Seven years of achievement from Archives of IT

Archives Hub feature for May 2023

The beginnings of Archives of IT

Archives of IT (AIT) began when entrepreneur Roger Graham saw the need to interview the founding generation of the IT Industry and save their stories for the future. Up to this point, heritage work was happening to save the history of computers, hardware and games but little was being done to preserve the social and oral history of the people behind the technology.

Founder Roger Graham (copyright AIT).
Founder Roger Graham (copyright AIT).

Archives of IT was registered as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) in 2015, with the aims of educating the public on the history of IT, particularly through the provision of a digital archive, accessible at www.archivesit.org.uk. AIT is governed by trustees, chaired by communications specialist John Carrington, and has a small number of part time staff and a team of volunteers who manage the acquisition of materials, the website and the production of blogs and education resources.

Trustees From L to R: Roger Graham OBE (Founder), Tom Abram (Director), Patrick Chapman, Tola Sargeant, Iain Mitchell KC (WCIT Liaison), John Carrington (Chair) (Copyright AIT).
Trustees From L to R: Roger Graham OBE (Founder), Tom Abram (Director), Patrick Chapman, Tola Sargeant, Iain Mitchell KC (WCIT Liaison), John Carrington (Chair) (Copyright AIT).

Initially, the focus for interviews has been on early post-war pioneers of IT that were at the forefront of this new industry – the intention to save those stories before time ran out. However, as time has passed interviews have become more contemporary, capturing more current trends in the IT sector, and taking in diverse topics such as women in STEM, infra-red technology, cybersecurity, venture capitalists and wearable health devices.

Oral history interviews

Much has been achieved in AIT’s first seven years, including more than 220 oral history interviews recorded, transcribed, and uploaded to the website for people to view. The first interview was published on the website in 2017;  David Potter CBE discusses his life in academia in computer simulation, then his move to the business world establishing Potter Scientific Instruments, or Psion. They invented the world’s first personal digital assistant – the Psion Organiser – in 1984 and advising Nokia in the 1990s as mobile telephone technology began to take off.

Other oral history collection highlights include:

Education resources – Schools

AIT logo

As part of its charitable aims to contribute to IT education in the UK, AIT have produced primary school learning and careers resources for teachers in collaboration with The Institution of Engineering and Technology. Key Stage 1 and 2 lesson plans have been developed and are available to download on the website. Key Stage 3 and 4 careers advice to encourage pupils to consider a job in IT are also available.

A recent school competition to design a logo for FIFA World Cup 2026 was successful, with nearly 100 entries from UK Schools. This latest competition was linked to the national curriculum by encouraging schoolchildren to use technology purposefully to create, organise, store, manipulate and retrieve digital content to accomplish a given goal.

It also involved history by looking at events beyond living memory that are significant nationally or globally and art, to use drawing to develop and share their ideas, experiences and imaginations and develop a wide range of design techniques using colour, line, shape, form, and space.

Education resources – Research projects

AIT is working with several partners to produce research based on its collections. Published research can be read here on topics ranging from the post Second World War IT Industry to 60 years progress of women working in IT.

Dr Elisabetta Mori with an Olvetti Elea 9003. Photograph by Armin Linke.
Dr Elisabetta Mori with an Olvetti Elea 9003. Photograph by Armin Linke.

The most recent piece of research commissioned is by Dr Elisabeth Mori on the development of human-computer interaction over the past 70 years. Dr Mori will use existing AIT content and conduct new interviews to bring together the story of human computer interaction (HCI) in a unique and comprehensive way.

A small number of publications have been donated to us by supporters and interviewees, and digitised versions of them can be viewed on our website, alongside other databases and websites hosted independently by people involved in the early years of the IT industry, that may be of use to researchers browsing our website.

The Archives Hub

AIT is a new archive, and non-traditional in that it has no geographical location and is digital only. As it develops, AIT is focusing on improving discovery of its collections on the internet.

As part of these plans, in 2022 we contributed an online resource description to the Archives Hub. This description is intended as a guide to AIT’s website, and it is hoped its presence on the Hub will increase the website’s use by academics and university students. The aim is to contribute a multi-level description of AIT’s collections to the Hub soon.

Further information

Stephanie Nield
Archivist, Archives of IT

Related

Archives of IT: Oral Histories of IT and tech, 2015 onwards (Online Resource description)

Photograph of Dr Elisabetta Mori by Armin Linke. All other images copyright AIT. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

The Christian Brethren Archive

Archives Hub feature for April 2023

About Us

The Christian Brethren Archive (CBA) is part of the John Rylands Research Institute and Library Special Collections at The University of Manchester, England.  The CBA is a world-class collection relating to the Brethren Movement and to congregations which have their roots in the Brethren tradition. This huge resource spans over 250 years and contains literature and records in many different languages in addition to English. The archive grew organically from a small collection of papers donated to the University in 1979 by the influential, evangelical scholar, F.F. Bruce (1910-90), Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at The University of Manchester. The CBA is a living archive, and today we receive communications, enquiries and gifts of material from all around the world. 

Woolpit Sunday School staff and pupils, Woolpit, Suffolk, England, c.1900.

The collection is managed by a full-time archivist whose work is overseen by an Advisory Group made up of historians and library professionals with Brethren interests and concerns. 

Many of the Archive costs are funded through the kindness of private and charitable donations, the remainder are met by The University of Manchester. 

Who Are The Christian Brethren?

The Brethren movement was formed by a group of independent Christian congregations who emerged out of Protestant Ireland in the 1820’s. Notable early members were John Nelson Darby (1800-82), Benjamin Wills Newton (1807-99) and George Müller (1805-98). Doctrinal differences caused a split in 1848 which led to the establishment of two distinct Brethren streams, the Exclusive Brethren who were led by John Nelson Darby and the Open Brethren who were led by George Müller. The Exclusive Brethren initially established themselves in Plymouth, Devon, England, giving rise to the group being known as the Plymouth Brethren. Both Brethren streams continue to flourish around the globe today. 

Lantern slide, ‘Drawing Room meetings in Dublin’ Ireland, late nineteenth century.

What’s In The Archive?

Over 7,000 manuscripts, 18,000 rare books, pamphlets, and tracts, and some 400 series of periodicals, dating from the early nineteenth century to the present. As well as photographs, films, and audio recordings.

There are personal papers relating to personalities among the Brethren, such as founding members John Nelson Darby and Benjamin Wills Newton, as well as records relating to assemblies across the United Kingdom, such as the Church of God in Belfast, Northern Ireland (1897-2018). Important organisations and events are also represented, for example Echoes International (formerly Echoes of Service, missionary support agency) est. 1872, the Devonshire Conferences of 1906 and 1907 (which discussed the terms of fellowship between gatherings of Open and Exclusive Brethren), the Christian Brethren Research Fellowship for 1962–81, and the Swanwick conferences of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.

