Research by Students and Other Users

Sophie Picks Up the Theatre Archive Project Baton: English in the Workplace Part 2, Blog 1.

By Sophie Nicholls

Hello and welcome to English in the Workplace! My name is Sophie Nicholls and I am currently undertaking a work placement in DMU’s Special Collections, in the Kimberlin Library. I have been given the task of continuing the organisation of one of their collections, the Theatre Archive Project. This is a remarkable opportunity, which is allowing me to gain a true understanding of archives and their importance.

Day 1.

Walking into the archives was rather daunting, I had never been to DMU’s Special Collections before and I didn’t really know what to expect. As I took in my surroundings, I realised that the archives housed more collections than I had imagined. With over 140 bays and a climate-controlled storeroom, I was overwhelmed by the vast majority of available texts and collections. I was immediately greeted by Natalie Hayton, who offered an incredibly warm welcome.


Just one of the many bays.

After a brief tour of the archives, I was assigned the responsibility of working on the Theatre Archive Project. Natalie explained that Nicola, a fellow English in the Workplace student, had begun working on the project. Unfortunately, she was unable to complete the assignment, so I would be picking up where she left off. Nicola had done an amazing job of sorting through the vast majority of materials within the collection. I was incredibly excited at the prospect of being able to continue her work and contribute to the workings of the archive. I began working on the last, unsorted box of the collection. It contained a plethora of items, ranging from old photo albums to a series of private correspondences. As I organised the collection, it became apparent how vital donations are to retaining history. Every letter and picture, told a detailed story. I was hooked.

One of many photo albums belonging to Robert and Hilda Taylor.

I began to cautiously work through and organise the materials: some items in the collection were rather fragile and needed some attention. I was wary when handling the collection, as many of the items were over 100 years old. I thoroughly enjoyed arranging the collection and often found myself immersed in the rich and diverse history of the items.

Organising just a few of the programmes from London based theatres.

My favourite part was reading the correspondence between Dr. Lada Price and J.B.E Wells, who kindly donated her aunt’s collection of theatre ephemera to the project. It was evident in their letters, that Wells hoped that her donation would preserve a piece of personal and theatrical history.

My next task was to focus on ensuring the preservation of photographs, postcards and damaged items. Whilst most of the items were in excellent condition, especially considering their age, the odd few were worse for wear. Natalie demonstrated how to preserve the items and explained that in order to ensure the long-term preservation of the collection it was vital to place them in acid-free packaging. This would prevent the collection from deteriorating further. I was surprised by the level of care that these materials required; archival paper and conservation grade folders must be used.

I really enjoyed my first day in DMU’s archives! I worked with an incredibly supportive and encouraging team, allowing me to work at my own pace. I am definitely looking forward to my next shift.


English in the Workplace Blog 2: Cataloguing the Theatre Archive project

By Nicola Hoyle

This blog post is a continuation of my previous post about my organisation of the Theatre Archive Project in Special Collections at the DMU Kimberlin Library.

The final step of the project for me was to begin creating a catalogue using the archive software Epexio, which would result in the collection becoming more accessible to students and researchers as it allows them to locate specific items through the website.

Initially I began by creating England and Wales as two separate sub-fonds. Within the sub-fond for theatres in England I created a separate series for each city/town that featured, and within these series I typed up information regarding the theatre programmes that were included.

A sneaky peak at how the catalogue is shaping up. It will be made live once completed – or at least at a stage that is presentable to researchers.

I began with a title (‘place’ theatre programmes) and the date, initially setting a date range of 1930 – 2002, which I later went back and edited for each series to reflect the dates of the programmes included. I then included some context about each theatre, which for some of the smaller, less well-known theatres (which may or may not have since been demolished) was difficult to research. For the content section I included the titles of each play from every programme, separated by theatre, and where possible who produced, directed and starred in it, as well as the date of performance. Including these extra snippets of information may be helpful for researchers looking for specific performances by certain actors (such as Laurence Olivier or Richard Burton!), or productions by a certain directors. This was a time-consuming process as I had to go back through each programme and look up the information I needed, which in some frustrating cases was unclear or even absent. I managed to work my way through most of the smaller series, however I ran out of time for the larger ones such as the London theatre programmes and Stratford-Upon-Avon! I didn’t even get around to doing the Welsh theatre programmes!

