Special Collections and Archives highlights: 2022 edition

Yet again 2022 has been a year packed with activity and fun! We’ve seen a number of changes for the Special Collections and Archives team; adapting back to life on campus, welcoming new colleagues, fully reopening our Reading Room service post-pandemic, and embarking on new projects. We’ve also had a bumper year for volunteers, who have been working with our theatre collections, British Cartoon Archive, and medieval and early modern manuscripts.  

As is tradition, it’s time for us to take a step back, reflect on what we’ve achieved, and tell you about some of the highlights… 

Karen (Special Collections and Archives Manager) 

It’s been an exciting year in special Collections and Archives. We’ve seen a number of changes in our team. In February we welcomed Beth Astridge to the role of University Archivist – you’ll recall that Beth was our project archivist for the UK Philanthropy Archive so it was exciting to be able to welcome her to a fulltime position. Beth has made her mark already in organising and delivering some excellent projects – you can read more about that in Beth’s section. We welcomed Rachel to our team on secondment from the Collections Management team. Rachel is working parttime as the project archivist for the UK Philanthropy Archive continuing the amazing work Beth was doing. In the spring we said goodbye to Jo, who worked as our Senior Library Assistant for almost a decade. Jo now has a fabulous job in London – though she still finds time to pop in and see us occasionally! In the summer we welcomed Christine in Jo’s place. Christine is now firmly established as our Special Collections and Archives Coordinator. Christine is doing a brilliant job of curating already established and new content for seminar groups as well as assisting with the research and selection for our latest exhibition 100 Years: T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.  

The logo for our T.S.Eliot exhibition, featuring a cartoon by John Jensen of Eliot in profile.

A poster advertising our Eliot exhibition, featuring a cartoon by John Jensen of Eliot in profile (JJ0584).

Clair and I had great fun meeting and working with Major and Mrs Holt to prepare their Bairnsfather Archive for addition the British Cartoon Archive – see Clair’s piece for a taste of what we have. We are also working on acquiring some other significant cartoon archives in the next year – which is especially thrilling as in 2023 we celebrate 50 years of Cartoons at Kent! Watch our social media for more details soon.  

Mandy has been beavering away making sure our cuttings collection is kept up to date as well as digitising the beautiful photographs of Canterbury that we acquired a few years ago. You can see some in examples in Mandy’s section below.  

Digitisation work has moved forward in a huge way this year. The Phase One kit is now fully functional and being put to good use – see what Alex and Matt have to say below for the latest from them. 

We’ve also been lucky to tempt our former colleague Jacqueline back to the fold – Jacqueline has been working as a project cataloguer to get the books from Carl Giles Archive catalogued. Many of the books are now available on our online catalogue with more to follow in the New Year.  

Earlier this year we received a small grant from UKRI AHRC to support some new collaborative research. We were delighted to work in partnership with our colleagues at the University’s School of Arts, Professor Helen Brooks and Dr Oliver Double, with Helen being primary investigator and Olly and myself acting as co-investigators. As a group, we were particularly interested in exploring representations of gender in popular performance, giving us the opportunity to contribute to the discourse on gender expression and new audiences with diverse, inclusive histories of performance and gender. 

A handmade poster featuring images of Hetty King, Dan Leno, and a costme design for a Principal boy, along with text advertising the event.

Poster for the ‘Beyond the Binary’ project

Beyond the Binary: Performing Gender Now and Then, brought together students, public researchers, performance-makers, archivists and academics from all backgrounds and from across the gender spectrum to undertake original research into our historic music hall and pantomime archives. They worked together on line to unearth histories of gender play and presentation hidden within the collections. 

The research group also had the opportunity to spend a day in Special Collections and Archives and  helped us to deliver a day at the Beaney Museum. 

The final event of Beyond the Binary took place on Thursday 29 September, with a spectacular show, Rowdy Dowdy Boys and Saucy Seaside Girls at the Gulbenkian Arts Centre, Canterbury. The event brought together music, comedy and history. This new performance-lecture was co-created with non-binary folk performers, the Lunatraktors and featured comedian Mark Thomas. The Lunatraktors created new work inspired by items in the collection, which were displayed on a screen and on the stage – including comedy boobs, which were displayed on a specially made stand (adapted from a music stand) alongside one of the pantomime Dame costumes worn by Eddie Reindeer. Mark Thomas performed a hilarious piece he had written on the day – again inspired by the collections.  