We regularly collect born digital records, many of which are newsletters and periodicals. These are stored in our digital preservation system, Preservica and made accessible via University of Manchester Collections

The Green Field, published by the Brethren Church of the Egyptian Arab Republic, 1991.

All our catalogued Christian Brethren archives, some 60 collections are available via the Archives Hub, The University of Manchester’s Special Collections. All catalogued CBA holdings can be searched via The University’s Library Search

What is the Archive’s Research Potential?

The collection provides a rich resource for many disciplines including religion and theology, human geography, culture, history, politics and gender, as well as humanitarian studies and post colonialism. 

Recent research has focussed on topics such as women and the Brethren, for example the writer and evangelist Grace Grattan Guinness (1877-1967). Grace documented her travels as she accompanied her husband, Henry Grattan Guinness, a well known orator, on a five-year preaching tour of the world whilst on their honeymoon!

Grace Grattan Guinness’s honeymoon schedule, page one, 1903.

We regularly hold events which aim to show the amazing breadth of material within the CBA. For example, using items from the George Müller archive we participated in the Histories of Care (March 2023). A collections encounter and public roundtable which reflected on the social care and experience of children throughout history and sought to understand how these histories might inform the shape of future childcare. George Müller was the founder and director of the Ashley Down Orphan Homes in Bristol, England. In his lifetime, he cared for 10,000 orphaned children.

A. E. Booth, A Chart on the Course of Time from Eternity to Eternity, originally published in 1896 by the Loiseaux Brothers, Bible Truth Depot, New York, USA.

Signs of the Times. Maps and Charts of History and Prophecy was a public talk and collections encounter (March 2023) which looked at Brethren thinking about ‘End Times’ or the end of the world and discussed texts and images of apocalyptic imagery from the 8th century to the present day. Led by historians Professor Crawford Gribben, Queen’s University, Belfast, and Dr Andrew Crome, Manchester Metropolitan University, the event provided a unique opportunity to see first-hand some of the CBA’s mysterious maps and charts of prophecy and to get an overview of their history and purpose. A selection of the maps and charts is on display in the Rylands Gallery at The John Rylands Research Institute and Library until 11 November 2023.

Some of the maps of prophecy and history on display in the Rylands Gallery.

Jane Speller, Curator, Christian Brethren Archive
Contact uml.special-collections@manchester.ac.uk

Related

Browse all The University of Manchester’s Special Collections descriptions to date on Archives Hub

The Christian Brethren Archive is located at The University of Manchester Library

John Rylands Research Institute and Library Special Collections

Library Search – search all Christian Brethren Archive resources

University of Manchester Collections – view digitised Brethren collections

Rylands Blog – read about Brethren collections

Previous Archives Hub features on The University of Manchester collections

The Editorial Correspondence of C.P. Scott in the Guardian archive

A Spring in Your Step

James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth – pioneering educational reformer

Bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens

Charles Wesley (1707-88)

Robert Donat

All images copyright The University of Manchester. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

The Wellington Archive: forty years on

Archives Hub feature for March 2023

In 1983 the government allocated the papers of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, the long serving politician and the premier soldier of his generation, to the University of Southampton under national heritage legislation. The collection arrived on 17 March of that year. This brought to Southampton the University’s first major manuscript collection, leading to the creation of an Archives Department and the development of a major strand of activity within the University Library.

Official opening of the Wellington Suite Archives accommodation: Mr Naylor, University Librarian, Professor Smith, Department of History (hidden), Mr. Woolgar, Archivist, and the Duke of Wellington looking at display of papers, 14 May 1983.
Official opening of the Wellington Suite Archives accommodation: Mr Naylor, University Librarian, Professor Smith, Department of History (hidden), Mr. Woolgar, Archivist, and the Duke of Wellington looking at display of papers, 14 May 1983. [MS1/Phot/39/ph3526]

Composed of around 100,000 items that cover the Duke’s career as a soldier, statesman and diplomat from 1790 to his death in 1852, the collection bears witness to great military, political and social events of the time. It is exceptional among the papers of nineteenth-century figures for its size and scope.

Plan of Seringapatam at the time of its capture by Wellington, early 19th century.
Plan of Seringapatam at the time of its capture by Wellington, early 19th century [MS61/WP15/6]

Wellington’s time in India, 1798-1805, when he made his fortune and his name as a military commander, is well represented by three series of letter books, the first two series arranged chronologically, with the third, covering 1802-5, arranged by correspondent. The sections for the Peninsular War (1808-14) and for the Waterloo campaign provide an unrivalled source for the history of British participation. The collection also includes Wellington’s correspondence and papers for the congresses at the end of the Napoleonic wars and the allied occupation of France, 1815-18, a period when Wellington was a major player on the European political scene.

Letter from Wellington to Lord Bathurst after the battle of Vitoria using the phrase ‘scum of the earth’, 1813.
Letter from Wellington to Lord Bathurst after the battle of Vitoria using the phrase ‘scum of the earth’, 1813 [MS61/WP1/373/6]

Wellington was involved in politics throughout his career, serving as an MP in the Irish parliament in the 1780s onwards and as Chief Secretary for Ireland, 1807-9. There is considerable material for his political career post 1818, including two times as prime minister, as well as for his role as Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire and as Commander in Chief of the Army. Amongst the extensive number of cabinet papers, drafted in the Duke’s own hand is the memorandum written by Wellington and Peel setting out the details of the Catholic emancipation act of 1829. Material from his tenure as Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire includes death threats from Captain Swing dating from the Swing riots around the southern counties of England.

Letter to Wellington, signed “Swing” threatening assassination, n.d. c. 8 November 1830.
Letter to Wellington, signed “Swing” threatening assassination, n.d. c. 8 November 1830 [MS61/WP1/1159/114]

As the archive is from the great age of government by correspondence, as well as coinciding with a wider revolution in communication, it contains material from a wide cross section of society. Everyone wrote to the Duke of Wellington, offering the national hero their views on a whole range of subjects, asking for patronage, promotion or assistance, wishing to dedicate their works to him, or asking him to be the godfather of their children or to be allowed to name them after him. In response to one letter, Wellington noted with his usual acerbic wit the inconvenience of calling all boys born on his birth by the name “Arthur”.

Cataloguing the Wellington Archive in the 1980s using BBC microcomputers.
Cataloguing the Wellington Archive in the 1980s using BBC microcomputers.

