New exhibition: Binned, banned, bombed: selection and survival in Special Collections & Archives

Have you ever wondered why there is what there is in Special Collections & Archives?

Our collections are a fascinating mixture of what survives physical degradation, individual actions, historical events and official censure. But just because something has survived for a long time doesn’t automatically mean it has a place in Special Collections & Archives.

The survival of printed books and archival collections usually contains an element of serendipity; a modicum of good fortune which means they have been able to transcend neglect, wilful destruction, environmental dangers and the censure of authority. But there is also the hand of the librarian and archivist in evidence, selecting and preserving through careful management to ensure the items are kept secure and made available for years to come in a way that is appropriate to both the resources available and the intellectual content of the broader collections.

Our new exhibition displays a range of items from the collections to provide an insight into some of the issues we deal with whilst working to ensure our collections are cared for and made available to facilitate your research and requests. 

For more information on the exhibition, please see our website here.

Visit us anytime between 9:30am-4:45pm Monday – Friday at the Ground Floor Grove Wing of the Sydney Jones Library to view the display, no appointment is needed. Also, keep an eye on our twitter for information on special events focused around the material used in the exhibition.

Reference round-up

A review of some recent additions to the Special Collections & Archives reference collection held in the SC&A reading room gives a snapshot of some of the research taking place at the tables there. It include works engaged with, or illustrated from, collections as diverse as the Cunard Archive, 18th- and 19th-century Liverpool writings, the papers of David Owen, and illustrated editions of Homer.

Marc-Antoine Bombail and Michael Gallagher, The fleet book (2017)

The fleet book by Marc-Antoine Bombail and Michael Gallagher gives,

A complete and detailed list of all the Cunard ships that have served with the company since 1840. Each vessel is classified in chronological order of entry into Cunard service, and has a brief description, and history, while the majority of them are accompanied by a photograph.

The book uses many illustrations from the Cunard Archive.

David Owen, Cabinet’s finest hour (2016)

David Owen’s Cabinet’s finest hour adds to the section of the SC&A reference collection devoted to the David Owen Archive, which was deposited at the University following on  Lord Owen’s tenure as Chancellor, 1996 – 2008.

Special issues of La questione romantica on Edward Rushton’s bicentenary (2017)

The two special issues La questione romantica on the bicentenary of Edward Rushton (1756-1814) cover many of the activities and participants celebrating one of Liverpool’s forgotten heroes. They draw on early printed editions of Rushton’s works from Special Collections and include wide-ranging essays on his career as poet, abolitionist, founder of the Liverpool Blind School and on the wider contemporary culture of Liverpool.

One aspect of that culture was the thriving ceramic industry, which also features in the most recent addition to the reference collections:

Dick Henrywood, Transferware Recorder 4 (2018)

The volume includes reproductions of John Flaxman’s designs for The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer from William Sotheby’s 1834 edition in the Homer collection of illustrated editions. The designs appeared on soup tureens, vegetable dishes, sugar boxes, teapots, wash jugs, and sauceboats.




The General Election 2017

As the U.K. prepares itself to vote in the snap General Election, we thought it fitting to show some of the printed and archival material held here in Special Collections and Archives from the elections of the past.

Within our printed collection holdings, many pamphlets of the nineteenth century highlight the popular political topics of the day. Sydney Charles Buxton became an MP for the Liberal Party in the late nineteenth century, shortly after his publication of Electoral Purity and Economy (London: The London and Counties Liberal Union, 1882). The paper is written to suggest reforms in the electoral process to counteract bribery and expenses, which the reader is encouraged to undertake and promote themselves. The below referenced “crushed” Corrupt Practices Act finally came into fruition in 1883, formally known as the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act. This was the first act which required the expenses of candidates to be publicly published.

