Making your digital collections easier to discover – Jisc workshops in November

Jisc is offering two one-day workshops to help you increase the reach of your digital collections, optimise them for discovery and evaluate their impact.

‘Exploiting digital collections in learning, teaching and research’ will be held on Tuesday 15 November.

‘Making google work for your digital collections’ will be held on Tuesday 22 November.

If your organisation has digital collections, or plans to develop them, our workshops will help you maximize the reach of those collections online, demonstrate the impact of their usage, and help you build for future sustainability. They will equip you with the knowledge and skills to:

• Increase the visibility of your digital collections for use in learning, teaching and research
• Encourage collaboration between curators and users of digital collections
• Strategically promote your digital collections in appropriate contexts, for a range of audiences
• Optimise your collection for discovery via Google and other search tools
• Use web analytics to track and monitor access and usage of your digital collections
• Evaluate impact and realise the benefits of investment in your digital collection

Who should attend?

Anyone working in education and research, who manages, supports and/or promotes digital collections for teaching, learning and research. Those working in similar roles in libraries, archives and museums would also benefit.

Both workshops will be held at Jisc office, Brettenham House, London and will offer a mix of discussion, practical activities and post-workshop resources to support online resource discovery activities.

For more information and to book your place please visit

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Scotland’s Forgotten Composer: The Archive of Erik Chisholm

Archives Hub feature for September 2016

Eric Chisholm in his study

Eric Chisholm in his study in South Africa (EC/3/1/2).

Erik Chisholm was born on 4 January 1904 in Glasgow.  A precocious talent, at the age of fourteen Chisholm undertook early study of pianoforte, rudiments of music and harmony and counterpoint (composition) under Thomas Nisbet and Philip Halstead at the Glasgow Athenaeum School of Music (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland).  A prize winner, Chisholm consistently performed at the top of his class despite being one of the youngest students of his year.

In 1928 he was accepted to study music at the University of Edinburgh under his friend and mentor Sir Donald Francis Tovey, gaining a BMus in 1931 and a DMus in 1934.

A lifelong vegetarian, pacifist and humanitarian, Chisholm’s music was bold and original.  He was the first composer to incorporate the Scottish idiom, and particularly Gaelic aspects, into his music.  His first piano concerto, an orchestral work in four movements completed whilst he was still a student, incorporates many of the evolutions and figures associated with highland bagpipe music (ceòl mòr), which has led to it becoming known as the Piobaireachd Concerto.  In addition many of his solo piano works including Highland Sketches (EC/12/1/9), Scottish Airs (EC/12/1/12) and the Straloch Suite (EC/12/1/15) demonstrate a similar inspiration.

In an interview with the Cape Times newspaper in 1964 Chisholm attributed his first acquaintance with highland pibroch music as the chief turning point in his compositional career (EC/8/9).

Whilst still a student, Chisholm (alongside fellow composers Francis George Scott and Pat Shannon) founded the Active Society for the Propagation of Contemporary Music, an association which transformed the classical music world in Glasgow throughout the 1930s.  The Active Society brought internationally renowned composers such as Béla Bartók, Paul Hindemith and Kaikhosru Sorabji to Glasgow to conduct and perform their own works, including many UK and world premieres.  One of the many jewels of the Chisholm Collection is a score autographed by Hindemith thanking Chisholm for a ‘beautiful performance in Glasgow’ dated November 1930 (EC/12/4/3).

Score autographed by Hindemith, 1930

Score autographed by Hindemith, November 1930 (EC/12/4/3)

Not long after graduation from Edinburgh University with a doctorate in music, Chisholm was drafted into ENSA, the Entertainments National Service Association, where he continued to champion the cause of new music worldwide.  In 1945 he was sent to India to form a full-sized symphony orchestra in Bombay (now Mumbai), presaging the formation of the Symphony Orchestra of India, still the country’s only professional orchestra, nearly sixty years later.

Whilst in India, Chisholm was introduced to Indian classical music, which left an indelible mark on him creatively.  He often connected Indian ragas with Celtic music, and his Night Song of the Bards draws inspiration from both cultures, using the tuning for Rág Sohani (which is performed at night) to accent the Celtic rhythms of the allegro tempestuoso of the Second Bard.  Similarly his second piano concerto, known as the Hindustani Concerto, demonstrates Chisholm’s mastery of the Indian vernacular form (EC/7/22).

After limited successes in India, Chisholm (as ENSA Musical Director for the South East Asia Command) was sent to Singapore (EC/8/4) where he founded the Singapore Symphony Orchestra with the assistance of Lord Mountbatten (EC/1/8).  Singapore’s first professional full-size orchestra, the SSO was reformed in 1979 and continues to this day.

As a performer Chisholm gave the Scottish premieres of Bartók’s first and Rachmaninov’s third piano concertos, and was highly lauded for his technique.  The Chisholm Collection includes a collection of references from eminent musicians and composers (EC/4/12), including William Walton, Arnold Bax and William Gillies Whittaker, amongst others, praising Chisholm for his “modernistic outlook” and “scholarly foundations” (Walton, EC/4/12/7).

Chisholm greets Bartok in Glasgow.

Chisholm greets Bartok in Glasgow (EC/8/24).

In 1946, after completing his work for ENSA, Chisholm was appointed Professor of Music at the University of Cape Town and Director of the South African College of Music, and it is perhaps in this role that he is best remembered.

Chisholm revived the South African College of Music where he eventually would teach composer Stefans Grové and soprano Désirée Talbot. Using Edinburgh University as his model, Chisholm appointed new staff, extended the number of courses and introduced new degrees and diplomas. In order to encourage budding South African musicians he founded the South African National Music Press in 1948. With the assistance of the Italian baritone Gregorio Fiasconaro, Chisholm also established the college’s opera company in 1951 and opera school in 1954. In addition, Chisholm founded the South African section of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) in 1948, assisted in the founding of the Maynardville Open-Air Theatre on 1 December 1950, and pursued an international conducting career (cf. EC/7).

Chisholm did not support the prevailing apartheid policy of the South African government, and frequently found himself in opposition to authority.  In protest against the cutting down of trees at the University of Cape Town campus, Chisholm refused to provide music for the upcoming graduation ceremony (EC/8/21).  Dr. John Purser, Chisholm’s biographer, takes up the story:

The pressure on him to carry out his proper functions, was, however, enormous, and understandably so, and ‘appeals from tearful graduates urged him to change his mind.’  He finally appeared to capitulate, but no sooner had the students processed into the hall to the appropriate strains of Gaudeamus Igitur than the programme changed to ‘McDowell’s In Deep Woods and To an Old White Pine, sylvan arias by Handel, and concluded with March of the Tree Planters’.  There were more than enough people aware of the controversy and the music to appreciate that their unrepentant professor had balanced the score.  (Purser, Erik Chisholm, Scottish Modernist 1904-1965: Chasing a Restless Muse, p. 173; EC/4/11).

One of the largest series in the Erik Chisholm archive is the collection of his correspondence, and in particular his exchange of letters over more than thirty years with the infamous and controversial composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji.  Born Leon Dudley Sorabji in 1892, like Chisholm Sorabji was a pianist / composer of precocious talent.  Unlike Chisholm, however, he was largely self-taught, and his music polarised listeners and critics alike.  Perhaps his most renowned work is his Opus Clavicembalisticum for solo piano, which (depending on tempo) can take around four hours to perform.  At the time of its premiere under the auspices of Chisholm’s Active Society (on 1 December 1930) it was the longest piano composition in existence.

Sorabji’s correspondence with Chisholm (Chisholm’s letters to Sorabji are part of the Sorabji archive held at Warlow Farm House, Hereford – is extensive, containing over one-hundred and fifty letters.  The relationship between composers appears to have been extremely complex, and intensely personal.  In a letter dated 8th August 1930, Sorabji wrote the first of several poems dedicated and addressed to Chisholm:

Life, blood faith and deepest truth

Beloved Friend – all such as they be

Are yours with all the eager gladness

In the giving that is the only easing of my heart

Thus selfishly I give for that my own joy therein lies!

For less than asking all I have is yours

But oh my Brother ask not

That I go from you nor cease

From loving – for that is not

Death alone but Hell

And tortures of Inferno’s damned –

Ask not that! …. (EC/2/42)

Poem by Sorabji, August 1930.

The first of several poems dedicated and addressed to Chisholm by Sorabji, August 1930 (EC/2/42).