An image of two songsheet covers. On the left is Mille Hylton, 'The rowdy Dowdy Boys'. On the cover stands mille Hylton in a full suit and top hat. On the right is Hetty King's, 'Oh! Those girls! (those saucy seaside girls)'. On the cover we see a photograph of Hetty King, standing wearing a full suit and hat, and holding a walking cane.

Two songsheets: Mille Hylton, ‘The rowdy Dowdy Boys’; Hetty King, ‘Oh! Those girls! (those saucy seaside girls)’

This year we were also delighted to succeed in our bid for the Archives Revealed Cataloguing Grants scheme. Our cataloguing project –Oh Yes It Is! – will be starting early in the New Year and will continue throughout 2023. The funding award will make an enormous difference in how we make the David Drummond Pantomime collection accessible to everyone. We will unlock its potential for researchers, historians, performers, and all those interested in the history of theatre and pantomime. We can’t wait to get started! 

A small pile of 12 theatre programmes on a white table.

Some items from the David Drummond Pantomime Archive

Stop the Press! We’ve also just heard that in the New Year we will be receiving material from the first British Muslim pantomime Cinder’Aliyah. I can’t wait to share more news about it with you all when we have the details.  

I think 2023 is also going to be filled with activity and fun!  

Beth (University Archivist) 

2022 has been my first year as University Archivist, as well as finishing off a few projects relating to the UK Philanthropy Archive, so there has been a lot going on!  

Highlights of the work on our philanthropy collections include researching and installing the ‘Exploring Philanthropy’ exhibition which was up from April to November and allowed us to display items from the UK Philanthropy Archive for the first time and introduce visitors to the history of philanthropy; welcoming Fran Perrin to the University to deliver the second Shirley Lecture on open data and philanthropy; and presenting at the Association of Charitable Foundations conference in November 2022, alongside Felicity Wates (Director of the Wates Foundation) and Sufina Ahmad (Director of the John Ellerman Foundation) about the value of projects that reflect on the history of trusts and foundations with some ‘how to’ tips about dealing with your archive records. A lovely celebration to finish the year was that Dame Stephanie Shirley – the founder of our UK Philanthropy Archive – visited Canterbury to receive her honorary degree. It was my first Canterbury Cathedral gradation, and it was wonderful to experience it with Dame Stephanie!   

A photogrpah of Fran Perrin delivering a speech in front of an audience. Fran stands in front of some windows wearing a red top and black blazer. The audience sit on chairs and face away from the camera.

Fran Perrin delivering the second Shirley Lecture, ‘Open Data and Philanthropy’

In University Archive work, I managed a team of amazing student interns who worked on a survey of the paintings, sculpture, photographs and other artworks on display in the College buildings. This survey led to some new acquisitions to the University Archive as we explored the Colleges!  We located the archive records of Rutherford College and also some of the records relating to the early days of Darwin College. These have now been added to the University Archive collection and I’ll be looking at cataloguing the Eliot, Rutherford and Darwin College archive collections later in 2023.  

We have put on some fantastic exhibitions this year which definitely deserve a mention in this summary. In June, with funding from the Migration and Movement Award Fund, we installed the exhibition ‘Reflections on the Great British Fish and Chips’ after working with a Research and Curation Group of volunteers, and our colleague Basma El Doukhi, who explored the collections and co-curated a display of original material looking at themes relating to migration, movement, global food production and the fishing industry. 

A photograph of a small group of people standing in the Templeman Library gallery space, looking at the exhibition.

The launch event for the ‘Fish and Chips’ exhibition.

With further funding from The National Archives’ Archives Testbed Fund we recently held a brilliant sensory event – Taste the Archive – where were hosted a food sharing viewing of the exhibition where we tasted fish and chips, falafel, ma’amoul, hummous and Arabic breads – all of which are featured in the exhibition. It was lovely to share food and learn more about other traditions and cultures in this sensory way. 

A photograph of six people crowded around a table of various foods.