SPEC Y84.3.269 (9)

SPEC Y84.3.269 (9)

We also hold archival material relating to individuals who held both local and national political positions. Eleanor Rathbone sat as an Independent MP for the Combined English Universities, and as a local councilor for the Granby Ward from 1909 -1935. Eleanor was instrumental in the passing of a number of bills, including those with a focus upon benefiting the socio-economic position of women and children.

RP XIV.3.3

RP XIV.3.3

The Glasier papers provide us with an insight to the political movements of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) through politician John Bruce Glasier and his wife, Katharine Glasier. In 1900 John Bruce Glasier became the chair of the ILP, which he held for three years. In the campaign pamphlet shown below, Glasier was standing in Bordesley, Birmingham – a campaign which was unsuccessful.

GP/5/2/2 (6)

GP/5/2/2 (6)

Lastly, the David Owen Archive is abundant with material relating to his time as a member of both the Labour party and the Social Democrats. Below is campaign material from the 1974 parliamentary election, when Owen was successfully elected as MP for Plymouth Devonport, holding the seat for the Labour Party.

D709 2/2/4/3

D709 2/2/4/3

D709 2/2/4/3

D709 2/2/4/3

All of the items included within this post are available to view in our reading room. Please see our website for more information on booking an appointment.

You can read the Manuscripts and More post for the General Election in 2015 here.

February: UK LGBT History Month, a guest post by Darren Mooney

Thursday 27th July 2017 will probably be a fairly quiet day here at the University of Liverpool. The excitement of the previous week’s graduation ceremonies will have dissipated, and many will be looking forward to a relaxing summer. However, Thursday 27th July 2017 also marks the 50th Anniversary of when The Sexual Offenses Act 1967 came into effect in England and Wales, legalising same-sex relationships between men (lesbian relationships were not illegal).

In 1957 the ‘Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution’ published the Wolfenden Report, which recommended that male homosexuality should be decriminalised. However, it took another 10 years of public debate and parliamentary discussion until the Sexual Offenses Act was officially passed. This decriminalisation was limited in scope, as it only applied if there were two participants aged 21 or over, and the act took place in private. Failure to comply with these rules could potentially result in 2-5 years imprisonment.

Since then a lot of things have changed. Laws have been repealed, and new legal rights created, and social attitudes towards gay people have been transformed.

Back in 2011, we here at the Diversity and Equality team decided to research if, how, and when the issues of ‘homosexuals’ had come up here at Liverpool University. When I was a student in the early 00’s, I had friends here at Liverpool who were active in the ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans Committee’ in the Guild. We went on lobbies of parliament and NUS LGB Conferences, they ran campaigns and lobbied for new Guild Policies on LGBT issues. So, I knew at least that there was some activity going on from the early 2000’s to today.

So I took myself off to Special Collections and Archives in the Sydney Jones Library to see what they had, I spoke to the Guild and went through old minute books, and I even went through my own archive in case there was anything of use.

Gay Times, Issue 115, April 1988. Darren Mooney Personal Archive.

Gay Times, Issue 115, April 1988. Personal Archive of Darren Mooney.

The outcome of all of this was an exhibition which I called Pink Brick [a play on Red Brick]: LGBT Histories of the University of Liverpool, in the Victoria Gallery and Museum. A website was also developed to archive the exhibition materials and make available some of the references used. This is still a project in development, and each LGBT History Month we make sure that at least some of it is updated.

So, what did we find in Special Collections and Archives in relation to Liverpool University?

The earliest reference to ‘homosexuals’ I came across was an article in the Guild Gazette newspaper, whereby the columnist ‘Cornus’ undertakes some investigative journalism to find out what the ‘homosexual victims’ think about the idea of decriminalisation:

“Should homosexuality be made lawful? Do we heed the plaintive calls of O- W- [Oscar Wilde] and other cultured sodomites or do we maintain our steadfast disgust and intolerance against such practices?