As their correspondence develops, Sorabji’s largely unrequited feelings for Chisholm become more explicit.  In a long letter written over several days, concluding 8th October 1930, Sorabji writes:

My dearest one what is come over me?  But lately I could not get down on paper quick enough all I had to say to you and here these last few weeks … aching and longing to pour out heart and soul to you I struggle and fight with the words that cannot come to utterance.  It is Beloved friend – that my affection for you is now grown so great that words cannot compass it about, and I am tongue tied and shy of utterances almost … pen tied …  Forgive me for you know the “heart is sorely charged”.  Oh my God! to see and touch you and look at you at this moment!  (EC/2/47)

It is clear from the way in which Sorabji carefully expresses his feelings that they are not fully reciprocated by Chisholm, who was heterosexual.  That said, the freeness with which Sorabji writes is extremely unusual for this period, when homosexuality was a crime punishable by incarceration and hard labour.  Touchingly, the correspondence collection (which is, as yet, unpublished) also includes a lock of Sorabji’s hair sent to Chisholm at some time in the 1930s when their correspondence was most frequent (EC/2/159).  They continued to write to each other until Chisholm died in 1965.

A lock of Sorabji’s hair sent to Chisholm.

A lock of Sorabji’s hair sent to Chisholm at some time in the 1930s (EC/2/159).

The Sorabji correspondence was mostly transcribed by Phyllis Brodie, Chisholm’s sister-in-law and Secretary of the South African Music College, and the transcripts are preserved alongside the originals in the collection (EC/2/1-181).

The Chisholm collection also includes material relating to Margaret Morris, wife of the Scottish Colourist J. D. Ferguson and founder of the Celtic Ballet, an early forerunner of Scottish Ballet.  Chisholm’s ballets The Forsaken Mermaid (EC/12/2/1/1), The Earth Shapers (EC/12/2) and The Hoodie Craw (EC/12/2/3/2) were all choreographed by Morris and premiered by her Celtic Ballet company in the 1930s and 1940s.

Perhaps one of the most unsung gems of the collection, however, is the full score, sketches and parts of Chisholm’s unperformed opera The Importance of Being Earnest, one of his last works completed in 1963 (EC/12/3/3), two years before he died.  Chisholm’s last letter to his daughter Morag dated 12th May 1965 is perhaps prescient of this:

Herewith what’s (or was) wrong with me!  I’m in the office 9.30 – 1, go to bed for a couple of hours – then afternoon 3 – 5 again at the College, go to a flick or work in the evening at home at a desk – but no conducting till Sept! (EC/1/7/35)

Chisholm died less than a month later.

The Erik Chisholm Collection was acquired by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Archives & Collections from his daughter, Dr. Morag Chisholm, in January 2016.  Chasing a Restless Muse: An Exhibition of Papers and Ephemera from the Erik Chisholm Collection will run from 1 September to 31 December 2016 in the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and the complete collection catalogue can be found at

Stuart A. Harris-Logan
Archives Officer
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland


Browse the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Collections on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

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The Archive of Thomas Manning, the First Englishman to Lhasa, Tibet

Archives Hub feature for August 2016

Portrait of Thomas Manning

Portrait of Thomas Manning : Oil-on-canvas , c.1805 (RAS Head Catalogue 01.006)

In December 1811, Thomas Manning entered Lhasa, Tibet, with his Chinese servant.  On the 17th, December, Manning was allowed into the presence of the 9th Dalai Lama – the six-year-old Lungtok Gyatso. Manning drew sketches of the child and wrote:

“[He] had the simple and unaffected manners of a well-educated princely child. His face was, I thought, poetically affecting and beautiful. He was of a gay and cheerful disposition… I was extremely affected… I could have wept with the strangeness of sensation.”

No other Englishman would enter Lhasa until the Younghusband expedition to Tibet at the beginning of the twentieth century. Many might think that Manning’s visit would mark a pinnacle in his career, but for Thomas Manning reaching Lhasa, and not being able to proceed further, was a source of great disappointment. Manning’s passion was China and the sole reason he travelled to Lhasa was in an attempt to reach Peking and other parts of inland China.

When Manning first became interested in China is uncertain. Indeed much about Manning, until this point, has been little known. His trip to Lhasa was published posthumously in 1876 in Narratives of the Mission of George Bogle to Tibet and of the Journey of Thomas Manning to Lhasa, edited by Clements R. Markham. It was also known that Manning was an influential friend of the essayist, Charles Lamb. Their letters are in the public domain, held in archives in the USA.

In 2014, a cache of Manning’s papers were discovered which were acquired, in 2015, by the Royal Asiatic Society with funding from The National Heritage Memorial Fund, Arts Council England / Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, Friends of National Libraries, and private donations. The Thomas Manning Papers, which include correspondence with his family and friends, notebooks, an early manuscript account of the journey to Lhasa, and official passports and documents, are now catalogued on the Archives Hub.

Thomas Manning was born in 1772, the second son of William Manning, rector of Diss. He was educated locally in Norfolk and went to Cambridge in 1790 to study mathematics at Gonville and Caius College. He was an astute mathematician but did not graduate because he wouldn’t subscribe to Church of England doctrines, necessary for matriculation at that time. However, he stayed on in Cambridge preparing students for mathematical examinations and writing textbooks. For Manning mathematics was a lifelong passion: some of the workings within the mathematical archives date from the years shortly before he died.

Letter from Thomas Manning’s father, Rev William Manning, 1803

Letter from Thomas Manning’s father, Rev William Manning, expressing his concern regarding Manning’s proposed travel to China, [24 August 1803] (TM/1/1/27)

Cambridge life also encouraged another passion – writing poetry and riddles. Amongst the many drafts of poems and  riddles contained in the archives are a series of epigrams about the state of the toilets at Caius College– as you might guess, they are not complimentary!

At Cambridge, Manning also developed his obsession to learn about China and the Chinese. Manning hoped to discover: “a moral view of China; its manners; the actual degree of happiness the people enjoy; their sentiments and opinions, so far as they influence life; their literature; their history…”

At this time, in England, interest in China was negligible. He therefore travelled to France to learn more, departing from Dover in January 1802. The archive contains the George III passport for his passage. Manning’s correspondence includes details of meeting Thomas Paine and Maria Cosway; of being inspired by Napoleon; of a hushed-up assassination attempt; and of learning from Joseph Hagar, “the Conservator of the Oriental manuscripts…The Dr and I shall probably become intimate, as I am learning the Chinese tongue, & so curious a language is a greater bond of union among men than even Free-masonry”.

Manning’s stay became extended by the outbreak of conflict between England and France. However Manning was well treated, being able to continue his studies in Paris or reside with the de Serrant family at their chateau in the Loire.

After consistent appeals to Napoleon, explaining his desire to travel to China, Manning was allowed to return to England. He then studied for 6 months at Westminster Hospital, gaining medical knowledge he hoped to be of benefit during his travels. He considered journeying overland to China via Russia but decided instead to apply, via Sir Joseph Banks, to the East India Company to sail on one of their vessels to Canton.

The Company agreed. Manning sailed from Portsmouth, aboard the Thames, in May 1806, reaching Canton in January 1807. Here he lived in the Company factory, set about learning the Chinese language, and undertook medical and translation work.

Account of the riot in Canton, 1807

Account of the riot in Canton involving the sailors of the Neptune, 24 February 1807 (TM/1/1/40)

Manning’s letters have details of life in Canton including a riot that led to the death of a Chinese man and precipitated the diplomatic incident over the crew of the Neptune. Manning appears to have observed the events first-hand. He wrote an eyewitness account, as well as comments on the ensuing trial: “…The court is opened in a very striking manner – 1st Solemn & lofty words by a herald – then a lengthened resounding cry of hou… then a sonorous & aweful clangor of Gongs … Each man asked to say that he is guilty… Each man refuses… To hear those ragamuffins speak they were all as gentle as Lambs that day…”

He desperately wanted to get beyond Canton. In late 1807 Manning offered his services as a physician and astronomer to the Emperor, but wasn’t accepted .Then in early 1808 Manning tried to enter China through Vietnam. This project failed also.  Despite these frustrations he continued to make progress with Chinese: “I have discovered the nature of the tones. I can speak. I can read. I am sure of being able to pursue the study of Chinese books in Europe.”

In 1810 Manning decided on a new plan – to attempt to enter China via Tibet. He travelled to Bengal and arrived in Calcutta in early 1810. He wrote to his father of dealings with European “missionaries in Calcutta who claim to know something of the Chinese language but they have it wrong… their translations of Confucius are a map of mistakes”. There are eight letters from Joshua Marshman, Serampore missionary, in the archive thanking Manning for his help with Chinese translation. In Bengal Manning waited for permission to travel to China via Bhutan and Tibet. Permission came for the first stage of the journey, and Manning kept going until he reached Lhasa.

