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).

Music in the Archives: A whistle-stop tour through our collections (part three)

Welcome to the third and final part of our mini series exploring all things musical in Special Collections & Archives – just in time for Kent’s Summer Music Week! Today we’re stepping into the modern age with pantomime and stand-up comedy; what more could you want on this glorious Thursday?

Pantomime: celebrity, pop culture and the power of music in storytelling

Just as melodrama and popular Victorian entertainments use music in conjunction with other theatrical effects, so pantomime develops the use of music with visual storytelling even further. At Kent, our pantomime material can be found in the incredible David Drummond Pantomime Collection alongside lots of material in our previously mentioned Melville and Pettingell archives.

Programme for Drury Lane Theatre's 1899/1900 Pantomime 'Jack and the Beanstalk' with photograph of star Miss Mabel Nelson

Programme for Drury Lane Theatre’s 1899/1900 Pantomime ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ (David Drummond Pantomime Collection)

Pantomime’s links with music go all the way back to its origins in the 16th century ‘commedia dell’arte’ Italian entertainment with stock characters; when the stories initially began to appear on the British stage in the 18th century performances would have no speech at all – just music. (This was in part due to theatre licensing regulations restricting the use of speech in performances, overturned by the Theatres Act in 1843.) Fast forward to the 19th century and pantomime became an incredibly lavish affair for many theatres, particularly for London’s Drury Lane theatre which became known for its elaborate, expensive performances which lasted as long as five hours!

Cover for sheet music of 'Beauty and the Beast: A Chamber Opera' with five illustrations

Cover for sheet music of ‘Beauty and the Beast: A Chamber Opera’ (David Drummond Pantomime Collection)

Sheet music from 'Beauty and the Beast: A Chamber Opera'

Sheet music from ‘Beauty and the Beast: A Chamber Opera’ (David Drummond Pantomime Collection)

Music, of course, is one of the most consistently integral parts of the pantomime genre, from libretti (which you could often buy as a souvenir of the performance) to audience participation. Many songs used in pantomime are familiar to their audiences and often have lyrics rewritten for a particular show. Sometimes theatregoers are encouraged to sing along and participate, with the music helping to give pantomimes a very two-way performance between its stars and the audience.

Poster for the pantomime 'Sleeping Beauty' at the Manchester Palace theatre starring comedians Morecambe and Wise (David Drummond Pantomime Collection)

Poster for the pantomime ‘Sleeping Beauty’ at the Manchester Palace theatre starring comedians Morecambe and Wise (David Drummond Pantomime Collection)

Poster for the pantomime 'Aladdin' at the London Palladium theatre, starring Danny La Rue (David Drummond Pantomime Collection)

Poster for the pantomime ‘Aladdin’ at the London Palladium theatre, starring Danny La Rue (David Drummond Pantomime Collection)

Today, we generally associate pantomime with famous stars – but did you know this, too, has musical links? In the 19th century music hall stars began to join pantomime performances – partly to bring in new, younger audiences and partly to add some celebrity glamour to the show! This trend has continued through the 20th century and up to today, with debates about whether this ‘ruins’ pantomime ever-present.

The British Stand-Up Comedy Archive: the next evolution of music hall and challenges for archivists

We couldn’t finish a tour of all things musical without stopping in at the 20th/21st century wonder that is our British Stand-Up Comedy Archive (known as BSUCA for short because we all love an acronym). Created in 2015 and funded through the University’s Beacon projects to celebrate Kent’s 50th birthday, six years later BSUCA contains over 30 different collections and it’s still growing.

What’s particularly brilliant about BSUCA is that for an archive about what initially appears to be a fairly niche subject, it packs one heck of a research punch. Topics it covers include the history of performance, artists and venues, Thatcher’s Britain and the miner’s strike, protest, counter-culture, publishing, audience interaction, celebrity and much more. So – are you surprised that it’s also a great source for all things musical? You shouldn’t be!