The arrival of the Wellington Archive in 1983 was significant in another way in that it marked the beginning of Southampton’s long involvement in automated archive catalogues. The Wellington Papers Database could claim to be one of, if the not the earliest, online archive catalogue in the UK. Investigations into a system to support this were already underway in December 1982, prior to the arrival of the papers. In July 1983 the University decided to develop a manuscript cataloguing system using STATUS software and it was in use for cataloguing material early the following year. The cataloguing was done “offline” by the archivists on BBC microcomputers equipped with rudimentary word-processing packages – but no memory – and all text was saved onto floppy discs. It was subsequently transferred to an ICL mainframe computer for incorporation into the database by batch programme. This being the days prior to the WWW, the initial database was made available by the Joint Academic Network (JANET) and the public switched telephone network. It was initially scheduled to be made available 156 hours a week, rising to 168. In 2023 the catalogue of the Wellington Archive can be accessed in the Epexio Archive Catalogue, a new system that we launched in November 2021.

The collection also came with a major conservation challenge – some ten percent of the collection was so badly damaged it was unfit to handle and in a parlous state. Considerable progress has been made in addressing this. Important material is now available for research, including for the Peninsular War, papers for 1822 (for the Congress of Verona) and for Wellington as Prime Minister in 1829.  The badly degraded and mould-damaged bundles from 1832, significant as the time of the First Reform Act, are available for the first time since 1940.

19th Wellington Lecture – Martin Carthy.
19th Wellington Lecture – Martin Carthy.

The last forty years also has seen a great deal of outreach and activity focused on the Wellington Archive.  As well as research and teaching sessions, drop-in sessions, events and exhibitions, the Archives Department has arranged six international Wellington congresses. In 2015 and 2017 Karen Robson and Professor Chris Woolgar presented a MOOC they had co-created relating to Wellington and Waterloo. And since 1989 there has been the annual Wellington Lecture with speakers or presenters ranging from Elizabeth Longford to Martin Carthy.

To mark Wellington 40 this year we shall be running a number of events. Follow our social media campaign in March, join us for exhibitions in June/July and October and perhaps take part in the open day event in July: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wellington-papers-40-behind-the-scenes-at-the-archives-tickets-528206288227?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

Karen Robson
Head of Archives and Special Collections
University of Southampton Library

Related

Wellington papers, mid-late seventeenth century, 1790-1852

Browse the University of Southampton Special Collections descriptions to date on the Archives Hub

Previous features by University of Southampton

All images copyright University of Southampton Special Collections. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Stand and Stare: The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail Archive at the University of Gloucestershire

Archives Hub feature for February 2023

The University of Gloucestershire’s Special Collections and Archives joined Archives Hub in 2022. There are 14 collections at the university, charting everything from the history of the institution (founded as a teacher training college in 1847), to national collections including the Independent Television News (ITN) Image Archive and Local Heritage Initiative Archive. There is also an emphasis on local connections, with holdings on Gloucestershire poets, writers and artists. One such example is the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail Archive.

Artists at launch of project 1986 (ref: ST-1-3-6). Copyright: Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust.

The collection charts the history of the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, located at Beechenhurst Lodge in the heart of the Forest of Dean. In 1983, following the establishment of a sculpture trail in Exeter Forest, Martin Orrom (Forestry and Environment Officer, Forestry Commission) wrote a brief for the establishment of a sculpture trail in the Forest of Dean. The Elephant Trust provided £2,500 towards the project and in Spring 1984 around 20 artists were invited to visit the site and submit proposals for sculptures. Martin worked alongside Jeremy Rees (Founding Director of The Arnolfini, Bristol) and Rupert Martin (Curator at The Arnolfini). Six artists were chosen and these founding commissions were collectively titled “Stand and Stare”:

Peter Appleton – Sound Sculptures
Kevin Atherton – Cathedral
Andrew Darke – Sliced Log Star (Inside Out Tree)
Magdalena Jetelova – Place
David Nash – Black Dome/ Fire and Water Boats
Keir Smith – The Iron Road

Installation of Cathedral 1986 (ref: ST-3-3-5).
Installation of Cathedral 1986 (ref: ST-3-3-5). Copyright: Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust.

The trail was opened on 19 June 1986 by Sir David Montgomery, Chair of the Forestry Commission. By 1988, a second batch of sculptures had been installed including:

Bruce Allan – Observatory
Zadok Ben David – As There Is No Hunting Tomorrow
Miles Davies – House
Ian Hamilton Finlay – Grove of Silence
Tim Lees – The Heart of the Stone
Cornelia Parker – Hanging Fire
Peter Randall-Page – Cone and Vessel
Sophie Ryder – Crossing Place/ Deer/Searcher

Maquette of the sculpture House circa 1988 (ref: ST-3-9-7).
Maquette of the sculpture House circa 1988 (ref: ST-3-9-7). Copyright: University of Gloucestershire.

Since 1986, over 30 sculptures both temporary and permanent have been sited on the Sculpture Trail. The Forest is a living place, and the sculptures have come and gone leaving a mark on visitors and locals alike. Magdalena Jetelová’s ‘Place’, locally known as ‘Giant’s Chair’, was a huge chair sculpted from oak beams looking out over the landscape. It was originally planned as a temporary sculpture to be charcoaled in-situ, but this was deemed too dangerous. ‘Place’ remained on the trail for nearly 30 years before being decommissioned in 2015. It was dismantled and the wood turned to charcoal, reflecting one of the past industries of the forest, with the charcoal creating new artwork.

Magdalena Jetlova sculpture Place circa 1986 (ref: ST-3-14).
Magdalena Jetlova sculpture Place circa 1986 (ref: ST-3-14). Copyright: Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust.

The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust was established in 1988 as a registered charity overseeing the maintenance of the trail and commissioning new works. The trail is owned and managed by Forestry England. Since 2011, the Trust has deposited the archive of the trail with the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham. Material covers both the administrative and artistic processes involved. Formats encompass documents, books and publications, leaflets, drawings, videos, a maquette and other ephemera. There is even part of the original bark from ‘Place’ and some of the charcoaled sculpture. The collection has proved popular with arts students both at the university and wider afield. Both the trail and the archive continue to grow as the landscape evolves.

Charcoal from sculpture Place 2015 (ref: ST-3-14-26).
Charcoal from sculpture Place 2015 (ref: ST-3-14-26). Copyright: University of Gloucestershire.

The recent Forest to Forest project celebrated the trail’s 35th anniversary. To find out more about the site visit https://www.forestofdean-sculpture.org.uk/.