This was 27th November 1961, the same year the Beatles first performed in the Cavern, the Runcorn Bridge was opened, and the pill becomes available on the NHS (Guild Gazette, Tuesday 27th November 1961, reference R/LF379.5.G95.U55).

Gay Times, Issue 154, July 1991. Personal Archive of Darren Mooney

Gay Times, Issue 154, July 1991. Personal Archive of Darren Mooney.

In 1971 a group of students who were members of the Liverpool Campaign for Homosexual Equality (C.H.E) group floated the idea of setting up a student society. They had their first stall at the 1971 Fresher’s Fair, and on the 15th May 1972 the Guild Council formally approved the establishment of the ‘Homophile Society’, what is now called the LGBT Society. In the 1980s the Liverpool University GaySoc often held discussion groups regarding prominent LGBT issues, which are as significant to LGBT+ people today as they were back then.

A161 67 Bi Coffee

A161/67 Liverpool University GaySoc Flyer, dated April 1982.

A161/67 Liverpool University GaySoc Flyer, dated 1981

A161/67 Liverpool University GaySoc Flyer, dated 1981

Nationally, the NUS passed the first comprehensive motion on gay rights in April 1973 [‘NUS Supports Gay Rights at Exeter Conference’ Guild Gazette, 8th May, 1973] , and held the first ever Gay Rights Conference in October of the same year [‘What they said at the Gay Lib Conference’ Guild Gazette, 31st October 1973]. The NUS continued to hold events, such as the “N.U.S Gay Rights Campaign National Week of Action”, as shown in the below flyer created by the Liverpool University GaySoc.

A161/67 Liverpool University GaySoc Flyer, dated 6th May 1976

A161/67 Liverpool University GaySoc Flyer, dated 6th May 1976.

Also held at Special Collections and Archives, the David Owen archive also provides an insight into the support for Gay rights from the SDP party in the 1980s. Below is the Gay Social Democrat, marketed as the “official journal of Social Democrats for gay rights”, and published as a quarterly newsletter.

D709/3/8/2/2 Gay Social Democrat newsletter

D709/3/8/2/2, Gay Social Democrat newsletter, dated June 1984

As a personally strong advocate for gay rights, Lord Owen is here outlining in the Gay Times the principles of the Liberal party, which will uphold legal rulings to support gay rights and focus on eliminating social stigma.

D709/3/18/6/34, Gay Times, Issue ... p. 32.

D709/3/18/6/34, Gay Times, Issue 91, April 1986, p. 32.

Since 2000, we have seen the ban on LGBT people in the military lifted, the age of consent reduced to match that of straight people, employment protections introduced, the right to marry, the right to legal transition, and the right to adopt introduced.

Darren Mooney is the Equality and Diversity Officer at Liverpool University.

You can explore some of the items referenced in this post further on the LGBT Histories of the University of Liverpool project website. As always, the items featured in this post that are referenced as Special Collections and Archives are available to view in our reading room, Sydney Jones Library.

2015 in retrospect

Burns Night is a suitably celebratory prompt to look back on the Auld Lang Syne of 2015 in Special Collections & Archives and remember some of its highlights – the enthusiasm of students, staff, and visitors; new accessions and new discoveries in the collections; and collaborations with colleagues around the University, throughout Liverpool and further afield.

  • January – our first external visitors were the North West branch of CILIP, visiting the Science Fiction collections.
  • February – SC&A hosted a visit for volunteers from the National Trust’s Jacobean Speke Hall.
  • March – the grandaughters of Basque nationalist Manuel Irujo de Ollo visited the Irujo collections after attending a seminar in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures. The great-nephew of Irujo’s contemporary, Professor of Spanish Edgar Allison Peers, visited with a current Liverpool Spanish student who worked at his publishing company on her year abroad.


Other visitors in March included authors Neil Gaiman and Cheryl Morgan, who explored the worlds of fantasy and comics with Science Fiction Librarian Andy Sawyer, and volunteers at the George Garrett archive.