The ‘Taste the Archive’ event

We ended the year with a new exhibition celebrating 100 years since the publication of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land. This is a great exhibition featuring some unique items from across the collections so come along and see it before April 2023! 

Clair (Digital Archivist) 

This year seems to have gone by so quickly; it’s a little hard to come to terms with the fact that we’re already writing our highlights of the year! Nevertheless, here we are in December.  

This year I had the pleasure of surveying and accessioning the Holt Bairnsfather Collection. Major Tonie and Mrs Valmai Holt are a couple who live in East Kent. They founded Major and Mrs Holts Battlefield Tours in 1978, offering tours to the public of famous battlefields across the world, before becoming authors. Together they have published over 30 books, including a biography of Bruce Bairnsfather. Their passion for Bairnsfather began in the 1970s, and since then they have amassed an extensive collection of Bairnsfather memorabilia, artworks and collectables. 

Left: Major Tonie and Mrs Valmai Holt with their publications. Right: some publications from the Holt Bairnsfather Collection.

Tonie and Valmai welcomed Karen and I into their home to assess and survey the collection, before we listed and packaged it up for the archive. It includes pottery, china, books, journals and magazines, ephemera, metalware, sketches and artworks. An incredible collection, it really gives an insight in to the impact of Bairnsfather’s work and the popularity of Old Bill and the Better ‘Ole, even some 60+ years after his death.  

A comparison of Bruce Bairnsfather’s ‘Well, if you knows of a better ‘ole, go to it’ (A Fragment from France, 24 November 1915) and Martin Rowson’s ‘Great War Studies – Module 8’ (Guardian, 06 Jan 2014. ©Martin Rowson, MRD0392)

We will continue to sort and organise the collection and hope to be able to add it to our catalogue in detail over the next year. 2023 brings the 50th anniversary of the British Cartoon Archive, and I’m sure this collection will play an important part in celebrating its continued value, and historic significance.  

A cartoon in the style of Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Last Supper', but the characters have been replaced with the Giles family at Christmas dinner.

Ronald Carl Giles, ‘Well, if you know of a better hole to spend Christmas, go to it!’, Sunday Express, 1954. ©Express Syndication Ltd (GAC0102)

We’ve also made some positive steps this year towards improving our digital storage capacity and structure, after experiencing some challenges over the last few years with third party storage and disparate SAN locations. This work will have a real impact on our ability to continue to preserve and protect our digital and digitised collections in a robust and standardised way.

Christine (Special Collections and Archives Coordinator) 

The greatest joy for me this year has been in planning and delivering diverse workshops in Special Collections and Archives to support graduate skills training and taught UG and PG modules. Over the course of 11 different sessions, I had the opportunity to meet and work with 135 students from the University of Kent and beyond, whose engagement with our materials established new insights and lines of enquiry. 

Delving deeper into the archives of Monika Bobinska and Josie Long – two stand-up comedians and comedy club managers – I got to appreciate the home-spun and community-driven nature of their endeavours. These were/are truly pioneering women in their sector who cultivated emergent talent by emphasising inclusivity and creative freedom. Their clubs – respectively, the Meccano Club and the Lost Treasures of the Black Heart – provided space for experimental performance and audience participation. Just look at these charismatic felt audience contributions representing stops on the London Underground… 

A collage of contributions from audience members. They are paper based and very colourful, including handmade images of a house, and another of Bow Church.

Creations that represent areas of London where audience members live (BSUCA/JL/2/6/4/4)

And this unassumingly pub-battered, pint-stained, contacts book that lists the crem de la crem of the alternative cabaret circuit – from Jo Brand to Mark Thomas.  

A photograph of the front cover of a black notebook with a sticker in the top right corner noting 'Cabaret'.