Letter from Joshua Marshman to Thomas Manning, 1810

Letter from Joshua Marshman to Thomas Manning concerning his intention to reach China overland, 28 August 1810 (TM/5/19/4)

But that was the end of his trip. From Lhasa he was sent back, unsuccessful in his bid to discover more about inland China. He returned to Canton to continue studying until another opportunity arose to see more of China with the mission of the Amherst Embassy, which departed for Peking in 1816.

Manning was enrolled with the Embassy as an interpreter. Amherst objected to Manning’s beard and Chinese dress but George Staunton intervened to secure him a place. The presence of Manning, Staunton and Robert Morrison as the interpreters gives us a cameo of those interested in Chinese at that time – Staunton the East India man/diplomat, Morrison the missionary and Manning the independent scholar.

The Embassy ended in failure due to perceived slights to the Emperor by Amherst. The Embassy remained in Peking for just a few hours.  Possibly this was the final straw for Manning – he chose to return to England with the Embassy – a passage that involved shipwreck, and a stopover at St Helena to speak with the exiled Napoleon. The archive contains notes from Manning’s conversations with Napoleon and Hudson Lowe, Governor of St. Helena.

Back in England, Manning was still interested in China and Chinese. He had brought with him two Chinese men which he hoped the East India Company would employ to help prepare Company men for service in China. But Manning found they were not interested in employing or in helping defray the costs of bringing the men to England.

Manning continued his Chinese studies and revived old friendships with the likes of Lamb and George Leman Tuthill, an eminent physician. He became honorary Chinese librarian to the Royal Asiatic Society in 1824, and was active in helping Stanislas Julien, the French sinologist, find Chinese material. He was still keen to learn new things and lived in Italy between 1827 and 1829 to improve his spoken Italian. He settled near Dartford, Kent, where he had the finest Chinese library in Europe. This library was bequeathed to the Royal Asiatic Society and is now part of the Brotherton Library’s Chinese Collection (Leeds University), having been donated by the Society in 1963.

Sketches of the 9th Dalai Lama

Sketches of the 9th Dalai Lama made by Thomas Manning (TM/9/3)

Manning did not publish his Chinese discoveries and therefore has often been overlooked amongst those studying early Sinology and Orientalism. The Royal Asiatic Society hope that the acquisition and cataloguing of this archive, might aid towards a greater understanding of these topics, and of the life of Thomas Manning: not only the first Englishman to reach Lhasa, but also, possibly, the first independent English scholar of China and the Chinese, a gifted mathematician, a lover of riddles and a loyal friend.

Nancy Charley
Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland


Papers of Thomas Manning, Chinese Scholar, First English visitor to Lhasa, Tibet on the Archives Hub:

Browse the Royal Asiatic Society Collectionson the Archives Hub.

All images copyright the Royal Asiatic Society and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.



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Archives Portal Europe builds firm foundations

On 8th June 2016 I attended the first Country Manager’s meeting of the newly formed Foundation of the Archives Portal Europe (APEF) at the National Archives of the Netherlands (Nationaal Archief).

The Foundation has been formed on the basis of partnerships between European countries. The current Foundation partners are: Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Norway and Slovenia. All of these countries are members of the ‘Assembly of Associates’. Negotiations are proceeding with Bulgaria, Greece, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and the UK. Some countries are not yet in a position to become members, mainly due to financial and administrative issues, but the prospects currently look very positive, with a great willingness to take the Portal forwards and continue the valuable networking that has been built up over the past decade. Contributing to the Portal does not incur financial contribution; the Assembly of Associates is separate from this, and the idea is that countries (National Archives or bodies with an educational/research remit) sign up to the principles of APE and the APE Foundation – to collaborate and share experiences and ideas, and to make European archives as accessible as possible.

The Governing Board of the Foundation is working with potential partners to reach agreements on a combination of financial and in-kind contributions. It’s also working on long term strategy documents. It has established working groups for Standards and PR & Communications and it has set up cooperation with the Dutch DTR project (Digitale Taken Rijksarchieven / Digital Processes in State Archives) and with Europeana. The cooperation with the DTR project has been a major boost, as both projects are working towards similar goals, and therefore work effort can be shared, particularly development work.

Current tasks for the APEF:

  • Building an API to open up the functionality of the Archives Portal Europe to third parties and to implement the possibility for the content providers to switch this option on or off in the Archives Portal Europe’s back-end.
  • Improving the uploading and processing of EAC-CPF records in the Archives Portal Europe and improving the way in which records creators’ information can be searched and found via the Archives Portal Europe’s front-end and via the API.
  • Enabling the uploading/processing of “additional finding aids (indexes)” in the Archives Portal Europe and making this additional information available via the Archives Portal Europe’s front-end and the API.

The above in addition to the continuing work of getting more data into the Portal, supporting the country managers in working with repositories, and promoting the portal to researchers interested in using European-wide search and discovery tool.

APEF will be a full partner in the Europeana DSI2 project, connecting the online collections of Europe’s cultural heritage institutions, which will start after the summer and will run for 16 months. Within this project APEF will focus on helping Europeana to develop the aggregation structure and provide quality data from the archives community to Europeana. A focus on quality will help to get archival data into Europeana in a way that works for all parties. There seems to be a focus from Europeana on the ‘treasures’ from the archives, and on images that ‘sell’ the archives more effectively. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this, it seems important to continue to work to expose archives through as many channels as we can, and for us in the UK, the advantages of contributing to the Archives Hub and thence seamlessly to APE and to Europeana, albeit selectively, are clear.

A substantial part of the meeting was dedicated to updates from countries, which gave us all a chance to find out what others are doing, from the building of a national archives portal in Slovakia to progress with OAI-PMH harvesting from various systems, such as ScopeArchiv, used in Switzerland and other countries. Many countries are also concerned with translations of various documents, such as the Content Provider Agreement, which is not something the UK has had to consider (although a Welsh translation would be a possibility).

We had a session looking at some of the more operational and functional tasks that need to be thought about in any complex system such as the APE system. We then had a general Q&A session. It was acknowledged that creating EAD from scratch is a barrier to contributing for many repositories. For the UK this is not really an issue, because we contribute Archives Hub descriptions. But of course it is an issue for the Hub: to find ways to help our contributors provide descriptions, especially if they are using a proprietary system. Our EAD Editor accounts for a large percentage of our data, and that creates the EAD without the requirement of understanding more than a few formatting tags.

The Archives Hub aims to set up harvesting of our contributors’ descriptions over the next year, thus ensuring that any descriptions contributed to us will automatically be uploaded to the Archives Portal Europe. (We currently have to upload on a per-contributor basis, which is not very efficient with over 300 contributors). We will soon be turning our attention to the selective digital content that can be provided by APE to Europeana. That will require an agreement from each institution in terms of the Europeana open data licence. As the Hub operates on the principles of open data, to encourage maximum exposure of our descriptions and promote UK archives, that should not be a problem.

With thanks to Wim van Dongen, APEF country manager coordinator / technical coordinator, who provided the minutes of the Country Managers’ meeting, which are partially reproduced here.

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London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Archives: The Shakespeare Hut

Archives Hub feature for July 2016

Photograph of Shakespeare Hut aerial view

Shakespeare Hut aerial view (YMCA archive image, courtesy of the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham).

A forgotten building that opened 100 years ago and which was a safe haven for nearly 100,000 First World War soldiers, is to be remembered at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine this summer.

Digital Drama, a UK-based media production company, was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)  grant for the project Resurrecting the Shakespeare Hut, in partnership with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and The Mustard Club.

Photograph of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine under construction, c.1927.

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine under construction, c.1927.

The project commemorates the lives of the servicemen who used, and the women who worked at, the Shakespeare Hut, which was erected on the grounds of what is now the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s Keppel Street site in Bloomsbury, in August 1916.

During the First World War the YMCA ( erected over 4,000 huts to provide soldiers with food and a place to rest, either on the frontline or at home in military camps and railway stations. For the duration of the War, 35,000 unpaid volunteers and 26,000 paid YMCA staff ran the huts, serving 4.8 million troops in 1,500 canteens.

YMCA Huts were a regular sight in England, France and on all the fighting fronts during the First World War, providing a ‘home from home’ for soldiers to rest, recover and be entertained. However, the Keppel Street hut was built with a special purpose – to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and to entertain the troops through the playwright’s work.

In the year of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and with the ongoing commemoration of the First World War Centenary, this is a relevant time to resurrect the Shakespeare Hut. The project will introduce the public to the Hut’s history, lift the lid on what life was like for those who used the building, and relive stories of those who fought and lived through the First World War, as well as preserving its heritage for future generations.

On 8 July an installation will open at the School, providing visitors with a chance to go back in time by stepping into a replica room – the design is taken from a photograph taken inside the original building. Images showing the Hut in action will also be on display as well as audio and visual exhibits recounting local residents’ family memories of the First World War.

 Architects' drawing of London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine North Courtyard, 1924.

Architects’ drawing of London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine North Courtyard, 1924.

At the same time, the School’s Archives Service are mounting an exhibition called The Changing Face of Keppel Street, which uses material from the archive collections to explore the history of the Keppel Street area and the development of the School’s iconic art-deco style building.

Engaging with the community and bringing people together is an essential element of the project. ‘Digital Drama’ will work with volunteers to capture local stories, and 90 students from local schools will receive valuable research and media experience by developing blogs, animations and web pages. After the installation closes, photographs and recordings will be displayed and then kept at the London borough of Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre.

Stuart Hobley, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London, said: “In the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare, this is an ideal moment to celebrate how Britain’s most famous playwright inspired troops during the First World War. Thanks to National Lottery players, the Resurrecting the Shakespeare Hut project will record and exhibit the hidden heritage of the forgotten YMCA building and share the stories of servicemen and women during the Great War.”

Photograph showing London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine exterior, c.1951.

Photograph showing London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine exterior, c.1951.

The Installation and The Changing Face of Keppel Street exhibition  runs from 8 July to 18 September. It will be open to the public from 9am to 5pm weekdays and for the Open House weekend – 17 and 18 September.

The School’s archives include documents, photographs, maps, publications and objects relating to tropical and infectious diseases and public health issues. The Archives also hold material on the history and development of the School since its foundation in 1899. Our collections date from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and have a global coverage.

Photograph of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Library reading room in 1929.

Photograph of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Library reading room in 1929.

For more information:

Claire Frankland
Assistant Archivist
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine


Browse the LSHTM Collections on the Archives Hub

NB. the LSHTM images in this feature are from a collection not yet included on the Archives Hub but the collection description is planned to be added in the future.

All images copyright the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and YMCA Archive, reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.


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Barclaycard: 50 years of plastic money – the story from the Archives

Archives Hub feature for June 2016

29th June 2016 sees the 50th anniversary of the official launch of Barclaycard, the first all-purpose credit card in Europe.

Origins and Idea

The idea of Barclaycard is credited to general manager Derek Wilde, later a vice-chairman of Barclays, and James Dale, who became Barclaycard’s first departmental manager. Their idea was backed by Barclays’ chairman John Thomson, who recognised the need to ‘beat the others to it’. The immediate inspiration came from a visit to the United States in 1965 by Wilde, Dale and computer expert Alan Duncan, specifically to look at Bank of America’s BankAmericard.

Photo of James “Dickie” Dale

James “Dickie” Dale

Barclays had, since the mid-1950s, begun to innovate and modernise in areas such as technology and advertising, for example ordering the first computer for branch accounting in 1959, and experimenting with cinema advertising. In 1967 Barclays would pioneer the world’s first external wall-mounted cash machines.

The card scheme was approved by the board without any market research or pilot, or adequate in-house computer system, and in the face of not inconsiderable internal and external suspicion, even hostility. It was recognised that profitability would be long-term, since the set-up costs were so high and credit controls strict.

Although the idea of a plastic card for making general purchases was novel in Britain, consumer credit had already secured a place in people’s lives. Working people had long bought essentials ‘on tick’ from their corner shop, and after World War Two the idea of hire purchase was developed into big business, becoming an integral part of the ‘affluent society’.

The most successful outlets in the early period, despite a very low profit margin, were petrol stations, whose proprietors envisaged improved security in reducing the use of cash, while Barclays saw advantage in roadside advertising.

Photo of early advertising at a garage

Early advertising at a garage


‘The Barclaycard is the largest operation the Bank has ever mounted’, declared Barclays’ staff magazine.

On 10th January 1966 the scheme was announced to the public. The press release shows that Barclays carefully eschewed advertising it as a source of unsecured borrowing. Instead, Barclaycard was described as,

‘a logical extension of the existing commercial bank facilities provided by the Barclays Group. Its purpose is to reduce the use of cash in shopping and other transactions and the scheme is designed to appeal not only to those who must travel and spend a good deal of money in restaurants, but also to the everyday shopper throughout the country. For retail and service establishments it will provide a means of reducing or eliminating the book-keeping now needed to maintain customers’ credit accounts.’

Indeed, Thomson saw Barclaycard as, ‘…more of a development of existing retail banking than an innovation…’ As with automated accounting and cash machines, Barclaycard held a promise for the bank of reducing its labour costs, which, with the advent of relatively full employment and strong trade unions, were rising steadily.

Photo of Barclaycard Centre, Northampton

Barclaycard Centre, Northampton

Barclays set itself the daunting task of recruiting 1 million cardholders and 30,000 outlets by the launch date. A derelict footwear factory in Northampton was converted as the operations centre, while £500,000 was spent on advertising and over 23 million forms were sent to prospective customers. Barclays adapted the computer programme used by BankAmericard. Distribution of the 1m cards involved extra Post Office and railway facilities.

Signing up merchant outlets was achieved by an organisational innovation. Dale recruited salesmen, largely selected from the Barclays staff on recommendation by inspection teams and branch managers, who were trained to call personally on prospective merchants. The idea of undertaking ‘selling’ was still anathema to the traditional British banker, but these recruits were often glad to break free of the confines of branch banking and enter the modern world of marketing. External training was also used by Barclays for the first time. In the words of one of the early salesmen,

‘It was all direct selling and it was cold selling in many ways.  It was in actual fact, just walking along the streets and just looking at shops and saying, yes, the average sale in that shop is a certain amount, that’s a good average sale.’

Acceptance – the triumph of plastic

Most of the 1.25m unsolicited cards sent to potential users in 1966 were accepted, but some were either returned, destroyed or not used: in 2015 Group Archives was pleased to receive the timely donation from a customer, of her late father’s unused card, surviving in pristine condition from 1966!

Barclaycard steadily secured a place in retail culture. Its first operating profit was recorded in 1972, by which time there were 1.7m cardholders and 52,000 merchants. As another salesman recalled of this period:

‘Well, I would just go and say, have you ever thought of taking Barclaycard?   It was such a strong product then that they either said yes or no.  And if they said yes, you’d sign them up and if no, you’d go into the next shop.  It was so easy to do then.’

The move towards a plastic credit society was cautious in the early years. When in November 1967 (following relaxation of the government’s credit squeeze), Barclaycard granted extended or revolving credit to holders, this was done on the understanding (with the Bank of England), that the card could not be used to acquire credit for more than 3 months, and that advertising would be suspended pro tem. This, it was recognised by Barclays at the time, was the only way that the card would ever make a profit. In effect card holders had a personal overdraft facility.

Confirmation that credit cards were here to stay came in 1972 with the launch of Barclaycard’s first major rival – Access – by Lloyds, NatWest and Midland.


As in other areas, Barclaycard’s marketing was at the forefront of innovation for Barclays and British banking as a whole.

From the start, use was made of modern techniques, including direct mailings and colour magazine adverts. The initial recruitment of holders in 1966 was helped by a mass campaign, including the first direct mail shot by a British bank and a complete list of all the merchant outlets, believed to be one of the largest newspapers adverts ever published. High street campaigns were another radical departure for a Bank:

Image of Barclaycard 1972 promotions

Barclaycard 1972 promotions.

‘….we would go to a town and set this promotion up with all the retailers.  So we picked somewhere big like Brighton or Manchester or Liverpool and you always needed one or two big department stores as a sort of corner-stone, and we persuaded all these stores and shops to display Barclaycard material.’ Barclaycard ‘girls’, hired from an agency and dressed in a uniform to attract attention, would stop people on the street.

Image of Flyer for Travelling Light, 1968

Flyer for Travelling Light, 1968

In 1968 an award-winning cinema film, Travelling Light, featured a young shopper with a card tucked into her bikini:

‘ One of my jobs was to make sure that the Barclaycard always showed correctly and so on, so I had the job of positioning it in her briefs to make sure it was all positioned  correctly…. It had a very good message, because I think the message at the end was that all you need to go shopping is a Barclaycard.’