Sample entry from the catalogue

This process has really enlightened me to both the difficulties and the joys of working in Special Collections and organising such a project. It is definitely more challenging than I expected, but also incredibly interesting and rewarding to have been part of such an important project. I am now happy to leave the rest to the next volunteer and wish them good luck!


English in the Workplace Blog 1: Organising the Theatre Archive Project

By Nicola Hoyle

Hello, my name is Nicola and I am a third year undergraduate English Literature student happy at work in Special Collections which is based in the Kimberlin Library. As part of my module English in the Workplace I chose to work in Special Collections with the rare books and archives where I have been given the task of organizing one of their collections, the Theatre Archive Project. The archives at DMU are full of interesting things, and this collection includes hundreds of Theatre programs from all over the country which date from as early as the 1930’s. I will document some of my work organising them here.

Programme for a production of The Tempest at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, 1957

Starting off:

Upon entering the library archives in I was immediately intrigued to see the rows upon rows of shelves containing old books on all kinds of subjects. Natalie Hayton showed me around and took me into the climate-controlled storeroom to retrieve the documents I would be organising, which were stored in acid-free cardboard boxes. After taking them out to the work area I set to it.

Programme for a production of Camino Real at the Pheonix Theatre.

Programme for a production of Milk Under Wood at New Theatre, London, 1956.

The collection had obviously been grouped a little but the majority of the material was disorganized and loose. As advised, I first began organising the programmes into locations, but after going through some of them I began to realise that I would need to start with region first. I started off with two piles, one of theatres in England and one for theatres in Wales. As I went through each box, unearthing a wide variety of programs, these piles soon became separated into smaller regional piles. I found that there were a great many theatre programs from London and the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon, which did not surprise me. Other areas, such as Birmingham, Manchester, Oxford, Coventry and Nottingham, had very small collections of programs. I was surprised, however, to find that my collection for Wales quickly expanded, with Cardiff and Penarth being the most substantial collections.




There were, of course, a prolific amount of Shakespearean plays such as Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, etc. There was also a large number of well-known theatre favourites, such as Cinderella, Oliver, The King and I, and so on, as well as a huge variety of plays I had never heard of. Perhaps I need to go the theatre more often! What I found most fascinating was seeing the old advertisements that many contained: adverts for cigarettes, alcohol, make-up and clothes stores appeared frequently, often with humorous theatre-related quips about their products.

An advert for Benson & Hedges cigarettes in a theatre programme.

An advert for gas appliances from North Thames Gas in a theatre programme.




Next, I began organising the programs via theatre once they were sorted into their region. Some theatres only had one or two programs, whereas some had dozens. I ended up with piles of programs across two whole tables, and it still wasn’t enough space for them all! To make it easier to identify the different theatres I would place a sticky note with the theatre’s name and location next to each pile.

As well as the theatre programs, there was a significant amount of other material to sort out, which were theatre-related but not technically programs of plays, ephemera, such as postcards of actors and actresses, newspaper articles and reviews, photos of theatres, and even one or two magazines.

A personal photo album from the 1940’s with photos of theatre performances and actors/actresses.



Programme for a production of Calamity Jane at Pheonix Theatre, done in the style of a newspaper from 1876.

Once I had the majority of collections sorted I set to work on packaging them in conservation grade materials thus ensuring their long-term preservation and ultimately making them much more accessible for future researchers.

What I found from my first three weeks of working in the archives is that there is an incredible amount of material stored there, and that having the chance to look through and organise some of it has been deeply interesting and enjoyable. Next up is deciding on a final catalogue arrangement and creating some descriptions.