IMG_0917At the University’s School of the Arts, Jenny Higham, SC&A Manager, introduced SC&A’s Renaissance resources at the Department of English seminar ‘Making Knowledge in the Renaissance.’

Inc. Ryl. 63.OS Claudius Ptolemaeus Cosmographia

  • April – Preparations for 2015’s Cunard 175 celebrations got underway in April with the BBC Inside Out team filming material from the official Cunard Archive; SC&A’s new exhibition cases were installed and our copy of Robert Hooke’s Micrographia was measured up for exhibition at the Victoria Gallery and Museum, to celebrate its 350th birthday.

SPEC Y81 3 1637

  • May – Liverpool’s annual Light Night on 15 May launched the LOOK/15 International Photography festival including Gypsy portraits from the Fred Shaw photograph collection. Cunard 175 culminated in the Three Queens choreographed sailing on the Mersey over the Bank Holiday weekend, with news items and interviews with Jenny Higham on the BBC North West Tonight and Granada News.








  • June – the Cunard theme continued with a creative writing workshop inspired by the Cunard Archive, and both the Fairbridge Archive and the Science Fiction collection hosted external visitors.
  • July – LIHG, CILIP’s specialist Library history group took advantage of the CILIP conference at Liverpool’s St George’s Hall to include a visit to SC&A, visiting the Cunard exhibition and seeing highlights from the early printed book collection chosen for their provenance history.
  • August – the family of Sir Harold Cohen, eponymous founder of the Harold Cohen Library saw his Library, his archive, and the pen that made it all possible.

Phil Sykes with Mrs Penny Gluckstein and Amanda Graves in the Library Special Collections and Archives

  • September – the ships have sailed, but the posters on display in the Victoria Gallery & Museum keep the Cunard glamour alive.


  • October – more well-travelled visitors included Stanisław Krawczyk from the University of Warsaw, to give a talk on fantastic fiction in Poland, and Eric Flounders, Cunard’s former Public Relations Manager, spoke to a packed Leggate theatre audience on his 27 years of experience of Cunard.
  • November – as part of Being Human 2015, Will Slocombe (English Department) and Andy Sawyer presented Being Posthuman at FACT, and the Knowledge is Power exhibition opened at the VGM.

Knowledge is Power

  • December – SC&A hosted a thank you visit for the Friends of the University, who generously funded a programme to clean and box the incunable collection

Sydney Jones incunables 1

New accessions and newly catalogued collections, now available for research and teaching use, include: University Archive EXT – 70 years of papers from the Extension Studies Dept. 1935-2005 and D1042 (1968-2013) papers of the Academic Institution Management Service; CNDA – Cunard memorabilia from the Cunard Associated Deposits; D709/6 – new additions to the David Owen Archive; LUL MSS and LUL Albums – listings of scrapbooks, commonplace books and other individual volumes previously donated to the University Library; foreign language science fiction; 17th-century pamphlets from Knowsley Hall and 19th-century pharmacological books. Find all these and more by searching the Archive and Library catalogues on the SCA website


Explore Your Archive: Papers of David Owen

Archive Discovered

As part of the 2015 Explore Your Archive campaign, this post looks at the David Owen Archive and reveals the scope of material we hold that can be consulted for research. Lord David Owen was a prominent political figure in the later 20th century for both the Labour Party and the later founded Social Democratic Party. Lord Owen has had a varied political career, from Minister of Health 1974-1976 to Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 1976-1979, these rolls fulfilled under the Labour Party. Prior to co-founding the Social Democratic Party in 1982 with the ‘Gang of Four’, including Baroness Shirley Williams. Later Lord Owen was leader of the SNP from 1983-1987.

