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.
This month Special Collections and Archives were pleased to receive a substantial donation to the Cunard Archive from the founder of the Cunard Steamship Society, John Langley.
As a life-long Cunard collector and historian this opportunity is an assurance that much of my life’s work will be preserved for future generations.
John Langley Q.C.
Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the birthplace of Samuel Cunard, Langley’s passion for maritime history began at a young age. As a boy he was influenced greatly by a family friend, Doug Gordon, who was a prominent Passenger Manager for the Cunard Line in Canada.
After a successful career in Law, Langley has donated much of his time to research and writing on the subject of Cunard history. He is the author of Steam Lion, the definitive biography of Sir Samuel Cunard, and lectures extensively aboard Cunard liners and other cruise ships.
John Langley’s collection reflects his life-long interest in the the rich history and proud tradition of the Cunard Steamship Company. It largely comprises ephemera dating from the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, with items such as menu cards, cruise leaflets and newspaper cuttings.
The material will be catalogued within the ‘Related Collections’ series and be made available to the public.
As we look forward to the Queen Mary 2 arriving in Liverpool on Tuesday 16 July, we have chosen some items from the Cunard Archive that represent Cunard’s historic connection to the city of Liverpool.
Cunard’s first ever ship, the 1,156-ton Britannia left Liverpool on 4th July 1840 and arrived on schedule in Halifax just ten days later. Within a year Britannia and her three sister ships were providing the first timetabled weekly steamship service across the Atlantic.
The Mauretania II was the first ship to be built for
the newly formed Cunard White Star Line and was laid down on 24 May 1937. Built
on the Mersey in Birkenhead by Cammel, Laird & Co. Ltd, it was the largest
ship ever to be constructed in an English shipyard at the time.
This booklet commemorates the launch of the Mauretania II at the yard of Cammell Laird & Co Limited, Birkenhead on Thursday 28th July 1938. The naming ceremony was performed by Lady Bates and was watched by spectacular crowds.
Cunard’s headquarters was
based in Liverpool from its inception in 1839 until 1967 when it relocated to
Southampton. As the company grew so did its administrative requirements meaning
its original offices in Water Street were no longer suitable. Completed in 1917 the Cunard Building on
Liverpool’s historic waterfront became known as one of the Three Graces.
This commemorative publication provides an overview of the design and construction of the building and is supplemented with illustrations.
As the first month of 2019 draws to a close, we look back on the previous year and all of the events, accessions, and projects that took place here in Special Collections and Archives.
We welcomed in the New Year in with a new exhibition, which was titled The University of Liverpool: A History through Archives. This exhibition celebrated 50 years since establishment in 1968 of the official repository for the University Archives. The repository’s holdings currently comprise over 2000 linear meters of material and continue to grow.
The Gypsy Lore Society collections were enhanced with the accession of a collection of papers formerly belonging to Helen Murray, secretary to philologist and GLS member Bernard Gilliat-Smith (1883-1974).The collection largely comprises correspondence and photographs, including letters from notable GLS members such as Dora Yates, R. A. Scott Macfie and Henry James Francis.
We began a new series of events displaying Special Collections and Archives ‘Treasures’. The series started with a display of medieval books, including the beautiful Nuremberg Chronicle (1493). To find out more, see our new blog post! Another first in April was the launch of the LivUniSCA twitter account, which has grown to have 299 followers to date.
The Harold Cohen Library holds the Mathematics texts for the University, so it was fitting that the‘Seeing Euclid’ exhibition was on display there during June and July. We also welcomed many prospective students and their family and friends for the first Undergraduate open day of the year.
SC&A was awarded Archives Accreditation, the UK quality standard which recognises good performance in all areas of archive service delivery, and is awarded by a Committee representing the entire archive sector. We also welcomed the Society for the Social History of Medicine 2018 Conference delegates to view some of the medical texts held here in the collections.
We celebrated World Photo Day by picking our favourites from the collections, including the fantastic below photograph from the Cunard Archive. Niamh Delaney, Assistant Special Collections Librarian, was awarded a bursary to attend the Montefiascone Conservation Project in Italy, where she spent a week cataloguing books held in the collections there.
The 31st of July also marks the end of the academic year, so in August we are busy totting up the total number of visitors, retrievals, and enquiries we answered throughout the previous year. Between 1st August 2017 and 31st July 2018, we retrieved 5332 items from the stores, welcomed 1107 visitors and readers, and received 1558 email and 210 phone call enquiries!
While the hustle and bustle of the first 2018-19 academic teaching semester began, staff changes were happening in SC&A. We said goodbye to Graduate Library Assistant Michaela Garland, who was heading for the Master of Archives and Records Management course, and we welcomed Caitlin Fleming into the same post; Cunard Archivist Sian Wilks gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Dylan Derek Matthews, and Beth Williams began her Maternity cover of the Cunard Archivist post; and finally we said goodbye to the amazing Andy Sawyer, who retired from the post of Science Fiction Librarian which he held for 25 years.
