse myself in the University Archive in digging out a pictorial history of the library. It also allowed us to showcase some of our amazing other collections. We brought it out again for the start of the new academic year and it was great seeing how many staff, students and alumni engaged with it.”

Templeman Time-machine: spot the difference!

Templeman Time-machine: spot the difference!


Elspeth (Digital Archivist): “I’ve loved having the opportunity to explore two oral history collections from Special Collections & Archives through digitisation and cataloguing. The collections comprise unique, original oral history recordings, which are not archived in any other institution or heritage centre. They were recorded on reel-to-reel tapes, now an obsolete format, in the late 1960s and 1970s, so it is fantastic that we were able to have these digitised to ensure that the testimonies included on them are preserved and able to be made accessible.

The first of the two oral history collections, The Barker Oral History Tapes collection, comprises interviews with c. 100 people in Kent recorded in the late 1960s. The interviews were part of an oral history project, funded by the ESRC, directed by Professor Theo Barker (founding professor of Economic and Social History at the University of Kent in 1964) and John Whyman (Lecturer in Economic and Social History and Master of Rutherford 1996-1997), who were interviewing older respondents for their memories of life in Kent before 1900. Barker was an early supporter of oral history as a research methodology, and he became the Oral History Society’s first Chairman in 1973. The second collection is the Winstanley Oral History Collection.  This collection comprises interviews with over 160 people in Kent (mainly east Kent), recorded between 1974 and 1976. The recordings were undertaken as part of an SSRC-funded oral history project (called ‘Everyday Life in Kent before 1914’), looking at life in Kent at the turn of the 20th century.

Both collections, and the first-hand testimony within them, is unique. The interviews provide insight into life in the county in the period between 1890 and 1950 (although the focus is on life at the turn of the century), and cover topics such as work, industry, society, war, community, and women’s history. The testimonies will also provide a linguistics resource, providing a rich resource for those studying dialect and the changes in Kent dialect over time. The recordings can be accessed via the Special Collections & Archives reading room (email specialcollections@kent.ac.uk).

What’s been your highlight of 2018? Let us know below!

We’d like to wish all of our readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Our Reading Room is closed from the 19th December 2018 and will reopen on January 14th 2019. This slightly longer-than-normal closure period allows us a week to develop our collections, so we’ll be spending 5 days in January working on exciting projects in our storage areas!

Special Collections & Archives 2016: our highlights

With winter frost beginning to appear around campus, the wonderful end of term carol service just around the corner, festive activities everywhere and our Reading Room winter closure dates announced, it seems the end of 2016 is in sight at last. With this in mind, we thought we’d take a look back over our year as a team and share some of our favourite highlights with you all!

2016 has been a big year for Special Collections & Archives: we’re still amidst the ongoing Templeman Library refurbishment, but we’re settling into our new home in the shiny West extension well. We’ve seen launches of a new website for the British Cartoon Archive, and the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive got its collections out to the world online too. We launched our Instagram account, welcomed hundreds of you into our Reading Rooms and got involved with several exhibitions along the way. It’s no surprise that this year has really flown by for us – but there are many events we’ll remember well into the future:

Opening night of the DR575 Victorian Theatre exhibition, April 2016

Rachel (Special Collections & Metadata Library Assistant): “On Wednesday 6th April the yearly exhibition by Kent second year students on the British Theatre History module launched. Whilst this has been an annual event for several years, this time the students faced a bigger challenge than ever: the size of the Templeman exhibition space. This was only the second exhibition in the new space, and was more than twice the size of spaces used in the past! The students rose to the challenge admirably, and created a very successful and effective exhibition on Women on Stage and in Society : 1850-1915.”

Andy Capp and his wife Flo give as good as they get! AC3414, December 1969, British Cartoon Archive

Mandy (Digital Imaging Assistant): “I’ve been scanning material from the British Cartoon Archive so everyone can view it online. I’ve enjoyed seeing how funny the Andy Capp pictures were, and how things have changed as regards to how women were seen. I also got to catalogue some vinyl records – it was like going back in time! Getting them out of the cardboard sleeves with the A and B sides.”

Andy Hamilton talking at the Gulbenkian Theatre on campus, May 2016

Elspeth (Assistant Curator – Special Collections & Archives): “My highlight of the year would be the 2016 Linda Smith Lecture, the second annual lecture which is intended to celebrate comedy and its use in, and for, political and social comment (as well as to promote the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive).  In May 2016 the lecture was given by Andy Hamilton. Andy is a comedian and comedy writer for radio and TV (and well known for regular appearances on topical and panel shows).

Andy covered a number of topics in his lecture, entitled ‘A Life in Comedy (and the Comedy in Life)’, including his career in comedy and the social importance of comedy. The lecture was audio recorded and can be accessed at the University’s Special Collections & Archives.  Keep tuned for news about the 2017 guest lecturer!”