Flyer advertising the Alternative Cabaret collective

Flyer advertising the Alternative Cabaret collective (Andy de la Tour Collection, BSUCA/AT/3)

Stand-up comedy as a genre has its roots in both popular performance and variety. Tony Allen’s stand-up comedy developed in part during his time with the Rough Theatre group, whose plays included rewritten gags from music hall shows. The Alternative Cabaret collective (which included Tony Allen, Alexei Sayle, Jim Barclay and Andy de la Tour) performed shows that lasted several hours and included musicians and comedians working together. The links between music hall and stand-up don’t end there: CAST New Variety, a left-wing theatre company founded by Roland and Claire Muldoon, was also responsible for helping to save the Hackney Empire music hall in late 1986 by using it for gigs.

Poster for CAST New Variety night entitled 'Reds under the bed', 1985 (

Poster for CAST New Variety night entitled ‘Reds under the bed’, 1985 (Linda Smith Collection, BSUCA/LS/3/1/1)

When the 1980s Comic Strip group began performing, academic Olly Double notes that several publications compared their gigs as doing to comedy what punk did for the music world (2020, pp.32 – 33). This comparison is further strengthened by the fact that they released an LP:

The Comic Strip poster, 1980

Poster, 1980. Originally a venue, The Comic Strip collective quickly embarked on a national tour, released an LP and produced TV series “The Comic Strip Presents…” (Arnold Brown Collection, BSUCA/AB/2/1)

All of this music inevitably leads us to questions about how we look after such material. Caring for music archives is a lot of fun but it can be tricky! Fortunately preserving most paper-based material such as song sheets and play scripts is a relatively straightforward process (acid free boxes + stable temperature and humidity = happy collections). However, audiovisual material (LPs, videos, CDs, cassette tapes) is generally incredibly sensitive to environmental changes not to mention the rapid development of technology that renders media obsolete relatively quickly. So for us, managing audiovisual material is one of our key priorities at the moment; it involves knowing what material we have and in which formats and then working to prioritise items most at risk. You can read more about how we transfer collections from audiovisual to digital here.

One thing is certain though: these days music is just a big a part of our culture as it’s ever been, whether we listen to the radio, stream music online, or enjoy it as part of live performance. And as long as it continues to be such a large influence on our lives, we’ll continue to collect material on how it’s used in popular culture!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this mini-series about music in Special Collections & Archives; do visit our website for more information on the collections and if you have any queries please drop us a line (specialcollections@kent.ac.uk).

Sources:

Pantomime:

Anderson, Gillian B. “Synchronized Music: The Influence of Pantomime on Moving Pictures.” Music and the Moving Image, vol. 8, no. 3, 2015, pp. 3–39. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/musimoviimag.8.3.0003. Accessed 7 June 2021.

Mitchell, G. (2017). ‘Mod Movement in Quality Street Clothes’: British Popular Music and Pantomime, 1955–75. New Theatre Quarterly, 33(3), 254-276. doi:10.1017/S0266464X17000306

‘The Story of Pantomime’ at the V&A Museum: https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/the-story-of-pantomime

BSUCA:

Double, Oliver. Alternative Comedy : 1979 and the Reinvention of British Stand-Up, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/kentuk/detail.action?docID=6120964.

Music in the Archives: A whistle-stop tour through our collections (part two)

Welcome to part two of our mini series exploring all things musical in Special Collections & Archives – just in time for Kent’s Summer Music Week! Today we’re delving into all things Boucicault and Melville and having a look at some of the amazing art held in the British Cartoon Archive…

Theatre collections part two: Boucicault’s brilliant box-office hits

Ah, Boucicault. The great thing about theatre people is that their history is just as interesting as their works, and the Victorian playwright’s life really is no exception. Bankruptcy? Tick! Extravagant legal battles over copyright of his works? Tick! Affairs and scandal? Tick!

Title page of a Penny Pictorial edition of Dion Boucicault's play The Colleen Bawn, showing the famous drowning scene

Title page of a Penny Pictorial copy of the play “The Colleen Bawn” by Dion Boucicault, undated (PETT BND 126.33)

Front cover of a Penny Pictorial Play Book of 'The Colleen Bawn' by Dion Boucicault, featuring a colour illustration of a scene from the play.

