New year, new Special Collections and Archives website!

Happy January everyone! It’s still relatively early into 2022 but we are already excited to show you something we’ve been working on for over a year now – the new look Special Collections and Archives (SC&A) website! In this post, we’ll show you around the new site and answer some questions about its creation, how we’ve designed it and what this means for you as users.

Why did the SC&A website need changing? 

Screenshot of the new SC&A homepage. It is much more visual and core links to search our collections are front and centre of the page.

Screenshot of the new SC&A homepage. It is much more visual and core links to search our collections are front and centre of the page.

Short answer to a question we could discuss for hours: the old SC&A website looked, well, old. Whilst we worked really hard to keep all the information updated, including pages for new collections as they were acquired, the University has switched to a much more modern design of website in the past couple of years and our web pages needed to fit that new template. There are a lot of advantages to the new site: it’s incredibly visual, should look better on mobile devices, and is much easier for staff to keep updated behind the scenes.

For the SC&A team, the new website format has also allowed us to complete some work we’ve been planning for a while: making a single website for all of our collections, including the British Cartoon Archive. We’ve transferred over all the information from previous pages, and where that hasn’t been possible we’ve kept all the old site information working. It’s also been a great chance for us to tweak some of the things that didn’t work so well on the old site and to highlight information that’s previously been somewhat hidden.

What content on the updated website is new?

Screenshot of the collections showcase section of the new SC&A homepage, highlighting some of our core collections.

Screenshot of the collections showcase section of the new SC&A homepage, highlighting some of our core collections.

There’s so much new content on the SC&A website that it’s hard to narrow it down, but a couple of sections really stand out for us. Firstly (as you can see above), the homepage has a brand-new Collections Showcase section, highlighting some of the fantastic material in our care. We’ll be changing this up to tie in with key events, anniversaries and exhibitions – so do keep checking back.

Screenshot of our new Digital Resources page, which collates all our learning, teaching and events resources in one place.

Screenshot of our new Digital Resources page, which collates all our learning, teaching and events resources in one place.

Secondly, we’ve added a new page for all of our digital resources that we create as part of our Education and Engagement work! This page includes links to videos of past events, introductions to using our collections, and even some films of items we look after to give you an idea of what we hold. The digital resources listed here are accessible to everyone and we’ll be updating the page when we add more content.

Screenshot of the SC&A homepage showing links to search our collections.

Screenshot of the SC&A homepage showing links to search our collections.

We’ve also done a lot of work with our wonderful Library Systems colleagues to ensure searching our collections is easier than ever before. Our homepage now has a dedicated searchbar for SC&A material in LibrarySearch (no more typing your terms into the main catalogue and filtering by location), and there are links to the British Cartoon Archive catalogue and the SC&A archive catalogue too. These search links are the first thing you’ll see on our new homepage.

Do you still have pages for all your collections?

Screenshot of our new look Collections A-Z page.

Screenshot of our new look Collections A-Z landing page.

Yes, and (we think) it’s better than ever! For the first time, you can directly search all our collections pages and see which main collection they’re a part of. This is particularly useful for our bigger ‘parent’ collections such as the British Cartoon Archive and the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive which contain many different individual collections within them.

Screenshot of the David Low Collection page on our new website with a famous Low cartoon as its background.

Screenshot of the David Low Collection page on our new website with a famous Low cartoon as its background.

As you can see in the example above, we’ve also added pages for all of the British Cartoon Archive collections individually for the first time so it should be a lot easier for you to understand what we hold and how to access it.

Screenshot of the collections page for the David Drummond Pantomime Collection.

Screenshot of the collections page for the David Drummond Pantomime Collection.

Some of our old Collections pages held a lot of information so in some cases, we’ve transferred this into documents or into catalogue listings where appropriate. If you can’t find something please just ask us.

Have any URLs or links changed during the move to the new site?

Yes and no! Our main homepage address has changed from to to come in line with the Library’s URLs which changed last summer. However, we’ve been working with our IT colleagues to ensure that all the old addresses should redirect to the new ones where needed. This work will continue over the next few weeks so if you don’t see the new site yet, don’t panic!

I can’t find [X page] or [X information] any more, where is it?

We’ve worked really hard to ensure that all the content on the old site has been migrated safely (ncluding making lots of backups of pages), and we’ve tested the site with colleagues a lot, so hopefully this shouldn’t be the case. However if you do have trouble locating any information please do send us a screenshot with details to and we’ll look into it ASAP.

We hope you enjoy exploring our new site! We’d love to hear your thoughts on the refresh so do get in touch with us if you have any comments.

7 ways to find material in the British Cartoon Archive

Welcome to part two of our refresher series on how to find Special Collections & Archive material to use in your research! Today, we’re exploring the wonderful (and sometimes weird) world of the British Cartoon Archive (BCA).

Kent’s British Cartoon Archive is one of the largest collections of political cartoons in the UK, if not the world; since its establishment by academics here in the 1970s, the Archive has grown to contain material from over 300 artists, and over 200,000 cartoons have been digitised and put online through the British Cartoon Archive catalogue.