Clockwise from top left: – Illumination from 15thC Book of Hours. The skull begins The office of the dead [Officium Mortuorum, Officium Defunctorum or Vigiliae mortuorum] – Illuminated manuscript leaf from 15thC Fragment of Psalter and Kalender mss – Decorated letter from 12th century De consensu Evangelistarum by Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo – Josie talking about the collection at a public exhibition at Drill Hall Library in March 2016

Josie (Metadata Assistant and Rochester Cathedral Cataloguer):“Looking back at 2016 my fondest memory has been the opportunity I have had to catalogue the extraordinary collection from Rochester Cathedral Library.  My involvement with the project grew to be more than I imagined it could be, giving me the opportunity to build new relationships and  be part of the legacy of a beautiful, rare and culturally significant collection.”

Outreach posters, learning guides, feedback and groups

Clockwise from top left: Promotional posters, learning resource leaflets, group vists in action, and feedback post-its!

Joanna (Senior Library Assistant – Special Collections & Archives): “I’ve loved getting to know the wonderful collections we have here through running many teaching and outreach sessions. This year, we’ve hosted groups ranging from year 10 school students from Folkestone and Maidstone through to postgraduates at the University. The material we’ve used has spanned a huge variety of themes, including the First World War, Shakespeare and Early Modern playwrights, the history of comic strips, peace treaties, stand up comedy, Victorian theatre, local history and curation. We’ve been trying to integrate more material from the fantastic British Cartoon Archive into our sessions, and it’s always been a huge success! We’ve also been developing lesson guides so students have something to take away with them, and I hope we can develop our outreach even more next year.”


Clockwise from top left: Tavener Bible (1549, SC&A); illuminated leaf from Fragments of Psalter and Kalendar (c. 15th Century, Rochester Cathedral Library); A Display of Heraldry (1679, SC&A); Soliloquium de quatuor mentalibus exercitiis (c. 14th Century, Rochester Cathedral Library); Wingham and Chatham Dockyard indentures (c. 14th century, SC&A); A topographical map of the county of Kent (1769, Rochester Cathedral Library)

Melissa (Head of Academic Liaison): “Whilst it would be difficult to single one memory out, it would have to be viewing the collections themselves. Having the opportunity to engage with the wonderful, diverse and rich materials as part of the exhibitions and displays hosted by SC&A is a fabulously rewarding experience.

The collections do truly speak for themselves but this year, probably the stand out moment for me was when we were able to showcase some of the Rochester Cathedral collections alongside some of our own collections as part of the summer Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies Festival . This rare opportunity to engage with some of the highlights from the Rochester Cathedral collections, following our cataloguing project we have undertaken with them, was not to be missed. I am particularly drawn to old maps and rich imagery and I captured some of my favourite materials from the exhibition. I am therefore letting the photographs do the talking!”

Jane in her element – with rare books!

Jane (Humanities Liaison Libarian): “Although I have spent most of this year out of Special Collections, on a secondment as Liaison Librarian for Humanities, I’ve still been lucky enough to be involved. Back in January, I found myself starring (rather unexpectedly) alongside materials and academics in a promotional video for new modules running in the School of History and CompLit – my hands and skill at nodding are now out there on the web! It’s also been great to link up with the Marlowe Society and to be asked to take care of the two volume copy of Holinshed from the 16thC. This chronicle is believed to be the key source for both Shakespeare and Marlowe when they were writing their history plays, so an excellent addition to our Early Modern and theatre expertise.

Over in my new role, I’ve been delighted to help bring the wide range of collections to the notice of researchers and learners, particularly planning ahead for new courses and new interaction in the years to come. With such an array of exciting materials, I’ve no doubt that Special Collections & Archives will be engaging all kinds of researchers next year.”

Building of Rutherford College, October 1966

Building of Rutherford College, October 1966

Ann (University Archivist): “I found 2016 a particularly exciting year, in which we celebrated 50 years since the opening of Rutherford college in 1966 and the second intake of University of Kent students. The history of the University of Kent, and the inspirational tales of some of Kent’s alumni, were celebrated in the BBC South East documentary ‘Living in ’66 – The Education Revolution’. Back to the present day, in 2016, I have been privileged to preserve the history of an institution that is so proud of its place within Europe, and still says very loudly that we are the UK’s European University. Special Collections & Archives serves both local and international communities, and in 2017 I will really look forward to seeing how we can engage new audiences in the fascinating pasts that we hold.”

We can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for us! What are your favourite archival memories of this year?

From all the team in Special Collections & Archives, have a very merry festive season and we look forward to seeing you all in the new year!