#exploreyourarchives through the decades, 10’s

Continuing with ARA Scotland’s #exploreyourarchives event, for this week we are looking at the 1910’s. Our selection this week is a fantastic double page spread featuring some amazing outfits and hats from a 1912 issue of Femina magazine.

This is just the start as there’s plenty more weeks to go! Check back next week when the theme will be the 1920’s.


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#exploreyourarchives Through the decades, 00’s

In preparation for the upcoming Explore Your Archives event celebrating archives across the UK, ARA Scotland has started a new Twitter campaign focusing on history through the decades! Each week the theme changes to the next decade and the event is starting off with the 00’s.

For our contribution we’ve found a brilliant ornamental souvenir from the 1908 London Olympics from our England Boxing collection. Check back next week for a new item from the 10’s.


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New Opening Times

From 1st September 2018 our opening times will be changing: with a desire to extend our accessibility and availability we will be opening on the first Saturday of every month. This means all readers, students/staff/members of the public will be able to drop-in or make an appointment for a visit on the first Saturday of every month between 10am-2pm.

That means our first Saturday opening will be 1st September 2018!

The rest of the week also sees some changes as we will now be closed on Mondays to carry out essential preservation and cataloguing work and Tues-Fri we will be open as usual 10am-5pm.


We hope to see you soon.

The Special Collections Team

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Stock Taking Round-Up 2018

“Stock taking” is the name of our game for a 2 week period, usually in the summer months when reader numbers are very low. At this time, Special Collections closes and gets on with large-scale tasks: all hands on deck!!

Stock taking is always a lot of  fun and we look forward to the annual event. And, while we had our set of stock taking objectives to achieve there are definitely some recurring themes:

  • One task always takes longer than you think it will
  • We always discover a preservation nightmare
  • We always get dirty
  • We always find new treasures

Interestingly, this year  all of the above related to one collection: the National Art Slide Library donated by the Victoria & Albert Museum in the 1990s. Since its arrival, before the establishment of Special Collections, the collection was moved around a lot and its original arrangement lost. So this year we were determined to get to grips with it.

The archivists and volunteers get their hands dirty:

Katharine sans mask. Naughty!

Natalie with the slides. Can’t bear to look obviously.

Volunteers Carys and Molly – it appears our other volunteer, Mudge and Assistant David managed to avoid the camera for this one.

Preservation disaster

We were very sad to open this box and discover poorly packaged broken slipping slides. We did manage to salvage 3 boxes worth though.

After reading that the collection possibly contained nitrate film in a cardboard box!! David and I were initially perturbed on opening this box but fortunately it turned out to just be reels of microfilm.

Re-discovered treasures in the slide collection

Images of home: Leicester market c 1900


Other discoveries

As well as “taking stock” one of our main tasks this year was to make our rare books and journals  more accessible – overall we moved a staggering 500 linear metres (mostly David)…

Trainee Archives Assistant, David

as well as organised and listed 700 boxes of slides!! No wonder one of us was dreaming about them:

A tweet that resulted in free cheese for #cheesedreams from @Pilgrims Choice. Win!!

We now have an amazing box list of the whole collection which has increased our understanding of the content enormously, allowing us to develop cataloguing methodologies, not to mention highlighting some of the more urgent re-packaging needs.

A job well done (still doing, ahem)!!




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PHRC Conference Write-Up

We were pleased to see that Naomi Daw aka The Heritage Girl mentioned our display in her write-up of the Photographic History Research Centre annual conference:

“The display of items from the De Montfort University Special Collections was also fantastic to see – of particular interest to me was the magic lantern slide depicting a Japanese scene.”

The Japanese slides Naomi is referring to are from our National Art Slide Library collection and they are beautiful.

You can see more of the slides here: https://dmuheritage.our.dmu.ac.uk/japanese-glass-lantern-slides/


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Borderlines VI: Showcasing our performance-related collections

Following on from our previous post, conference season is clearly underway as we created two bespoke displays in one week. After the Photographic History Research Conference we dived straight in to ‘Borderlines VI: performing across the frontiers of fear’ where we showcased some of our amazing performance-related collections.

To complement the interdisciplinary range of the conference we selected three collections with themes relating to diversity, inclusivity, and the navigation of difficult situations.

Items on display are from People Dancing (Foundation for Community Dance), an organisation devoted to providing opportunities and participation in dance for everyone; the Papers of Peter Streuli, stage director and producer, and the Papers of Bryony Lavery, a feminist playwright who challenges gender stereotypes and patriarchal norms through her adaptations and re-visions of well-known genres and stories.

The conference was organised by Dr Alissa Clarke, Senior lecturer in Drama (third from the right), seen here with some of her postgraduate students and Dr Natalie Hayton from Special Collections.

Hope we’re back for Borderlines VII next year!


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Showcasing our photographic history collections

Special Collections was pleased to be invited to prepare a pop-up display for the Photographic History Research Centre annual conference. The conference theme is Material Practices of Visual History.

The case includes a brochure from the Kodak Collection library; a Japanese tourism board glass slide and UNESCO world heritage brochure and 35mm slides from the National Art Slide Library collection; slides, negative and transparencies from DMU’s own photographic collections; a contact sheet from Iona Cruickshank’s Mapping the Fading Light, and photographic prints from the Ski Club of Great Britain collection.