The archive contains papers relating to Lord Owen’s early life as a medical student at Cambridge University through to his retirement from political parties before he stood in the House of Lords as an independent social democrat. Lord Owen was Chancellor of the University of Liverpool from 1996 until 2009. Lord Owen thus chose the University of Liverpool in which to place the initial material of his archive during his chancellorship. Lord Owen has published many books and is still politically active. Currently Lord Owen is reflecting his policies and beliefs from his time as Health Minister in 1974 in his active role in the NHS Reinstatement Bill 2015 Campaign. Lord Owen also still campaigns for international peace relations, showing his steadfastly held beliefs throughout his entire political career.  The archive not only allows researchers a unique insight into the evolving and developing personal and professional life of a politician; but also gives a snapshot of a country’s political attitude in context.

Owen Cartoons

The David Owen Archive has a large variety of material types. Even including items of political satire, as seen above.
[Left: D709/3/21/2/19 Copyright of Sunday Times Magazine 1981. Top right: D709/3/21/2/10 Copyright of Nicholas Garland 1987. Bottom left: D709/3/21/2/17 Copyright of Gibbard undated]

The David Owen Archive is fairly comprehensive – material ranges from personal correspondence to notes on draft parliamentary bills. One of the many research uses of the archive is the study of schisms in political parties exemplified by  Owen’s personal and professional transition from the Labour Party to the SDP. With a signed copy of the Limehouse Declaration of 1981 and drafts and correspondence leading to its finalisation, a clear narrative can be seen for the process of political change in British politics.

D709-2-17-1-3 final ed

A signed copy, by the ‘Gang of Four’, of the Limehouse Declaration 1981. [D709/2/17/1/3]

Furthermore, the David Owen Archive can be used to examine the establishment of new parties in British politics, especially relating to liberal beliefs. The papers relating to Owen’s co-founding of the Social Democratic Party show both support and criticism for the political move, thus reflecting the more private and back of house scene of politics through correspondence – something not often released into the public world of national politics.


Papers relating to the creation of the SDP. [D709/3/1/1/13]

Politics past and present

Nick Hobbs, Politics student, with Lord Owen

Nick Hobbs, Politics student: a selfie with Lord Owen

With the general election just a week away, the selfie-with-politician is everywhere, and politics is at the forefront of many people’s minds, not least the University’s politics students. A second year student who has been exploring the collections gives his view on discovering resources in SC&A below.Our display of election material continues in the showcases outside the Reading Room: Election fever


So after spending nearly two years studying International Politics at the University of Liverpool I finally got round to visiting the Special Collections and Archives. All I can say is WOW – what have I been missing!


I was prompted to visit SCA because it’s that time of year when second year students have to start thinking about dissertations. Not all students have to complete one but it’s mandatory on the course I have taken. I will be researching Lord David Owen, former Labour minister and Foreign Secretary and former Chancellor of the University between 1996-2009. He defected from the Labour party in 1981 and co-founded the Social Democrat Party and in 1992 he was made Life Baron of the City of Plymouth (my home city).


Lord Owen donated his papers to Special Collections and Archives and this now forms the Lord Owen Collection, including hundreds of newspapers articles, correspondence between officials ranging from the Archbishop of Canterbury, to academics, to foreign diplomats, House of Lords reports, books reviews, speech transcripts, UN presentations, and much more.


It was by pure chance that I discovered this collection, when – feeling like a change of scene – I was studying in Central Library, Liverpool City Centre, and I bumped into Dr Niall Carson, lecturer from the Irish Department here at the University of Liverpool. We got chatting and I was telling Niall about my dissertation and how I wanted to research something relating to the European Union. Niall informed me of Lord Owen’s generous donation to SCA and we both agreed this would be a great opportunity to carry out some primary research because Lord Owen was a senior politician around the time Britain was considering its membership with the EU. Furthermore, Lord Owen defected from the Labour party partly because of its anti-Europe views.