With such a vast collection, it can be tricky to know where to start searching for material! But we are here, as ever, to guide you through our wonderful cartoon collections…

1) Think around your research area

As cartoons tend to be catalogued using the language of the time, it’s worth taking a few minutes to jot down some words, people, places and dates related to your topic. This way you can try other searches if your initial results don’t yield much – it can be a real trial and error type quest! Here’s an example, imagining you’re interested in cartoons from the Second World War:

2) Books or artwork?

You can find British Cartoon Archive material in two places: if it’s books and journals you’re interested in, LibrarySearch is your place to go. You can find our guide to locating material using LibrarySearch here.

If it’s cartoons, there’s a whole new website for you to explore! Much of the BCA’s art is available to view online for free through the BCA catalogue – you don’t need a special log in to do so.

BCA1 - British Cartoon Archive catalogue

3) Searching the BCA catalogue – general searches

If you want a general overview of what artwork can be found in the British Cartoon Archive that’s relevant to your research, the main search bar at the top of the catalogue is your friend. You can search by keyword / artist / place / date and the catalogue will bring up images that match your terms. You can order the images by date and view every relevant image on one page rather than clicking through, if you prefer to do so.

BCA2 - Initial searches

BCA3 - first search

4) Searching the BCA catalogue – if you know what you’re looking for

If you know have a rather more specific search term, you can use either of the ‘Advanced Search’ options on the left hand side. If you’re after seeing all cartoons of Margaret Thatcher, use the ‘persons depicted’ search. If you’re interested in cartoons between specific dates, or on a certain topic but by a particular artist, the ‘cartoons’ search is for you.

5) Click through for bigger images

When you find relevant results, you’ll see a tiny version of the cartoon next to a description of the work. Click through twice and you’ll see a larger version of the image.

6) Don’t forget copyright

42061 – Leslie Gibbard: “With the compliments of my client – she’s suing for breach of copyright!”, 15 June 1988, The Guardian

Although the BCA looks after (and owns) many collections of cartoons, we don’t always hold the rights to reproduce the images. Many cartoonists’ work is owned by the newspapers they draw for, so if you’re looking for an image to publish please do take note of the copyright information that’s included in the catalogue entry. We can also supply higher-resolution versions of images for a fee, but bear in mind that the copyright owners may also charge for image use. You can find more information on copyright here.

If you’re wanting to use BCA images for use in presentations, essays or teaching, please do get in touch with us and we can explain how this works.

7) Explore the biographies for artist (and collection) information

Did you know that the BCA website has details about almost every cartoonist within our holdings which you can browse? What’s more, if you scroll down to the bottom of each artist biography page you can find details of any additional holdings that aren’t catalogued yet – so if something doesn’t appear on the main BCA catalogue, it’s worth having a look here. You’re welcome to view uncatalogued material, just get in touch with us and say what you’d like to see.

Part of our ongoing series about finding material in Special Collections & Archives: see also tips for exploring collections through LibrarySearch

7 top tips for finding Special Collections & Archives material through LibrarySearch

Although we’re not students any more, we can always tell when it’s deadline time at Kent. How? By the number of people visiting the library (and the queues at the café…)!

We thought we’d use this opportunity to wave our own flag and give you a quick refresher series on how to find material in our collections to really make your research stand-out. Today we’ll take a look at how to find Special Collections & Archives (SC&A) material through Kent’s Library catalogue, LibrarySearch:

1) Gather your locations

We have over 150 different collections here at Kent, and listings for these collections can be found in a number of different places: through LibrarySearch, on the SC&A website, via our Archive catalogue and through the British Cartoon Archive catalogue.

2) What’s on LibrarySearch?

Broadly speaking, items that are in book and playscript form can currently be found through LibrarySearch, which is the catalogue you (hopefully!) use to find books, e-books and journal articles here at Kent. We are working on making our archive collections findable through LibrarySearch soon, so check back for this.

3) Narrowing down results makes finding our material much quicker

Start by entering your search terms, then tick either ‘British Cartoon Archive’ or ‘Special Collections & Archives’ (or both) in the location box down the left-hand side. This will help narrow down the items LibrarySearch is exploring to only the material we hold.

Bonus tip: you can use the ‘sort by publication date – ascending’ to organise items so the oldest material will be the first thing you see. ‘Sort by publication date – descending’ will put the most recent items first.

4) Digitised or not digitised?

You’ll probably need to make an appointment to view items you find in LibrarySearch in our Reading Room. The majority of our windmill and playbill collections have been digitised, alongside artwork (not books or journals) from the British Cartoon Archive.

5) Get your orders in!

Once you’ve found an item, click on ‘Place Reservation’ (either the blue box next to the item summary or from the drop-down menu inside the item’s description) and select ‘Templeman Library’. Please note that at present, this option is only available to users who have a University of Kent login – if you’re visiting from elsewhere, jot down the reference numbers and details of the items you’d like to see and send us an email.

6) Make a date and come on in!