Front cover of a Penny Pictorial Play Book of ‘The Colleen Bawn’ by Dion Boucicault, featuring a colour illustration of a scene from the play (BOUC/PHO/0648577)

Drama aside (if that’s possible), Boucicault was arguably one of the most popular writers in the nineteenth century. His plays were immensely popular, in part because they nearly always contained a visual spectacle designed to draw audiences to the box office. In an age before movies and TV, it was a pretty thrilling thing to see – for example – someone nearly drowning in a cave, almost being run over by a train, or a burning house – on stage literally in front of your eyes. But what is possibly less well known about Boucicault is how he was one of the first playwrights to incorporate music specifically written for his works in the theatre; in The Colleen Bawn, not only does the music play alongside dialogue but it actually changes with each line. The music itself was so popular that it was still being loaned out over twenty years after the play was first staged in 1860.

Cover for sheet music accompanying the play "The Colleen Bawn" by Dion Boucicault, c.1861, featuring the famous drowning scene

Cover for sheet music accompanying the play “The Colleen Bawn” by Dion Boucicault, c.1861          (CALB/COL/MUS/LDN ADL/F190364)

Boucicault’s use of music in his melodramas also massively helped ease critics into greater support for orchestras on the ‘proper’ theatre stage, showing that drama could extend beyond well-written words into a more complete theatre experience.

The British Cartoon Archive: more than just politics

Our British Cartoon Archive is best known for its vast collection of social and political cartoons across the 19th and 20th centuries, so it’s hardly a surprise to discover that music pops up fairly regularly as well. A quick search on our catalogue for ‘music’ returns 146 results! Sometimes music and entertainment is a beautiful hark back to previous times, like in this David Low cartoon from 1954 where the current political situation is reimagined as a music hall variety night:

Cartoon by David Low comparing the current political situation to a night of music hall entertainment

“Music-hall situation” by David Low in The Manchester Guardian (28 May 1954, LSE4654)

 

Occasionally nursery rhymes become mischievously reimagined for contemporary comment, such as in Leslie Illingworth’s retelling of ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’:

Cartoon by Leslie Illingworth showing Harold Macmillan as a shepherd in a field of sheep, with one black sheep leaping off to the side

“He’s a poor little lamb who has lost his way, Baa! Baa! Baa!
The little black sheep who has gone astray, Baa! Baa! Baa!
Gentleman Tory off on a spree, D—-d from here to eternity,
Lord have mercy on such as he, Baa! Baa! Baa!
With acknowledgments and apologies to the Whiffenpoof song, published by the Magna Music Co. Ltd.” (Leslie Illingworth, 21 March 1962 for the Daily Mail, ILW3486)

The most regular culprits are – of course – the early 20th century cartoonist W.K. Haselden and the wonderful Carl Giles. For Haselden, whose work in the Daily Mirror tended to look at societal changes as well as political events and wars, the inclusion of music is hardly a leap. Famous for his sketches of actors in Punch and repeated forays into women’s fashion and roles in society, music is another way in which Haselden pokes fun at everyday people and trends:

Cartoon by W.K. Haselden showing the different types of music that would entertain railway commuters

“Music for the Railway travellers” by W.K. Haselden, published in the Daily Mirror on 04 October 1907 and 20 September 1911 (WH0614)

Cartoon by W.K. Haselden showing the excesses of combining musical performance with food

“Music at meals: Meals at music – a parallel” by W.K. Haselden, published in the Daily Mirror on 17 March 1914 and 19 February 1918 (WH0895)

In Carl Giles’ world music is somewhat of a nuisance, especially when it comes to small children attempting to avoid piano lessons:

Cartoon by Carl Giles showing the many different places toffees can be hidden to distract from piano lessons

“IN THE GILES FAMILY there is a theory among the children that the more toffee they get on the piano the quicker they get their music lessons over – you press one note and they all go down together. I offer this simple sweets-are-now-off-the-ration guide to parents who, during the more or less sweet-free years, may have forgotten the trouble spots.” (Carl Giles, 7 February 1953 for the Daily Express, GA0825)

Music is also a huge source of mischief in Carl Giles’ land, as seen by this 1959 cartoon:

Cartoon by Carl Giles showing a group of soldiers being told off for inserting a mischievous page of music into the official performance

“It is reported that during band practice for the forthcoming visit by Chancellor Adenauer you did wilfully insert one page of ‘Colonel Bogey’ into the band’s music for ‘Deutschland Uber Alles’.” – Carl Giles for the Sunday Express, 15 November 1959 (GA1601)

As you are probably aware, our British Cartoon Archive is such a vast, wide-ranging collection that it’s definitely worth an hour of your time exploring all things musical via the online catalogue. Have fun!

