Keep Smiling Through: Humour and the Second World War

9 September – 25 October 2019

KEM: “C’est encore ce sacre Churchill…” published in Le Petit Parisien, May 1940

Keep Smiling Through: British Humour and the Second World War explores the use of humour in cartoons, letters, books, ephemera and artefacts from the First and Second World Wars. This exhibition has been curated to support the symposium of the same title held here at the University of Kent on 12–13 September 2019 with the assistance of Special Collections & Archives’ inaugural exhibition interns.

Using the British Cartoon Archive’s extensive collection of cartoons, ephemera, letters, and artefacts, this exhibition explores how humour was used throughout the Second World War to discuss politics, military campaigns, and improve morale both on the front line and at home. It also explores how the British press portrayed other theatres of war. The exhibition offers an insight into the reactions of the British public and traces responses to the present day as contemporary cartoonists echo the iconography pioneered by 20th century artists. The archives of Carl Giles and KEM, held here at Kent, are showcased extensively – including films made by Giles for the Ministry of Information during the War.

Entry is (as always) free and the gallery is open during the Templeman Library’s opening hours. The exhibition runs until 25 October.

Alternative Comedy Now

29 April – 28 June 2019

Alternative Comedy Now: The Exhibition celebrates the 40th birthday of alternative comedy with an exhibition of material from the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive (BSUCA).

The early summer of 1979 saw the opening of the Comedy Store in Soho and the formation of the group Alternative Cabaret, kick-starting the alternative comedy movement that would revolutionize the style, subject matter and politics of British stand-up.

Using BSUCA’s unrivalled collection of material, including publicity materials, photographs, press coverage, scripts, LPs, and business records, this exhibition tells the story of how alternative comedy grew into a rich and vibrant scene throughout the 1980s, and sowed the seeds for today’s comedy circuit. Presented by Special Collections & Archives and the School of Arts.

Kent, its Regiments, and the First World War

29 October 2018 – 4 January 2019 (extended to 8 February 2019)
Curators: Mark Connelly, Elspeth Millar, Rachel Dickinson

Men of the 1st Battalion, The Buffs at Bois-Grenier, winter 1914

‘Kent, its Regiments, and the First World War’ showcases the Queen’s Own Buffs, The Royal Kent Regiment Collection, which is cared for as part of Special Collections & Archives at the University of Kent. The exhibition uses the collection to look at Kent’s two historic military regiments: the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment and the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment). The exhibition will look at the histories of the regiments, their close links to Kent and the ‘home front’, and their roles during the First World War.

Material is drawn from the Queen’s Own Buffs, the Royal Kent Regiment Collection (which was deposited with the University of Kent by the Regimental Association of the Queen’s Own Buffs, Royal Kent Regiment), other collections cared for in the Templeman Library, and with loaned material from local institutions.

‘Out and Proud’

17 May – 6 July 2018 
Curators: Christin Hoene and Jan Moriarty, and the Special Collections & Archives teamThe University of Kent is proud of its diverse student, staff and alumni community. ‘Out and Proud’ aims to showcase some of our LGBT+ champions, role models, and allies to highlight the amazing people on our campuses who share their stories to inspire others. It will also feature books from the Templeman Library about and by LGBT+ role models throughout the ages.

Role models challenge stereotypes, provide guidance and advice, and they are examples to all about being proud of who you are and overcoming prejudice and discrimination.

This exhibition is designed to share experiences, good and bad, and to be a reminder that we are all citizens of this beautifully diverse world.

Portraits & Philosophy: a Conversation

29th March to 11th May 2018 
Curators: Hans Maes and Aurélie Debaene

Portraits & Philosophy: a Conversation invites you to participate in this interaction between image and idea.

Ten of the world’s leading philosophers of art are portrayed here by renowned photographer Steve Pyke and visual artist (and Kent graduate) Claire Anscomb. These striking black-and-white portraits are accompanied by short excerpts from the book Conversations on Art and Aesthetics in which Kent lecturer Dr. Hans Maes discusses key issues in art and aesthetics with these individual philosophers.

Become acquainted with the thoughts and faces of contemporary aesthetics and let yourself be challenged by this up close and personal view of philosophy.

Our Templeman Exhibition

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Templeman Library at the University of Kent. The Templeman Library sits at the heart of the Canterbury campus and has played a central role in the academic lives of the thousands of students and staff who have passed through its doors and roamed its stacks. Drawing upon the University’s extensive photographic archive, our exhibition will celebrate the development of the Library from its humble shop-based beginnings to its recent award-winning expansion and redevelopment, as well as highlighting the ever-changing ways in which the Library is used.

The exhibition will be complemented by original material from the University Archive and themed displays showcasing the unique collections we care for, including treasures from our Special Collections; the British Cartoon Archive; the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive; and our most recent acquisition, the David Drummond Pantomime Collection, one of the largest collections of historic pantomime material in the UK.

The exhibition will be opening in March. During the week of 19th–23rd March we will be celebrating Our Templeman with a range of tours and events. Please visit our website for further information.

