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


Cunard 175: Public lecture & poster exhibition

Following on from the historic events of the summer, the University of Liverpool Library has organised a lecture by Eric Flounders, Public Relations Manager at Cunard for 27 years, on the illustrious history of the company.  The lecture will take place between 6pm and 7pm, and will be followed by a wine reception in the Museum’s Waterhouse Café.

Eric Flounders was appointed Public Relations Manager at Cunard Line, a post he held for 27 years until his retirement in 2011.  He lectures about Cunard history on board the company’s ships, and is the co-author of QE2: Forty Years Famous (2007), and The story of Cunard’s 175 years: [the triumph of a great tradition] (2014).

This event is free, but booking is essential.  Please register here: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cunard-175-a-voyage-through-history-public-lecture-wine-reception-tickets-18569039497

Attendees will also have the opportunity to visit an exhibition of original Cunard posters currently on display at the Victoria Gallery & Museum until 19th December 2015. These posters form part of the Cunard Archive held at the University of Liverpool Library, Special Collections & Archives.


D42-PR11-2 CunardWhiteStarQueenMaryPoster

Posters from the Cunard Archive 

Cunard used a variety of ways to promote its shipping services, including brochures, films and articles. One of the most visual methods was posters. Those used in the exhibition are examples of posters used in Cunard’s sales offices throughout the world. The glamour, excitement and safety portrayed in these posters would have informed potential travellers what they could expect from travelling with Cunard.

Their vibrant colours and attractive designs are typical of the advertisements used by Cunard during the interwar period; often reflecting the changing expectations of travellers and the growing emphasis on cruising. Although the dates of the posters are not known, similar designs have been used in brochures from the 1930s.

D42-PR2-7-45 Carl Zapletal photograph

Cunard White Star office in Vienna, Austria


Cunard 175: revisiting an artist

Followers of our blog will remember a series of posts focusing on the experience of individuals during the First World War. Using surviving records from the collections SCA explored the personal stories of some of the men and women whose lives were affected by the conflict.

In the post focusing on the Cunard Archive we looked at C. F. Hopkinson – an employee in Cunard’s Accountants Department. Surviving records in the archive showed that he served as a member of the 17th Battalion of The King’s Regiment Liverpool. The Cunard Staff Magazine credited Hopkinson with the redesign of the front cover and an illustration entitled The Dawn during the First World War. There were no further records detailing his employment with Cunard in the archive.

We were contacted recently by his daughter, Anne Frances Henry, who provided the following details about her father’s life:

“C.F. Hopkinson was my father, and was a commercial artist for Cunard in Liverpool. As I understand it he painted the ships from the draughtsman’s drawings, before they were built or at least completed”.

 “My father’s full name was Charles Francis Hopkinson and besides painting the liners, he also did the designs for most of the items on board such as playing cards, menus, postcards etc. His paintings of some of the liners appeared on the postcards. He had quite a distinctive style of lettering and so his work on these is smaller items is easy to pick out”.

The information provided by Anne enabled the identification of Hopkinson in the following photograph. He is pictured making final amendments to Samuel Cunard’s portrait bust.

D42-PR2-5-10-9 - Hopkinson

A further example of Hopkinson’s work includes this illustration of the Caronia II. The ship was launched in 1947 by HRH Princess Elizabeth and was known as the ‘Green Goddess’ due to her unusual green livery.

D42-PR18-1-9-2 Caronia II

We are grateful to Anne for taking the time to contact us and provide this information about her father’s career with Cunard.

Visitors to Liverpool next weekend will be able to see Cunard’s flagship, the Queen Mary 2 sail from the city on Saturday 4th July. The visit will recreate the Britannia’s maiden transatlantic voyage from Liverpool to Halifax and Boston in 1840. If you are planning on enjoying the festivities during the weekend there is still time to visit our exhibition Cunard 175 – a voyage through history which is open until 1st September.