A contact books for the Meccano Club with contacts for comedians, agents and venues (BSUCA/MB/1/1/6)

Another collection I’ve particularly enjoyed getting to know this term is our Modern Firsts Poetry collection, which boasts an astonishing variety of rare small press items and even unpublished proofs from British and American poets of the 20th century. Some of our wonderful volunteers have worked on repackaging this collection this term in order to better preserve the more delicate items – many of which are loose leaves, single sheets, or folded or bound in intriguing ways. This hands-on work has enabled us to not only improve our catalogue records and archival practice, but also to uncover some truly unique items. With examples that are at once abstract and incredibly tactile, this collection surely epitomises Modernist aesthetics and critical thought; ‘these fragments I have shored against my ruins’ testify, too, to the enduring legacy of T.S. Eliot – check out our current exhibition celebrating the centenary of The waste land 

Rachel (Project Archivist) 

This year I moved into the role of project archivist for the UK Philanthropy Archive here at Kent, so a highlight for me was learning about the amazing collections we hold! This year saw us add two new collections to the Philanthropy Archive – those of the Wates Foundation and Craigmyle Fundraising Consultants. 

The Wates Foundation archive is our first collection from a fully family run organisation. The organisation was first set up by three brothers, Allan, Norman and Ronald Wates. The Foundation has three family committees, one for each of the brothers, which means that the work they support is hugely varied. The archive contains project files for each organisation the Foundation has supported, ranging from city farms, to local sports teams, to crime and drug rehabilitation. There is also a wide range of literature and media outputs from these projects. 

A photograph of four items from the Wates archive, including 2 VHS tapes, and 2 DVDs.

Four items from the Wates Foundation Archive

The Craigmyle Archive is a fascinating one, looking at philanthropy and fundraising from a different perspective from our other collections. Until now all our material has been from philanthropists themselves, whereas Craigmyle are professional fundraisers, working with charities and organisations who are looking to fundraise for projects. The company was founded in 1959, at a time where professional fundraising in the UK was basically non-existent. Their early focus was on supporting fundraising for schools, and there is a huge amount of material relating to all the work they have done in that area. The collection even has records of their work with other people who feature in our archive, such as Dame Stephanie Shirley, our founding donor! Clients supported by Craigmyle include Salisbury Cathedral, St. Paul’s School for Boys, Macmillan Cancer Relief, Kingston Theatre Trust and The Woodland Trust, to name just a few. This is by far the biggest collection the Philanthropy Archive has taken in yet, and a dedicated archivist will be being employed to work with it next year, so watch this space! 

Outside of the collections, my highlight for this year has definitely been attending the degree congregation at Canterbury Cathedral last month where the University of Kent awarded Dame Stephanie Shirley an honorary degree.

A photograph from the graduation ceremony. The image shows the following people standing together in a group (left to right): Dr Beth Breeze, Dame Stephanie Shirley, Rachel Dickinson, Beth Astridge.

A photograph from the graduation ceremony. Left to right: Dr Beth Breeze, Dame Stephanie Shirley, Rachel Dickinson, Beth Astridge.

I graduated from Kent in 2012, but this was my first time seeing a ceremony from the other side. Canterbury Cathedral is such a lovely setting for a graduation ceremony, it feels appropriately grand for recognising all the work put in by our students to achieve their degrees. This was also my first time meeting Dame Stephanie in person. We discovered it was honorary degree number 31 for her, but she was still incredibly grateful for the recognition and genuinely had a wonderful time in a glorious setting. The speech she gave referenced her support of the University, including her ties to our archive and her work with the Tizard Centre, and her message to all our graduands was heartfelt and really well received. 

Matt (Digitisation Manager) 

As Alex has alluded to below, after the install and learning phase of 2021, 2022 has been the year of the Phase One. It’s made a huge difference to our digitisation abilities as we’ve learnt to make the most of the whole system. As we progress with our pre-planned projects we’ve started to consider what it can do for us in the next years and the other collections we can digitise. When looking at collections we’ve had for years it’s exciting to have a new perspective on them now that we can digitise them in such amazing detail. 

We’ve also spent some time in the last few months refurbishing a new space for our digitisation systems so that we can bring it all into one custom space, (and also so that we can finally relinquish half of the Special Collections work room back to our colleagues). We’ll be moving in at the start of next year. 

A photograph of an empty room, with concrete walls , with white shelves high up on the wall.

Our new digitisation space in the Templeman Library

Earlier in the year we completed a project assessing our preservation and access systems for our digital collections which means next year we can move forward into testing and hopefully acquiring a new system that will mark a significant step forward in our digital offering to users of our various services. 