Later developments

Although space doesn’t permit an account of Barclaycard’s subsequent history here, it’s worth noting some of the landmarks, several of which have derived from advances in computer and mobile phone technology:

  • 1972: first television advert (first for Barclays, too)
  • 1973: 2 million card holders
  • 1977: Barclaycard a founder of the VISA network
  • 1977: Company Barclaycard
  • 1982: first in series of Alan Whicker TV adverts
  • 1985: 8 million card holders
  • 1986: PDQ machines, the first electronic card payment terminals in the UK, introduced to replace manual imprinters
  • 1988: Student Barclaycard
  • 1990: first in series of Rowan Atkinson TV adverts
  • 1990s: expansion into Europe
  • 1995: Barclaycard Netlink, the UK’s first bank-related commercial internet service, which soon enabled card holders to pay their bills online
  • 1997: introduction of microchips on cards to improve security
  • 2001: initial sponsorship of FA Premiership
  • 2002: 11 million cards
  • 2004: acquisition of Juniper, enabling Barclaycard to expand in USA
  • 2007: ‘contactless’ cards, first in the UK
  • 2012: PayTag, enabling customers to pay using their mobile phone by sticking a Barclaycard PayTag to the back of their handset
  • 2014: 30 million cards
Photo of Alan Whicker.

Alan Whicker was the face of Barclaycard in the 1980s.

Records and research

‘Plastic money’, a phrase detected in a Barclays report from as early as 1967, has attracted attention from academic researchers in recent years, Barclaycard being cited as an example of technical and financial innovation, marketing success and market leadership.

Most of the documentation of Barclaycard is to be found with the Bank’s main record series. By establishing contacts with the marketing teams, a good representative selection of advertising material has also been captured, and this has been supplemented by donations from former staff members.

Research by Archives staff has established a good framework for the factual history of Barclaycard. For the story of the early years, Group Archives is able to supplement the written record by means of oral history interviews, a few excerpts from which have been quoted above.

In just over a decade from conception in 1965, Barclays successfully embedded the credit card in the retail economy of Britain, an essential payment medium that is taken for granted today.

Nicholas Webb
Barclays Group Archives


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Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers Collection at the TUC Library (London Metropolitan University)

Archives Hub feature for May 2016

Photo of books

Books from the TUC Library’s collection of publications from the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers.

The Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers (FWWCP) was a network of community-based writing groups that stretched across the UK and, to a much lesser extent, Europe and the USA. Voluntary, community-run groups met to allow working class people to share and discuss their creative writing and facilitate community self-publication.  It was the most significant working class writing/publication project of the 20th century, distributing over a million books between 1976-2007. It thrived during a period of significant social, economic and political change in the UK especially through the 1970s and 1980s, and represented a significant counter-cultural movement.

Many of the groups emerged out of local politics and campaigning, some such as Hackney’s Centerprise were a model of community cohesion, providing a bookshop, publisher, crèche, cafe and legal advice. Others still exist such as Brighton’s QueenSpark, Books, the UK’s longest running community publisher that started out of a grassroots campaign to establish a nursery school instead of a casino.

Photo of books

Books from the TUC Library’s collection of publications from the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers.

Through the medium of poetry, prose, fiction, biography, autobiography and local history, they document the changing experience of working class people over the course of the second half of the twentieth century, and much like oral history, they contain testimony about cultural history and working lives. They also reveal an emerging identity politics focused on issues of local community, immigration, race/ethnicity, gender, mental health and sexuality, with groups setting up to discuss, publish and represent those identities.

Some of the groups were involved in the establishment of community bookshops, Bookplace, Newham Books, and Tower Hamlets Arts Project (known as THAP and Eastside Books). They were important in providing an outlet for FWWCP publications and frequently provided a meeting space for writers and adult literacy groups.

Photo of books

Books from the TUC Library’s collection of publications from the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers.

The TUC Library started its collection of publications from the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers in August 2014 with a major deposit from Nick Pollard, a lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University who had a long-running involvement in the Federation. This has been followed by a number of other smaller deposits over the last 18 months, from former writers, members and enthusiasts.

From London alone there are at least 11 groups represented, including: Black Ink, Peckham People’s History, Stepney Books, Basement Writers, Working Press, Tower Hamlets Arts Project, Hammersmith & Fulham Community, Newham Writers Workshop, London Voices, Age Exchange, Southwark Mind and Survivors. All published biographies, autobiographies, fiction, prose and poetry.

There are also audio recordings of meetings, performances and festivals, and some video footage of these events. The Collection contains publications from over 100 groups that were part of the Federation.

Photo of prose and poetry books

Groups were prolific in publishing prose and poetry.

Some of the FWWCP legacy still exists in the form of The FED, a much smaller network that follows many of the FWWCP principles but uses an online presence to keep members in touch. The FED includes writing workshops and groups across the country, mostly centered in London, and like its predecessor, continues to celebrate diversity. It is holding its annual writing festival on the 4th June 2016.

Photo of book collection

Although generally about working class experience, some groups were focused on gender, LGBT, BAME and mental health, and there is much testimony contained in this collection.

The TUC Library is working closely with the University in making the most of the FWWCP Collection, and we’ve provided inductions for students from social sciences and humanities generally, we’ve also provided workshops for those from creative writing students to theatre and performance students. Students from Syracuse University taking a Civic Writing course, helped create an index to the collection. The group taught by Jess Pauszek, through Syracuse’s London Campus, at Faraday House, spent three weeks in summer 2015 and will continue work in 2016.

Having carried out a series of consultative meetings with former members London Metropolitan University and the TUC Library will be applying for funds to carry out an oral history and digitisation project.

You can see an index of the collection that’s been sorted so far Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers

Jeff Howarth, TUC Librarian at London Metropolitan University


Browse the London Metropolitan University’s Trades Union Congress Library Collections on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright London Metropolitan University and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.


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The Henry Moore Institute Archive of Sculptors’ Papers

Archives Hub feature for April 2016

The Henry Moore Institute is a world-recognised centre for the study of sculpture in the heart of Leeds. An award-winning exhibitions venue, research centre, Library and Archive of Sculptors’ Papers, the Institute hosts a year-round programme of exhibitions, conferences and lectures, as well as developing research and publications, to expand the understanding and scholarship of historical and contemporary sculpture. The Institute is part of the Henry Moore Foundation, which was set up by Moore in 1977 to encourage appreciation of the visual arts, particularly sculpture.

Henry Moore (1898–1986) studied in Leeds at the city’s School of Art (now known as Leeds College of Art) in 1919 and was always grateful for the quality of art education he received. In 1982, through his Foundation, investment was made in Leeds City Art Gallery to establish the Henry Moore Centre for the Study of Sculpture (HMCSS) which built on the existing sculpture collection by diversifying and collecting works on paper and preparatory archive material.

In 1993 the Henry Moore Foundation funded refurbishment by architects Dixon Jones of the building next to the City Art Gallery to house the HMCSS, named the Henry Moore Institute, which offered new galleries, conference facilities and new accommodation for the Research Library and Archive of Sculptors’ Papers. Since 1993 the Henry Moore Institute Research Library and Archive have continued to play a crucial role in the work and endeavours of the Institute as intended by Moore, providing an important research facility to enable a greater understanding of the history and practice of sculpture. Leeds Museums and Galleries owns the Archive which the Institute houses and maintains, in addition to managing the closely related Leeds Sculpture Collections, in a unique partnership that has built one of the largest public collections of British sculpture.

Photo of The Henry Moore Institute, Leeds.

The Henry Moore Institute, Leeds. Image courtesy of the Henry Moore Institute. Photo: David Cotton.

The Henry Moore Institute Archive is a specialist repository for papers relating to sculpture in Britain and has material dating from the eighteenth century to the present day with a particular emphasis on the period post-1880. The Archive now comprises over 300 individual collections which contain a diverse range of material including the personal papers of sculptors, correspondence, diaries, important collections of photographs, casting ledgers, sketchbooks and works on paper, press cuttings and printed ephemera. The collection is used extensively for research, display and features in many publications related to sculpture and other related disciplines.

The following collections from the Archive demonstrate the extent, variety and unique nature of the material held:

The Thornycroft Family Papers

The first major acquisition by the Henry Moore Institute Archive was the Thornycroft family papers in 1986. The papers are a rare survival which document the work of three generations of nineteenth and early twentieth-century artists. John Francis (1780–1861), was the first of the three generations, a portrait sculptor who exhibited extensively at the Royal Academy. John Francis taught his daughter, Mary (1809–95), who became a successful sculptor and produced many commissions for Queen Victoria. Her husband, Thomas Thornycroft (1815–85), was one of her father’s pupils, who specialised in public commemorative sculpture and completed many statues of Prince Albert.

