Now more than ever as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is reliant on its digital infrastructure; the need to provide and access accurate and up-to-date information is of paramount importance. This raises some interesting questions, challenges and opportunities for archive services who can play their part in the collective response to the crisis by capturing and recording events, activities and decisions. Archives and recordkeeping professionals have always supported the notions of accountability and transparency through their work, something which is being demonstrated in real time during the development of the pandemic.
As the UK’s largest trade union and professional association for nurses, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has been supporting and representing nurses and healthcare workers throughout the pandemic. It is vital that records of how this has been done are available to the organisation in perpetuity as evidence of advice given and decisions taken. The RCN has a responsibility to its members to be able to demonstrate that the organisation has been working in their best interests and the interests of their patients. In turn, the RCN archive has a responsibility to ensure that records with evidential and research value are captured, preserved and accessible to right audiences at the right time.
As a result, like many of our archivist and recordkeeping colleagues across the world, we have created a COVID-19 archive. Since the beginning of the year the RCN archive team have been actively collecting records relating to COVID-19 from across the organisation to build up a picture of how the pandemic has unfolded through the eyes of RCN members and staff. Unsurprisingly, this covers a wide range of record types and digital formats: web crawls of special COVID-19 webpages containing up-to-date guidance and advice, targeted staff emails, member surveys on working conditions and PPE, General Secretary’s video messages, special committee situation reports, newly created online nursing resources, publications – the list could go on. Within this set of records is a complex combination of access requirements and restrictions which, through balancing business confidentiality with public interest, we will manage alongside the records themselves.
We are in the fortunate position of having a remotely accessible network and a digital archive, which has meant that we have been able to collect these records as they have been created and start uploading them to our digital archive straight away. While some of the records we’re collecting as part of the COVID-19 archive project would have been transferred to us anyway, there are several new record series on our 2020 collecting plan as a result of the pandemic. For example, our first venture in web archiving was a test crawl of the RCN COVID-19 webpages; these are now collected regularly and form an integral part of the COVID-19 archive. Having seen and been inspired by the experiences of other archives already running successful daily web crawls to capture public advice and the public response, we decided to capture our pages daily as well – this ensured that we were keeping up to speed with each piece of new advice and guidance shared on the webpages. As the rate of updates to the pages has slowed, we have since reduced the frequency to weekly, although we continue to monitor them, ready to capture more frequently if needed. This was the pilot web archiving project we didn’t know we were doing until it happened, and it has in turn has sparked interest in a larger web archiving project to capture the whole RCN website, which is well underway.
Alongside the collecting of material, we have been considering how the records of the COVID-19 archive will fit into our existing catalogue structure. While it would be easy to create a new Fonds for COVID-19, we realised that this view was being skewed by our thoughts about future access to the material, and the ease at which colleagues or researchers would be able to view all the material neatly packaged together. Instead we plan to preserve the context of the records by arranging them by creator, in our case this is mostly the department of origin, to fit within our existing catalogue structure. There will be occasions when it is important to view all COVID-19 records together to get a complete picture of the reaction and response to the pandemic, so using the ‘linked collection’ feature in our digital archive we plan to create a virtual COVID-19 collection containing records from across different record series to allow this level of access. Beyond this we are considering which records from our COVID-19 archive will be shared on our public digital archive website to ensure the transparency and accountability that creating the COVID-19 archive in the first place helps to achieve.
We have certainly learnt a lot this year and the team has upskilled, becoming more proficient and confident in processing a wide range of digital formats, from collection through to access. Our sector has also stepped up by providing online webinars and training events to share our experiences of this extraordinary time. In May we participated in a panel discussion facilitated by Preservica, our digital archive supplier, who generously donated 250GB of storage space for us to store the COVID-19 archive. At the event we shared our plans and projects for collecting COVID-19 records with the archive community alongside colleagues from a wide range of institutions. These included Network Rail, who have been collecting records such as emergency train timetables introduced in response to the falling customer demand, and all the documentation that went into making this happen, and University at Buffalo in the US, who are encouraging students and staff to share their experiences of the pandemic by submitting video diaries and photographs to the archive. Learning about and reflecting on the wide range of collecting projects happening around the world is as informative as it is inspiring.
It is amazing to think that in the (probably not too distant) future the COVID-19 records we have collected will be catalogued, available to view online through our digital archive and be being used to inform research into, and evaluations of, the response of the UK’s largest independent nursing organisation and our role in how Britain handled the pandemic.
Katherine Chorley, Digital Asst Archivist Royal College of Nursing Archives
Browse all Royal College of Nursing Archives collections on the Archives Hub.
This blog post forms part of History Day 2020, a day of online interactive events for students, researchers and history enthusiasts to explore library, museum, archive and history collections across the UK and beyond.
Use the Archives Hub, a free resource, to find unique sources for your research, both physical and digital. Search across descriptions of archives, held at over 350 institutions across the UK.
History Day 2020 coincides with the Being Human festival, the UK’s national festival of the humanities. Their theme this year is ‘New Worlds’, so taking this as our inspiration, we’re highlighting a range of archive collections – across Travel, Exploration, Space Exploration and Science Fiction.
Unearthing Family Treasures: The Layard and Blenkinsopp Coulson Archives In 1839 a young lawyer left behind his London office for a post in the Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) Civil Service, thus beginning a series of travels, adventures and discoveries which would result in him achieving world renown for uncovering and shining a light on the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, in particularly Assyrian culture. That young man was Austen Henry Layard. Read the feature, by University of Newcastle Special Collections.
Papers of Elizabeth Thomson, 1847-1918, teacher, missionary, traveller and suffragette, c1914 Throughout the 1890s and 1900s Thomson travelled the world with her sister, Agnes, working as teachers and missionaries. The countries they visited include India, Japan, the USA, Germany and Italy. In the summer of 1899 Thomson reports that she visited Faizabad in India to learn Urdu but could not stand the heat and left for Almora in 1902. In 1907 she sailed to Bombay to complete missionary work, before teaching English in Sangor for the winter. In 1909 she travelled back to the UK, via Vienna, Prague, Dresden and Berlin, to settle in Edinburgh. Material held by University of Glasgow Archive Services – see the full collection description.
Sentimental Journey: a focus on travel in the archives The hundreds of collections relating to travel featured in the Archives Hub shed light on multiple aspects of travel, from royalty to the working classes, and encompassing touring, business, exploration and research, the work of missionaries and nomadic cultures. Read the feature.
An abstract of a voyage from England to the Mediteranian: the diary of an anonymous English naval victualler, 1694-1696 Contains the log of an anonymous English naval victualler on a voyage from Gravesend in England to Cadiz in the Mediterranean between 31 December 1694 and 29 October 1696. Material is in English Spanish Latin Hebrew. Written in a single neat late seventeenth-century English hand with the text on each page set within faint ruled lines. There are many tables, diagrams, and quite finely-drawn illustrations of places en route, especially in Spain, and interesting objects, such as keys and seals. Material held by University of Leeds Special Collections – see the full collection description.
