Special Collections & Archives is on the move!

The eagle-eyed social media followers amongst you may have noticed something exciting going on recently: our new basement area is finally finished and our collections are on the move to their 21st-century home in Templeman Library A!

The benefits of the move are going to be huge for us (and for you, too): our collections will all be stored in the same space again, so it will be much easier and quicker to access material than previously. Details of this will be coming in future, but for the moment here’s what you need to know whilst the move is going on:

Our Reading Room will remain open during the move. We took some time this summer to get our collections ready for their relocation, so we’re very happy to be able to keep our daily service running. However, as collections will be travelling across stores, we need as much notice as possible if you’d like to come in and see material – ideally a week. It’s very unlikely we’ll be able to retrieve material at short notice during this time, but we’ll give you as much information as we can about when you can access material.

If you’re a student booked in for a group visit, it’s still happening! All seminars, inductions and groups are going ahead as planned.

If you’re an academic who’d like us to host a group visit, get in touch. We’re still taking bookings for seminars this term (and next year), but it may not be possible to host a customized session at the last minute unless it’s already booked in so we’d appreciate as much notice as possible.

The move is scheduled to take about three weeks. However, as with any project this size things are subject to change, so we’ll keep timings updated here and on the SC&A website.

The collections are moving, but we are not. Having completed our office move in 2015, we’re still very happy in our first floor area – you’ll be able to find staff either working with collections near the Reading Room or over in Templeman D.

It’s full steam ahead for our Christmas pantomime extravaganza! What is that, you ask? All will be revealed soon…

As ever, if you have any questions or queries about the move, please get in touch with us.


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!

Explore your archives!

As you may have noticed from the buzz on Twitter, and the freebies in the Templeman, this week is the national Explore Your Archives week, when archives across the country put on events and invite everyone to share in the mystery and excitement of their local archives. Here at Kent, we’re running a few events and we’re putting some of the collections on display to give you a taster of the types of materials that you can explore right here on campus.explore-campaign_identityFrom panto to politics, windmills to world war one and Templeman history to tiny Bibles, the University’s Special Collections and Archives includes a wide range of rare, unique and historical materials.

You might know that we hold the British Cartoon Archive, the national collection of political cartooning which is updated every day with more artwork direct from the cartoonist.

Dion Boucicault's Deed BoxYou might have heard that we hold the archives of the University, from charters and paperwork, to student magazines and early film reels.

Perhaps you’ve heard of our wind and watermill collections, which give excellent examples of early photography in different media.

Maybe you know about the theatre and performance archives, spanning Victorian and Edwardian popular theatre and now breaking into the later twentieth century.

Even if you know about all this, chances are there are still many aspects of the wide collections for you to discover.

Did you know about our ‘ancient’ Greek vase? Or the prize which Stalin gave to a Dean of Canterbury Cathedral? Why are there doors archived as part of the Cartoon collection?

Come along to the drop in sessions this Friday, from 3-4.30pm in TR201 of the Templeman Library to learn more about the collections and to start your own investigations!

And take a look at the array of display cases in the Templeman’s Welcome Hall – just a few pieces from our exciting collections to whet the appetite!

To find out more about what’s happening nationally, check exploreyourarchive.org.

It’s Behind You!

Book of Words for the Lyceum pantomime 'Queen of Hearts', 1927-1928

Book of Words for the Lyceum pantomime ‘Queen of Hearts’, 1927-1928

Oh no it isn’t…oh yes it is!

I’m sure you can guess exactly what I’m about to blog about, but just in case you hadn’t noticed, with Christmas coming fast upon us, we will soon be well and truly in pantomime season. Here at Special Collections & Archives, we’re already getting into the panto spirit – but don’t worry, we’ve not been dressing up as animals, attempting to purchase magic beans or waiting for our fairy godmothers to complete our exhibitions. No, instead we have teamed up with the Gulbenkian to create a fittingly bright and cheerful tribute to the pantomimes of yesteryear in our latest exhibition, It’s Behind You!

Pop into the Gulbenkian foyer to take a look at some replicas our the magical, marvellous and multicoloured treasures in our Theatre & Performance collections, which date back to the heyday of pantomime.You can see costume designs from pantos of the 1880s, posters for productions at Drury Lane, the Lyceum and provincial theatres and some of the ‘books of words’ created to go alongside later productions.

Behind you: the history

Photograph of Nellie Farren, principal boy c.1880s

Photograph of Nellie Farren, principal boy c.1880s

Early nineteenth century, performances of harlequinades harked back to the Italian Comedia dell’arte, with their slapstick and transformational scenes rather than the modern pantomime. By the end of the century, however, theatrical tycoons such as Augustus Harris at Drury Lane were staging the opulent and comical productions which we would recognise today.

Indeed, it was during these formative years of the pantomime that interest in their stage magic and heroic tales exploded into the popular imagination. Costumes, sets and settings were bold, exotic and expensive to draw in the crowds. Magazines and newspapers dedicated whole issues to pantomime, reviewing productions, explaining stage transformations and, of course, interviewing the stars of the show. The female stars in the roles of principal boy and girl were often as much of a draw as the men who played the dames.

Illustrations of costumes from Aladdin at Drury Lane, produced 26 December 1885

Illustrations of costumes from Aladdin at Drury Lane, produced 26 December 1885

It’s Behind You! will run until 10th January and is freely accessible in the Gulbenkian foyer, so do take the opportunity to have a look before the end of the term and let us know your thoughts. Feel free to Tweet us @UoKSpecialColls, or drop us an email via specialcollections@kent.ac.uk.

Newflash: Melville melodrama lives!

Just when you thought you’d reached the end of the weird and wonderful activities with which Special Collections gets involved, think again!

We are delighted to announce an upcoming read-through of a Melville melodrama, courteousy of the University’s Melodrama Research Group. This event is open to all – no matter how much or how little you think you know about the subject! We would be delighted to have a wide variety of interests and specialisms with us on the night, to make the most of the event.

The Group, set up by Dr. Tamar Jeffers McDonald and sponsered by the Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Film and the Moving Image, is a cross-faculty research group which meets each Wednesday in term time to discuss melodrama on stage and screen. One of the most pertinent questions is, of course, what is melodrama, a question which seems to provide a different answer depending on the source material.

As part of this exploration of the genre, the Group will be hosting a read through of A Girl’s Cross-Roads, one of the Bad Women dramas from Walter Melville on Wednesday 5 June from 5-7pm in Jarman 7. Scripts will be provided on the evening, so join us to rediscover what the popular stage had to offer in the early years of the twentieth century and let out your inner thespian!

For more information, take a look at the Melodrama Research Group blog.