Louise Hughes
Special Collections and University Archivist
University of Gloucestershire

Related

Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail Archive, c.1976-2019

Browse the University of Gloucestershire Special Collections and Archives descriptions to date on Archives Hub


All images copyright Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust and University of Gloucestershire Special Collections and Archives. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Surveyors through the ages: a glimpse into the Lloyds Register archive

Archives Hub feature for January 2023

In March 2022 the Heritage and Education Centre (HEC) for Lloyds Register (LR) began an inventory of the archive holdings as large parts of the collections currently remain uncatalogued. Part of this work has highlighted the individual experiences of some of the surveyor’s working for LR over a period of nearly 200 years in the form of surveyor letter books, notebooks, and journals. Alongside the related survey reports, plans and correspondence which make up a core part of both the archive and the historic work of LR we can provide an insight into these unique individuals and their roles.

Some of the earliest surviving accounts of surveyors we hold come from two surveyors based in Scotland, Walter Paton (Leith and Firth of Forth ports) and John Bar Cumming (Clyde Ports). Their letter books and journals span the years 1834-1850, they generally contain information and notes from their time surveying vessels which accompanies the information which was to be captured on the ship survey reports and subsequently included in the Register Books. They also reflect the changes in shipping within a steadily growing global industrial world as well as showing the lives of individuals operating within shipping. On several occasions Walter Paton explains his dissatisfaction with the unwillingness of local ship owners and builders to pay the survey fees. In one letter John Bar Cummings puts forward a suggestion for a master of a ship to accept a job taking immigrants to Australia.

Page 163-164 of John Bar Cummings Letter book, 1838-1840.

The later survey report for David Clark shows that the person in question took this job.

Annual Surveys Report for David Clark 21st April 1841.

Both these surveyors reference meeting and contacting each other throughout their correspondence, demonstrating the networks of officials operating across the United Kingdom, and internationally, with a centralised contact with the London Office.

Surveyors were initially selected from positions as shipwrights and sea captains, not only was this practical experience with the understanding of ship construction and maintenance relevant for the tasks at hand but it also prepared the surveyors for the dangers of life at sea, this can be seen by Walter Paton assisting with a shipwreck of the coast of Leith. Reflecting a theme that runs through the history of LR, safety at sea. The surveyors often worked long hours and in the early days had limited holidays. As a letter book for John Bar Cummings shows, the work-life balance of some of the surveyors from this time was fraught with difficulty. Usually working the Christmas period, Cummings luckily had one holiday on Saturday 1st of January 1848 due to closed offices!

Page 22-23 of Walter Paton Letter book, 1834-1838.

The early ship survey reports often included additional information on the ship owners, ship builders, the vessel themselves or comments on events and activities at the port of survey. These often go hand in hand with the letter books and journals. The survey report for Hecla states that the vessel was thoroughly overhauled and fitted out as a whaling ship, for the now famous Northern expedition under Captain William Edward Parry, but that originally, she had been built as a bomb vessel for the Royal Navy.

Report of Survey for Hecla 31 January 1835 (page 1).
Report of Survey for Hecla 31 January 1835 (page 2).

Some of the later accounts of surveyors we hold provide less of a personal insight, but they do reveal how technology and industry were changing and the specialised knowledge that was required to undertake their roles. N H Burgess surveyor notebooks from the late 19th and early 20th century include various detailed diagrams and calculations and lists the safe number of staff that should be on any given ship at one time. Again, reflecting the continued theme of safety at sea within the work of the surveyors. Likewise, the Surveyor notebooks for S Archer from 1942 onwards contain various tables, diagrams, and calculations. Together they show the engineering, scientific and mathematical capabilities required for surveying in the first half of the 20th century. More information on these surveyors can be found listed on the ‘List of Surveyors’ (1) available on our website and found in the Lloyd’s Register of Ships.

Page from N H Burgess surveyor notebook 1901.

The surveyor journal for Bill Blacklock for 1962-1964, around South Shields, Liverpool and Middlesborough, reflects a great change in the global approaches towards energy and fuel. He was one of the surveyors to have worked on the HMS Dreadnaught, the UK’s first nuclear powered submarine.

Page 111 of Bill Ballock surveyor journal, 1962-1964.

The notebooks of surveyor John Mansfield covering the 1980s contain multiple volumes from his tenure at the then Machinery Design and Plan Approval Department. In addition to working for plan approval in London he was also positioned in Hamburg. They are typically representative of surveyors work from the time and detail the activities on the ground for the surveying staff. The notebooks include detailed diagrams, calculations and notes on engineering and shipbuilding, including extracts from letters and discussions for rules and regulations. In the case of the letter below, comments extended to the inspection of onboard CO2 fire extinguisher cannisters.

Page from John Mansfield surveyor notebook, 1980.

From surveying artic exploration vessels and shipwrecks, to inspecting nuclear powered vessels, these records offer unique insights into the working lives of the Lloyd’s Register Surveyor on sea and on land.

As noted above not all our collections are currently catalogued and searchable online, as our inventory and archival site mapping work progresses, HEC aims to make as much of this material freely and publicly accessible. HEC is currently closed for refurbishments, for further information on our archives, and access the ship plan and survey report, register books and list of surveyors please visit our online catalogue.

Zach Schieferstein, Archive Officer
Heritage & Education Centre
Lloyd’s Register Foundation

Related

(1) Lloyd’s Register List of Surveyors 1942-1947: Lloyd’s Register Foundation, Heritage & Education Centre: Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

Browse the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, Heritage and Education Centre descriptions to date on Archives Hub

All images copyright LRF heritage and education centre. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

A polymath’s archive: the Edward-Heron Allen Collection at West Sussex Record Office

Archives Hub feature for December 2022

The polymath Edward Heron-Allen (1861-1943) was a man of considerable talent and many interests. A solicitor by profession, his interests touched on a plethora of subjects: science, languages, literature and music. His pioneering treatise Violin-Making As It Was And Is, published in 1884, remains one of the key works on the instrument (the newest edition was published as recently as 2017). Heron-Allen’s study of Persian enabled him to publish a literal translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in 1898, and he lectured widely on the subject.

After moving to Selsey, a small fishing village on the Manhood peninsula in West Sussex, in 1911 (where he had built a house in 1904), Heron-Allen turned his attention to foraminifera (tiny, single-celled marine organisms) and published a large number of scientific papers, often in conjunction with the oceanographer Arthur Earland; as a result of this work, Heron-Allen was President of the Royal Microscopical Society from 1916-1917 and elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1919. Anxious to serve in World War I, Heron-Allen enlisted in Selsey’s Home Guard (where he lined his uniform with silk, for comfort), but his linguistic abilities eventually saw him work for the intelligence services, where he devised propaganda before serving on the front line in France, on special duty.

Copies of Heron-Allen’s science and science fiction books.
Copies of Heron-Allen’s The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, 1898 (EHA 1/4/1/9), Violin-Making As It Was And Is, 1884 (EHA 1/4/1/3), Codex Chirmontiae, 1883 (EHA 1/4/1/1) and A Manual of Cheirosophy, late 19th century (EHA 1/4/1/7).