Later that day I returned to the Sydney Jones Library and met SCA staff. They explained how it all works and showed me the Reading Room. It’s a very tranquil and peaceful environment and a great place to relax and study. The SCA staff are very helpful and will assist you with anything. It is clear they enjoy working in the archives because they are very positive about what’s in there and they are friendly. If you use the service I would advise against what I did and request loads of documents at once because there’s only so much you can read in a day. Overall it was a positive experience and immensely beneficial to my research.

Election fever

With a general election fast approaching, we have identified some material from our collections which can help to show how elections in the past were, fought, won, and lost.

Special Collections and Archives contains collections relating to a number of political figures, some of whom served as members of parliament, including Eleanor Rathbone, Sir John T. Brunner, and Lord David Owen.

In some ways, the basic materials of an election campaign appear to have changed little over the last century. Leaflets explaining a candidate’s position, flyers advertising public meetings, and small cards on which the key slogans of a campaign are put across are all still used today. In Brunner’s papers, such material survives from his 1887 by-election victory over the Liberal Unionist Lord Grosvenor in Northwich, Cheshire.

Propaganda card from the Northwich by-election, 1887

Propaganda card from the Northwich by-election, 1887 [Brunner/3/2/14/4]

Eleanor Rathbone’s papers give us an insight into a long-gone quirk of the British electoral system: the existence of university seats. These were not physical constituencies, but electorates made up of university graduates, wherever they happened to be living.

Eleanor Rathbone represented the Combined English Universities, as one of two Members, from 1929 until her death in 1946. Although from a family largely aligned with Liberal politics, she sat as an Independent. This non-party approach clearly appealed to the electors of this seat, including Liverpool University graduates, who returned her four times.

An address to women voters of the Combined English Universites constituency [RPXIV/3/3(10)]

An address to women voters of the Combined English Universites constituency, 1929 [RPXIV/3/3(10)]

This year there is much talk of political realignment and the emergence of new parties. This in itself is nothing new. The Labour Party was once an insurgent political organisation battling for every vote against the main parties of the day. The early 20th century election material contained in the papers of Katharine and John Bruce Glasier, founder members of the Independent Labour Party (ILP), reminds us of this.

Leaflet attacking the voting record of John Bruce Glasier's Conservative opponent, Bordesley, 1906 [GP/5/2/2(10)]

Leaflet attacking the voting record of John Bruce Glasier’s Conservative opponent, Bordesley, 1906 [GP/5/2/2(10)]

Almost a century later, David Owen’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) was heralded as bringing about a political realignment upon its split from Labour in 1981. Lord Owen’s papers contain material from the general elections and by-elections fought by the party in alliance with the Liberals throughout the 1980s. Despite some good results, by the late 1980s the Alliance began to split. In 1988, the Conservatives narrowly held Kensington from Labour, while separate Liberal Democrat and Social Democrat candidates came third and fourth.

Conservative Party window poster, Kensington by-election, 1988 [D709/3/5/2/10]

Conservative Party window poster, Kensington by-election, 1988 [D709/3/5/2/10]

As well as archival material, our collections contain various printed political pamphlets, some dating from before the political party system as we know it developed. In the 18th and 19th centuries, supporters of candidates would pen songs and rhymes set to popular tunes to extol their virtues. Tracts such as this one published by John Wilkes satirised the practice of corruption during a Hampshire election, but references to “freeholders” and “brave boys” are a reminder of how tightly the franchise was restricted to male members of the propertied classes.

Election tract published by John Wilkes, 1780 [SPEC Thomson 13(12)]

Election tract published by John Wilkes, 1780 [SPEC Thomson 13(12)]

These days, of course, things are very different. Gone are the university seats and the limited franchise. Over the last century political parties such as the ILP and SDP have risen and fallen. Nevertheless, some of the material here indicates that the bread and butter of electoral campaigning has perhaps not changed as much as we might think.

A selection of election material from SCA collections can currently be seen in our display cases in the Grove Wing of the Sydney Jones Library.


Edd Mustill

Graduate Library Assistant