Mandy (Special Collections and Archives Assistant) 

Here are a few photos that I have been lucky enough to scan over this past year.

three images left to right: A black and white photograph of a delivery van parked up on a road, with the load on the back of the van spilling over in to the street. A black and white photograph of an elephant being paraded through Canterbury High Street. A man walks in front of the elephant, talking to a policeman in uniform riding a bicycle. A black and white photograph of a garage with a van in the driveway.

Three photographs from the Crampton Canterbury Photograph Collection

They are from our Crampton Canterbury Photograph Collection, and show how much Canterbury has changed throughout the years. 

Alex (Digitisation Administrator) 

2022 has seen the new Phase One photographic reproduction rig come into its own. Alongside colleagues Matt and Clair we developed efficient work processes for the digitisation of artwork and objects within the collections. Once we had the rig up and running in early February the main focus has been on the Beaverbrook Collection of cartoon artwork. The Beaverbrook collection is significant, containing original cartoon artwork by major cartoonists published in some of Britain’s leading newspapers from the 1930s through to the 1960s. To date we have captured around half of the entire collection, over 4000 high-definition images. I’ve found it a fascinating process, particularly the insight it provides to the day to day “talking points” during a turbulent period of global history. 

David Low, 'The Nightmare Passes', Evening Standard, 8th May 1945 (DL2416)

A David Low cartoon from the Beaverbrook Collection, ‘The Nightmare Passes’, Evening Standard, 8th May 1945 (DL2416)

In the audio-visual domain, I completed the digitisation the University of Kent Archive collection of vulnerable analogue magnetic audio cassette tape recordings in the first part of 2022. Since then, I have moved on to digitise of a number of smaller audio cassette collections within the greater Special Collections and Archives stores. These have included recordings from the British Stand Up Comedy Archive, the Ronald Baldwin local history collection and the R. W. Richardson collection of recordings relating to the 1980s Miners’ Strike, particularly in East Kent. 

A photograph of a cassette tape, lying on top of its case. Behind it is an audio deck used for digitisation.

One of the many audio cassettes Alex has digitised this year!

Most recently I have been digitising a series of interview recordings carried out by the University’s Dr Philip Boobbyer. The interviews were conducted during the 1990s in post-Soviet Russia. The subjects of the interviews were various activists and dissidents from the Soviet period. The content has particular contemporary relevance in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Jacqueline (Project cataloguer) 

I am cataloguing the personal library of Giles the cartoonist kept within his archive in the British Cartoon Archive. The library shows Giles’s distinctive set of interests reflecting both his work as a cartoonist and home life near Ipswich in Suffolk. He indexed books with coloured drinking straws to mark images that he might use as references. His collection of works of cartoons from the two world wars, together with contemporary photographic books give a poignant insight into lived experience of those events.

A photograph of books from the Giles library on a shelf.

An image of books from the Giles library

There are sections on farming, on architecture, sailing and ships and series of how to draw books, I-Spy books and even an Argos catalogue. The mix of ideas for cartoons and his everyday life appears here in his copy of ‘Teach yourself brickwork’ with “Lady Diana” written the other way up on his plan for a brick wall with measurements inside the front cover. 

A photograph of a book open to the front page. Inserted in the book is a piece of paper with an image of a brick wall drawn in red pen, alongide some measurements.

An image of the inside of ‘Teach yourself brickwork’ with an inserted note inside

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).

Exploring Early Modern Kent in the Archive (Part 1): An Introduction to the Ronald Baldwin Collection

SC&A are delighted to present the first of a series of blog posts by one of our volunteers, Dr. Daniella Gonzalez.

Having finished my doctoral studies and eager to get back into the archives to kick-start my career in the archival sector, I began to volunteer at Special Collections & Archives (hereafter SC&A) at the University of Kent in February 2020. There is nothing I like more than uncovering the mysteries that lie in the records before me. It is these materials that tie us back to the past and to the people who lived it. We get an insight into their experiences, thoughts and those they interacted with, as well as the processes that governed their everyday lives. In this piece I want to tell you a bit about what I’ve been doing and what I’ve learnt.