Despite his grounding in the solid, traditional subjects of music, science, law and classical literature, Heron-Allen had a keen interest in the unseen and unknown world, and the occult. Under the pseudonym Christopher Blayre, Heron-Allen penned a number of early science fiction works, some of which are now regarded as classics, including The Cheetah Girl and The Purple Sapphire. This latter work was based on an amethyst which came into Heron-Allen’s own possession in 1890; supposedly cursed, Heron-Allen believed it wreaked havoc on his own life, to the extent that he eventually packed it in seven boxes and left it with his bankers, who were under strict instructions not to open it until 30 years after his death (it now forms part of the Natural History Museum’s collections). Years before he wrote his science fiction, Heron-Allen studied palmistry, publishing A Manual of Cheirosophy in 1885 and The Science of the Hand in 1886; such was his skill that he foretold the death of his younger daughter, Armorel, in a car crash in 1930, many years before the tragic event, merely by observing her hands.

Whilst Heron-Allen deposited many of his papers at institutions such as the Royal College of Music, the collection at West Sussex Record Office contains some of his more personal items, as well as copies of his many published works. Gathered for the most part by his grandson, Ivor Jones, the Edward Heron-Allen Collection (reference EHA) includes letters, visitor’s books, photographs, family material, and diaries, and it provides us with a clear sense of Heron-Allen’s personality.

The spines of three volumes of Heron-Allen’s bound travel journals.
The spines of three volumes of Heron-Allen’s bound travel journals (refs EHA 1/2/1/9-11).

The bulk of the collection is formed by Heron-Allen’s holiday journals, a meticulous, expansive set of 32 volumes, dating from 1885-1937, all written in Heron-Allen’s neat hand and featuring photographs and postcards alongside all manner of ephemera, from menus, wine cards, bills and receipts, train tickets and timetables, deck plans, and even laundry lists.

Pages from Volume XI of Heron-Allen’s travel journals, featuring Paris
Pages from Volume XI of Heron-Allen’s travel journals, featuring Paris, where Heron-Allen and his wife, Edith, spent their honeymoon in November 1903. Reference EHA 1/2/1/11.

Locations range from British destinations such as Harrogate and Penzance, to European countries including Belgium, France and Italy, and further afield to Constantinople (now Istanbul), Egypt and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Whilst some journals record holidays, others record scientific trips, such as the survey of Clare Island (Ireland), alongside Arthur Earland, in 1911, and the British Association’s meeting at Dundee in 1912.

Pages from Volume X of Heron-Allen’s travel journals, featuring Egypt
Pages from Volume X of Heron-Allen’s travel journals, featuring Egypt, which Heron-Allen visited in 1903. Heron-Allen can be seen in the photograph on the right of the page, on board the SS Tewfik. Reference EHA 1/2/1/10.
Part of a leaflet for a watchmaker and jewellers in Cairo, pasted into Volume X of Heron-Allen’s travel journals.
Part of a leaflet for a watchmaker and jewellers in Cairo, pasted into Volume X of Heron-Allen’s travel journals. Heron-Allen visited Egypt in 1903. Reference EHA 1/2/1/10.

All provide evidence of Heron-Allen’s personality, as well as a slice of social and local history, and can provide wonderful detail for researchers interested in a particular locality visited by Heron-Allen.

Photographs pasted into Volume IX of Heron-Allen’s travel journals, probably taken in Turkey.
Photographs pasted into Volume IX of Heron-Allen’s travel journals, probably taken in Turkey, which Heron-Allen visited in 1902. Reference EHA 1/2/1/9.

Local history was another of Heron-Allen’s keen interests, and another subject in which he excelled. After moving to Selsey in 1911, Heron-Allen quickly published his epic work, Selsey Bill Historic and Prehistoric, providing an exhaustive geographical history of the area; a condensed, ‘popular’ version of this was delivered by lecture at Chichester High School for Girls in 1911, illustrated by lantern slides. Heron-Allen also produced numerous scholarly articles on the area, primarily for the Sussex Archaeological Collections.

Perhaps more accessible for many of us are his seven volumes of Selseyana, dating from 1901-1937, comprising press cuttings, reports of local associations, postcards, posters and handbills, and assorted other ephemera, all of which provide a compelling story of what it was like to live on the peninsula. As with his other work, Heron-Allen’s thirst for knowledge, eye for detail and compulsion to collect have provided us with a social as well as physical history of this small corner of West Sussex.

 A handbill advertising Heron-Allen’s ‘Attractive Scientific Lecture’ on ‘Nature and History at Selsey Bill’.
A handbill advertising Heron-Allen’s ‘Attractive Scientific Lecture’ on ‘Nature and History at Selsey Bill’, held at Chichester High School for Girls on February 4, 1911. Reference MP 118.

The Edward Heron-Allen Collection is freely available to view at West Sussex Record Office. For information on opening times, our location and access conditions, please click see our website

The Edward Heron-Allen Society was formed in 2000. It hosts regular symposia and publishes a series of Opuscula, which concern the symposia and biographical matters relating to Heron-Allen. More about the Heron-Allen Society.

You can find out more about the Purple Sapphire on the Natural History Society’s website.

Nichola Court, Archivist
West Sussex Record Office

Related

The Edward Heron-Allen Collection, 1850 – ongoing

Browse the West Sussex Record Office descriptions to date on the Archives Hub

Birth of a Broadcasting Institution: British Broadcasting Company Papers and Reith Diaries at the BBC Written Archives Centre

Archives Hub feature for November 2022

The BBC is celebrating its centenary this year and the BBC Written Archives Centre in Caversham holds the documents that chronicle the Corporation’s contribution to the cultural history of the UK.

Rather than try and cover all 100 years in one post (you can see our selection of 100 objects here) I have picked out a couple of collections that come right at the beginning of the BBC’s story.

The Company Papers: from Company to Corporation

It’s hard to imagine a world without broadcast media, but in early 1922 the UK’s General Post Office (GPO) and a group of wireless manufacturers were busy negotiating how a nationwide system for wireless broadcasting on a large scale could be implemented and funded.

BBC-CO1-2 – Memo from the GPO outlining the Postmaster General’s considerations for broadcasting licences.

These discussions resulted in the formation of the ‘British Broadcasting Company’, the BBC’s predecessor before it was established under a Royal Charter in 1927.  The commercial company was granted a licence to broadcast by the GPO, funded by royalties from the sales of wireless sets from approved manufacturers. The Company was formed on 18th October 1922, registered on 15th December 1922 and received its Licence from the Post Office on 18th January 1923.

BBC/CO1/4/1 and BBC/CO1/5/1 – BBC Company Board of Directors Agenda Book and Attendance Book.