Special Collections & Archives staff check daily for any new requests that come our way via LibrarySearch, so we will send you an email once we’ve got your request. The email will confirm which items you’ve asked for and then ask when you’d like to come in to view material. It’s really important that you respond to this email as, unlike other Library items, you’ll need to make an appointment to visit. This is because all of our material is kept in secure stores and we need a little time in advance to get it ready. Check our website for when we’re open.

7) Know your limits (spoiler: there are none)

You can place as many requests for items you find in LibrarySearch as you like – there’s no maximum number. However, if you have a lot (more than about 5 things), we’ll probably check with you if there are any you’d like to see first, so you can get the most out of your time visiting us.

GA4085: Carl Giles - "Bennett, after diligent research into history, comes up with the illuminating observation that we have gone through 13 Prime Ministers since the birth of Donald Duck." 10 Jan 1980, Daily Express

GA4085: Carl Giles – “Bennett, after diligent research into history, comes up with the illuminating observation that we have gone through 13 Prime Ministers since the birth of Donald Duck.” 10 Jan 1980, Daily Express

…And one final tip:

8) Drop in if you need help

Although you need an appointment to view material in Special Collections & Archives, we are always happy to receive queries during our opening hours. If you’re having trouble finding material in our collections, or would simply like to know more about what we hold, please do drop into our Reading Room on the First Floor of Templeman A and say hello!

Special Collections & Archives is now on Instagram!

The social-media savvy amongst you may have spied something new for Special Collections & Archives recently: we have an Instagram account!

Special Collections on Instagram

Instagram is a website and app that allows users to share photos and short videos. Users can post photos, follow other accounts and ‘like’ images. It’s a very visual platform – quite different to our other social media home on Twitter.

Musical books from our stores

We are particularly keen to use Instagram to share both material within our collections and the work that SC&A staff do to offer a ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse of the archives. We’ve also been using it recently to promote events we’ve been involved in, such as this year’s MEMS Festival:


What’s been interesting so far is seeing which other special collections, archives and library teams are using Instagram. Our wonderful Library colleagues also started an account recently (you can find them here), but a lot of Instagram users are American libraries. It’s great to engage with an international audience, and we’re really looking forward to developing these connections more.


It’s still early days with our Instagram feed, but we’re really enjoying it so far. If you use Instagram, please do follow us – and let us know what you’d like to see on our feed over the next few months!

A melodramatic celebration

Can you believe it? We’ve just passed 100 posts on the blog! Over the last two and a half years, we’ve been bringing you all the exciting news and updates from our treasures in the Templeman; I hope you’ve been enjoying the posts so far. I am honestly surprised that it’s been quite so long, but they do say that time flies when you’re having fun.

To mark this impressive milestone, I thought I’d tell you about some new additions to the archival materials we now have available online. The eagle-eyed amongst you may already have noticed (if you’ve happened to type ‘Melville’ into our Special Collections search), that it’s not just digital images of playbills which now accompany our catalogue records. Type ‘Bad Woman’ into the search box, and you will now be greeted by images of black and white publicity postcards from the melodramas of the Melville family.

The Beggar Girl's Wedding publicity postcard

Publicity postcard, c.1908

You’ve probably read about the Bad Women dramas here before; they are one of the most popular parts of our Theatre Collections, but also sadly underresearched. Created by Frederick and Walter Melville, two brothers from the theatrical Melville dynasty, the Bad Women plays were stock melodramas, dealing with all kinds of concerns of their day, the early 1900s. The majority follow an upright hero and an innocent heroine (a ‘good’ woman) whose honourable intentions are usually impeded by a villain and the trademark villainess, the ‘bad woman’ of the title.

During my time in Special Collections, we have been able to purchase a number of these postcards which still survive, resulting in a gradual increase in our understanding of these unpublished plays. Every time we get a new delivery, it feels a little bit like Christmas to open the envelope and take a close look at the wonderfully posed and illustrative scenes from each individual play. Our latest acquisition increased the number of cards we have from ‘The Female Swindler’ from two to eight, opening up this little known play without reading the whole text.

I must confess that I haven’t read very many of the Bad Woman dramas (much as I would love to spend the time doing so!) Aside from the exciting theatrical read-through which we did with the Melodrama Research Group, to my knowledge these plays haven’t been performed for around 100 years, so the postcard images are a valuable insight into performance styles, set and costume at the turn of the century. It’s also always a bit of a challenge to look at our whole stock of cards for any given melodrama (the most we have for one play is currently eleven for ‘The Bad Girl of The Family’) and try to piece together the narrative. Of course, we don’t know whether we have a complete set of any of these, we can only build them up as we go, which means that the order in which the postcards are catalogued doesn’t necessarily reflect the story!

The Bad Girl of the Familt publicity postcard

Publicity postcard c.1909

We are also lucky enough to be involved in the Melodrama Research Group which specialises in cross-faculty research on this performance style and has broadened our understanding of where the Melville melodramas fit into the popular tastes of the time. Linking quite neatly with this, we do have some (non-Melville) filmic postcards available in the Templeman Gallery space advertising the Melodrama Group and its activities – do feel free to pop in and pick one up!

As for the Melville postcards, it’s a delight to be able to share them with you, and I hope that they will inspire some new interest in melodrama and the Melvilles, who have been sadly forgotten today.