Ronald Baldwin in 1986

As a volunteer at SC&A, I had the fantastic opportunity to work with the early modern indentures that form part of the Ronald Baldwin collection, a selection of pre-1900 material that focuses on the county of Kent and which was collected by Baldwin, a local historian. The items in this part of the collection span the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries, informing us about the lives of those that lived in the county of Kent under the Plantagenet kings of England up to the first Georgian monarch. My task was to sort and list the documents into a spreadsheet so it could be uploaded into the online catalogue; to transcribe and translate the documents; and to repackage them into archival quality enclosures to ensure their long-term preservation.

As soon as I laid eyes on the documents I would be working on I knew that this was the perfect project for me. Opening the box was the familiar sight of vellum, parchment and paper, as well as the script that is typical of early modern legal documents – to my delight there was even a late medieval document dating to 1 July 1425!

Indenture dated 29 May 1609 RB/DOC/IND/9

Those utilising these records will also notice that some are written in Latin and others in English. Some, like in the document below, produced on 10 February 1645, whilst Charles I was still king, are even written in both (as you can see the document is divided into two section, the Latin section, which is a preamble of sorts is at the top, and below the document continues in English), so be ready to put your Latin skills to the test!

Indenture dated 10 February 1645 RB/DOC/IND/15

Several of these items are in relatively good condition seals that have been slightly damaged and some slight staining of particular records.

Indenture dated 14 July 1718 RB/DOC/IND/19

As part of my introduction to the project, the University Archivist explained to me how archive catalogues are structured as a hierarchy, with different levels representing different aspects of the collection. Whilst I’ve had my fair share of visits to archives, I’d never realised that there is a catalogue hierarchy of sorts.

Knowing this was key in order for me to carry out my work on the early modern legal records I had before me. Thanks to the introduction, I knew that when cataloguing material, archivists need to capture several key bits of information, such as the level of these records – in this case ‘item’ – the repository they are held in, the collection they belong to and their reference number, which uniquely identifies these records as particular items. Other essential information to include are the date they were produced, the language they were written in, the condition of the record, what type of record it is and a description of the records that describes its content.

Detail of indenture dated 22 May 1626 RB/DOC/IND/10

Whilst sorting them into chronological order and cataloguing these records has been the central part of this project, I have also been able to put my palaeography skills to the test. Palaeography is the study of old handwriting and, whilst a medievalist by trade and having studied palaeography previously, some of the early modern handwriting was a little tricky at times. Totally worth it though when you encounter such beautiful illustrated initials like that on the right, dating to the reign of Charles I!

I have also been putting my palaeography skills to good use and producing transcriptions for researchers and the general public alike, which will be made available soon!

I’ll be producing some posts about my archive experiences with SC&A, so watch this space for more on early modern indentures and the daily lives of Kent’s early modern communities!

The catalogue entries for this collection are now live and can be viewed here: https://archive.kent.ac.uk/TreeBrowse.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&field=RefNo&key=RB%2fDOC%2fIND

 

Tiffin Scrapbooks

Jon Shepherd, Assistant Archivist in Special Collections & Archives until December 2017, writes:

The Tiffin Scrapbooks is a small collection of scrapbooks containing several hundred black and white and coloured images of windmills and cuttings mainly from around the county of Kent but also elsewhere in the UK and even from further afield in Europe.

The first scrapbook is titled ‘Windmills In Kent-past and present’ including photographs from the villages of Aldington in Mid Kent to Worthin East Kent.

This card is pasted into the front of MILL/TIFF/2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secondly there is a miscellaneous scrapbook which contains newspaper and magazine cuttings and postcards dating from the 1930s and covering the following English counties; Kent, Sussex, Essex, Yorkshire, Surrey, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Nottinghamshire, Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Yorkshire, Bedfordshire, Suffolk, Oxfordshire as well as Anglesey, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Germany, USA and Mykonos.

Articles from Tiffin scrapbook MILL/TIFF/3

Scrapbook three again covers the Windmills of Kent and was assembled in around 1935. It includes cuttings, photographs, maps, poems, lists, postcards, typescript text and cartoons. It includes items on windmills from the villages of Acrise in South Kent to Yalding in West Kent, as well as images of some other subjects.