Cunard 175: foundation years

One of the oldest records in the Cunard archive is an Agreement of Co-partnership signed by Samuel Cunard (1787-1865) and partners in May 1840. Some of the original partners included George Burns, First Baronet (1795-1890) and David MacIver, a merchant from Liverpool.D42-PR15-1-2Until 1934 this contract and a number of other documents, had been kept by the Glasgow firm that had prepared them for the founders of the Cunard Company. Until their chance rediscovery in an old deed box, details of Cunard’s early years and the formation of the shipping company had been vague. This was in part due to there being very few other surviving records.

These important historical documents record the series of events that led to the formation of the Cunard Line. On 19th December 1934 the minutes of the Board of Directors records on that “these two Deeds of June 1839 and May 1840, therefore seem to be the foundation of the Cunard Line”.

Using the content of these deeds, the Board of Directors recorded that the series of events leading to the signing of the Co-partnership of May 1840 was as follows:

  • In May 1839 Samuel Cunard (1787-1865) a shipowner from Halifax, Nova Scotia successfully secured a contract with the British Government. Its purpose was to provide a scheduled transatlantic steamship service to carry mails across the Atlantic, the first of its kind.
  • In the same month and year Samuel Cunard entered into an Agreement with      George Burns and David MacIver of Liverpool. Under this agreement, Samuel      Cunard assumed George Burns and David MacIver and partners “to be assumed by them as Co-partners to the extent of one-half in said Government contract and the steam vessels to be employed in carrying the Mails”.
  • In June 1839 a Contract of Co-partnership was entered into among George      Burns, his brother James Burns, David MacIver, Charles MacIver and a number of eminent Glasgow Merchants. They associated themselves into a Company under the names of the Glasgow Proprietary in the British and North American Royal Mail Steam-Packets. The contract contains in full the regulations of the Co-partnery.
  • It was resolved that a further Co-partnery should be entered into bringing in Samuel Cunard and that was done by Contract of Co-partnery dated May 1840 between Samuel Cunard and the parties in the Contract of 1839. The Contract of 1840 adopted the provisions of the 1839 Deed, except as modified by the later Deed and it cancelled the Agreement between Samuel Cunard, George Burns and David MacIver of May 1839. The 1840 Deed also provided that the name of the firm was to be the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company and the capital £270,000.


175 years on, Liverpool prepares to welcome Cunard’s Three Queens (Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria) to the city next weekend.

Details of the expected arrival times of the ships during the May Bank Holiday can be found here:


In the meantime, the city-wide event Light Night takes place today. Now in its sixth year, there will be many cultural activities to choose from, including those with a Cunard or maritime theme. Look out for The Crossing, a 3D soundscape installation by Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware in Liverpool ONE which used a variety of sources from the Cunard archive.

Further information about Light Night 2015 can be viewed online:





Cunard 175: a voyage through history

This year marks the 175th anniversary of the inauguration of one of the most famous shipping companies in the world – Cunard. As celebrations commence this month across the country, Special Collections and Archives opens a new exhibition. This is the first to occupy the full extent of our newly-expanded exhibition area, and we encourage visitors from within and beyond the University to come and explore the company’s fascinating history through its business archive.

Cunard 175 display

Cunard 175 – a voyage through history showcases a selection of records from the unique resource that is the Cunard Steamship Co. Ltd archive. Cunard’s rich heritage is represented through original documents and photographs, bringing to life the story of the company’s early years through to the Golden Age of transatlantic travel.

The archive of the Cunard Steamship Co. Ltd contains most of the surviving business records produced by Cunard since it became a limited company in 1878. Occupying over 400 linear metres the archive is a unique source for researching Cunard’s growth and development. Arranged to reflect the departments and functions of the business, many of the records date from the inter-war period.