Bodiwan Papers, 1634-1923 The papers of Michael D. Jones and his family, which include numerous letters to Michael D. Jones from the Welsh settlers in Patagonia or relating to them, prior to the sailing of the Mimosa and after. Amongst them is a letter from Charles de Gaulle, the eminent Breton and Celticist, expressing his interest in the scheme to found a Welsh colony in Patagonia. Also, amongst the correspondents are L. Patagonia Humphreys, Rev. D. Lloyd Jones, Rhuthun and Mihangel ap Iwan and Llwyd ap Iwan. The papers reflect the hardship suffered by the new settlers as well as the investment made by Michael D. Jones in the venture. There are bills and receipts relating to the Mimosa, share certificates, statistics regarding population for 1879. Also, a bank pass book of the Welsh Colonising and General Trading Company Ltd, 1870-1883, and a register of the Welsh applicants to Patagonia, 1875-1876. The collection is held by Archifdy Prifysgol Bangor / Bangor University Archives – see the full collection description.
The London to Istanbul European Highway Part of The National Motor Museum Trust Motoring Archive‘s Bradley Collection, including striking illustrations by Margaret Bradley. Read the feature.
Cambridge Svalbard Exploration Collection, 1933-1992 The collection documents many decades of scientific work undertaken by (mostly) Cambridge researchers from 1938 until the early 1990s. These were mostly led by Walter Brian Harland (1917-2003), who also became the collator of the materials collected in Spitsbergen. The documentary archive complements the physical collection of geological specimens collected during those expeditions. Svalbard is located in the north-western corner of the Barents Shelf 650km north of Norway, and is named after the Dutch Captain, Barents, who is credited with the modern discovery of the islands in 1596 and after whom the Barents Sea is named. Collection held by Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge – see the full collection description.
Online Resource: Old Maps Online – provided by Great Britain Historical GIS Project, Maps Online is a search portal that combines the historical map collections of several organisations around the world. Users can search across collections through a single interface and easily locate multiple maps of a geographical area. The interface is free and access is open to all users. A wide range of different types of map are available, including: land maps; sea charts; boundary and estate maps; military and political maps; and town plans. Historical maps of many countries are available – including South and Central America from the 16th to the 20th centuries; Britain and particularly London, up to 1860; North America in the 18th and 19th centuries; pre-1900 Dutch Maps; the North West of England; and Moscow. More details.
Challenger Expedition Photographs, 1870s-1885; 1981-1983 HMS Challenger set out to collect specimens from different depths of water across the globe. The voyage took place between 1872 and 1876. It is thought that this was the first expedition to routinely use photography to document the journey. There was a darkroom on board so photographs could be developed on the ship. Material held by National Museums Scotland – see the full collection description.
Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition Centenary 27th October 1915: Antarctic expedition ship Endurance was abandoned on the orders of Sir Ernest Shackleton and their expedition became fight for survival. Read the feature by the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge.
Russian Space Exploration, 1903 Drawings, documents, photographs, ephemeral objects and memorabilia relating to early Russian space exploration. Objects include domestic items such as cigarette cases, ashtrays, cigarette ornamental dispensers, desk thermometers, ornamental lamps and tea glass holders. Included in the collection are photo albums and a press cutting album made by a school child as well as stamp collections. The collection boasts rare drawings by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in which he envisaged the exit from a spacecraft into the vacuum of space as well as a drawing of a Reactive engine (Rocket engine); one of the first designs of its kind from c.1930. The collection is held by De Montfort University Archives and Special Collections – see the full collection description.
Jodrell Bank Observatory Archive, c.1924-1993 The Jodrell Bank Observatory is one of the world’s largest radio-telescope facilities. Originally known as the Jodrell Bank Experimental Station, it was renamed the Nuffield Radio Astronomy Laboratories in 1966, and changed to its current name in 1999. The first radar transmitter and receiver was installed by Bernard Lovell, then working as a physicist at the University of Manchester, at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, in December 1945 (the University campus had proved unsuitable because of the high level of electrical interference). At this period Lovell was researching cosmic rays under the direction of Patrick Blackett, professor of physics at the University of Manchester. Lovell’s work involved studying radio echoes from large cosmic ray showers in the Earth’s atmosphere, using old military radars. As a result of this, Lovell went on to make important discoveries in meteoric astronomy. The collection is held by University of Manchester Library – see the full collection description.
The Herschel archive at the Royal Astronomical Society The Royal Astronomical Society is the custodian of a significant collection of the astronomy-related papers of William, Caroline and John Herschel. Read the feature.
Papers of Douglas Noël Adams, 1952-2001 (Circa.) Douglas Noël Adams was born in Cambridge in 1952. He was awarded an exhibition to read English at St John’s College, Cambridge, obtaining his BA in 1974. While at Cambridge, Adams occupied himself chiefly in writing, performing in, and producing comedy sketches and revues, establishing connections that were to be integral to his future work. His career took off with ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, a six-part comic science-fiction radio series commissioned by the BBC in 1977 and broadcast in 1978. Novelisation and a second series were followed by further books in what became billed as ‘the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Trilogy’. The ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ series has taken many forms, including audio recordings; stage adaptations; a television series; a computer game; publication of the original radio scripts; radio adaptations of the remaining novels, and a film. Adams’s other creative work included writing and script-editing for BBC Television’s ‘Doctor Who’. Material held by St John’s College Library Special Collections, University of Cambridge – see the full collection description.
Papers of Brian Aldiss, 1966-1995 Brian Aldiss was born in 1925 in Dereham, Norfolk. After war service in the Royal Corps of Signals he entered the bookselling trade, working at Sanders & Co. in Oxford. His first work as a writer was The Brightfount Diaries, a fictionalised diary of a bookseller first published as a column in The Bookseller during 1954 and 1955 and published as one volume by Faber & Faber in 1955. The following year he became a full-time writer, and in 1957 his first science fiction book, the short story collection Space, Time and Nathaniel was published. His first science fiction novel, Non-Stop was published in 1958. Since then Aldiss has been a prolific writer, best known for his science fiction novels, novellas and short stories, including the award-winning Helliconia trilogy. He has also been a historian and critic of the genre, and has edited many science fiction collections. In addition, his ‘mainstream’ writing has included the novels The Male Response, Forgotten Life and the semi-autobiographical Horatio Stubbs sequence. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1989. In 1990 he published his autobiography, Bury my heart at W.H. Smith’s. the collection is held by the University of Reading Special Collections Services – see the full collection description.
Other ‘New Worlds’
Pan-African Congress 1945 and 1995 Archive The Pan-African Congress was a series of meetings, held throughout the world. In 1945 Manchester hosted the 5th Pan-African Congress. The Pan-African Congress was successful in bringing attention to the decolonization in Africa and in the West Indies. The Congress gained the reputation as a peace maker and made significant advance for the Pan-African cause. One of the demands was to end colonial rule and end racial discrimination, against imperialism and it demanded human rights and equality of economic opportunity. The manifesto given by the Pan-African Congress included the political and economic demands of the Congress for a new world context of international cooperation. material is held by the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre – see the full collection description.