This image is pasted into Tiffin Scrapbook MILL/TIFF/3

The fourth scrapbook contains a photographic record of all of the windmills in Kent that remained standing in the year 1931 taken by A. W. Tiffin This includes examples from the Kent villages of Ash in East Kent through to Woodchurch in South Kent.

The last scrapbook is known as the Lancaster Burne Album and includes 261 pages of cuttings, postcards, adverts, photos and manuscript notes regarding windmills that can be found from Argos Hill to Zoandam. It includes windmills in Kent, West Sussex, East Sussex, Surrey, Holland, Belgium and France.

The collection can be browsed via the online catalogue via https://archive.kent.ac.uk/TreeBrowse.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&field=RefNo&key=MILL%2fTIFF.

If you would like to take a closer look at any of these five items and their fascinating images of windmills then please get in contact with us on specialcollections@kent.ac.uk or +44 (0)1227 82 3127.

Political History is Not My Forte; or, How to Learn History Through Political Cartoons

Many sides of Stalin – as drawn by Cummings

Starting work on new collections is always fun. For a start it means you’re decreasing the number of items that need working on, but you also get to go through something that’s completely new to you. Most recently, I have started cataloguing artwork by cartoonist Michael Cummings, who worked mainly for the Daily Express for a period of nearly fifty years. This particular selection of artwork dates from the early 1950s, a time that seems to be far away in the past, at the beginnings of the Cold War.

Now my first reaction was something along the lines of ‘oh no, I’m not going to know who anybody is’. As it turned out I was wrong. I recognized Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill and Stalin. This didn’t really give me a lot to go on. The 1950s are not exactly my strong point. I enjoy my history, but I enjoy my history quite a lot earlier than that. When I turned to the very first image and had literally no idea what was happening:

My first Cummings cartoon

My first reaction was, ‘this must be a Tory,’ based entirely on the caption. I had one other thing to go on, as somebody had very kindly written on the back of the artwork when the cartoon was published, and even what page it appeared on. As I knew all students and staff at Kent have access to UK Press Online, I decided to hop along and find the appropriate issue of the Daily Express. The cartoon was precisely where the artwork said it was, which was great. What was less great was the fact that there was nothing surrounding the image, no helpful arrows saying ‘this man is so-and-so’, and no articles relating to the image, as far as I could see, anywhere in the issue. So I hit a dead end. Extremely early on. Now what?

Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, Google searching ‘Conservative 1950s NHS’ didn’t get me very far. I had a look on Lexis Nexis but even narrowing down the date range produced more results to check than was feasible. I was almost on the verge of taking a photo on my phone and seeing if my Dad knew who it was, when I decided to check copies of the Express from the surrounding time period. This turned out to be the right thing to do – I came across a cartoon head of the very same man, this time with a caption telling me it was Aneurin Bevan.

Ok, so I basically got everything wrong. Bevan was a well-known Labour Politician, and at the time of the cartoon Minister of Health. At least I knew what the greenhouse was…

Getting the dimensions – featuring my tape measure, Colin

Establishing who people are in each of the cartoons is probably the hardest aspect of cataloguing them, for me. When I’m cataloguing I look out for specific information every time. First we need the basics: a title, artist, publication, date and size. Next comes recording anything that’s written in the cartoon, which we refer to as embedded text. This text and the image itself provides us with the information to assign subject matters to the item. This would be relevant political parties, or any celebrity and sporting news, or government policy mentioned. Other subjects can include setting, items or animals in the picture or emotions you think the people depicted are feeling. And then comes the time to add the people themselves to the record. This is also significant for the subjects; you can’t add the Chancellor of the Exchequer unless you know he’s actually in the picture.

When I first started cataloguing political cartoons, around two and half years ago now, I began with the more modern items. Part of our collections here at the British Cartoon Archive include the newspaper versions of cartoons that appear in the daily papers. This means our collection grows every day, and it’s partly my job to keep on top of this. I won’t pretend that I’ve ever had much of an interest in politics, (I knew next to nothing when I started), but I’ve definitely learnt a lot working here. I could at least recognise most of the Labour and Conservative politics, but my first big stumbling block was Danny Alexander. I think I found him by searching for ‘ginger Liberal politician.’