Photograph of William Gladstone Memorial, William Hamo Thornycroft, London, 1905.

Photograph of William Gladstone Memorial, William Hamo Thornycroft, London, 1905, from the Thornycroft Family Papers.
Image courtesy of Leeds Museums and Galleries (Henry Moore Institute Archive).

Their youngest son, Sir William Hamo Thornycroft (1850–1925), also trained as a sculptor and his papers form the main part of the family’s collection. The papers of Hamo Thornycroft are important for their extensive scope and for the fact that they document the everyday activities of one of the foremost practitioners of the New Sculpture movement. The collection provides detailed documentation of all his major works, including ‘The Mower’ from 1884, a maquette for which is held in the Leeds Sculpture Collections. The collection is extremely comprehensive and consists of approximately 3,000 items of correspondence, 32 sketchbooks, 300 drawings which range from initial sketches and life drawings to presentation drawings and architectural plans for his work, as well as over 300 photographs of his work, studio and personal family photographs.

Papers of Betty Rea

The representation of female artists within the collection is a continuing area of development. Among current holdings is the archive of Betty Rea (1904–65). Rea was a sculptor who favoured realist sculpture in a period when abstract modernism held sway. Her sculptures tenderly celebrate quotidian life, whether by depicting teenage girls rocking with laughter or women completing household tasks, as can be seen in works such as ‘Silly Girls’ (1959) or ‘Folding a Carpet’ (1956). Betty Rea’s archive gives an interesting glimpse into both her artistic practice and the social and political world in which she lived. The contents of this collection can be considered as representative of the contents of many other collections. For example, the Betty Rea archive contains an album of photographs and over 200 loose photographs that record Rea and her sculptural process, a selection of correspondence that refer to the organisation of exhibitions, exhibition catalogues, private view cards, press cuttings largely relating to exhibitions Rea was involved in and one of her sketchbooks.

Material from the Henry Moore Institute Archive is frequently drawn upon and used to inform exhibitions held at the Institute as well as other institutions. For example, in 2005 the Institute curated the exhibition Jaki Irvine: Plans for Forgotten Works. This exhibition, held in Gallery 4, displayed a series of works created by Jaki Irvine as a result of her Fellowship at the Henry Moore Institute in 2004. During her Fellowship, Irvine engaged with some of the least expected areas of the Institute’s archive and material relating to the life and work of Betty Rea particularly captured her interest. Read more about this exhibition and Jaki Irvine’s Fellowship here:

Photograph of letter regarding the Huntingdon Anglo-Soviet Friendship Committee to Betty Rea, 27 February 1943.

Letter regarding the Huntingdon Anglo-Soviet Friendship Committee to Betty Rea, 27 February 1943, from the Papers of Betty Rea
Image courtesy of the Estate of Betty Rea and Leeds Museums and Galleries (Henry Moore Institute Archive).

Stephen Cripps Archive

Photograph of the Henry Moore Institute exhibition Stephen Cripps: Pyrotechnic Sculptor, Sculpture Study Galleries, Leeds Art Gallery, 2014.

Installation view of the Henry Moore Institute exhibition Stephen Cripps: Pyrotechnic Sculptor, Sculpture Study Galleries, Leeds Art Gallery, 21 November 2013 – 16 February, 2014.
Image courtesy of the Henry Moore Institute. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones.

More recent acquisitions include the archive of British sculptor and performance artist Stephen Cripps (1952-82) which was acquired in 2013, and provides a fascinating insight into Cripps’ artistic practice. His work was experimental and often included found objects, sound recordings from the urban environment around him and explosives. In 2013 the Institute curated the exhibition Stephen Cripps: Pyrotechnic Sculptor which was held in the Sculpture Studies Galleries of Leeds Art Gallery.

This exhibition celebrated the acquisition of the Cripps’ archive and utilised items from the collection, such as his drawings and photographs of his performances, to explore the originality and experimental nature of Cripps’ sculptural work.



Photograph of an untitled drawing by Stephen Cripps.

Untitled drawing by Stephen Cripps, n.d., Stephen Cripps Archive. Image courtesy of Leeds Museums and Galleries (Henry Moore Institute Archive).

The scope of the Henry Moore Institute Archive holdings can be viewed through an A to Z of collections on our website: We began adding descriptions to the Archives Hub at the end of 2015 and now have over twenty-five of our collections available to search through the Hub.


The Archive is open to all who wish to consult the collection. Please contact Claire Mayoh, Archivist, for further information about the collection or to arrange an appointment to visit, (



Katie Gilliland
Library, Archive and Collections Trainee
Henry Moore Institute

Browse the collections on the Archives Hub


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The Association of Performing Arts Collections

Archives Hub feature for March 2016

APAC, the Association of performing arts collections in the UK and Ireland: A peer network championing the documentation of performing arts material and its access by everyone.

Photograph of Connie Gilchrist (1880) by Samuel Alex Walker.

Samuel Alex Walker, Sepia photograph of Connie Gilchrist as Abdallah in The Forty Thieves, at the Gaiety Theatre, 1880. [From the Guy Little Collection, V&A, Museum Number S.135:398-2007.]

Performing arts are all around us and come in many different shapes and sizes: drama, opera, circus, local amateur theatre groups, dance, carnivals, pantomime, music festivals and more. Although performances are increasingly recorded live and high profile productions screened to your local cinemas; capturing the process of putting on a show, the collaborations between a creative team and cast, followed by the public reception present quite a few challenges to collection managers. How to capture the depth and breadth of performing arts at local and national level? How to make performing arts information and material easily accessible to the diverse users ranging from academics, theatre enthusiasts, family historians, school children and the creative industry itself?

Detail from page 29 of a theatrical scrapbook compiled by Jonathan Cleveland Milbourne, showing costumes from “Robinson Crusoe” (1886).

Detail from page 29 of a theatrical scrapbook compiled by Jonathan Cleveland Milbourne, showing costumes from “Robinson Crusoe” performed at the Avenue Theatre, 26 December 1886. Part of the Theatre & Performance Archives, Special Collections & Archives, University of Kent.

The Association of Performing Arts Collections, APAC, was founded in 1979 by a number of librarians, archivists and museums curators, as the then Theatre Information Group. Its mission is to champion best practice in documenting the performing arts and making it accessible to their users. The peer network of information professionals and interested individuals has grown to almost 100 members and includes institutions responsible for most of the UK’s performing arts heritage: public museums, libraries, and archives; archives of theatres and companies; college and university archives and libraries. APAC is the UK and Ireland affiliate of SIBMAS, the international organisation of libraries, museums, archives and documentation centres of performing arts. The national and international network of collection managers provides an excellent forum for information exchange, to discuss issues and explore solutions.

The APAC Executive Committee arranges regular meetings, alongside visits to collections and performing arts venues in addition to conferences and study days concentrating on issues of relevance to our holdings, such as copyright, digital preservation, audio-visual materials, costume, photography, digitisation, exhibitions, etc. These events are aimed at updating and extending members’ knowledge and skills, but also to benefit from each other’s trials and errors and encourage collaborative projects. In addition APAC has a number of working groups bringing together APAC members discussing specific challenges in their day-to-day work and seeking solutions, which are shared with the wider membership. Current working groups concentrate on digital preservation and authority datasets for performing arts.

One major challenge faced by most organisations holding performing arts materials is the fact, that international documentation standards for archive, library and museum collections do not adequately allow the capture of production/event information, which includes details of the work, its venue, production run and creative and cast involved. Many theatre and performance venues managing their own collections have implemented solutions to document their performance history and then to link these up with relevant material held within their organisation. Excellent examples are the National Theatre Archive, the Royal Opera House Collections, the Royal Albert Hall or the archives of the Royal Shakespeare Company held by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. However, much related material is held by other organisations across the country, which tend to not have equivalent production databases due to lack of resources, both time and money. Also organisations, such as museums, local libraries or archives do not want to duplicate the effort of re-entering performance data in their own systems and then just link up their own material.

Photograph of ‘Phyllis Bedells’ c. 1911. Rotary Photographic Series, Royal Academy of Dance.

‘Phyllis Bedells’ c. 1911. Rotary Photographic Series, Royal Academy of Dance.

The technical developments and online opportunities over the last decade led to APAC’s main vision of establishing an style solution of making a single database freely available online, where past and current productions across the UK and Ireland can be recorded. It is not only the ambition to facilitate a single point of access to find out about production, cast and venue information, but also to make the link to actual holdings held by organisations across the two countries. This ambitious project will hopefully see the closing of the major information gap, but should also result in a new and innovative way of making material discoverable using technology readily available. In tandem with technical developments, the APAC Authority Working Group, comprising of information professionals across the sector plans to draw up guidelines on how to use this resource alongside your in-house archive, library or museum system.