A Business student in the Archives…

By Alex Marlow

As part of my Sports Heritage and Legacy Management module of my masters programme, I was tasked with producing a detailed look into the history of the Ski Club of Great Britain between 1903 and 1933 [see the post below for Alex’s assignment]. As the internet was several decades away from being invented, I required a different source of information for which to write our assignment from, and this came in the form of the DMU Archives and Special Collections.

Having come from a Business background with no experience of working with archival material before, I was unsure of what to expect and how I was going to turn 70 year old books into an acceptable piece of post-graduate work, however the staff in the Archives made it a very easy and pleasant experience. Katharine and her team were always on hand to assist us when looking at the material, and this included showing me how to handle both books and images to ensure the quality wasn’t compromised, whilst also helping me to find books relating to my allocated years amongst the thousands of books in the Archives. Our class also received a dedicated two hour workshop on how to use archival photography and images, which saw us look at a number of interesting objects including old negative SCGB images and photo albums relating to our assignment. This workshop also showed us how to caption pictures and images correctly, which was vital when it came to our assignment.

Sports Heritage students at the photographic history seminar

Overall, my experience of working with DMU Archives and Special Collections was an enjoyable one, and I was impressed by the vast array of books and wide range of objects. The staff were extremely knowledgeable and helped me towards achieving a good grade in my assignment, and I would encourage all students to go and take a look at what the Archives has to offer.

Ski Club of Great Britain – 1933-1934

by Alex Marlow

A number of Business Management in Sport MSc students from Leicester Castle Business School have recently used the Ski Club of Great Britain collection as part of their Sports Heritage and Legacy Management module. The students were tasked with preparing a brief history of two years of the Club’s operation, using archive materials such as committee minutes, year books and photographs. Below is the history of the years 1933-34, by Alex Marlow:


1933 was an important year in the history of the Ski Club of Great Britain, as the club faced an uphill struggle to finance their operations as the country tried to recover from the Great Depression of 1929.

Despite the majority of Ski Club members being affluent members of society who were likely to be less affected by the Great Depression than the rest of the country, the Ski Club decided to seek additional revenue streams in order to solidify and improve their financial position. In light of this, the club published a ski guide, titled ‘Guide to Valais and The Haute Savoie’, which generated revenue of £75 for the club (as shown in the picture below), an extremely welcome windfall, with that sum being worth almost £5,000 in 2018 terms[i].

Alongside generating revenue through publication, the ski-club sought ways in which to generate revenue in the off-season where snowfall was minimal, such as holding dry-skiing classes. In the club’s AGM of 1933, club president Sir Claud Schuster (pictured below) noted that the debut of the dry-skiing classes in Autumn 1932 were extremely successful, returning £138 in class entrance fees[ii], and encouraged the council to organise further classes for Autumn 1933.

The July 1933 AGM also saw a change to longstanding Ski Club terminology. The council recommended that the word ‘’skier’’ be substituted for the word ‘’ski runner’’ throughout the SCGB rules. Despite strong protest from E.C Richardson, the council’s recommendation was put to the vote and was passed with a majority of 11-5, bringing in terminology which is still used around the world today. Other rule changes suggested by the council at the 1933 AGM can be seen in the photo below.


1934 saw the departure of retiring President Schuster, with the council expressing that they were under great debt for the time he gave for the Ski Club and everything he achieved in his two-year tenure. Schuster was replaced by Sir Eric-Holt Wilson (pictured below), who began his term by attempting to address a number of issues which were causing friction within the organisation.

One of the issues that faced the council was the appointment of club officials at ski resorts around Europe. It had become apparent that club officials had been appointed at ski resorts in 1933 despite there being a lack of work to be done for the SCGB, making the trips an unnecessary expense for the Ski Club. Honorary Secretary Mr Seligman was particularly unhappy with this, suggesting a change to Rule 17 that meant ‘’no appointments be made merely in order that a member of the club should obtain a free or cheap holiday but that such appointments be restricted to cases where there was definite work to be done for the SCGB[iii].’’ It was decided that a formal letter be sent to all members who were guilty of obtaining a ‘free or cheap holiday’, setting out the standards expected of them, complete with an acknowledgement slip to be sent back to the SCGB.