As one of the longest-serving names in shipping history, Cunard is a name recognised throughout the world. The exhibition will introduce visitors to the history of Cunard through themes such as its early years, life on board and serving the country. The following are a selection of some of the unique records that are on display:

  • Passenger list for Halifax and Boston (Jul 1840-Dec 1844)

Charles Dickens is listed as a passenger on the voyage from Liverpool to Boston on 3rd January 1842.  He travelled with his wife and her servant who is not named. Unimpressed by his first voyage on board Cunard’s Britannia, Charles Dickens wrote about his experience in his travelogue, American Notes.  The cabin was described as being “a profoundly preposterous box”.

  • Staff magazines (1918-1927)

The Cunard Magazine was a house magazine, first produced in January 1918.  It was initially set up as a means to keep in contact with Cunard staff on active war service, in an effort to show the company’s support and to keep up morale. Staff members were encouraged to submit their contributions to the magazine, which appear in the form of correspondence, stories, poems, anecdotes, sketches and articles.

Cunard display 3

  •  Captain Dutton’s Abstract Journal for the Umbria (1897-1903)

This handwritten volume contains a record of the numbers of troops, doctors and nurses who were carried on transport voyages during the Boer War. As a company Cunard has served a role in every major conflict that Great Britain has been involved with since the Crimean War in 1853. During such times the company has offered significant contributions in terms of maritime experience and assistance involving both its land and sea resources.

  •  Life on Board 1920s-1950s

A selection of photographs and publicity materials visually portray the glamour and opulence that passengers could expect on board a Cunard ship.

 D42-PR2-1-97-F20Cunard display 2

Cunard 175 – a voyage through history will run until 1st September. Cunard’s anniversary celebrations continue later in the year when an exhibition of original promotional posters from the Cunard archive will open at the University’s Victoria Gallery & Museum. Further details will be posted later in the summer.

In the meantime, One Magnificent City will officially launch during Light Night, on Friday 15th May. This seven-week programme of activities will celebrate Cunard’s heritage across the city. A brochure detailing how visitors can enjoy these festivities in full can be viewed online:


Further information about the Cunard Archive can be found on the SC&A website:




Cunard 175: Learning Links


As part of the One Magnificent City programme of events, Special Collections and Archives have been working in partnership with Culture Liverpool. The partnership has created an online learning resource for school children, providing access to materials held within the Cunard Archive.

The Learning Links resource provides activities based on early years learning, and literacy and numeracy skills using the history of Cunard.

The resource also provides an overview of the exhibitions, archives and cultural events being held across the city so users are able to enjoy the 7-week One Magnificent City programme in full.

To find out more about how records from the Cunard archive have been used to create ‘Learning Links’ for school children visit:






Historic year for Cunard

2015 is an historic year for Cunard as the cruise line celebrates its 175th year. To mark this anniversary SCA is exhibiting materials from the Cunard Archive using original documents and photographs to showcase the history of the world-famous shipping line; Cunard 175 – a voyage through history will be held at the Sydney Jones Library between 8 May – 1 September 2015. There will also be an exhibition of original Cunard posters from the archive at the Victoria Gallery & Museum from 14 September 2015 to 4 January 2016.

D42-PR3-5-14a part1Many events are being held across Liverpool as part of the One Magnificent City celebrations; a seven-week programme of events that begin with Light Night on 15 May. One of the highlights of these series of events will be the opportunity to see Cunard’s Three Queens (Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria) meet at Liverpool for the very first time during the May Bank Holiday. Spectators will be able to watch the fleet perform a synchronised ‘ballet’ on the River Mersey which will be complemented by animated projections onto the Three Graces that will include images from the Cunard Archive.

The celebrations culminate with Transatlantic 175, a weekend of cultural activities that will also see the recreation of Cunard’s maiden voyage. This historic sailing will take place on 4 July by Cunard’s flagship the Queen Mary 2, marking 175 years since Samuel Cunard himself was a passenger on board Cunard’s first ship the Britannia in 1840.

Further information about the Cunard Archive can be found here: