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.

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

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!

SC&A is now an Accredited Archive!

Some excellent news to start our December off: last month, Special Collections & Archives was awarded Accredited Archive status! (We’re choosing to take this as meaning we’re officially awesome, but you probably knew that already…)

This accreditation from the UK Archive Service Accreditation Partnership is the UK quality standard which recognises good performance in all areas of archive service delivery. The standard looks at an organisation’s ability to develop, care for, and provide access to its collections, bringing the total number archive services achieving this to 104 nationwide.

Emma Mires-Richards, Head of Academic Liaison states:

‘We are delighted to have received accredited status from The National Archives, this is a fantastic achievement and recognition nationally for our service and teams delivering it. Achieving accredited status demonstrates that the University of Kent’s Special Collections and Archives met clearly defined national standards relating to management and resourcing, in the care of our unique collections and what the service offers to our entire range of users.’

We’ve had a very busy year (as you’ll see soon, with our forthcoming review of 2017 post) and it’s wonderful to receive recognition for the hard work our team does. Archives Accreditation is a fantastic award to receive and we’re very excited to keep working to deliver an outstanding service to you!

Flook believes his guarding of the Tiny Bible was the key to our success

The Red Dean: book of the year

The good news just keeps coming, this week!

Hewlett Johnson c.1940

Hewlett Johnson c.1940

I am delighted to announce that John Butler’s book The Red Dean of Canterbury has been chosen by Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, as his Book of the Year in the New Statesman. The book was written and researched over a 5 year period by Professor Butler, who is Emeritus Professor of Health Services Studies, about Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Canterbury Cathedral from 1931-1963. John intensively worked through and analysed the Red Dean’s papers, which are held in Special Collections, to create an intimate picture of a man who was infamous in his time for his unswerving and vocal support of Communist regimes, including Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China and Castro’s Cuba.

Dr. Williams describes the communist Dean as ‘champion of Stalin and thorn in the flesh of successive archbishops’ and draws out an important question when considering Johnson’s life: was he simply naive or did he willingly blind himself to the realities of Stalin’s regime? The Archbioshop praises John’s work as offering ‘finely nuanced picture’ of Hewlett Johnson ‘using lots of hitherto unquarried sources’.

Once again, Hewlett Johnson has been drawn onto the world stage and I hope that this will bring people to consider the legacy of the unusual but largely forgotten Dean.

To learn more about Hewlett Johnson and the collection of his papers, have a look at our website.

If you would like to look at any items in the collections, please contact us.