There was also discontent among some of the council relating to payments of £200 and £74 made to the secretaries of the Editors of the ‘Ski Notes and Queries’ book. Mr E.H Houghton controversially suggested that the Editors and their secretaries be replaced by members who would be able to carry out the work without requiring payment, since the work of the Editors was not arduous. Despite Mr Houghton feeling passionately about the subject, President Wilson would not allow Mr Houghton the opportunity to air his views further as there was no mention of his issue on the agenda.

[iii] The Ski Club of Great Britain – Winter Arrangement Minutes 1931-1949. De Montfort University Special Collections. Leicester. England.

[ii] The Ski Club of Great Britain – AGM Minutes 1930-1935. Income and Expenditure Account. De Montfort University Special Collections. Leicester. England.

[i] Browning, Richard. “Historic Inflation Calculator: How Value of Money Changed since 1900.” This Is Money. January 31, 2018. Accessed April 23, 2018.


Mother’s Day and Mothers in Children’s Literature 

By Elizabeth Stubbs

This Sunday will be Mothering Sunday, and although not always celebrated on the same date, days have been allotted to the celebration of mothers and motherhood in over a hundred countries across the globe. In addition to their role as mothers, it’s important to remember that all carers are individuals too, with their own interests, careers, and passions.

However, this has not always been recognised, and no where is the historic conventionalising of child-carers more evident than in children’s literature.

At the turn of the 20th Century, women were beginning to play a larger role in children’s literature, fantasy stories, and nursery rhymes. While from a modern perspective this change was arguably a step forward, the representations of these women were scarcely progressive.

Writing in 1971, Alleen Pace Nilsen referenced a phenomenon she described as a ‘cult of the apron.’ Although writing at a later date, she discovered that of all the books she surveyed, only 25 featured images of women, and for 21 of those women were apron-clad child-carers, and the rest were attending to housework.

Interestingly, it was frequently only the dour demeanour of maids that separated them from the gentle mother, while mothers and elder sisters often fulfil a similar child-caring role and appear practically indistinguishable. As we approach Mother’s Day, it’s good to remember and celebrate the role of all the women who cared for us during our lifetime, related or not.

Finally, Mother’s Day is equally a time to celebrate the individuality of those who raised us – our mothers and carers are no longer expected to be the doting, apron-clad women of children’s literature, and we are therefore able to celebrate their lives in full recognition of the traits and qualities that make them special to us.


100 Years of the Representation of People Act

6 February 2018  is the 100th anniversary of the Representation of People Act 1918, in which women over 30 who met the property requirements were given the right to vote. To mark this occasion, here are a few items from our collections which showcase the women’s Suffrage movement.

First up are images from Punch Magazine. The first image is from January 28 1918 and was made to mark the Act. The second image is from 1911 and highlights the jiu-jitsu phenomenon that was developing in Edwardian Britain as well as the militancy of some Suffragettes.

Next is an article published in the Illustrated London News. What is interesting about this article is that it discusses  the disappointment in not gaining the vote for all women.

Of course, the vote is now given on different terms from those on which we have always asked for it. Our claim has always been “Votes for women on the same qualification as they are given to men.” I still believe that this would have been a much better basis. It would have enfranchised all women…

The Briggs-Blake-Zurbrugg Memorial Library collection also contains writings which discuss the women’s suffragette movement.  More information on this collection can be found here .