To find out more about APAC, please check out the APAC website, which holds information about APAC members and other resources, which may be of relevance to other organisations:

And now it is time to meet some of the APAC members holding archival collections and making these available via the Archives Hub:

Central Saint Martin’s Museum & Study Collection

The Central Saint Martin’s Museum & Study Collection has been collecting work by students and staff for more than a century and for the last 20 years has bought work from degree shows. There has been a theatre design department (now called Design for Performance) for much of that time and the collection now includes dress research, costume designs, theatre models and photographs from that department. Drama Centre London is also part of Central Saint Martin’s, and the museum has some of their material.

National Theatre

The National Theatre Archive documents, protects and makes accessible material related to the history of the theatre. The NT Archive collects around productions as well as the administrative and strategic history of the institution. Its external collections focus on the early days of the National Theatre and on staff members, who were integral to its development.

A couple of the external collections are on the Hub with more to come. The Shakespeare Memorial National Theatre Collection ( charts the movement to found the National Theatre and the collection of Catherine Fleming (, a vocal coach, who worked with the National Theatre Company when it was housed at the Old Vic.

Rambert Dance Company Archive

Rambert Reading Room

Rambert Reading Room

The Rambert Archive documents the development of dance in Britain through the heritage of Britain’s first established dance company, Rambert. The collections include the Company collection, dating from the first performance of a ballet choreographed by an English person. The collections also include personal archives created by our founder, Dame Marie Rambert DBE, who played a role in the birth of modernism in ballet and music, as well in the early days of the Dalcroze Eurythmics movement. Other former alumni have contributed collections, including those of the choreographer Walter Gore, whose ballet company pioneered new works in the 1950s; the Ballet Workshop who hosted new collaborations between choreographers, designers and composers including some of the earliest black British ballets; the first tours to China and to Australian and New Zealand by any British dance company, and extensive material about the popularisation of dance as an art-form during the Second World War.

Royal Academy of Dance

Photo by GBL Wilson of Sadler’s Wells Ballet’s 25th Birthday Gala at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Photo by GBL Wilson: Sadler’s Wells Ballet’s 25th Birthday Gala at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes (centre) in Frederick Ashton’s Birthday Offering. Royal Academy of Dance.

The Royal Academy of Dance was founded in 1920, a time when there was a heightened interest in the establishment of a British Ballet tradition. As a result, the RAD’s archive collections contain a variety of materials that relate to this period including programmes, photographs, costume designs, papers and correspondence. These are housed alongside the significant personal collections of RAD founders Dame Adeline Genée ( ), Phyllis Bedells ( ) and Philip Richardson ( ), and the photographic archive of GBL Wilson ( ) documents the subsequent heyday of British Ballet from the 1940s through to the 1980s.

Theatres Trust

The Theatres Trust’s collections focus on theatre buildings, their architecture, design, management and history. Our institutional archive charts the development of, and The Theatres Trust’s relationship with theatre buildings in the United Kingdom and primarily contains correspondence, building descriptions, photographs, press cuttings, architectural plans and planning applications. Our donated special collections consist primarily of theatre photographs, postcards, press cuttings and scrapbooks. Other resources provided by The Theatres Trust include an online Theatres Database and Image Library.

The Theatres Trust Archive:

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

Photograph of participants dancing outside in a movement choir at the Moreton Hall Modern Dance Holiday Course, 1942.

Participants dancing outside in a movement choir at the Moreton Hall Modern Dance Holiday Course, Moreton Hall, Oswestry, 1942. Featuring Rudolf Laban’s Polovstian Dances from Prince Igor . Photographer unknown. Held in the Lorna Wilson Collection, Laban Library and Archive, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Ref: D21/2007/74/10/2.

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance is the UK’s only conservatoire of music and contemporary dance. Leaders in music and contemporary dance education, the Conservatoire also provides exciting opportunities for the public to encounter dance and music, and access arts health programmes, all housed in landmark buildings.
The Laban Archive, within the Faculty of Dance at Trinity Laban, focuses on the history and development of Rudolf Laban the man, Laban the institution and on the field of contemporary dance from its roots in European dance theatre practice in the early twentieth century, via its American influences in the 1960s and 1970s to its current contemporary artists. Whilst tying in with the dance faculty’s focus on contemporary dance, the contents reflect the wide influences and associations of the dance form and document both the creative processes and performances of Laban-influenced choreographers and dance practitioners.

Collections include the Laban Collection, comprising papers, notation scores, photographs and other documents of Rudolf Laban and his associates for the period 1918-2001, the Sylvia Bodmer Collection, comprising notebooks, papers, photographs and correspondence of a distinguished exponent of Rudolf Laban’s movement ideas, the Peter Brinson Collection, being the professional and personal papers of a key figure in the expansion of dance education in the UK, and the Peter Williams Collection which includes ca. 50,000 photographs of dance companies from around the world for the period 1950-1980.

University of Kent, Special Collections & Archives

Lithograph illustrating the front page of the sheet music for “After Dark Galop” .

Lithograph illustrating the front page of the sheet music for “After Dark Galop” composed by Charles Coote and designed by Alfred Concanen. Part of the Calthrop Boucicault Collection, Special Collections & Archives, University of Kent.

Special Collections & Archives at the University of Kent includes a significant Theatre and Performance Archive. With a focus on theatre history, the Collections are particularly rich in Victorian and Edwardian Theatre and contain playbills, programmes, scripts, photographs, publicity and administrative material. There is also a collection of twentieth and twenty-first century programmes and theatrical ephemera.

As well as the unique Britannia Theatre prompt scripts, heavily annotated for use by Britannia’s Stage manager, Frederick Wilton (Pettingell Collection), Kent holds the archive of the Melville Theatrical dynasty, which produced significant popular productions from the late nineteenth into the twentieth centuries. Other significant holdings include two collections related to Dion Boucicault, with materials such as legal papers, scripts, research material and printed performance ephemera from the Victorian period up to the late twentieth century.

In addition, the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive has recently been founded at the University. The British Stand-Up Comedy Archive intends to celebrate, preserve, and provide access to the archives and records of British stand-up comedy and comedians.

V&A Department of Theatre and Performance

Costume design drawing by Wilhelm (1858-1925) for 'Princess Ida' (1884).

Costume design by Wilhelm (1858-1925) for ‘Princess Ida’ in Act II of the original production of Princess Ida, at the Savoy Theatre, 1884. [From the D’Oyly Carte Archive, V&A, Museum Number S.3006-2015.]

The V&A holds the United Kingdom’s national collection of the performing arts and is one of the largest of its kind in the world. In 1924, the private collection of Gabrielle Enthoven transferred to the Victoria and Albert Museum and in keeping with her mission to document and index every performance, more than 750,000 playbills and programmes of London and regional productions from the 18th century to the present day now form the centre of the collection. In addition our relevant library and museum object collections, the V&A has more than 450 archive collections documenting the many aspects of performing arts including:

– Theatre company archives, including English Stage Company at the Royal Court, Young Vic, Cheek by Jowl, Talawa, Tricycle Theatre, Prospect Theatre Company;
– Personal papers, including Sir Michael Redgrave, Peter Brook, Vivien Leigh, Paul Scofield, Ivor Novello;
– Designer and architect collections, incl. Lez Brotherston, Oliver Messel, Frank Matcham Company; and the
– Arts Council of Great Britain Archive.

Ramona Riedzewski, APAC Treasurer and Membership Secretary
V&A Department of Theatre and Performance, Archivist and Conservation Manager

 Browse the collections on the Archives Hub:

Central Saint Martin’s Museum and Study Collection

National Theatre

Rambert Dance Company Archive

Royal Academy of Dance 

The Theatres Trust

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, Laban Archive

University of Kent, Special Collections and Archives

V&A Department of Theatre and Performance

All images reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.


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Archives Hub Search Analysis

Search logs can give us an insight into how people really search. Our current system provides ‘search logs’ that show the numbers based on the different search criteria and faceting that the Hub offers, including combined searches. We can use these to help us understand how our users search and to give us pointers to improve our interface.

The Archives Hub has a ‘default search’ on the homepage and on the main search page, so that the user can simply type a search into the box provided. This is described as a keyword search, as the user is entering their own significant search terms and the results returned include any archival description where the term(s) are used.

The researcher can also choose to narrow down their search by type. The figure below shows the main types the Archives Hub currently has. Within these types we also have boolean type options (all, exact, phrase), but we have not analysed these at this point other than for the main keyword search.