November was events month! Special Collections and Archives hosted a celebration event for the award of Archives Accreditation, at which President of the Archives and Records Association (ARA) Dr Alex Buchanan presented Vice Chancellor of the University of Liverpool Dame Professor Janet Beer with the official certificate (and, there was cake!). Sticking with the theme of archives, University Archivist Jo Klett and Archives Cataloguer Josette Reeve’s hard work on EMu (Collection Management System) became accessible to users via the new and updated archives catalogue.
Other events included: Jenny Higham was welcomed by the Liverpool Nautical Research Society at the Athenaeum for a talk on the Cunard Archive; the ‘Treasures’ series continued with a fascinating display of medical texts, and Niamh Delaney (Special Collections Assistant Librarian) and Robyn Orr (Library Assistant) hosted a KnowHow session on using Special Collections and Archives material in research. Lastly, to mark the centenary of Armistice Day, the ‘This Week’s War’ blog posts were completed with a final overview post by Caitlin Fleming.
We received a new accession to be added to the Science Fiction collections in the form of the library of Brian Aldiss. We wrapped up the year by getting festive in collaboration with the Sydney Jones Library team: images provided by SCA were displayed alongside the Christmas themed books, including this idyllic snow scene.
It is often these materials that best reflect the day to day activities of travelling by Cunard and of the experiences of the people involved.
One of the most recent additions to the Associated Deposits series is a donation from ex-Cunard Assistant Purser Robin Almond.
On 1st January 1957 the 17 year old Robin Almond from Ainsdale in Lancashire joined the Merchant Navy. Robin started as a Cadet Purser with Elder Dempster Line before, 11 months later, taking up a shore based position as a First Class Reservations Clerk with Union Castle Line.
In April 1959 he secured a position as an Assistant Purser with Cunard Line, and in the next three and a half years sailed on the Mauretania, Queen Mary, Caronia, and Queen Elizabeth.
As a young man sailing the globe on world famous cruise liners, Robin has many a tale to tell.
He has been kind enough to share his story with us. Donating extracts from his diaries as well as memorabilia and photographs collected over his years with Cunard to the archive.
The full catalogue can be viewed online by searching for the reference number D1183.
Pte. L. Rathgen (K.L.R.), Linen Department, in a letter acknowledging his usual parcel says “I, like many more Cunarders am looking forward to the peace which seems so near, and although more heavy fighting is bound to be our lot, I am quite light-hearted as we can now see our aims are about to be realised. During the past few weeks I had many experiences which I cannot write about, but I can say that one had the feeling that you were ‘top dog,’ and the change was appreciated after the somewhat uncertain times recently passed through.”
Extract from Cunard magazine October 1918 issue [D42/PR5/1].
At SCA we often receive enquiries from individuals who are researching their family history or are trying to trace an individual who worked for Cunard.
In this post we highlight some of the types of records found within the Cunard archive that relate to the engineering staff who worked for the company, and how researchers can discover this information.
Engineering staff taken at a luncheon on board Mauretania II prior to her breaking up – all of the individuals are named (18 Nov 1965)
As is often the case with business archives, the surviving records are not comprehensive and this is particularly the case for staff records. However, the role of engineer is perhaps the most likely to produce results for a researcher when compared to other roles such as steward or those working in the catering department. This is largely due to ‘D42/EN Engineers Department: Personnel records’ – a unique series of records within the Cunard archive whose catalogue is available in printed format in our reading room.
These records appear to represent an almost full record of engineering officer staff from 1870, and as such are the most comprehensive staff records of any department within the company. This series of records also includes appointment books of White Star Line engineers prior to the creation of Cunard White Star in 1934. They generally contain information concerning appointments made to particular ships, length of sea service, rate of pay and rank information as well as often noting resignations, retirements and deaths.
Due to the personal nature of these records, some are subject to closure periods and their frequent use as a business record before being transferred to SCA also means that many of these volumes are fragile. Advance appointments to view these records help researchers get the most from their visit and ensures the long-term preservation of the records.
‘Cunard Careers at Sea’ (D42/PR4/46/56)
The personnel records of the engineering department can be complimented by ‘Captains Reports on Officers’ 1910-1922 (ref. D42/GM14/1-3) which were compiled by the General Manager’s Office. Other individual records which help provide biographical information of engineering officers can be found in the form of news clippings, press releases and notes (ref. D42/PR4/43/1).
Further potential sources of information can be found within passenger lists which in some cases record the names of senior staff, including that of the Chief Engineer. The photograph collection within the Public Relations series also contains a few examples of named individuals, with engineering staff appearing in both individual portraits and group photographs.
All of the catalogues for the Cunard archive are available in printed format in our reading room. Further information about the archive and links to the catalogues that are searchable online can be found on our webpage, along with an information sheet about tracing crew.
It is interesting to record that one of the Cunard apprentices, F. W. Hartley, who left the Company to join the Navy in 1917, has been awarded the D.S.C. for conspicuous bravery while in action with enemy submarines.
Extract from Cunard magazine August 1918 issue [D42/PR5/1].