Figure 4- Books from the Briggs-Blake-Zurbrugg Memorial Library collection

















     “It was born of the frustration of women being prevented from doing what they could do, and what they longed to do” ( ‘A Women’s place 1910-1975’ by Ruth Adam, 1975, page 32)

“It requires unusual moral courage as well as disinterestedness in women, to express opinions favourable to women’s enfranchisement until, at least, there is some prospect of obtaining it.” (‘Strong minded Women, Janet Horowitz Murray, 1984, Page  34-35)

Blog post by Gursharan Hayre


The Josephy Slide Collection

My name is Molly and I am a current student at DMU on the Photographic History MA, volunteering here at the archive! I wanted to become a volunteer as the Archive is currently undertaking a project to catalogue the V&A National Arts Slide Library (NASL) which came to the university in the early ’90s. The NASL was a slide lending service that began in 1898 in which people applied to borrow slides. Magic Lantern slides and later, 35mm positive colour slides would usually be taken out to illustrate teaching and lectures. The collection, although made up of many different kinds of slides, mainly depicted items of Art History and items at the V&A.

Frances ‘Jo’ Josephy – creator of an amateur slide collection within the NASL

Bora Bora 1972

When I first came across this collection, I had been asked to choose a box of slides to catalogue and had to choose wisely; I was going to be working on these for a while so was best to choose something interesting otherwise I would get bored! I chose a box of ‘aesthetically pleasing’ images but the more I studied them, the more I found them strange. They were… ordinary and appeared to be holiday photographs. What were a bunch of tourist photos doing in a NASL?

I later came across the acquisition file for these pictures when rummaging through the NASL documents, looking for materials to work from for an essay. They revealed where they came from, who made them and how they ended up here. The box was part of a much larger slide collection donated to the V&A in 1987 by Miss M H Borman, the executor of the estate of Miss F.L Josephy. Frances Josephy or ‘Jo’ Josephy was a liberal party activist, the British representative in the European Union of Federalists and a keen amateur photographer. The collection boasts approximately 3,400 slides and documents Josephy’s travels over a span of twenty years (from 1956-1976) over 20 different countries.

Penang Late 1960’s-early 1970’s

Penang Late 1960’s-early 1970’s

Penang Late 1960’s-early 1970’s

The range of images produced by Josephy portrayed many places that had not been represented in the NASL, thus the donation was accepted and placed into the library. It is unsure whether or not these images were ever used by the public but since its revaluation and rediscovery in the DMU Archive and Special collections, we have begun to piece together the story and author of the images.

Bora Bora 1972

Penang Late 1960’s-early 1970’s



Bora Bora 1972


English Adventures in the Archive

Post 2: Finding the story…

From an adaptations perspective where a new story begins and how an adaptor talks back to a text, is a key consideration. For any English student who wants to understand more about how an adaptor approaches a source text, the Bryony Lavery and Andrew Davies collections are great places to start.

Just a few of the many items from the Lavery collection.


In both collections, there is a wealth of original, unique notes and correspondence that can only be viewed by be accessing the material at DMU’s Special Collections. They can be used to enlighten us on the creative considerations and cultural decisions made during the adaptive process.

The archive boasts a multitude of Andrew Davies scripts.



The original drafts of Andrew Davies are particularly interesting from an adaptation point of view. Many of the individual works he has been involved in or wrote is itemised in a catalogue that is currently being transferred to Archives Hub with each entry having its own individual item description- meaning that a visit to view this collection can quickly unearth exciting finds.

Scripts from the drafting process of ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’


In the documents relating to Davies’ screenplay of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, within minutes one can access items relating to the drafting process, including re-workings of the scripts which show the revisions made by Richard Curtis. The creative minds amongst you will be excited to learn that it is possible to access a letter that reveals some of the discussion had around what the adaptation wanted to sustain- such as ‘comic opportunities’ and whether these were being missed, and how maybe ‘more “embarrassing” relationship moments’ needed to be injected, along with considerations of the things the adaptation wanted to avoid, the treatment of characters, subplots and lots of ‘should we’ or ‘shouldn’t we’ considerations. Exciting stuff!!!

Other items that can enhance our learning about the adaptation process can be found in the material held on Lavery’s Ophelia– a re-telling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet from Ophelia’s perspective.

A glimpse into Lavery’s re-writing from Ophelia’s perspective.


When piecing together items from this collection it is possible to ascertain how ‘the play started to arrive’. For example, in her programme notes Lavery talks about her first experiences of Ophelia as the ‘obedient girl’ that she herself had ‘obediently accepted as a teenager’, through to her apparent later realisation that Ophelia had her own story to tell. In this explanation, we can begin to understand how the past has informed the present, and deeper investigation into the collection reveals how subsequently Lavery ‘found a new route into Elsinore and the story began’.

Further insight into Lavery’s treatment of Ophelia and her story, can be gleaned by perusing her drafting process, alongside her letters. Together, this material offers a unique understanding of where Lavery positioned Hamlet in contemporary society, why she felt that Ophelia had her own story to tell, and how she shaped Ophelia as a character. In one of her letters to a critic she exclaims that Shakespeare ‘never puts in enough women’ and that her re-telling presents Ophelia in a ‘more positive light’, one in which she attributes her with ‘strong, positive, womanly virtues…virtues, incidentally, which help to destroy her in the old world’. From this collection thus, we can quickly begin to piece together the emergence of a feminist text- an Ophelia rescued ‘from her male constructed prison’.


If after reading this you would like to use original source material in your work in a similar way, do come in and appreciate for yourself the vibrancy of the Archive and the artefacts held!


English Adventures in the Archive

Hello and welcome to English Adventures in the Archive! My name is Gemma, and I am a DMU English student working in the archive on a placement for the English in the workplace module. Over the coming weeks I will post a series blogs on what I discover about how the Archive and Special Collections can be used in an English degree.

Post 1: First impressions

On first walking into the Archive and Special Collections department, I was overcome with a feeling of discovery. Met with row upon row of incredibly old books, and what could be mistaken for boxes of secret treasure, for a fleeting moment I felt that I should not be there…that I had stumbled upon rarities that belonged to someone else and thus had not ought to touch. Yet, I am sure you can imagine where human curiosity takes such a find! Katharine Short (Archivist and Special Collection Team Manager) was quick to correct my common misconceptions and reassure me that my desire to open the boxes and explore was not only normal, but engagement with the collections is positively encouraged!

My placement coincides with the national campaign Explore Archives and this poster seemed fitting for the beginning of my own discovery.

Like most newcomers to the Archive I wondered if finding material would require hours of searching through boxes, yet I could barely contain my excitement as I was shown around for each aisle is neatly organised by collection, with box lists and entries available on the Archive hub. It began to dawn on me that I had discovered a very special place, a fantastic ADH resource where as an English student my research could be taken in fresh, exhilarating directions.

This is me rifling through my favourite collection so far, the papers of Bryony Lavery.

The reading room for researchers is a hub of activity.

For those of you who have never ventured into the Archive my upcoming series of blog posts will introduce you to some of the hugely exciting material held here. Over the coming weeks I will dispel the myth that archive material is dusty, boring or buried treasure that is simply to be stored and preserved, when rather it is a goldmine of already unearthed unique and original material that is held to be used, perused and enjoyed. On the lower ground floor of our very own Kimberlin Library, in a climate controlled room, the collection housed is brimming with incredible material that can be used to open the imaginations, inspire, enrich and enhance the studies of all ADH students. There is absolutely something for everyone here- including a particularly welcoming and helpful team. I certainly wish I’d found it sooner.

So come on, lets begin! To give you a flavour the Archive houses the recently catalogued papers of Andrew Davies (screenwriter), a fabulous collection of women’s magazines dating back to 1690, the papers of Bryony Lavery (playwright), The Theatre Archive Project (acquired by our VC, Dominic Shellard and an absolute must see for all Shakespeare enthusiasts) and many Early Printed Books.

Look out for next my blog post where I will reveal some of the fabulous items held in the  Bryony Lavery and Andrew Davies collections. The feminists amongst you will not be disappointed…