2018 retrospect

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.

January

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 University of Liverpool: A History through Archives.

February

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 YatesR. A. Scott Macfie and Henry James Francis.

Macfie (left) is pictured alongside a fellow employee from Messrs Macfie & Sons, the sugar refinery business which had been run by his family in Liverpool since 1838.

March

March was a busy month! Katy Hooper, Special Collections Librarian, attended the opening of the exhibition Mondes Tsiganes (Gypsy Worlds) at the Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration, Paris, in order to see material from the Scott Macfie collections displayed; we celebrated World Poetry Day with two posts, the first also celebrating women poets in connection to International Women’s Day, and the second celebrating Small Press Poetry and the 20th C Liverpool poetry scene. We also celebrated World Book Day on the University of Liverpool Instagram. 

Photographs and a digital version of R. A. Scott Macfie’s photo album on display in Paris.

April

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.

May

The new SC&A exhibition Puzzles, Poetry and Playground Games debuted, which displayed games and pastimes, for children and adults, from the 18th-20th centuries. The exhibition “…don’t forget the photos, it’s very important…” The National Socialist Persecution of Central German Sinti and Roma featuring material from the Gypsy Lore Society Collections made its well received return to Liverpool in the Central Library.

D958: Queen Mary jigsaw puzzle, featured in the Puzzles, Poetry and Playground Games exhibition
…don’t forget the photos, it’s very important…” The National Socialist Persecution of Central German Sinti and Roma at Liverpool Central Library

June

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.

July

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.

August

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.

Dance aboard the RMS Queen Mary, from the Cunard Archive.
D42/PR2/1/97/F67.

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!

September

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.

Author Neil Gaiman and Andy Sawyer

Third year English student Sophie Craven began her SOTA300 work experience placement cataloguing the Literary Annuals. The annuals are currently featuring in our new Special Collections and Archives exhibition, Behind the Scenes: Student encounters with Special Collections and Archives. We also began the A-Z of books blog series with Almost an Alphabet; we post each teaching week during semester to demystify some of the specialist words we use in cataloguing our printed books.

October

October was all about the Rathbone Papers and Library; firstly, the Special Collections and Archives Exhibition titled A gift from Greenbank’: reconstructing the Rathbone library was launched, whilst some of the Eleanor Rathbone papers travelled to the other side of campus at the Victoria Gallery for the exhibition Eleanor Rathbone – An Independant Woman. We also hosted a free Science Fiction books event to pass on duplicates from the collections to loving homes, and the next ‘Treasures’ event, ‘Tales from the University Archives’, took place.

A panel from the Eleanor Rathbone: An Independant Woman Exhibition at the VG&M

November

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.

Head of Special Collections and Archives Jenny Higham introduced Dame Professor Janet Beer to the collections at the Archives Accreditation event.

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.

December

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.

A268/19 Abercromby Square in the snow (image by
University’s Central Photographic Service)

Brush up your dance steps in the archives

In mid Summer Festival season, Special Collections and Archives can offer an unusual take on research in the Gypsy Lore Society archive,  which has been used to recreate traditional English folk dances and songs, as explained below by Simon Harmer.

An interest in step dance from the southern counties of England brought Jigfoot, musicians from Southampton with an interest in local traditional tunes, together with dancers Val Shipley, Janet Keet-Black , Peter Ingram and Jo and Simon Harmer. Alice Gillington’s Songs of the Open Road was discovered to be a source of song, music and dance descriptions from Hampshire. Michael Yates and Steve Roud’s excellent article ‘Alice Gillington: Dweller on the Roughs’ (Folk Music Journal 2006, Vol 9, No. 1) led us to the Gypsy Lore Society archive at Liverpool University.

 

Alice Gillington’s correspondence with GLS spans the years from 1907 until 1932. Her extensive correspondence with Scott Macfie is very descriptive of the two Romany settlements she became involved with, Botany Bay at Sholing near Southampton and Thorney Hill in the New Forest. The letters give background to the communities from which she collected the songs, music and dance. They have also been invaluable in helping to identify the characters in her book Gypsies of the Heath published under her pen name The Romany Rawny. In this book she describes painting a portrait of Ellenda Barney. Through a letter to Scott Macfie we know that her brother, John, photographed the painting and a copy was sent to the GLS. That photograph is pasted into one of Macfie’s scrap books.

Portrait by Alice Gillington in top left corner, in a scrapbook by Scott Macfie. SMGC 2/2/1 (52)

Portrait by Alice Gillington in top left corner, in a scrapbook by Scott Macfie. SMGC 2/2/1 (52)

 

The archive also contains correspondence with Amelia Goddard, a painter of Gypsy life who tutored Alice in art. Amelia lived in Thorney Hill and was the reason Alice moved there when she and her brother decided to live full time in a Gypsy caravan. We use some of her evocative paintings as projected images during our performance Hither Side of the Hedge. The Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society also contains a number of articles written by Alice. One of these ‘The House of the Open Door’ promotes Amelia Goddard’s art works and contains examples of her paintings.

 

The amount of material we have found in the archive of the GLS is enormous. In our performances we can only share a little of the background material to give context to the music, song and dance. Our joy has been to meet the families of the people she lived among and be welcomed to Thorney Hill to perform the songs, music and dance that she collected there. We finish our performance with this extract from a letter to Macfie:

‘I didn’t come back to the caravan till ten o’clock, as I was with the Sherreds and other children, in the green lanes and the green bushes watching them dance and sing, tho’ it grew as dark as a summer night can be. They then linked arms together and danced “The Keel Row”, singing, all along the road with me.’

A cover of the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society with Alice Gillington as contributor. SPEC Scott Macfie J.1.11

A cover of the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society with Alice Gillington as contributor. SPEC Scott Macfie J.1.11