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Norwegian Constitution Day

A special two for one Folklore Thursday and Norway’s National Day

As well as being a sports-themed #FolkloreThursday today, 17th May, is Norway’s national day! An official public holiday, the day celebrates Norway’s recognition as an independent kingdom from when the constitution was declared in 1814.

The archives team here has fond memories of Norway and so to mark the day we thought we would share this beautiful headscarf from the Ski Club of Great Britain Collection.

Skier detail

 As the accompanying text, written by Arnold Lunn, explains, the scarf was presented to the wife of the president of the Ski Club in 1946 at Holmenkollen ski resort, at the first ski gathering to be held there after liberation from Nazi occupation. The text is incredibly poignant, moving, and evocative of a significant moment in history at a local, national and international level.

Text accompanying the headscarf

And for our folkloric link from the same collection here is a charm featuring Ullr, the god of skiing mentioned in Norwegian saga. The charm is based on a drawing from 900 A.D. Ullr was an excellent archer, hunter, skater, and skier. He was a son of Sif and stepson of Thor; handsome, warlike, and often invoked before a duel [H/T to Norse Mythology for the information].

Skiing charm featuring Ullr

Kat and Nat

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Citations, references and footnotes, oh my!

We’ve recently had a rush of readers finalising their coursework and dissertations, and one question we are often asked is how to cite archive documents in their work.

References are used to:

  • Enable the reader to locate the sources you have used;
  • Help support your arguments and provide your work with credibility;
  • Show the scope and breadth of your research;
  • Acknowledge the source of an argument or idea. Failure to do so could result in a charge of plagiarism.


Of course the way you reference is going to depend on the manual of style that is used by your specific course and you should always refer to your module handbooks for advice in the first instance.

The information required is fairly standard:

  • descriptor of the item itself (photograph, letter, minute book, this can be taken from the title in the archive catalogue)
  • date of the item
  • creator of the item, if known
  • identifier used by the archive (D/033/B/023)
  • further identifying details, such as page numbers, box number, folder number, if available
  • collection to which the item belongs (Personal Papers of Benjamin Fletcher)
  • name of repository (De Montfort University Special Collections)
  • location of repository (Leicester, UK)

In the Chicago style you will need: title/description of the specific archival record, followed by the date (day, month, year), identifier (box/folder/item number), name of collection, name and location of repository.

For example: City of Leicester Training College prospectus, 1951, D/039/05/006, Papers of the City of Leicester Training College for Teachers, De Montfort University Special Collections, Leicester, UK.


In the MLA style you will need: Author (last name, first name). Title/description of material. Date (day month year). Call number, identifier or box/folder/item number. Collection name. Name of repository, location.

City of Leicester Training College. Prospectus. 1951. D/039/05/006. Papers of the City of Leicester Training College for Teachers. De Montfort University Special Collections, Leicester, UK.


In the Harvard style you generally need: Author, Initials., Year. Title of document. [type of medium]. Collection, Document number. Geographical Town/Place: Name of Library/Archive/Repository.

City of Leicester Training College, 1951. Prospectus [brochure]. Papers of the City of Leicester Training College for Teachers, D/039/05/006. Leicester, UK: De Montfort University Special Collections.


Both MLA and Harvard use in-text citations. These need to provide enough information to allow readers to match the citation with the full source listed in the Works Cited page. You would usually give the author and year (Smith, 1998). For example:

Courses on the teaching of art, music and dance were all added to the curriculum in the academic year 1951-52 (Training College, 1951).


Not all of our archival material is yet catalogued with a reference code (the D/039/05/006 part in the examples above)! If you access material that is uncatalogued you can put ‘uncatalogued’ in place of the reference code. Or the material might have a temporary number on the box or wrapping. For example (using Harvard style):

Ski Club of Great Britain, 1903. Executive Committee Minute Book [manuscript volume]. Ski Club of Great Britain Archive, uncatalogued. Leicester, UK: De Montfort University Special Collections.

Hinson, Adrian Paul, 1922. Brienz in Spring [painting]. Ski Club of Great Britain Archive, Bundle 14. Leicester, UK: De Montfort University Special Collections.

The archives sector is currently running a project on citation practices, please do contribute:

Calling all academics, archivists, librarians and publishers! As part of a project to find out more about citation practices for archives or special collections, Jisc, The National Archives and Research Libraries UK have launched a survey. More details about the project and to complete the survey: https://www.snapsurveys.com/wh/s.asp?k=152223148675.

The following sources were used to prepare this blog entry:







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RAF at 100

April 1 marks 100 years since the formation of the Royal Air Force. To celebrate we’ve had a look through our press cuttings albums to find associations between the RAF and the Colleges of Art and Technology during the Second World War.

Many students and staff signed up to the Armed Forces, including the RAF. Several tales of bravery, as well as loss of life, were recorded in the local press. Click on each image to read the article:

The Colleges of Art and Technology played an active role in the training of RAF personnel, including courses for the operation of radar technology. These top secret classes were not revealed till after the war.

In 1941 the College of Art hosted an exhibition of RAF photography:

The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) also established links with the Colleges, whether it was the provision of ‘brainy girls’ or as competition in sports events.

For more information or to view the press cuttings please contact archives@dmu.ac.uk – we are open to everyone, free of charge.


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