Daily broadcasts began on 14th November 1922 from Marconi House on the Strand. The regular programme on the 2LO London station included music, drama and ‘talks’ for several hours each day. Licences to receive the broadcasts could be obtained for 10 shillings.

There was soon debate about the relationship between the newly formed Company and the government. This came to a head with the General Strike in 1926, which opened up the possibility that the government could use the BBC as a means of promoting its own views. The Company managed to maintain its impartiality while covering the crisis, broadcasting from the point of the view of the strikers and the government, which appealed to the general public.

BBC/CO1/31/6 – General Strike News Bulletins for 8th May 1925 – Draft Copies.

Partly as a result of navigating the right tone for the strike and partly via the outcome of two committees to review the new medium of radio broadcasting (Sykes Committee in 1923 and Crawford Committee in 1925) the British Broadcasting Company was reorganised as a public service to become the British Broadcasting Corporation on 1st January 1927.

The papers in the archive for series CO1 cover the Company’s formation and organisation, including correspondence with the radio trade, politicians, and the press. The files, which include discussions around the first programme content and the tensions brought about by the General Strike, provide a fascinating glimpse into the origins of an organisation that is now so well-known.

Reith Diaries: the Founder of the BBC

John Reith (later Sir John Reith, and subsequently 1st Baron Reith of Stonehaven) became the first General Manager of the British Broadcasting Company in 1922 and the first Director-General of the Corporation from 1927 to 1938. His name has become so connected with the style and output of the BBC through his mission to ‘inform, educate and entertain’ that the term ‘Reithian’ has come to describe these principles of broadcasting.

MIP1610 – DG Portrait – Sir John Reith by Oswald Hornby Joseph Birley.

Born in 1889, Reith was son of a Scottish minister. He trained and worked as an engineer and factory manager, spending two years in America and serving as a lieutenant in the First World War. He successfully applied for the post of General Manager of the British Broadcasting Company in 1922, when there was little thought as to the direction it should take. This was to become the start of Reith’s ideas of broadcasting as a force for social good, with an intrinsically moral tone.

Having led the BBC through its formation as a Corporation, the introduction of overseas services and the launch of television, Reith resigned in 1938. He was involved in a number of high positions in government and as a chairman of several organisations before his death in 1971.   

The archive holds Reith’s personal papers as a Special Collection. Most notable are his diaries, which span from 1911 to his death. The volumes are a mixture of typed and handwritten material and cover Reith’s personal thoughts and decisions on both the business and domestic sides of his life, including the key events of his time at the BBC.

ACQ/S/S60/6/5 – Enclosure Volume 1927-1930.

Alongside the diaries are a collection of enclosure volumes, known as scrapbooks. These contain Reith’s hand-picked mementoes of his life and include letters, press cuttings and ephemera such as postcards and greetings cards. They help to provide a more personal portrait of Reith, who is so often associated purely with his working life.  

All of this material combines with everything in the written archives to provide extra context to well-known stories and increase our understanding of how past events shaped the BBC.

Further Information

Collection level descriptions for the BBC Broadcasting Company Papers and the Reith Special Collection are available to view on the Archives Hub:

Descriptions listing individual files will soon be available via the BBC Written Archives Centre’s in-house catalogue, which is currently in development.

The BBC Written Archives Centre is available to visit by appointment if you are carrying out an academic or commercial project.

For further information on the BBC centenary:

Matthew Chipping
Archive Collections Manager (WAC Catalogue)
BBC Written Archives Centre

Related

Browse the BBC Written Archives Centre descriptions to date on Archives Hub

All images copyright the BBC. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Archiving Art Deco: The Podolsky Collection at the Goldsmiths’ Company Library and Archive

Archives Hub feature for October 2022

In 2027 the Goldsmiths’ Company will celebrate 700 years since it received its first royal charter, which formalised the company’s existence as a craft guild.

To mark this anniversary, a programme of cataloguing and digitisation is underway to make the archives more widely accessible. Sharing the catalogues on public forums – such as the Archives Hub – is a vital aspect of this project.

The archives of the Goldsmiths’ Company date back to the 14th century, with the earliest minutes recorded in 1334. The company prides itself on the breadth of its archival collections; with records covering not only the broad administrative past of the company, but also the history of making and retailing in precious metals. The variety in the archives reflects the strong ties between the craft and the company that remain to this day.

The Podolsky Collection is an excellent example of a maker’s archive, recording all aspects of jewellery craft and trade; from design, to the promotion and sale of wares. Spanning from 1920-2010, the series also offers insight into the resilience of the trade and the evolution of style across the decades.

Paul Podolsky, liveryman of the Goldsmiths’ Company.

Most of the collection was donated to the archive by Paul Podolsky, a liveryman of the Goldsmiths’ Company with a career in jewellery spanning over 70 years. Throughout his career he worked both as a designer, then as an executive, dedicating himself to the company set up by his father Eyna Podolsky.

Eyna Podolsky, a Ukrainian immigrant and the son of metalworkers, began his career with an apprenticeship with a jeweller at just 12, eventually becoming a skilled diamond mounter, setter and engraver.

He was able to start his own business in 1920 and was so successful he employed around 40 people. Originally diamond mounters and watchcase makers, the firm was first known as The British National Watch Case Co.

Eyna Podolsky was the first man in Britain to go into mass production of platinum and diamond-set wrist watches, which were mainly sold to wholesalers.

AC/4/1/3/107: designs for diamond-set wrist watches.

The company also had orders for other pieces of jewellery and commissions from some private clients. In total there are over 130 design drawings in the collection, many of which are from the 1920s and 1930s and so are excellent examples of Art Deco work.

AC/4/1/3/26: design for a brooch or double clip.
AC/4/1/3/93: design drawing for a bracelet, showing annotations to design.

Paul Podolsky’s childhood was spent in and out of his father’s workshops, learning techniques from craftspeople long before he officially joined the firm. Despite this upbringing, Paul didn’t initially want to be a jeweller; he left school at 16 to join a commercial art studio in 1939. The outbreak of war soon closed this down, and Paul joined his father’s studio as an apprentice diamond mounter, by which time the business was thriving in its Hatton Garden premises.

AC/4/2/1: Business card, in 1938 the firm became known as E. Podolsky & Co., Ltd.

The markets depressed during the war and many young jewellers joined the army, leaving an aging workforce. These gaps were supplemented by an influx of Jewish refugees to Hatton Garden leading up to the war. Paul Podolsky recalls craftspeople from all over the former British Empire coming to work in London at this time, including a German-Jewish refugee named ‘Margot’ who joined the Podolsky workshop.

AC/4/1/3/18: design drawing for a brooch, reportedly designed by ‘Margot’ a German-Jewish refugee named Margot working at the company during the war.
AC/4/1/3/19: design drawing for a brooch by Paul Podolsky, inspired by ‘Margot’s’ design.

Like many jewellers E. Podolsky & Co. Ltd. switched to supplying for the war effort – using their small tools to create objects such as fuses. Production at times was 24 hours a day with Paul and his colleagues working night shifts.

After his own service in the army (1944-1947), Paul Podolsky took control of the business, and one of his first actions in charge was to acquire the jewellery subdivisions of Birmingham firms Blanckensee and Albion Chain who had decided to concentrate on engineering work after the war. 

This new venture had to pivot away from the fine work produced between the wars to produce cheaper 9ct items. Many of the initial designs were drawn by Paul Podolsky himself as he was unable to afford a professional designer. It was a gamble, but his economy paid off, with the company still producing commercial jewellery well into the 1980s.

AC/4/1/3/136: designs for more economical brooches in the post-war market.

Further information

The listings for the Paul Podolsky collection are available on Archives Hub: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb1990-ac/4

The archive is also available to view by appointment at the Goldsmiths Company Library and Archive:
https://www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk/craft/library-research/

Listen to the Goldsmiths’ Company Librarian, Eleni Bide’s talk on Paul Podolsky here: https://vimeo.com/674581225

For further information on the history of the Goldsmiths’ Company:
https://www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk/company/history/history-of-the-company/

Sophie Leverington
Archivist
The Goldsmiths’ Company
Goldsmith’s Hall

Related

Browse The Goldsmiths’ Company Library and Archive descriptions to date on the Archives Hub

All images copyright The Goldsmiths’ Company. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Establishment of the East London Mosque Archives

Archives Hub feature for September 2022

About the East London Mosque Archives

Mosque, referred to as a place of worship for Muslims is probably not something that would jump to our minds when we think of archives. It is not surprising then that people are often intrigued to learn that the East London Mosque, which is one of London’s oldest Mosque has its own archive repository located in its complex; the Maryam Centre in Whitechapel. Established as an archive service in 2015, the ELM Archives as it is commonly called, has unique and rich archive collections documenting the various aspects of British Muslim-related history, which is housed in a purpose built Strong Room. At the moment, it is the only mosque in Britain with such facility.

Strong Room, November 2017. Section of the mobile roller racking within the new purpose built Strong Room with some of the East London Mosque archives on the shelves.
Strong Room, November 2017. Section of the mobile roller racking within the new purpose built Strong Room with some of the East London Mosque archives on the shelves.

The ELM Archives Project

The ELM Archives holds the institutional records, dating from 1910 onwards of the East London Mosque Trust, which is responsible for the administration and management of the Mosque. What is perhaps not widely known is that the Archives came into existence from a campaign initiated by the Mosque to preserve its own heritage. This all begun in 1995, when the late Muhammad Suleiman Jetha who was a former Chairman of the East London Mosque rediscovered and bequeathed the documents he had taken during the World War II bombings for safekeeping back to the Mosque. The deposit contained the London Mosque Fund Minute Book and collection of letters, which provided wealth of information on the creation and shaping of the East London Mosque. Realising the value, this led to the start of an effort, later to become recognised as the ELM Archives Project, to professionally organise and store the Mosque archives.

The London Mosque Fund Minute Book, 1910-1951
The London Mosque Fund Minute Book, 1910-1951. Part of the East London Mosque Trust archive collection, the London Mosque Fund Minute Book records a great deal of information right back to the first meeting in 1910, including how the London Mosque Fund raised money; how it invested the funds when they were established; the search for property; and how the fund helped other organisations in the interim period before it bought the premises for the Mosque. The minutes are written in a beautiful handwriting for the first 150 pages and from 1930s onwards there inserts of typewritten sheets.

Not much was done until 2012 when the Mosque secured the help of a qualified Archivist to carry out a two day scoping study of the existing materials to identify the work required for long term protection and management of the archives. The report compiled at the end offered recommendations on how to classify, catalogue, preserve and provide access to the archives.

Further progress was made as the Mosque submitted a successful application for The National Archives’ Cataloguing Grants programme in 2013. This secured a grant to recruit a temporary Archivist for 1 year to catalogue the archives. At the same time, an Archives Steering Group was formed, comprising of different individuals with relevant expertise within the Mosque and externally from the Religious Archives Group to deliver strategic guidance for the Project. By the end of 2014, the archives were appraised, sorted and catalogued accordingly to best practice in archival standards onto the Archives Hub. Moreover, all the archive materials were labelled, repackaged into acid free folders and put into acid free boxes.

Transition to Archives Service

Inside of The London Mosque Fund Minute Book, 1910-1951.
Inside of The London Mosque Fund Minute Book, 1910-1951.

The success of the cataloguing meant that the archive collection of the East London Mosque Trust went live on the Archives Hub in September 2014, and for the time it was made available to the public for online browsing. To accommodate enquiries and facilitate requests to access the archives, 9 volunteers were recruited. They were given training on how to retrieve and put away documents, supervise researchers and assist with basic queries by the Archivist.

The Reading Room service and the online catalogue were officially launched in January 2015. Since then, the Archives has been hosting both internal and external researchers. Access to the Reading Room is free and open to everyone. The Reading Room currently operates on a part time basis and researchers are requested to book an appointment in advance before their intended visit. Further details of the opening hours can be found on the Archives repository homepage within the Archives Hub.

For the long term storage of the archive materials, the Archives Steering Group researched and developed specifications and requirements to build a purpose built Strong Room in the Maryam Centre. Standards relevant at the time, such as PD 5454:2012 Guide for the Storage and Exhibition of Archival Materials and The National Archives’ Standard for Record Repositories, which gave recommendations for storing and keeping archives within best practice and incorporated factors such as repository construction, storage environment, fire protection and prevention and temperature and humidity parameters were taken into consideration. The built also took into account archival storage needs for the next 50 years. Soon after, fundraising for the necessary construction and equipment began. The building of the Strong Room, equipped with mobile shelving, monitoring system for humidity, humidifiers and extractors, fire proofing and fire alarm system and water drainage arrangements was accomplished and inaugurated on 22 November 2017 by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Launch Day, January 2015. The event celebrated the completion of cataloguing of the East London Mosque Trust archive collection and launch of the online catalogue on Archives Hub and opening of the Reading Room service. Photograph shows Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, Simon Hughes, Former Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties, Eilís McCarthy, Project Archivists with Archive Volunteers.
Launch Day, January 2015. The event celebrated the completion of cataloguing of the East London Mosque Trust archive collection and launch of the online catalogue on Archives Hub and opening of the Reading Room service. Photograph shows Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, Simon Hughes, Former Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties, Eilís McCarthy, Project Archivists with Archive Volunteers.

The ELM Archives Now

It has been a long journey and the ELM Archives has now transitioned from a Project to a Service. In 2018, a part time permanent Archivist was employed by the Mosque to manage the growing archive collections. The Archives started with the intention of just preserving the history of the East London Mosque but now endeavours to create a repository for all and any records relating to British Muslims in Britain.

With the collecting remit broadened, at present, the Archives has the following archival collections in its holdings:

Due to a backlog, not all these collections have been fully catalogued and made available on the Archives Hub yet. Please contact the East London Mosque Archives for further information.     

Further Information 

Browse all the East London Mosque Archives collection descriptions on the Archives Hub.

Ways to connect with the East London Mosque Archives:

Email: archives@londonmuslimcentre.org.uk

Website: http://eastlondonmosquearchives.org.uk/

Twitter: @ELM Archives

Instagram: ELM_Archives

To discover the history of the East London Mosque, from the formation of the London Mosque Fund in 1910, the opening of the first Mosque buildings in 1941, making of the Mosque in Whitechapel to the present day, browse the following links:

https://www.eastlondonmosque.org.uk/history

https://www.ourmigrationstory.org.uk/oms/the-east-london-mosque

https://surveyoflondon.org/map/feature/954/detail/

The London Mosque Fund Minute Book from the East London Mosque Trust archive collection has been digitised and a copy can be accessed here:

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/royal-historical-society-camden-fifth-series/article/london-mosque-fund/800E27BBC9A990B01C1AB43B7515A079

Shahera Begum, Archivist
East London Mosque & London Muslim Centre

All images copyright East London Mosque Archives. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Larkin with archives

Archives Hub feature for August 2022

Preserving a literary legacy…

‘I feel the only thing you can do about life is to preserve it, by art if you’re an artist, by children if you’re not’ (PAL, letter to Monica Jones)

Self-portrait taken by Larkin whilst on a beach in Sark with Monica Jones, 1961 [RefNo. U DLV/2/5/49]

The 9th of August 2022 marks the centenary of the birth of poet and librarian Philip Arthur Larkin.

His approach to life as represented in the above quote will resonate with anyone involved in archival work and research. It speaks to the core function of the archivist in preserving the surviving evidence of past thoughts, beliefs and events.

Although not born in Hull, Larkin was intimately connected with the city. Appointed to the post of Librarian at the University of Hull in March 1955, he spent half of his life in the area, living first in Cottingham, then in Hull’s Pearson Park, and finally in the well-to-do area of Newland Park near the University. Some of his most famous works were inspired by the experience of living in, travelling from and returning to the city. During his time at the University, he guided the library through a period of significant development, helping to transform it from a small operation in a series of makeshift spaces, to a purpose built and sector-leading academic library. Through his collaboration with academic colleagues, he promoted the growth of Hull University Archives from a small selection of manuscripts to an internationally significant repository for archive collections. So, it is fitting that his surviving archive is held at Hull as part of the University Archives.

Creative process of a poet…

‘[T]o construct a verbal device that would preserve an experience indefinitely by reproducing it in whoever read the poem’ (PAL, definition of the purpose of a poet, from Required Reading)

Self-portrait taken by Larkin whilst in Oxford, 1941 [RefNo. U DLV/2/1/14]

One of the most important of the Larkin related collections held at Hull is his personal archive which contains, amongst other things, his manuscript poetry workbooks.

Draft of poem ‘Fiction and the reading public’, 19 May 1949 [RefNo U DPL/1/2/56]

Written in pencil, they contain manuscript drafts of poems written by Larkin, and provide evidence that he drafted and redrafted individual poems over several days or weeks, even returning to them months later. The pages sometimes feature small doodles or comments, giving us an insight into his feelings and state of mind in a given moment. Thus, the workbooks are a vital and unique record of Larkin’s creative process.

Capturing a view on life…

‘I feel the only thing you can do about life is to preserve it, by art if you’re an artist, by children if you’re not’ (PAL, letter to Monica Jones)

Spring Bank Cemetery taken by Larkin, c.1960s [RefNo. U DLV/3/249/14]

Aside from writing poetry, Larkin was a keen and skilled amateur photographer and the evidence is preserved in his photographic archive [RefNo. U DLV]. Having shown an interest in photography from a young age, Larkin was given a camera to use by his father, a Houghton-Butcher Ensign Carbine No.5. In a letter dated 1947, addressed to a childhood friend, he notes that he has spent a large amount of money on a camera of his own, believed to be a Purma Special. From this point there was no looking back, and later on he became known for his use of a professional quality Rolleiflex camera with timers, lenses and filters.

Gull streaked mud flats along the banks of the Humber River, taken and marked up for enlargement by Larkin, c.1957 [RefNo. U DLV/3/91/4 and U DLV/2/5/32]

His approach to photography seems akin to that of his writing. His photographs skilfully capture the experience of everyday life according to fundamental principles of photographic composition. His subjects regularly include self-portraits, rural landscapes, church yards, and the friends, family and women in his life. His surviving photographs often show evidence that he marked up prints for enlargement to create a better composition.

Communication is key…

‘Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf. Get out as early as you can, And don’t have any kids yourself’ (PAL, This be the verse)

Self-portrait of Larkin and Monica Jones, taken by Larkin, c.1950s [U DMA]

In an age of emails, texts and social media, we perhaps forget how important letter writing was to communication in the mid-20th century. Larkin was a prolific letter writer, maintaining contact with friends, acquaintances, and family on a regular basis. There are many collections of his correspondence at Hull.

Letter from Larkin to James ‘Jim’ Sutton, 1940 [U DP174/2/9]

Highlights include letters sent to Monica Jones, his life-long partner [RefNo. U DX341], which reveal their close and frank relationship, along with aspects of Larkin’s character and life views. Another highlight is the correspondence between Larkin and his childhood friend James Sutton [U DP174 and U DP182]. The two friends discuss home life, friends, jazz music, and their current creative endeavours, which provides opportunity to explore Larkin’s formative years at home, school and university.

Further information…

In this centenary year we’ve been busy working to enhance access to the Larkin collections, improving catalogue descriptions, producing a new source guide and creating an online exhibition.

To access the source guide: https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/archives-at-hhc/published-guides

To explore the online exhibition: https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/larkin100/home

Claire Weatherall, Archivist
Hull University Archives

Related

Collections at Hull University Archives relating to Philip Larkin – letters, papers and more

Browse all Hull University Archives descriptions on the Archives Hub

Previous features on Hull University Archives

For those in peril on the sea – Seamen’s Missions archives at Hull History Centre (2019)

Papers of the Association of Chief Police Officers – the National Reporting Centre (2016)

Liberty, Parity and Justice at the Hull History Centre (2010)

All images copyright Hull University Archives. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.