Theatre collections part three: enter the Melvilles stage right

One of the many SC&A hills I am prepared to die on is this: the Melville family, whose complete archives we hold, is criminally underrated in the theatre history world and more people should know about them and love their work. A dynasty of thespians (you can find a brief Twitter-friendly summary of them here), the Melvilles managed several important theatres (including the Theatre Royal Brighton, the Lyceum and the Prince’s / Shaftesbury in London) at the turn of the 19th /  early 20th century. But their love of all things drama extended far beyond managing as they wrote and acted in plays as well.

Image containing sepia-toned photographs of the Melville family

Image containing sepia-toned photographs of the Melville family

The Melvilles are probably best known for their Bad Woman plays, popular in the early 20th century. The Bad Woman plays are interesting in several ways: they became well known during a time when melodrama as a genre was beginning to wane in theatres, but they also spoke to concerns in early Edwardian society – particularly the role of women during the suffrage movement, when demands for equal rights and pay were becoming ever louder.

Black and white postcard photograph publicising 'The Bad Girl of the Family' by Frederick Melville, and showing a scene from the play

Black and white postcard photograph publicising ‘The Bad Girl of the Family’ by Frederick Melville, and showing a scene from the play, c.1909 (MEL/PUBMA/123: 0699937e)

The Melvilles tapped into these concerns and used the melodrama genre to address middle and lower-working class fears about ‘New Women’ disrupting society. As a genre, melodramas always play out social issues on stage before resolving them neatly and the Bad Woman plays did just this, creating unruly female leads who eventually gave up their misbehaving antics to settle down. Music played a huge role in the melodramatic genre; it became integral to the performance, making speech and gestures more extravagant and heightening emotion and meaning throughout.

Music from the Dion Boucicault play 'The Octoroon', adapted by the Melville family

Music from the Dion Boucicault play ‘The Octoroon’, adapted by the Melville family (MEL 70)

Alongside the Bad Woman plays the Melvilles worked extensively on a huge range of popular stories, rewriting them for their audiences. We have over 240 play texts from the Melvilles in our archives (view a list of titles here) and many of them contain the original scores for the performances. These plays ranged from pantomimes to contemporary stories, such as First World War dramas (‘The Female Hun’ notably includes sheet music for the German ‘Hymn of Hate’). The amount of music in the Melville archive is also documented through an entire section of the archive catalogue.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this mini-series about music in Special Collections & Archives; do visit our website for more information on the collections and if you have any queries please drop us a line (specialcollections@kent.ac.uk).

Sources:

Boucicault collections:

Fuhrmann, C. Between Opera and Musical: Theatre Music in Early Nineteenth-Century London. In Gordon, R. and Jubin, O. (Eds) The Oxford Handbook of the British Musical. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199988747.013.2

Pisani, M. (2004). Music for the theatre: Style and function in incidental music. In K. Powell (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Victorian and Edwardian Theatre (Cambridge Companions to Literature, pp. 70-92). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CCOL052179157X.005

Melvilles:

Mayer, D. (2004). Encountering melodrama. In K. Powell (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Victorian and Edwardian Theatre (Cambridge Companions to Literature, pp. 145-163). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CCOL052179157X.009

Music in the Archives: A whistle-stop tour through our collections (part one)

June is finally here! The sun is out (well, mostly), lockdown restrictions are starting to lift a bit here in the UK and – most importantly – it’s time for one of our favourite University events of the year: Summer Music Week. Kent’s brilliant Music department annually hosts a series of concerts to celebrate the end of the academic year, and in these strangest of times we need music more than ever.

