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
Established in 1971, the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry was a pressure group set up to assist members of the Jewish community in the Soviet Union wishing to leave the country but denied permission. The term “refusnik” was coined to describe these individuals. On hearing the news that thirty five-year-old librarian Raisa Palatnik from Odessa has been arrested for distributing samizdat, banned literature, a small group of women decided to hold a protest outside the Soviet embassy in London. From these modest beginnings grew the campaign on behalf of the refusniks.
Whilst other groups also campaigned on this issue, the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry (affectionately known as the 35s due to the average age of the group) was the only one set up and led exclusively by women. Many of the founder members were middle-class, Jewish housewives from North West London who had no previous experience of activism or campaigns. They nevertheless proved themselves to be a formidable force, conducting a tireless campaign to heighten public awareness of their cause.
The group existed in the era before social media and it was a campaign that used the medium of the letter. It organised mass letter writing campaigns to garner support for the cause and also engaged in correspondence with the refusniks whose cases it supported. The archive contains, for instance, an extensive series of correspondence to Members of Parliament from the mid 1970s until the late 1990s, ranging alphabetically from Diane Abbott to George Young, with others such as Betty Boothroyd, Harriet Harman and Margaret Thatcher in between. An equally extensive parallel series of correspondence exists for Members of the House of Lords. The MP Greville Janner was a major supporter of the cause, acting as chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Committee for the Release of Soviet Jewry and later as President of the National Council for Soviet Jewry. The Women’s Campaign archive contains much material relating to his work.
Whilst Raisa Palatnik was the catalyst for the group’s inception — and it was to assist many refusniks over the course of its existence — probably the most well-known individual on whose behalf it campaigned was Natan (Anatoly) Sharansky. At an event in 2018 Sharansky paid tribute to the efforts of both the Women’s Campaign and to Greville Janner in the struggle for Soviet Jewry.
Effective at utilising publicity, the Women’s Campaign produced considerable quantities of material that highlighted the cases of the individual refusniks. There were biographical profiles for each refusnik that publicised and detailed their treatment by the Soviet Union often in graphic detail. Campaigners and supporters also wrote to individuals and their families in the Soviet Union and the archive contains many of the letters sent or received in return. This is supplemented by personal photographs and related material of visits made to the Soviet Union by members of the group to meet with refusniks.
The Women’s Campaign throughout its years of activity was to prove itself to be both highly effective and highly imaginative in its demonstrations and publicity. One such publicity gimmick was sweeping outside the Soviet embassy in London on behalf of the refusniks. As well as organising protests outside venues where Soviet groups — such as visiting athletics teams or ballet companies — were appearing, they became adept at disrupting audiences within the venues. Members secretly wearing campaign t-shirts were strategically placed in the auditorium of a ballet performance, for instance, and would stand as part of a coordinated protest displaying the t-shirts or waving banners. The group have noted that they were viewed as unlikely activists and so were able to circumvent security at venues and smuggle in campaign t-shirts under their clothing.
The demonstrations that the group organised also displayed a dramatic flair: Sylvia Becker, who was one of the founder members, recalls dressing as a ghost when she took part in a protest at Highgate Cemetery in 1974 against a visit by Soviet dignitaries to Karl Marx’s tomb. Costumes such as pyjamas that looked like a gulag uniform and shackles or handcuffs — the latter sometimes used by an activist to chain themselves to railings — were items utilised at various rallies. It is said that after attending one of their demonstrations the Prime Minister Harold Wilson urged them to continue their activities.
The spring exhibition in the Special Collections gallery at Southampton on the subject of protest and protest groups features material of the Women’s Campaign, including t-shirts, a large banner, handcuffs and badges. The exhibition opens on 17 February and will run until May. Further information can be found on the Special Collections website.
Karen Robson Head of Archives Hartley Library University of Southampton
On the evening of 12 January 1820, a group of men dined together at the Freemason’s Tavern in London, and resolved to establish the Astronomical Society of London, now known as the Royal Astronomical Society. One of its founding members was John F. W. Herschel (1792-1871). His father, William Herschel (1738-1822), was the Society’s first president, and his aunt, Caroline Herschel, (1750-1848) was one of the first women whose scientific achievements were recognised by the Society. Thanks to the generous donations of the Herschel family in the 20th century, the Royal Astronomical Society is the custodian of a significant collection of the astronomy-related papers of William, Caroline and John Herschel. At the beginning of the bicentenary year, we reflect on the Herschels’ relationship with the Royal Astronomical Society and the family’s contributions to astronomy.