Records of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, 1865-1996 The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) was founded in 1898 by Miss Frances Power Cobbe (1822-1904). Concern for the welfare of animals was not a new phenomena, the first wave of anti-vivisection feeling in England commenced around the middle of the nineteenth century. The Second World War appeared to foster greater ideas of cooperation within the animal welfare movement. The Conference of anti-vivisection Societies first met on 20 November 1942. Five societies were represented at the invitation of BUAV ‘for the purpose of discussing and making plans for a joint intensive campaign, after the war, to claim the total abolition of vivisection as a necessary step towards securing for animals their rightful place in the new world order, which it is generally believed will follow the peace’. The immediate post war period began to see a rise in public demonstrations as a medium to spread the anti-vivisection message, in particular these were held outside vivisection laboratories. The collection is held by Hull University Archives, Hull History Centre – see the full collection description.
The Percy Johnson-Marshall Collection, 1931-1993 Percy Edwin Alan Johnson-Marshall (1915-1993) was one of the most energetic of a generation of town-planners who began their careers in the 1930s and, after the Second World War, dedicated their lives to the creation of a new world of social equity through the radical transformation of the human environment. Material held by Edinburgh University Library Special Collections – see the full collection description.
Birkbeck was founded as the London Mechanics’ Institute on the evening of the 11th November 1823, when approximately 2,000 people listened to Dr George Birkbeck speak on the importance of education for working Londoners at the Crown and Anchor Tavern on the Strand. Supporters there that evening included Jeremy Bentham, the philosopher and originator of Utilitarianism, Sir John Hobhouse, a Radical MP who held several important government posts across his career, and Henry Brougham, a liberal MP, anti-slavery campaigner and educational reformer.
Birkbeck has been transforming lives by helping people access higher education for nearly 200 years. This year, 2020, we celebrate our 100th anniversary of our membership of the University of London. When Birkbeck joined the University of London, it was on the condition that it should continue to provide evening teaching, and this remains our central mission.
As we move toward our 200th anniversary in 2023, part of the Birkbeck archive was rediscovered in an offsite storage facility. This has proved to be a rich source, not only providing insights not into our institutional history but also stories of both staff and students allowing us glimpses into their lives. We now find ourselves in the position of having two sections of the archive, each telling our story from different perspectives.
One section of the archive is held in the main Birkbeck building and is comprised of records pertaining to the history of Birkbeck from an organisational context, including minutes of various committees, published student journals and newsletters, annual reports, calendars, early student registers and staff information.
The second section is held offsite and is made up of a range of material including; war correspondence, departmental papers, estates documents, all of which demonstrate Birkbeck’s unique aim and how that aim has held strong through changing political, economic and cultural times.
To date one Birkbeck academic, Professor Joanna Bourke, has explored this material, along with two of her PhD students. They have found it to be an excellent source for their research. One of the themes that runs through the archive is around trends in education such as educational policies and practices. This includes charting the life cycle of different academic disciplines as well as documenting different approaches to teaching and the broader aspects student life.
Like many university archives, we have records of notable Birkbeckians who worked or studied with Birkbeck. We can now develop more of a picture of the lives of people such as; JD Bernal (Crystallography), Eric Hobsbawm (History), Nikolaus Pevsner (History of Art), Helen Gwynne-Vaughan (Botany). We can also learn more about those who were less well-known who studied here and made an impact like the playwright Arthur Wing Pinero and socialist, women’s rights activist Annie Besant. The library is creating an online timeline to highlight the life and work of various Birkbeck academics as part of the celebrations in the lead up to our 200th anniversary.
In terms offering different perspectives, this part of the archive also holds accounts of the wider Birkbeck community, beyond the academic staff and students, those members of staff working in catering and hospitality roles, administrative staff, laboratory technicians. This provides an opportunity to explore social history through those lived experiences documented through various formats, such as letters and photographs.
It’s an exciting time at Birkbeck as we continue to uphold the ethos and pursue the central mission of providing access to education for all. Birkbeck is still London’s only specialist provider of part-time evening higher education as well as being a world-class research institution. The archive will continue to tell the story of Birkbeck as an institution as well as all those who work, study and research here. You can follow Birkbeck’s journey to its 200th anniversary.
Emma Illingworth Subject Librarian for Science (Biological, Earth & Planetary, Psychological) Library Services, Birkbeck, University of London
Browse all Birkbeck Library Archives and Special Collections, University of London descriptions available to date on the Archives Hub.
All images copyright Birkbeck Library Archives and Special Collections, University of London. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.
The Save the Children (SCF) archive, held at the Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham, charts the development of the charity from its creation in 1919. The collection includes a wealth of material relating to the charity’s founder, Eglantyne Jebb, and these papers provide a fascinating insight into how SCF operated during the 1920s. They also highlight the personal stories of individuals associated with SCF.
Concertina comic strips
One fascinating item is a wonderful illustrated concertina comic strip created by Corinne de Candole, documenting her first week working at the SCF office in April 1925. She dedicated the strip to ‘Miss Jebb who showed me how the New World is being built at the Office of the Save the Children Fund’. The strip depicts Corinne’s interview with a Mrs Beach, as well as the making of blue cloaks and flags and ‘planning for the new world’.
Another two comic strips reveal how Corinne travelled to Geneva for the summer school in 1925 and she also wrote two poems about this experience: ‘The Disobedient Lady who never got to the SCF Summer School’ and ‘The Obedient Lady who went to the SCF Summer School’. Through these documents we can sense the pride with which Corinne felt for working for SCF and her thoughts on how it was helping change the world.
Thank you letters
The overseas country papers in the Eglantyne Jebb series highlight the personal stories of those affected by the crisis in Europe after the First World War. The Horak family, from Hungary, wrote a letter of appreciation to SCF, offering thanks and remembering their benefactors.
‘From the bottom of our hearts sending our Christmas Greetings and very best wishes [and] we are always thinking gratefully of those who helped to get homes for us poor war invalids and widows with our families. May you be as happy as you have made us […] The little cottage means also a new life to us, making us forget our sufferings and losses. We beg the Almighty to pour his blessing over you and your family and give long life and happiness to those who provided us with a home. This will be our prayer on this holy Christmas eve.’
In a letter to Miss Vulliamy, who was leading SCF funded projects in Poland, Vera Staack describes how her mother, and herself, had to flee Russia due to the Bolsheviks: ‘But why are they frightened, why do I read such terror in their eyes? I shall explain you the reason. The red banner flashes, and on it the black words which make everybody tremble. “Death to the bourgeois.”…..The fathers or mothers are taken from their children, children are torn from their parents sides. And so everybody tries to hide quickly.’
‘The picture of the past rises involuntary before me. Christmas Eve! It was our last Christmas Eve in our native land-in far off Moscow. An enormous Christmas-tree made dazzlingly brilliant by quantities of electric lamps and brilliant ornaments and many, many presents…..And all this has been taken from me by the Bolsheviks. Dear Miss Vulliamy, and I shall have no more Christmas-trees or Christmas Eves, and mother is always very cross now, cries often, and wishes to speak to no one. She was quite different before.’
‘And now good-bye, my dear, dear English friend. I hug you very hard and remain your very respectful and unhappy little Domby friend
She ends ‘P.S. Why are men so wicked, dear Miss Vulliamy.’