We’ve collaborated with Kent’s music programme many times before and our links are incredibly strong – there are so many forms of music in our collections! So to celebrate this year’s concerts, we thought we’d put together a brief chronology of some of the musical highlights in our stores…

Pre-1700s collection: Psalms, prayers and printed hymns

Our Pre-1700s collection is a real treasure trove of items, ranging from some of the most important printed books in the literary canon (looking at you, Johnson’s First Folio) to travel narratives, histories and much more. A big part of the Pre-1700s collection is comprised of religious texts and sermons; fantastic for anyone interested in the many debates around the role of the Church and the development of Protestantism in England.

Photograph of hymn music in a 16th century bible.

Photograph of hymn music in a 16th century bible (C 549 BIB, Pre-1700s collection)

What’s particularly great about our Pre-1700s texts though is the insight they give into how everyday people practiced religion and interacted with the Bible, particularly after it was translated into English. Our 1580s Bible is such a great example of this; not only does it have marginalia dating from 200 years after its publication, but if you look in the back of the book there are musical scores to hymns sung in Church at the time!

John Crow’s Ballad and Song collection: oral history in print

Much of our Pre-1700s collection is comprised of books collected by the academic John Crow (read more about him here). Crow was a scholar particularly interested in a) the Renaissance world, b) Shakespeare’s legacy and c) ballad and song books, which for the purposes of this blog we’re going to refer to as an early form of sea-shanty TikTok.

A colourful row of books from the John Crow Ballad and Song collection.

A colourful row of books from the John Crow Ballad and Song collection

The ballad and song books contain many publications of the Percy Society (active 1840 – 1852), which published and reprinted rare poems and songs, and the Ballad Society (founded 1868) which had similar aims but focused on publishing folklore. Ballads were a big part of English popular storytelling for generations; they were often printed on cheap paper, sold on street corners and passed around in pubs – but few of them survive due to their ephemeral nature. The Percy Society and Ballad Society aimed to change this by printing them in more formal book editions (made of better quality materials so likely to survive longer). The ballad and song books we look after are a fantastic resource for anyone interested in folk music, exploring how histories were passed around between oral and written formats, and much more.

Theatre collections part one: the Pettingell playscripts

Spoiler alert: a great deal of the music we hold can be found in our extensive theatre collections – so much so that they appear three different times in this blog alone, and that’s only because we’d run out of space otherwise! It’s pretty much impossible to separate music from theatre, particularly during live performance’s rise to fame during the nineteenth century – orchestras could be found in nearly every venue. Music was used to create atmosphere, to heighten emotion, to change scenes and – of course – during songs and dances on stage. Amongst critics there were continual questions asked about music’s role in the theatres, it being seen by some to cheapen ‘proper’ drama.

Title page for a ballet version of Macbeth, complete with am illustration of Macbeth holding two daggers. from the Pettingell collection.

Title page for a ballet version of Macbeth from the Pettingell collection (PETT S.124)

Photograph of the play text for Boucicault's play 'The Octoroon', from the Pettingell collection. The printed text is crossed out and handwritten revisions are included on the next page.

Photograph of the play text for Boucicault’s play ‘The Octoroon’, from the Pettingell collection (PETT PAR 21)

One of the main gems of our theatre collections is without a doubt the Pettingell collection, which comprises of over 4000 plays collected by comedian Arthur Williams and later bought by actor Frank Pettingell. Williams attended many of the plays he collected and as a result a great number of the scripts, which you could generally buy cheaply as a kind of souvenir, are uniquely annotated by their owner with information such as cast lists and additional pages added in. The Pettingell collection also contains more than 300 pantomime libretti, which we’ll talk about more below. It’s a great collection if you’re new to the world of Victorian theatre as you can really get a sense of the range of plays produced during this era – from histories to popular folk stories to adaptations of famous literary works, not to mention unique genres such as melodrama.

Music hall: early celebrities, the world before Spotify and popular music in action

Selection of tickets from music hall events pasted on to a brown backing board from the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection

Selection of tickets from music hall events pasted on to a brown backing board from the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection

My colleague Clair has written brilliantly before about music hall, but it’s pretty difficult to talk all things musical in the collections without mentioning some of our wonderful material that belonged to the British Music Hall Society’s resident archivist and historian Max Tyler. For the uninitiated, music hall (not musical(s) – pronunciation is key here) was a form of entertainment especially popular in the late Victorian/early Edwardian era in Britain – around 1890 – 1910. It was where many forms of Victorian popular culture developed, and is largely responsible for the variety shows of the mid-late 20th century. Music hall’s popularity was due in part to the industrial revolution – people moved to newly urban centres looking for work, which in turn created a demand for popular entertainment venues.

Selection of photographs of music hall stars pasted onto a brown backing board from the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection

Selection of photographs of music hall stars pasted onto a brown backing board from the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection

Whilst the specifics of each music hall performance would vary, a few things would look similar at each venue: every event would have a chairman, to oversee and host the evening, and often a pianist to accompany performers. Admission was generally cheap (sometimes free, if you bought drinks) and caused licensers endless headaches about what constituted a proper venue! All kinds of performance would occur during a music hall night, from songs and ‘specialty’ acts such as dance, clowns and other physical entertainers, to condensed versions of plays (just don’t tell Boucicault about that…; see next post). Sometimes a single act would cross all different types of performance.

Cover for sheet music to 'All Thro' Sticking to a Soldier' sung by Miss Ada Lundberg, from the Max Tyler Music Hall collection

Cover for sheet music to ‘All Thro’ Sticking to a Soldier’ sung by Miss Ada Lundberg, from the Max Tyler Music Hall collection

Musical score for 'All Thro' Sticking to a Soldier' sung by Miss Ada Lundberg, from the Max Tyler Music Hall collection

Musical score for ‘All Thro’ Sticking to a Soldier’ sung by Miss Ada Lundberg, from the Max Tyler Music Hall collection

As our extensive collection of music in the Max Tyler Archive demonstrates, it was possible to purchase illustrated song sheets of many popular music hall hits for home performance – albeit these tended to be the sanitised versions, for more genteel audiences, rather than the more popular bawdy songs! According to theatre historian Jacky Bratton, the abundance of song sheets that survive today gives us a slightly skewed view of what was actually performed in music halls, as it just wasn’t possible to record specialty acts or perhaps even adapted plays in the same manner.

Work on the amazing Max Tyler Music Hall collection is still ongoing, but you can browse our listings of Max’s incredible research files on our archive catalogue here.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this mini-series about music in Special Collections & Archives; do visit our website for more information on the collections and if you have any queries please drop us a line (specialcollections@kent.ac.uk).

Sources:

John Crow Ballad and Song collection: the University of Oxford have an amazing resource via the Bodelian Library – Broadside Ballads online.

Pettingell playscripts:

Fuhrmann, C. Between Opera and Musical: Theatre Music in Early Nineteenth-Century London. In Gordon, R. and Jubin, O. (Eds) The Oxford Handbook of the British Musical. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199988747.013.2

Pisani, M. (2004). Music for the theatre: Style and function in incidental music. In K. Powell (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Victorian and Edwardian Theatre (Cambridge Companions to Literature, pp. 70-92). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CCOL052179157X.005

Music hall:

Bratton, J. (2004). The music hall. In K. Powell (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Victorian and Edwardian Theatre (Cambridge Companions to Literature, pp. 164-182). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CCOL052179157X.010

Snow in the archives: exploring the big freeze throughout our collections

Hello from a very wintery Canterbury! The SC&A team have been battling up the hill this week as 2018’s infamous ‘Beast From The East’ lands upon Kent.