‘This is a Coalition Budget’ by Peter Brookes

In current cartoons, the colours actually plays a surprisingly large role in identifying who people are. It’s fairly obvious what party a politician is from based on what colour their tie is, (this is obviously a problem for women). This doesn’t work in artwork from the 1950s, which is done in black ink, with a blue wash which would appear grey in the published version. Another clue could be who the person is interacting with and how. If two politicians are having an argument about something it’s likely (although not definite) that they are from opposing parties. This also didn’t help me initially, as Aneurin Bevan was the only person in the first cartoon I catalogued, but it’s certainly helped along the way.

Once you get to know who someone is, there’s usually characteristics that most cartoonists exaggerate when they’re depicting them. For example, Theresa May is always wearing leopard print shoes, whilst Boris Johnson is mainly made of hair. Back in the 1950s, Winston Churchill always has a cigar. This wasn’t strictly speaking helpful, after all if you don’t know what Churchill looks like, where exactly have you been since the start of the 20th century?

….and Strachey

Gaitskell…

Noses and eyebrows are also quite often notable. Aneurin Bevan always has large black eyebrows paired with his neat white hair. Emanuel Shinwell, (“Who on earth?” – me about a month ago), has a very prominent, bulbous nose. Unfortunately, John Strachey and Hugh Gaitskell seem to have the same long, pointy nose, so initially I had to check which hairstyle any pointy-nosed men had to establish who they are. Here the differences seem obvious, but when you don’t know who they are and their images aren’t next to each, it’s not so easy.

There is an odd enjoyment in all this hunting for people and discovering who they are, even though I often sit there in mild despair when all my methods have failed. I wonder if Poirot ever felt like that.

This brings us to my favourite Cummings cartoon:

‘The New Elizabethans’ by Cummings

I love this for two reasons. 1. It is genuinely a fabulous cartoon. I love the detail and the period costume. Elizabethans are much more my style. 2. The published version of the cartoon has a key that tells you who everyone in the picture is. That was a happy moment for me.

I’m going to let you all into a little secret now. One of the reasons I have particularly been enjoying my work with the Cummings Collection is that it’s a nice break from cataloguing the cartoons of today. Sometimes working on this kind of material can get a little wearing. Recently there’s been a lot of cartoons focusing on terror attacks, and a lot about Brexit and the US presidential elections, and for the most part these cartoons aren’t overly positive. This is because the cartoonists genuinely believe what they’re depicting, and the whole point of them is to draw your attention to things that they consider need changing. But it can get very repetetive, so the 1950s is like a little holiday in history for me.

Now obviously terrible things happened in the 1950s. The Korean War and the Cold War for a start, and Stalin certainly did some terrible things. But it’s strange how the distance of time can weaken the effects of this in the present day. If it wasn’t something you lived through, or even something your parents lived through, it’s very difficult to get a proper grasp on how it must have felt at the time. If it does affect you, then you know you’ve just come across a powerful cartoon.

So far, this has happened to me only once whilst cataloguing this collection, when I came across the cartoon on the left. Published in early 1953, initially I didn’t have a lot to go on. It was obviously the shadow of a soldier, and that was enough for me to know if was referencing World War II. I don’t know how common this is generally, but in my head the 1950s and World War II are very, very separate. Even though I knew that 1953 was only eight years removed from the end of the war in Europe, and rationing was still ongoing. Even though I knew that war criminals were being tried, it never really occurred to me that this was something I would come across working on this collection. And that’s what this cartoon is depicting, the trial of men accused of taking part in the massacre of the village of Oradour.

For once the published cartoon actually stood alongside a relevant article in the newspaper, which allowed me to identify what it referenced easily. I had not heard of Oradour before, so I had to read the article to establish what exactly happened. I also used the internet to read more about it, and I was shaken. It wasn’t news to me that this sort of atrocity took place, but I wasn’t prepared for finding it amongst the cartoons.

I do think it’s extremely important that this cartoon, and others like it, exist. Sometimes images can convey more than words, particularly at a distance of seventy years, and cartoons certainly have their place amongst records of history, alongside sources like written accounts and photographs.

But it’s also important to keep things light. So here’s Churchill dressed as a goose:

A Politician’s Panto

All cartoons (c) Express Syndication Ltd, except Peter Brookes, (c) News UK