A seaside holiday
Another example can be found in a report entitled ‘A seaside holiday’, written by M. Brown, where we learn of the impact that a trip to the beach had for a group of young children: ‘“Who pushes the sea?” Is water never still?” “Does sand bite?” […] even the Ukrainian student was among the unbelievers who doubted whether the sea was salt, and made a wild dash to stoop down and taste it to make quite sure that he was not being deceived.’
The children then share their stories of the horrors that they have been through: ‘that was a long time ago…my mama died in the truck on the way from Russia. She died of hunger my mama did not live long after my daddy was killed by the Bolshevists. I wouldn’t believe it at first when the doctor came round and bent down and listened to her heart and said that mam was dead.’
‘All the children have their own sad story, and all have lived through strange and dreadful times, and in all their young faces can be read the tragedy of the homeless and the outcast. It is to build up their energy for the life struggle before them that Miss Vulliamy inaugurated the Children’s Holiday Home at Danzig in 1922.’
These archives offer a glimpse into the traumatic events which children and families faced in the aftermath of the First World War, the attempts by SCF to help and the appreciation that this generated.
Matthew Goodwin Save the Children Project Archivist Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham
Browse all Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham descriptions available to date on the Archives Hub.
All images copyright Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.
“Summertime and the livin’ is easy...” ¹. Well, it’s a rather wet summer in the UK but all the better for exploring collections on the theme of fish!
We’ve trawled the Archives Hub (sorry, couldn’t resist!) to bring you a selection of the wonderful, and sometimes surprising, collections relating to fish, ranging across research, expeditions, fisheries, the fishing industry and river authorities – not forgetting a fish and chip shop, a theatre and several appropriately named individuals.
Research and Expeditions
Fishes Collected by Darwin, 1842. 300 pages of notes on the fish collected by Darwin on the Beagle, compiled by Leonard Jenyns (1800-1893), a clergyman and naturalist; Jenyns changed his name to Leonard Blomefield in 1871. Held by the Museum of Zoology Archives, University of Cambridge https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb433-jenynsdarwin.
C Tate Regan collection, 1912-1913. Charles Tate Regan (born in 1878) was keeper of zoology at the British Museum. He worked on the scientific results of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, 1902-1904 (leader William Speirs Bruce) and the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott). He died in 1948. Published work includes ‘Antarctic fishes of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition’ in the Reports of the scientific results of the voyage of the steam yacht Scotia and ‘Fishes’ and ‘Larval and post larval fishes’ published in the zoology reports of the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913. Held by the Scott Polar Research Institute Archives, University of Cambridge https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb15-charlestateregan.
Winifred E. Frost collection, 1930s-1960s. Frost was an authority on the natural history of fish in the Lake District. Research includes work on euphausids with professor James Johnstone at Liverpool university and she worked for the fisheries branch at Dublin investigating trout in the River Lifey. She was appointed to the Freshwater Biological Association in 1938 and was awarded a D.S.c. by Liverpool University for her published papers. She wrote The Trout with Margaret E.Brown (Varley) published in 1967 that took 21 years to prepare. She was a member of the Council of the Salmon and trout association, and president of the Windermere and District angling association, also travelling to international scientific meetings and undertaking investigation of eels in Africa. Held by the Freshwater Biological Association Archives https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb986-frow.
Notes towards a dictionary of fish names, by Paul Barbier (C20th). Barbier was Professor of French Language and Literature at the University of Leeds, 1903-1938. The collection comprises 8 boxes of notes prepared in the course of research for an unpublished dictionary of names of fishes. Held by University of Leeds Special Collections https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb206-ms125.
Rosemary Lowe-McConnell Collection, 1934-1947. Lowe-McConnell was a pioneer in tropical fish ecology. She was born in Liverpool, and graduated from the university. She worked at the Freshwater Biological Association studying the migration of silver eels. In 1993 Michael N. Bruton interviewed Lowe-Connell on the personal reasons behind her choice of work, and her personal influences, and experiences of being a woman in a male dominated world. Initially she wanted to be an explorer/naturalist, with the reply being ‘never mind dear, perhaps you can teach’. When applying for the colonial services in 1945, to be an entomologist, they would not employ a female one, but the tropical fisheries department was new, and not considered as important. Despite her being forced to resign in 1954 when the marriage bar was in place, she was more interested in pursuing her findings than concerned with job status, and she believed that the fact she had been offered the directorship at the Joint Fisheries Research organisation in central Africa (which she rejected) showed her that she was accepted despite being female. Held by Freshwater Biological Association Archives https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb986-lowr.
Journal of John Walsh’s Visit to France in 1772. John Walsh (1726-1795) was elected to the Royal Society in 1770, and became known for his work on the electric ray, Torpedo marmorata. In 1769 Edward Banfield proved that the electric eel emitted electric shocks, and Walsh set out to confirm that the ray had a similar power. In this he was encouraged by Benjamin Franklin, whose American colleagues were undertaking similar investigations. With his nephew Arthur Fowkes he spent the summer of 1772 at La Rochelle, where the ray was often captured. The fish could survive many hours out of water, and Walsh was able to conduct experiments ashore and successfully proved that the ray’s shocks were caused by electricity. His findings were published in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions, vol. 63 (1773), pp. 461-77, and the Royal Society awarded him the Copley medal for his achievement. Held by University of Manchester Library https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb133-engms724.
Fisheries and the Fishing industry
Records of Aberdeen Fish Curers and Merchants Association, 1888-1947. The association was established in May 1888, as Aberdeen Fish Trade Association, and was incorporated with its present title in 1944. It began in response to the introduction of sales by auction in the late nineteenth century, its first achievement being an agreement amongst fish sellers to provide discounts for cash sales to accredited buyers. Membership was open to wholesale fish merchants and fish curers carrying on a business in Aberdeen, and in 1980 stood at more than 200. Held by University of Aberdeen Special Collections https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb231-ms3054.
Records of the Berwick Salmon Fisheries Co Ltd, salmon fishers, Berwick upon Tweed, England, 1562-1964 (predominant 1860-1964). The Old Shipping Co, shipping traders and salmon fishers, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England, was established at some point prior to 1766 by a group of local men, mainly coopers, who held shares in a small sailing fleet engaged in the London, coastal and foreign trade. As commodities included salmon, the company leased fishing rights on the river Tweed. The shipping vessels were sold off in 1869 as business had become unprofitable and the company’s name changed to Berwick Salmon Fisheries Co Ltd in 1872. Held by University of Glasgow Archive Services https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb248-ugd245.
Volume containing two copies of a printed register relating to Netherlands herring fisheries, 1749: entitled Naamlyst der boekhouders, schepen, en stuurluiden van de haring-shepen, in’t Yaar 1749, van Enchisen en de Ryp, ter haring-shepen uitgevaren (Jan von Guissen, Enkhuisen, 1749), giving details of the ships, owners and captains of the fleets of Enkhuisen and De Rijp. Added in manuscript are details of the total catch for 1749, and the catch for individual ships on various voyages. Held by Senate House Library Archives, University of London https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb96-ms115.