Inevitably, this cold weather got us thinking about how snow has been represented throughout history, and it’s almost no surprise that the British fascination with bad weather spreads its icy tendrils through our collections (not literally, though!)…

Special Collections & Archives is known for our extensive archives of windmill photos from the 20th century, particularly the collections of the Muggeridges and C.P. Davies. Here, Muggeridge finds the ideal winter shot: a model of a post mill in Sussex that’s mostly buried by the white stuff…

UKC-MIL-MUG-BW.540246, ‘Black and white negative and print made from it of a model of a post mill with roundhouse in Outwood, Surrey, in Camelsdale, Sussex, taken on 22nd December 1938, showing a side view covered with snow’, Muggeridge Collections

Our Modern Firsts collection of poetry contains verses in almost every format and theme imaginable, and it’s there that some of the most interesting ideas about weather come to light. In his 1997 work ‘Snow has settled (…) bury me here’, Peter Riley explores memories of place from a starting point of cold weather. The way that snow changes landscapes so completely is simulataneously refreshing, exciting and alien. Snow is also (in Britain at least) a hugely memorable event: we can all recall snow days, which are increasingly rare, particularly when we were young.

MOR.I526 POETRY (057119600), Peter Riley: ‘Snow has settled (…) bury me here’, 1997, Shearsman Books

MOR.I526 POETRY (057119600), Peter Riley: 'Snow has settled (...) bury me here', 1997, Shearsman Books

MOR.I526 POETRY (057119600), Peter Riley: ‘Snow has settled (…) bury me here’, 1997, Shearsman Books

The dramatic elements of cold are frequently used in fiction to express mood, so it’s no surprise that the shock of the snow is also popular for playwrights. In 1862, Bristol’s Theatre Royal put on a multi-show performance that included an entertainment called ‘The Angel of Midnight, or, the Duel in the Snow’ set in Munich in 1750:

UKC-POS-BRSROY.0592650: Playbill advertising PEEP O’DAY and THE ANGEL OF MIDNIGHT at the Theatre Royal, Bristol, 21 April 1862

Our Pettingell collection is full of popular entertainments and melodramas from the Victorian era – you can see from the scripts why winter weather was a popular theme for audiences. Through the magic of scenery, audiences could be transported to far-off places like Russia or the Alps, where the characters were less familiar but the villains remained the same:

PETT B.53 SPEC COLL (059016100), 'The snow storm; or, Lowina of Tobolskow : a melodramatick romance', W. Barrymore, 1818

PETT B.53 SPEC COLL (059016100), ‘The snow storm; or, Lowina of Tobolskow : a melodramatick romance’, W. Barrymore, 1818

The Victorians were well known for developing stage effects. The lure of seeing spectacles frequently drew crowds to theatres long before movies, TV and the internet. What could be more exciting than seeing an avalanche live on stage?

PETT MSS.U.10 SPEC COLL (059872400), ‘Under the snow: in three acts’, J.C. Griffiths, 1877

PETT MSS.U.10 SPEC COLL (059872400), 'Under the snow: in three acts', J.C. Griffiths, 1877

PETT MSS.U.10 SPEC COLL (059872400), ‘Under the snow: in three acts’, J.C. Griffiths, 1877

PETT MSS.U.10 SPEC COLL (059872400), ‘Under the snow: in three acts’, J.C. Griffiths, 1877

Cartoonists, too, can use the weather to reflect goings-on in society. In 2016, Brian Adcock imagined what a certain blonde Republican presidential candidate would have to say…

BAD0244, ‘”If I was president I would have a total and compete shutdown of snow entering the United States”‘, 25 Jan 2016, The Independent

Because we all need a laugh more than ever when struggling with leaving the house, the job of a cartoonist becomes vital during the winter months. In the digital age, it’s probably easier for artists to email scans of their work in, but before that – spare a thought for Carl Giles:

GAPH00137, Black and white photo of Giles in the snow at Hillbrow Farm handing packaged artwork to helicopter pilot [Rob Flexman of Aeromega Helicopters], 17 Jan 1987, Express Newspapers

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we leave the job of summing up our feelings towards snow to the early 20th century cartoonist W.K. Haselden: it’s mighty pretty to look at but perhaps slightly less fun when we get stuck in it – literally…

WH2559: ‘Snow in poetry and reality’, 18 Jan 1926, Daily Mirror

All snow-related material described here can be found through either LibrarySearch, the Special Collections & Archives website or the British Cartoon Archive catalogue; all are welcome to come and explore weather-related adventures in our snow-free Reading Room.