William grew up in Hanover in Germany and followed his father and older brother Jacob by joining the band of the Hanoverian Guards. When Hanover was occupied by French soldiers in 1757, William and Jacob were sent by their father to England as refugees from war. William settled in England and made a living as an itinerant musician in the North of England, before taking a post of organist in Bath in 1766. From the late 1760s he developed a serious interest in astronomy, eventually constructing his own telescopes in order to achieve the precision he desired for his observations. The largest of his telescopes was 40 feet in length, supported by a large wooden apparatus. A self-taught astronomer, he did not regard the stars as a mere fixed backdrop to the orbits of the planets like most of his peers. He was fascinated by the stellar universe and devised a systematic observation programme. Because he methodically observed every star of a certain magnitude, on 13 March 1781 he noticed a bluish disc-like object which did not look like an ordinary star. At first he identified this new object as a comet, but once enough data was available to calculate its orbit, it became clear that William Herschel had discovered a new planet. Originally named Georgium Sidus after George III, the planet is now known as Uranus. William was appointed astronomer to the King and continued his astronomical work, not only making new discoveries such as the moons of Saturn now known as Enceladus and Mimas, but also contributing to understanding of the structure of the heavens. His expertise spanned observation, instrument making, and theoretical astronomy.
William Herschel’s achievements depended in large part on the assistance of his sister Caroline. The youngest of the ten Herschel siblings, she appeared destined to providing domestic assistance to her mother in Hanover, until William offered her the choice of moving to Bath in 1772 to train as a singer and manage his household. Caroline Herschel’s musical career as a soloist showed early promise, but by this time William was becoming preoccupied with astronomical work and increasingly relied on his sister for assistance with his observations. However, Caroline Herschel developed as an astronomer in her own right, as well, making numerous discoveries of comets and nebulae. From 1787, she received an income from the King, making her one of the first women to be paid for scientific work. She was the first woman to receive the gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1828 in recognition of the enormous contribution she had made by completing a catalogue of 2,500 nebulae. She became one of the first female honorary members of the RAS, at the same time as Mary Somerville in 1835.
John F. W. Herschel initially pursued a career in law, but followed in the footsteps of his father, and was also strongly influenced by his aunt Caroline. He was a polymath who carried out significant work in other subjects such as mathematics and chemistry. As an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge he made friends with Charles Babbage, and both of them were among the founders of the Astronomical Society of London in 1820. One obstacle during the early days of the Society occurred when the Duke of Somerset was dissuaded by from taking on the Presidency of the Society by Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society. In the end, William Herschel agreed to be the first President, on the understanding that he should not be called upon for active service due to his advanced years. His son John Herschel would go on to serve as President of the Society three times. He dedicated himself to continuing and expanding upon his father’s programme of observations. From 1834 to 1838, he lived in South Africa with his family and catalogued the stars, nebulae and other celestial bodies of the southern skies, publishing his observations in Results of astronomical observations made during the years 1834, 5, 6, 7, 8, at the Cape of Good Hope […](1847).
On John Herschel’s return to England, he became involved in photography, not only coining the name of this new technology (as well as the terms ‘positive’ and ‘negative’), but by inventing processes such as the cyanotype process, and providing leadership and support to other practitioners in the field. The RAS archives holds a positive print of one of his experimental photographs of his father’s 40-foot telescope, taken shortly before it was decommissioned in 1839; the structure of this instrument lives on in the Royal Astronomical Society’s gold medal and seal.
The Royal Astronomical Society is not the only repository of Herschel family archives; other holding institutions are signposted by the William Herschel Society http://www.williamherschel.org.uk/herschel-resources/. As part of the celebrations of the Royal Astronomical Society bicentenary, from February to December 2020 an exhibition focused on John Herschel’s observations of nebulae will take place at the Herschel Museum in Bath, the former home of John Herschel’s father and aunt.
Dr Sian Prosser Librarian and Archivist Royal Astronomical Society