Prescriptions: artists’ books

1 August – 17 November 2017
Curators: Stella Bolaki, Egidija Čiricaitė, Elspeth Millar, Helen Blomfield

This, is my Crisis, by Elizabeth Fraser. Photo by Egidija Čiricaitė

Waiting rooms, pills, bandages, surgery, ageing, death, healing, joy, relaxation, consultation, distress and pain are ubiquitous experiences, shared around the world. This exhibition responds to such experiences through the intimate and complex medium of the artist’s book.

The artists’ books in this exhibition were first shown at Prescriptions, an exhibition at The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge, Canterbury between April and August 2016, curated by Dr Stella Bolaki and Egidija Čiricaitė. A selection of the books were deposited with the University of Kent’s Special Collections & Archives.

The books on display in Prescriptions: artists’ books demonstrate a wide range of materials and bookbinding techniques. Bringing together books on cancer, chronic illness, disability, mental health, surgery, medicine and wellbeing, this exhibition reveals the communicative power of book art and its therapeutic potential.

Prescriptions: artists’ books includes work by: Martha Hall, Sophie Adams, Penny Alexander, Karen Apps, Heather Beardsley, Gaby Berglund Cardenas, Julie Brixey-Williams, Egidija Ciricaite, Allison Cooke Brown, Margaret Cooter, Amanda Couch, Sue Hague, Cas Holmes, Gemma Lacey, Pauline Lamont-Fisher, Andrew Malone, Anne Parfitt, David Paton, Corinne Perry, Stevie Ronnie, Mary Rouncefield, Erin K. Schmidt, Randi Annie Strand, Noriko Suzuki-Bosco, Amanda Watson-Will, Susie Wilson.

Further links

People and the Land

14 June – 28 July 2017
Curated by Special Collections and Archives volunteers Helen Whittle and Helena Green

Finding the extraordinary within the ordinary, People and the Land fuses the day-to-day life of rural communities with national narratives, unearthing never-before-seen archival material.

From eighteenth-century rare books and maps to ephemera of the First World War, the exhibition charts the immutable relationship of people with the land. The unsung heroes of agriculture are explored through the University archive’s extensive collections on mills and watermills, with letters, photographs and ledgers providing unique snapshots into rural life.

Rediscover some of the archive’s best-kept secrets, where we invite you to mill around (pun intended) an exhibition devoted to you and the enduring nature of the land.

Capturing Collaborations

2 August – 17 November 2017
Artist: Keith Robinson

Capturing Collaborations. Image by Keith Robinson

Four paintings by artist Keith Robinson visually interpret a project from the School of Biosciences at the University of Kent (working with the University of Manchester).

This project is called BioProNET — short for the Bioprocessing Network — and it aims to facilitate interactions between academic and industrial scientists from across the UK in order to help find cheaper ways to make medicines that are currently very expensive.

Keith took his initial inspiration for the paintings from the interconnecting geometric patterns of Islamic art. He then toured the Bioscience labs at Kent to gain insight into scientific materials and concepts, before researching the people, companies and universities involved in BioProNET.

The four pieces — entitled Conception, Interaction, Location and Community — reflect the ideas, research, materials, people and places involved in BioProNET, as well as the collaborative nature of scientific research.

Sex, Death and Panto

5 April – 12 May 2017
Curated by second-year Drama and Theatre students

A regular second-year Drama and Theatre module on Victorian and Edwardian theatre is taught in collaboration with Kent’s Special Collections & Archives. It emphasises the use of archives in researching 19th–  and early 20th-century theatre.

This year, the students chose to focus on how crimes and scandals affected the theatre of the time, and on the renowned pantomimes performed at Drury Lane. They used primary sources from the University’s extensive Theatre and Performance Archives.

Here’s what the students say about their exhibition: 

Drury Lane Pantomime of the Late 19th Century

This exhibition explores the pantomimes performed at Drury Lane in the late 1800s, produced by Augustus Harris.

It uses primary sources of the time, such as playbills, to focus on this popular form of Christmas entertainment and its most popular acting profiles.

Your journey begins with maps of the time illustrating the location of Theatre Royal Drury Lane in relation to other theatres in the surrounding area, and the distance between Drury Lane and transport links. This research focuses on why Theatre Royal is the birthplace of panto.

The exhibition also dives deeper into Drury Lane to focus on two pantomimes – Dick Whittington and Cinderella – exploring the characters we know and love today, and how they came to be.

Alongside this are four case studies of actors and actresses of the time that played principle roles in the two pantos: Ada Blanche, Dan Leno, Isa Bowman and Alexandra Dagmar. The case studies explore their influence within the pantomime world and give understanding into why Augustus Harris chose females as principal male roles over males. We aim to leave you inspired to enjoy pantomimes as much as we do!

Crime, Scandal and Theatre

This exhibition focuses on a variety of crimes and scandals in the mid to late Victorian era and how they affected the surrounding theatres at the time.

We have used archival material to research into the underbelly of Victorian London and see how poverty, murder, prostitution and mental illness have affected and been reflected on the stage.

Part of our exhibition focuses on the communal fear of Jack the Ripper and how this influenced the choices of theatre productions and the portrayal of villains in London performances.

Another piece considers the societal appetite for sensation and scandal and how this translated to the theatre of the Victorian period; with a focus on the Influence of the Whitechapel killings, and the sex scandals surrounding Ernest Boulton and William Park.

We have also explored the societal view of prostitution and why playwrights like George Bernard Shaw created female characters ‘with a past’ as protagonists in his plays.