Archives Hub search box

Archives Hub search box showing the types of searches available

There are caveats to this analysis.

1. Result will include spiders and spam

With our search logs, excluding bots is not straightforward, something which I refer to in a previous post: Archives Logs and Google Analytics. We are shortly to migrate to an entirely new system, so for this analysis we decided to accept that the results may be slightly skewed by these types of searches. And, of course, these crawlers often perform a genuine service, exposing archive descriptions through different search engines and other systems.

2. There are a small number of unaccounted for searches

Unidentified searches only account for 0.5% of the total, and we could investigate the origins of these searches, but we felt the time it would take was not worth it at this point in time.

3. Figures will include searches from the browse list.

These figures include searches actioned by clicking on a browse list, e.g. a list of subjects or a list of creators.

4. Creator, Subject and Repository include faceted searching

The Archives Hub currently has faceted searching for these entities, so when a user clicks to filter down by a specific subject, that counts as a subject search.

Results for One Month (October 2015)

Monthly figures for searches

For October 2015 the total searches are 19,415. The keyword search dominates, with a smaller use of the ‘any’ and ‘phrase’ options within the keyword search. This is no surprise, but this ‘default search’ still forms only 36% of the whole, which does not necessarily support the idea that researchers always want a ‘google type’ search box.

We did not analyse these additional filters (‘any/phrase/exact’) for all of the searches, but looking at them for ‘keyword’ gives a general sense that they are useful, but not highly used.

A clear second is search by subject, with 17% of the total. The subject search was most commonly combined with other searches, such as a keyword and further subject search. Interestingly, subject is the only search where a combined subject + other search(es) is higher than a single subject search. If we look at the results over a year, the combined subject search is by far the highest number for the whole year, in fact it is over 50% of the total searches. This strongly suggests that bots are commonly responsible for combined subject searches.

These searches are often very long and complex, as can be seen from the search logs:

[2015-09-17 07:36:38] INFO: [+0.000 s] search:: [+0.044 s] Searching CQL query: (dc.subject exact “books of hours” and/cql.relevant/cql.proxinfo (dc.subject exact “protestantism” and/cql.relevant/cql.proxinfo (dc.subject exact “bible o.t. psalms” and/cql.relevant/cql.proxinfo (dc.subject exact “authors, classical” and/cql.relevant/cql.proxinfo (dc.subject exact “bible o.t. psalms” and/cql.relevant/cql.proxinfo (dc.subject exact “law” and/cql.relevant/cql.proxinfo (dc.subject exact “poetry” and/cql.relevant/cql.proxinfo (dc.subject exact “bible o.t. psalms” and/cql.relevant/cql.proxinfo (dc.subject exact “sermons” and/cql.relevant/cql.proxinfo bath.personalname exact “rawlinson richard 1690-1755 antiquary and nonjuror”))))))))):: [+0.050 s] 1 Hits:: Total time: 0.217 secs

It is most likely that the bots are not nefarious; they may be search engine bots, or they may be indexing for the purposes of  information services of some kind, such as bibliographic services, but they do make attempts to assess the value of the various searches on the Hub very difficult.

Of the remaining search categories available from the main search page, it is no surprise that ‘title’ is used a fair bit, at 6.5%, and then after that creator, name, and organisation and personal name. These are all fairly even. For October 2015 they are around 3% of the total each, and it seems to be similar for other months.

The repository filter is popular. Researchers can select a single repository to find all of their descriptions (157), select a single repository and also search terms (916), and also search for all the descriptions from a single repository from our map of contributors (125). This is a total of 1,198, which is 6.1% of the total. If we also add the faceted filter by repository, after a search has been carried out, the total is 2,019, and the percentage is 10.4%. Looking at the whole year, the various options to select repository become an even bigger percentage of the total, in particular the faceted filter by repository.   This suggests that improvements to the ability to select repositories, for example, by allowing researchers to select more than one repository, or maybe type of repository, would be useful.

Screen shot of Hub map

Google Map on the Hub showing the link to search by contributor

We have a search within multi-level descriptions, introduced a few years ago, and that clearly does get a reasonable amount of use, with 1,404 uses in this particular month, or 7.2% of the total. This is particularly striking as this is only available within multi-level descriptions. It is no surprise that this is valuable for lengthy descriptions that may span many pages.

The searches that get minimal use are identifier, genre, family name and epithet. This is hardly surprising, and illustrates nicely some of the issues around how to measure the value of something like this.

Identifier enables users to search by the archival reference. This may not seem all that useful, but it tends to be popular with archivists, who use the Hub as an administrative tool. However, the current Archives Hub reference search is poor, and the results are often confusing. It seems likely that our contributors would use this search more if the results were more appropriate. We believe it can fulfill this administrative function well if we adjust the search to give better quality results; it is never likely to be a highly popular search option for researchers as it requires knowledge of the reference numbers of particular descriptions.

Epithet is tucked away in the browse list, so a ‘search’ will only happen if someone browses by epithet and then clicks on a search result. Would it be more highly used if we had a ‘search by occupation or activity’? There seems little doubt of this. It is certainly worth considering making this a more prominent search option, or at least getting more user feedback about whether they would use a search like this. However, its efficacy may be compromised by the extremely permissive nature of epithet for archival descriptions – the information is not at all rigorous or consistent.

Family name is not provided as a main search option, and is only available by browsing for a family name and clicking on a result, as with epithet. The main ‘name’ search option enables users to search by family name. We did find the family name search was much higher for the whole year, maybe an indication of use by family historians and of the importance of family estate records.

Genre is in the main list of search options, but we have very few descriptions that provide the form or medium of the archive. However, users are not likely to know this, and so the low use may also be down to our use of ‘Media type’, which may not be clear, and a lack of clarity about what sort of media types people can search for. There is also, of course, the option that people don’t want to search on this facet. However, looking at the annual search figures, we have 1,204 searches by media type, which is much more significant, and maybe could be built up if  we had something like radio buttons for ‘photographs’, ‘manuscripts’, ‘audio’ that were more inviting to users. But, with a lack of categorisation by genre within the descriptions that we have, a search on genre will mean that users filter out a substantial amount of relevant material. A collection of photographs may not be catalogued by genre at all, and so the user would only get ‘photographs’ through a keyword search.

Place name is an interesting area. We have always believed that users would find an effective ‘search by place’ useful. Our place search is in the main search options, but most archivists do not index their descriptions by place and because of this it does not seem appropriate to promote a place name search. We would be very keen to find ways to analyse our descriptions and consider whether place names could be added as index terms, but unless this happens, place name is rather like media type – if we promote it as a means to find descriptions on the Archives Hub, then a hit list would exclude all of those descriptions that do not include place names.

This is one of the most difficult areas for a service like the Archives Hub. We want to provide search options that meet our users’ needs, but we are aware of the varied nature of the data. If a researcher is interested in ‘Bath’ then they can search for it as a keyword, but they will get all references to bath, which is not at all the same as archives that are significantly about Bath in Gloucestershire. But if they search for place name: bath, then they exclude any descriptions that are significantly about Bath, but not indexed by place. In addition, words like this, that have different meanings, can confuse the user in terms of the relevance of the results because ‘bath’ is less likely to appear in the title. It may simply be that somewhere in the description, there is a reference to a Dr Bath, for example.

This is one reason why we feel that encouraging the use of faceted search will be better for our users. A more simple initial search is likely to give plenty of results, and then the user can go from there to filter by various criteria.

It is worth mentioning ‘date’ search. We did have this at one point, but it did not give good results. This is partly due to many units of description not including normalised dates. But the feedback that we have received suggests that a date search would be popular, which is not surprising for an archives service.  We are planning to provide a filter by date, as well as the ordering by date that we currently have.

Finally, I was particularly interested to see how popular our ‘search collection level only’ is. screen shot of Hub search boxThis enables users to only see ‘top level’ results, rather than all of the series and items as well. As it is a constant challenge to present hierarchical descriptions effectively, this would seem to be one means to simplify things. However, for October 2015 we had 17 uses of this function, and for the whole year only 148. This is almost negligible. It is curious that so few users chose to use this. Is it an indication that they don’t find it useful, or that they didn’t know what it means? We plan to have this as a faceted option in the future, and it will be interesting to see if that makes it more popular or not.

We are considering whether we should run this exercise using some sort of filtering to check for search engines, dubious IP addresses, spammers, etc., and therefore get a more accurate result in terms of human users.  We would be very interested to hear from anyone who has undertaken this kind of exercise.


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