Grimsby Steam and Diesel Fishing Vessels’ Engineers’ and Firemen’s Union, 1897-1987. The Grimsby Steam Fishing Vessels’ Engineers’ and Firemen’s Union was founded in 1896. It changed its name to the Grimsby Steam and Diesel Fishing Vessels’ Engineers’ and Firemen’s Union in 1961. In 1976 it transferred engagements to the Transport and General Workers’ Union, becoming 10/3c Branch. Held by Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb152-gsf.
The business records of Shippam’s Ltd, 1853-1995. The Shippam’s business first started in 1786, when Charles Shippam established a grocery store in Westgate, Chichester. In 1886 they began food manufacturing and in 1894 launched a wide range of potted meat and fish pastes, for which Shippam’s was to become internationally famous. Held by West Sussex Record Officehttps://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb182-shippam’s.
Fish and Chips
Records of Pesci Bros Fish and Chip Shop, 1920-1994. The Pesci family, originally from Bardi in Italy, came to Barking from Wales in 1934, and went on to open a fish and chip shop at 15 Broadway. Only a few years later the shop was compulsorily purchased by Barking Borough Council so that the site could be used for the building of the new Town Hall. After a long search for a new premises, the family finally re-opened at 26 Ripple Road in 1939. The business flourished for nearly 60 years. Held by Barking and Dagenham Archive and Local Studies Centre https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb350-bd76.
Records of the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Benarth Road, Conwy, 1916-1994. In December 1999 the Conwy Laboratory closed after approximately ninety years of pioneering research and development into fish and shellfish aquaculture. The laboratory’s foundation came about following the building of mussel purification tanks by Conwy Corporation in 1913, in an attempt to improve the quality of Conwy mussels, which had been at the centre of several serious infections. The collection is of scientific importance in documenting experiments of international significance. Additionally, it reflects the traditional activities of the mussel fishermen themselves. Held by Gwasanaeth Archifau Conwy / Conwy Archive Service https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb2008-cd3.
Environment Agency Collection, 1786-2010. The collection consists of reports, surveys, data records, maps, administrative records and other material relating to the work of the Environment Agency (and of its predecessor organisations the various River Boards, River Authorities, Water Authorities and the National Rivers Authority). A few documents date back to the 19th century and earlier, the majority spans the 1930s to the 1990s. Most of the collection relates to the Agency’s monitoring and management of the area’s river and lake catchments, with an emphasis on fisheries, biodiversity, constructions such as fish passes, weirs and fish traps, fish diseases, water quality and pollution. Included are papers relating to the Agency’s corporate, strategy and public affairs, as well as information on regional and national byelaws, net limitation orders and historic fishery rights. Held by Freshwater Biological Association Archives https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb986-enva.
Fisher Theatre, Bungay, 1790-1886. The Fisher theatre at Bungay, Suffolk, opened in February 1828. Built by David Fisher I, the theatre was one of a dozen serving the circuit of Fisher’s company, The Norfolk and Suffolk Company of Comedians and seasons of performances were produced on a two-year cycle. The theatre was sold by the Fishers in 1844 and was used subsequently as a corn hall, furniture store, steam laundry, cinema, and textile warehouse. In 2000 the building was acquired by the Bungay Arts Trust. After extensive renovations the building was re-opened in 2006 as a community theatre and arts centre which is also licensed for wedding and civil ceremonies. Held by the University of East Anglia Archiveshttps://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb1187-ftb.
Papers of Robert Salmon Hutton, 1897-1970. Hutton was born in 1876 in London. His family owned a silversmiths in Sheffield. Hutton pursued his research interests in electro-metallurgy with Professor Arthur Schuster at Manchester and Henri Moissan in Paris. From 1900-1908 he was a lecturer in electro-chemistry at the University of Manchester, where he carried out pioneering work on electric furnace technology, seeing its value for commercial metallurgy. In 1903 he perfected a method for the mass production of fused silica. Hutton had a great interest in research and development, and he was aware of failings in this area by British metallurgical industries. A great believer in the value of technical libraries, he was a founder of the Association of Scientific Libraries Information Bureau (ASLIB) in 1924. Held by University of Manchester Library https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb133-hut.
Papers of George Gordon Hake, 1891-1904. Hake was born in 1847. He spent thirteen years from 1891 working in South Africa, initially with the British South Africa Company and later with the Tanganyika Telegraph Service during 1889 and 1903 in the Mashonaland area. He died in 1903 and was buried at Port Herald. Hake was closely connected to the Rossetti family in their later years, acting as a ‘minder’ to Dante Gabriel Rossetti during one of their family holidays. Christina Rossetti was also godmother to his daughter Ursula. Held by School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Archives, University of London https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb102-ppms40.
Declaration of Trust of Leasehold Property in Breams Buildings, Chancery Lane, London, 1888. Lease for the Breams Building, which was the main Birkbeck site from 1888-1952. The lease is in the form of a soft cover book, written over several velum pages, with wax seals on the last page. Held by Birkbeck Library Archives and Special Collections, University of London https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb1832-bbk/bbk/6/1.
John Whiting Archive, 1917-1963. Whiting, a playwright and actor, was born in 1917 Salisbury, UK. He received his education at Taunton School and then later trained as an actor at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. After his time in the army Whiting had some success as an actor and then went onto write numerous plays, short stories and plays for radio. Whiting also took up theatre criticism during the last few years of his life for ‘London Magazine’, some of his work can be found in the ‘The Art of Dramatist’ (1970). Held by V&A Theatre and Performance Collections https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb71-thm/222.
Roe Manuscripts, 10th-17th century. Sir Thomas Roe was born in 1580 or 1581, and matriculated at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1593, but took no degree. In 1605 he was knighted, and in 1614 began his official journeys to the East which made him famous. From that year to 1618 he was Ambassador to Jehngr, the Mogul emperor of Hindustan, and from 1621 to 1628 to the Turkish Court. In 1640 Roe was elected a burgess of the University in Parliament, and died in 1644. The manuscript collection comprises: 27 Greek, one Hebrew, one Arabic, and one Latin. Held by the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb161-mss.roe1-17,18a-b,19-29.
It’s a dilemma in this strange and worrying time. The collections are there, you know this. You know they are safe. For the time being, for you to remain safe, for all of us to remain safe, you can’t go near them. But this is your job, and much more than that – a passion. We know that archives are stories, solidified memories of individuals, groups, institutions. Many have been around a lot longer than us, and will be there after we’re gone. But at this point of their long, interesting history, we are their gatekeepers, their tenders. Donors from all walks of life have entrusted us with their stories, letting go of the physical, holding only to the ephemeral, and yet now…now we too are distanced from the physical. So, again, how do we work in an Archive Centre when we can’t work in an Archive Centre?
Blythe Duff is a Scottish actress born in East Kilbride on 25 November 1962. She has worked continuously since her debut as part of the Scottish Youth Festival in 1984. Though she has gone on to ply her trade mainly in theatre, she is perhaps best known for her role as Detective Sergeant Jackie Reid in the long-running Glasgow-based crime series Taggart. In 2011 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Glasgow Caledonian University for services to the performing arts and in 2012 was made a cultural fellow of GCU.
It was in this guise that in 2018 she generously donated her decades-worth of accumulated Taggart artefacts to GCU Archive Centre. It is a rich, fascinating and rewarding resource for fans of the show both die-hard and casual, for aspiring scriptwriters, those with an interest in television production, and indeed for anyone with even a passing interest in Glasgow through the lens of British popular culture.
I’ve been thinking about this collection in these fast and slow days, weeks, and months of lockdown, as I adjust to this new, remote set-up. Once the working day is done, the laptop shut for the evening, I find myself, like so many, at a loose end. With so much temporarily closed, the question has become not so much what do I do, as what do I watch?
With this in mind the Blythe Duff Taggart papers are a fascinating insight into the televisual process of the late 20th century. As a scriptwriting graduate, I am particularly enthralled by the variety of artefacts on offer. There are 138 individual scripts contained in the collection, spanning from Blythe’s debut on the show in 1990 all the way to 2010. Researchers will find a mixture of rehearsal scripts and shooting scripts, a fantastic insight into the malleable nature of the production process. Particularly poignant is the two versions of 1994’s two-parter ‘Legends’. Mark McManus, the titular Taggart, tragically died before production had finished. The two versions, one featuring Detective Chief Inspector Jim Taggart, and the other re-written without, offer a glimpse into what could have been, as well as the embryonic steps of the show of which Taggart was to become.
It is the little details in the collection that draw me back to it – the scribbled notes on the pages, the inside jokes of the cast. Though the collection is currently uncatalogued, researchers will find Blythe’s personalised chair cover, a monogrammed Taggart jacket, along with a photo of Blythe in character in full police uniform. There are books as well; 25 Years of Taggart and Taggart’s Glasgow. Other artefacts include Taggart wrap party flyers, postcards of different actors from the show – one signed by cast members. There’s even a Taggart Mystery Jigsaw Puzzle game!
Since becoming available to researchers, it is one of the collections at GCU Archive Centre that has proved most popular with a wide range of visitors. Almost as soon as it was publicised with a visit to the Archive Centre by Blythe and fellow cast member John Michie, we’ve had members of the public – some of whom had never been in an archive before – pop their head into the reading room and ask if they could read an episode. We’ve had a family of fanatics all the way from Australia, a couple from England where the husband surprised his super-fan wife for a special birthday, and many more besides.
It’s also a particularly relevant resource for the University’s learning and teaching as GCU has offered a Masters course in Television Fiction Writing since 2010, the first of its kind in the UK. One of the course leaders, Chris Dolan, was previously a writer for Taggart. Students of the course have examined the scripts, seeing how they’re structured, potentially being inspired in their own work.
The frustration of not being able to go into the Archive Centre each day, not being able to see collections, or chat to team members with ease, is very real. Nonetheless, we have all adjusted to working from home. Team meetings still occur through the magic of MS Teams, projects are still ongoing, new challenges arise and are met. And in the thick of the unprecedented time we are in, if I think back to my initial question, I realise it is possible to work in an Archive Centre even if you can’t work there. For it is the collective knowledge we have, and our willingness to ensure collections are protected and as available to as many as possible that is the lifeblood of archival work. Archives are indeed stories, and at this juncture we’ve reached a twist worthy of Taggart himself. But the path we’re on, though long and difficult will lead us all back to where we want to be. It’s too tragic a time to call it a happy ending, but we’ve certainly had enough of cliff-hangers and will take a bittersweet conclusion.
David Ward Archive Assistant Glasgow Caledonian University Archive Centre – Sir Alex Ferguson Library
Browse all Glasgow Caledonian University Archives and Special Collections descriptions available to date on the Archives Hub
All images copyright Glasgow Caledonian University. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.
Many of the letters have been in Special Collections since the 1930s but were not catalogued in any detail. Some were represented by very brief index records, which did not convey the scope or context of the full collection, others were entirely uncatalogued. Although much of the Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti correspondence had been published in their respective Collected Letters ((The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, ed. William E. Fredeman, 2015 and The Letters of Christina Rossetti, https://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/crossetti/), but the letters themselves remained inaccessible for research.
A 2019 project funded by the Strachey Trust enabled us to repackage and create item-level records for each letter in the collection. Catalogue records included basic ISAD(G) metadata, a brief synopsis of the letter’s contents, links to authority files for both sender and addressee and a reference for the published version of the letter, where one exists. The finished catalogue now describes the full extent of the Rossetti Collection at Leeds, ensuring that material is identifiable, accessible for research and secure in our holdings.
Cataloguing gave us fascinating insight into the lives of the Rossettis. The largest group of letters in the collection were written by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and cover both the beginning and end of his career. Early letters reveal a humorous correspondent. One, written from a deluged Kent, describes him sketching ‘with my umbrella tied over my head to my buttonhole – a position which you will oblige me by remembering, I expressly desired should be selected for my statue. (N.B. Trousers turned up.)’
These are in direct contrast to later letters to Theodore Watts-Dunton (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Watts-Dunton) who acted as Rossetti’s advisor. The volume and regularity of Rossetti’s letters to Watts-Dunton, their paranoia and requests for advice show Rossetti’s great dependence on his close friends in later years.
The collection includes 30 letters written by Christina Rossetti. Project work uncovered a previously unknown letter, written to her sister-in-law, Lucy Maddox Brown Rossetti (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Madox_Brown). This brief letter gives Rossetti’s assessment of an unnamed poem: ‘The fact is I think it diabolical. Its degree of serene skill and finesse intensifies to me its horror…’
150 letters by William Michael Rossetti were also catalogued during this project, the majority of which are unpublished. His letters include a long series addressed to John Lucas Tupper (https://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=msib7_1220373335), a close associate and contributor to ‘The Germ’, the journal of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The letters to Tupper, whose writing and career he promoted, highlight professional opportunities and networks of editors and journals available during this period. They give an interesting glimpse of the kind of life afforded to a literary Victorian gentleman employed by the Civil Service. During certain periods of his life, Rossetti travelled abroad, visiting the continent and even Australia. Having been robbed on one occasion in Italy, he discusses the advisability of carrying a pistol with Tupper, who travelled with him in 1869. Other letters cover wide-ranging topics, from discussions of Ruskin and Browning to the politics of the day, spiritualism, and lycanthropy.
Alongside revealing individual letters, the catalogue records now allow researchers to explore Rossetti family networks in some detail. A good example of this is correspondence relating to the artist Frederic Shields (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederic_Shields), who was a regular subject of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s letters to Watts-Dunton. Later letters from William Michael Rossetti to Shields describe the hours before his brother’s death with great tenderness, passing on a last message to Shields. Subsequent letters from Christina Rossetti are concerned with Shields’ work on a memorial for Dante Gabriel Rossetti. These intertwined relationships would not be easily discoverable from published letters alone but can be usefully explored through this catalogue.
Cataloguing also gave us the chance to research the provenance of groups of letters in the collection. This revealed connections between material previously considered separate: the Swinburne manuscript collection (https://explore.library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections-explore/8607) and substantial correspondence relating to Swinburne and Watts-Dunton (including Rossetti correspondence) were all acquired from the same source, Watts-Dunton’s estate. These letters and manuscripts had historically been treated as distinct collections, and the connections between them were not clear from catalogue records.
Cataloguing work on this small collection has emphasised the many levels of interconnectedness in which archives exist. Letters can show relationships between individuals, collections of letters show their wider networks, and collections themselves speak to other material both within a repository and in many other locations across the world.
The human race has always wanted to fly, and the National Aerospace Library’s collection shows how we have pursued those dreams to conquer and then perfect flight; from aeroplanes to hovercraft, air travel to satellites, and missiles to man carrying kites. Our earliest book, from 1515, looks at how objects travel through the air and we are still collecting material on cutting edge aero engineering.
The NAL is unusual for an institute collection. Rather than specialising in a single profession, the library follows its parent organisation, the Royal Aeronautical Society, by covering all the sciences and arts connected to travel above the ground. From designing aircraft to insurance and law, from flying eighteenth-century balloons to airport operations and from aero medicine to aerial warfare.
Social historians can find a wealth of information within our four walls. For example, we have three interesting collections from women who were captivated by flight during the interwar period, with the collections of The Flying Countess, Cathleen Countess or Drogheda, and two pioneering women who tried to fly across Africa, Delphine Reynolds , who reached as far as Sierra Leone in early 1931, and Peggy Salaman who reached Cape Town later that year. The collection of Wilfred Parke gives an insight into the pre-World War I world of air racing.
Flying has always captured the imagination and has been recorded in prints, posters, photographs and paintings. We care for over 100,000 Images showing early balloon lithographs from the eighteenth century, the stylish design that accompanied air travel in the 1930s, glass slides explaining scientific concepts, plus tens of thousands of images showing aeroplanes. Many of these images are available via the Mary Evan Picture Library’s corporate licencing and merchandise sites.
Aeronautics is also a business and our collections cover how the world of science, government, warfare and business collide. This is best shown through the records of Britain’s aviation trade organisation – the Society of British Aircraft Constructors , also known as the SBAC. Starting during the First World War, these minute books chronicle seventy years of thinking of those high up in industry. We also have the wartime records of the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company with its digitised minute book appearing on our Heritage website and the Broke-Smith Archive contains some interesting material on military aviation before the First World War.
The Royal Aeronautical Society was created decades before the Wright Brothers became the first men to fly a powered aircraft, and archive of the Royal Aeronautical Society is strong on how the great minds of the time worked out how to design the machines that enabled us to fly. One of our main treasures are the scientific papers of Sir George Cayley, the man dubbed the father of aeronautics, who established many of the principles flight, such as establishing that gaining lift should be separated from the propulsion system, as well as discoveries well away from aeronautics, such as designing prosthetics and geared bicycles. Other early collections include the Baden-Powell ballooning cuttings collection, Percy Pilcher’s work on gliders and Lawrence Hargrave’s photograph albums. We have digitised the Cayley Notebooks, Pilcher Drawings and Hargrave albums and they can all be viewed on our heritage website.
We also have an extensive letters collection, which includes correspondence from the Society and its leading members. The collections are especially strong in the early days of flight, with letters from the pioneers of flight, such as the Wright Brothers, Samuel Cody, Samuel Langley, Octave Chanute, Lawrence Hargrave, J.W. Dunne, A.V Roe, Lord Rayleigh, Sir Frederick Handley Page, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Gustav Lilienthal, F.W. Lanchester, James Glaisher and Sir Geoffrey de Havilland. Though we have not yet listed each letter on Archives Hub, a list of files can be found on the online and we can then use our paper indexes to find out more about each item of correspondence. Interaction with the great names in aeronautics politics and the services between 1910 and 1953 can be found in the correspondence files of the acid-tonged editor of Aeroplane magazine, C. G. Grey.
Our aero engineering archive collections move from the pioneering days into the aircraft designers and producers. The British & Colonial Aeroplane Company Collection includes design work for many post-war Bristol Aircraft, Second World War propeller developments can be found in the collection of de Havilland’s A. V. Cleaver, W. O. Manning’s work at English Electric and aeronautical papers of George William Saynor show design work at Blackburn Aircraft and Canadian Vickers, together with the designs of he and his partner, which came together in the Saynor & Bell Canadian Cub & Canadian Cub II.
Last but not least, the NAL holds the records of our parent organisation, the Royal Aeronautical Society. As well as membership records of the great and the good of the industry and day-by-day administration of a learned society, it also contains audio recordings of over four hundred of its lectures and conferences, primarily from the 1960s and 1990s onwards. The NAL has digitised most of the collection and has been slowly podcasting some of the gems over the last two or three years, including from the great names in British aero industry, such as Sir Frederick Handley Page describing the launch of Britain’s first big aircraft, Sir Geoffrey de Havilland talking about the his first few years in aeronautics, military topics such as the history of the nuclear delivery aircraft, the V-bombers, and scientific lectures such as the first 50 years of aeroelasticity.
So far, the National Aerospace Library has placed high level descriptions of just over thirty of our main collections on Archives Hub. We will be now working to fill in some of the lower level information and details that is currently stored in paper index files plus or hidden away on our library catalogue, plus add details of some of our other collections to the site.
In the meantime, we always welcome enquiries, either by phone 01252 701038/60 or email. Further to the UK Government’s guidance, the National Aerospace Library is currently closed to external visitors to ensure the health and wellbeing of staff, members, and volunteers but online services remain available.
Tony Pilmer, Librarian National Aerospace Library
Browse all National Aerospace Library collection descriptions available to date on the Archives Hub
All images copyright National Aerospace Library. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.
To mark Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting some fascinating features, fantastic collections and online resources relating to women, their achievements and influence.
Archives Hub features
We have a wide range of Archives Hub monthly features focusing on women, including:
Black Georgians: Phillis Wheatley
Phyllis was sold as a child servant to the all-white Wheatley family in 1761.
Susanna Wheatley, the mistress of the Wheatley family, recognised her extraordinary flair of intuitive intelligence, fostering the intellectual development of Phillis by allowing her to learn to read and write, learn Latin and to read the Bible.
She later became the first African-American woman to publish poetry.
The Imogen Holst archive: papers of a passionate and open-minded woman musician
Imogen Holst (1907-1984) was the daughter of composer Gustav Holst, best-known for The Planets.
Holst, herself a composer, is perhaps best-known today as Benjamin Britten’s musical assistant, but she also had an exceptional, wide-ranging but lesser known career as, amongst other things, educator, conductor and music traveller.
The Anita White Foundation International Women and Sport Archive, c1936- [ongoing]
In 2010 the University of Chichester decided to establish an archive on the international women and sport movement. This decision was based on the potential donation of documents from Dr Anita White and Professor Celia Brackenridge, two individuals associated with the university who had been centrally involved in the leadership and development of the movement since 1990.
Papers of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (1757–1806)
Georgiana Cavendish (née Spencer), Duchess of Devonshire (1757–1806) is well-known as a style icon and also for her personal life. However, she was also actively involved in the Whig party. Following the resignation of William Pitt in 1801, she was instrumental in getting Fox and the Prince to settle their differences, as well as reuniting the different Whig factions into a force that could be co-ordinated. Whilst Pitt returned as Prime Minister in 1804, following his death in 1806, the new government – the ‘ministry of all the talents’ – largely consisted of the coalition that Georgiana had helped to build.
Elouise was born in 1932 in Guyana, South America. She travelled to England in 1961 to join her husband Beresford Edwards. They settled in Manchester and soon became active in the struggle against inequality and racism that existed at that time. They challenged racist attitudes and campaigned for the needs of people from overseas. This developed into a lifelong fight for equality. Elouise Edwards was instrumental in celebrating Black culture, battling racism and developing vital community resources in Moss Side. She was awarded an MBE for her amazing contribution. Elouise also has an African Chieftaincy. She was nominated for her work with African people in Manchester and the honour was bestowed by the Nigerian organisation at the British Council.
As a campaigner for Women’s Suffrage, Emily is arguably most famous for her death. She joined the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1906, soon becoming involved in a long series of arrests, imprisonments and releases after force-feeding. She managed to enter and hide in the House of Commons three times between 1910 and 1911, and was the first to embark on a campaign of setting fire to pillar-boxes. On the 4th June 1913, she tried to seize the bridle of the King’s horse running at the Derby. She received head injuries and never recovered consciousness, dying on the 8th June. Her funeral was preceded by a large funeral cortege that became one of the iconic events of the campaign for Women’s Suffrage.
In 1839 a young lawyer left behind his London office for a post in the Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) Civil Service, thus beginning a series of travels, adventures and discoveries which would result in him achieving world renown for uncovering and shining a light on the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, in particularly Assyrian culture. That young man was Austen Henry Layard. This month Newcastle University’s Special Collections makes the catalogue to the Layard (Austen Henry) Archive available to researchers via the Archives Hub, along with that of another collection which shares a family provenance with the Layard Archive, the Blenkinsopp Coulson (William) Archive.
The Layard (Austen Henry) Archive
A typical Victorian polymath, Sir Austen Henry Layard (1817–1894) was an archaeologist, politician, and diplomat. The latter two of these roles he settled into in his later years; amongst his many achievements in the spheres of politics and diplomacy, he championed the cause of administrative reform in the Ottoman Empire and held ambassadorships to both Madrid (1869–1877) and Constantinople (1877–1880). Letters in the Layard Archive written by Layard’s wife Enid contain descriptions of his activities during those ambassadorships, including some dramatic descriptions of scenes witnessed by Enid during the Third Carlist War (1872–1876) and the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), and one of Layard’s passports held in the archive serves as a physical representation of his busy and dynamic career in this period.
But in the 1840s and 1850s, Layard’s great achievements were in the archaeological and cultural sphere, and it is this period of his life which is most greatly illuminated by the Layard Archive, as well as by the Layard book collection which is held alongside the archive.
Having abandoned his plan to take up work in Ceylon and instead having been engaged by the British ambassador in Istanbul to carry out unofficial diplomatic missions, Layard became interested in locating and unearthing the great cities of biblical renown after spending time near Mosul, Ottoman Mesopotamia (now in Iraq). Mistaking Nimrud, site of the Assyrian capital of Calah, for Nineveh, he excavated there (1845–51) and discovered the remains of palaces of 9th– and 7th-century-BC kings and many important artworks. These included sculptures from the reign of King Ashurnasirpal II and a huge winged bull that remain among the most valued treasures of the British Museum. Layard published his discoveries in his book The Monuments of Nineveh (1849) and the later volume A Second Series of the Monuments of Nineveh (1853) and was hailed for shedding light on an ancient culture which hitherto had been completely lost.
During his earlier travels and the excavations, Layard made detailed pencil sketches, many of which he used to create the engravings in his publications. One of the remarkable aspects of the Layard Archive is that it contains a huge number of these original sketches, often dog-eared and stained with dirt or ink, giving a vivid sense of their having been created on-site as working papers by Layard. There are detailed maps and plans of excavated buildings and temples, and annotated drawings of architectural and iconographic details, such as this sketch annotated by Layard as being “From the ruined Palace- Al Hadhr”.
Another wonderful sketch contained in the archive is the original version of arguably the most famous drawing to have been featured in Layard’s publications, that of the aforementioned great winged bull or lion, as Layard terms it in his annotation, from Nimrud.
Evidence elsewhere in the Layard Archive confirms that the Layard family once possessed Layard’s original sketch of the moving of the winged bull from Nimrud; the evidence is held in the form of a letter from the British Museum to a family member who donated the sketch to the Museum in 1960. In the letter (LAY/1/2/21) it is confirmed that the original sketch given to the Museum was the basis for another of Layard’s famous published engravings depicting the very same scene, although in its published form Layard has included himself, giving directions from the top of the ruins!
The Layard Archive also contains a number of objects, the most enigmatic and unusual of which is a shard of Assyrian pottery. Layard is known to have amassed his own private collection of archaeological objects, some of which he brought home himself, others of which were given to him, and many of which he eventually passed on to friends and relatives. This particular item was a gift to Layard from his fellow archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam who continued excavation work in Mesopotamia after Layard had ended his own work there. The label on its reverse shows that it came from a temple at Nimrud and historian Stefania Ermidoro has concluded that it is likely to form part of a larger vessel also excavated by Rassam and now in the British Museum.
The Layard (Austen Henry) Layard Archive, along with its associated book collection, shines much light onto 19th Century archaeology and discovery, and the dissemination of the knowledge of Assyrian culture in this period, whilst providing vivid insights into Layard’s archaeological research and methods, as well as other aspects of his illustrious career.
More can be read about the Layard Archive in Stefania Ermidoro’s article, The Latest Layard Archive: New Documents from Newcastle University published in Iraq (2019) 81 127-144.
The Blenkinsopp Coulson (William) Archive
The Blenkinsopp Coulson (William) Archive is linked with the Layard by a shared family provenance, although there the similarities end.
William Lisle Blenkinsopp Coulson (1841-1911) was a prominent figure in Newcastle upon Tyne, having established the Newcastle Dog and Cat shelter and been an early champion of animal rights. The Blenkinsopp Coulson Archive is his family collection; as well as a small amount of correspondence and printed matter relating to William himself, the archive also contains items which were passed down through his family, to William himself and then beyond him to his current descendants.
One item of particular interest is a recipe book compiled by Jane Blenkinsopp Coulson of Jesmond, now in Newcastle, dated 1733. The book contains a huge range of culinary and medicinal recipes which Jane likely acquired through her social networks in the local community. The title page reads: “Choice and Experienced Receipts of Cookery, Preserves, Conserves, Pickles, etc. together with a Collection of Valuable Receipts for Physick collected from Mr John Spearman of Hetton and other able and Eminent Physicians,” The example here, for Lady Allen’s cordial water, includes an amazing array of flowers, herbs and roots, from leaves of Meadow Sweet to roots of Snake Wort.
Also of note in the Blenkinsopp Coulson Archive is a General Pardon granted by King Edward IV to Elizabeth Blenkinsopp, dated 23rd April 1469. It is a fabulous example of Letters Patent bearing the Great Seal of Edward IV, densely packed with information in the form of archaic legal wording and terminology. Written in medieval Latin, the document offers fascinating glimpses into the medieval mindset and legal system as well as insights into a crucial chapter in the Wars of the Roses in England, the Siege of Harlech Castle (1461-1468), famous as the longest siege in British history.
Geraldine Hunwick Senior Archivist Special Collections, Newcastle University