Special Collections catalogues

A reminder that you will find our catalogues here: https://specialcollections.catalogue.dmu.ac.uk/

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Blog closed

From now on all blog posts will be posted to: https://library.dmu.ac.uk/archivesblog

Please see https://library.dmu.ac.uk/specialcollections for the latest up-to-date information about Special Collections.

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The Origins of De Montfort University

Yesterday was a special day for De Montfort University – 150 years since the meeting at which it was decided to start the Leicester School of Art. You can see a story about the anniversary here and have a look at our new anniversary website including an events calendar. 

What prompted the people of Leicester to start an art school on that evening in October 1869? See below for DMU’s ‘origin story’ as told by archivist Katharine Short…

In 1869 the national Art Journal was moved to remark on the recent foundation of the Leicester School of Art: “we only wonder such an institution was not founded long ago.” Leicester finally had an art school, one that in time would expand, merge, and develop into the Leicester Colleges of Art and Technology, Leicester Polytechnic, and finally De Montfort University. 

Education for designers was a long-standing national concern. In the 1830s a government select committee investigated the preference of the British public for imported goods and found simply that foreignmade items were more attractive in design and decoration. In 1835 School of Design was founded in London to train teachers in a National Course of Instruction. Provincial towns were encouraged to start schools of art that would teach this syllabus, which comprised 23 stages from basic linear drawing through to the highest arts of figure painting. Every student was to be taught the same thing in the same way, and the programme was centrally organised by the Department of Science and Art based in South Kensington who examined work and distributed grants. Several towns were keen to establish their art schoolsManchester in 1838, Birmingham in 1842, Nottingham, Coventry and Sheffield in 1843. 

There were several attempts to get a school started in Leicester and various shortlived art classes but local conditions were not favourable. Locally there was considerable poverty due to the main industry of hosiery manufacture going through periods of stagnation, so there was little income to spend on classesAt this date the hosiery trade comprised small and competitive workshops and employers did not support art classes as they did not like the idea of their workers sharing trade secrets. There was also a prevalent opinion that hosiery manufacture did not need decorative skill and thus there was no need to train designers. 


 In 1862 a newcomer to Leicester wrote of the “stigma which rests upon Leicestershire as being the only county which contains in it no school of this character” (Nottinghamshire Guardian, 18 March 1862). However, as the 1860s progressed conditions in Leicester significantly changed for the better. Increased prosperity came from the growth of the boot and shoe trade which was more stable than hosiery, as well as the spread of railways. Improved sanitation and water supply had increased the population of the town and given them better health. In this atmosphere the well-off middle classes turned to the foundation of cultural institutions that reflected their new sense of civic pride, including the museum, library and Literary and Philosophical Society. Indeed, when a group of locals came together aa public meeting on October 14 1869 to open the art school debate again, there were few manufacturers among them, and few arguments that such a school would improve local industry. While there were people present who did think that there was “plenty of scope for design” among the trades of the town, this does not appear to be the primary concern of the founders of the School. Mayor John Baines began proceedings by emphasising that there was necessity for a school of design in a town of 90,000 inhabitants, when other, smaller towns already had one. This ‘necessity’ came more from a sense of Leicester’s status among rival towns than the need to train its artisans. 


While some attendees at the meeting were worried about Leicester not ‘keeping up with the Joneses, others had more moralising reasons to support the school. Having access to artistic education would help to show people, “even the poor“, good taste and encourage them to love for things beautiful in art“. Another opinion echoed this: “there is no doubt it would improve their tastes and habits… which would continue to exercise a widespread and beneficial influence on society (Leicester Chronicle, 16 Oct 1869 and 26 Feb 1870). This equation of an appreciation of beauty with a positive moral benefit is a typical attitude of the Victorian middle classes, neglecting to account for lack of basic elementary education, the exhaustion of long days of manual work and the other grinding effects of poverty. Edward Shipley Ellis, chair of Midland Railways, took this view further by lamenting “the money spent in the 500 public-houses in Leicester… what they wanted was to induce the young people to leave these places and spend their time in schools (Leicester Chronicle, 16 Oct 1870). 

The motion to start the School was passed, gentlemen were named to sit on the managing committee and £262 was raised towards the initial work of finding premises and hiring a headmaster. Reflecting the varied reasons behind the formation of the school, the managing committee did not include many representatives from the manufacturing industries who were supposed to benefit from the School’s training of designers. Instead there were a typical mix of Leicester’s moneyed middle-class: artists (including John Fulleylove), solicitors, doctors and bankers. Only two were hosiers and one was in the boot and shoe trade. These gentlemen quickly secured a disused warehouse on Pocklington’s Walk and began the process of fitting it out. They advertised for a master and interviewed 14 men before choosing Wilmot Pilsbury, an artist who had trained in teaching the National Course of Instruction. 


Doors opened for lessons on 1 March 1870. Classes were held in the daytime for ladies and students from private schools. These lessons cost twice as much as the evening classes for male and female artizans which included elementary and advanced art as well as focus on mechanical and architectural drawing. The first annual report summarizes the early success enjoyed by the School. 269 students attended classes, above the national average. Of these 92 were put forward for national exams and 42 passed, including 14 marked excellent. The prizes awarded to excellent students included books, watercolour sets and mathematical instruments. 


Initially the School of Art did not assist the artizan class in Leicester as much as had been hoped. This was due to the restrictive nature of the National Course of Instruction, which focused on drawing skills and would not allow those skills to be modelled in 3D, something that would be more useful to a designer needing to see how their pattern looked when applied to an object. Rather it was science and technical subjects that were in demand due to rapid advancements in industrial technology. Workers often knew nothing of the theories and principles that underpinned the machinery they were expected to use, and this put them at a disadvantage. After 1870, when compulsory elementary education was established for children between 5 and 12 years old, science evening classes became popular in Leicester although provision was voluntary or charitable.  


In 1873 the Reverend James Went added science classes to the traditional classical curriculum at the Wyggeston Boy’s School, where he was headmaster, and provided scholarships for 10 working class boys to attend. These classes developed into a separate department focusing on technical and commercial subjects such as engineering, building and mechanical drawingThe Leicester Chamber of Commerce appealed for local industry to offer support, stating: “the importance of this instruction, as tending to obtain both superior workmanship, and also economy of time and labour, must be obvious to everyone”.  


In November 1884 a new wing of the Boy’s School was opened specifically to house the science classes. Named the Ellis Memorial Technical School, after Edward Shipley Ellis who had donated a large sum to the work but had passed away before completion, it included a spacious chemical laboratory, a lecture room for 70 students equipped with a screen for projection of photographic diagrams, and a physics laboratory holding electrical machines and batteries to demonstrate the sciences of mechanics, optics, heat and magnetism. During the day the labs were used by boys at the school, but in the evening affordable classes were held for those wishing to improve their understanding of the theory behind their practical training at the workshop or factory. In time commercial subjects were added, as expanding industries required a steady supply of clerks and accountants. 

The School of Art was proving successful with a focus on fine art subjects and some expansion into applied design, women’s crafts and building construction subjects. It usually placed in the top 5 schools in the country at the national exams. Yet it struggled to maintain itself financially and relied on handouts from the Council. The Pocklington’s Walk premises had swiftly proved inadequate and the School moved to an annexe of the New Walk Museum, but this too was crowded and unsuitable. Meanwhile the Technical School was also experiencing financial difficulty and was oversubscribed, with 1,186 evening students in attendance. There was much local debate over how to proceed, with some arguing that the two schools should be merged only to find they could not agree on where they should be based or who should be in charge, as neither institution wished to give up its independence or be subsumed into the other. 


Finally, the Council stepped in and purchased a plot of land on the Newarke, in fact, the house and gardens formerly belonging to Edward Shipley Ellis. With the Art School already using the Ellis house for lessons, work began on constructing a building for both Schools – now the Hawthorn Building of DMU. Opened in 1897, the Leicester Municipal Technical and Art School was now managed by the Town Council’s Education Committee. The Art School headmaster, Augustus Spencer, acted as joint head for a few years, with James Went providing guidance and advice. When Spencer left in 1900 two separate headmasters were appointed: Benjamin Fletcher for the Art School and John Hawthorn for the Technical School (the building is now named after him). The institution continued to run with shared administration and buildings but two principals managing separate technical and art sections until they were united under one Director in 1969 as the City of Leicester Polytechnic. But that is an article for another post! 


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Event Round-up

We have several events coming up in the next few weeks so we’ve put together this short post to keep you up to date on whats going on.

We have a new opening time with Heritage Sundays, a talk on the Nigerian environmental activist Oronto Douglas, and a handling session featuring our sport archives!

Below you’ll find all the info for each of these fantastic upcoming events, we hope to see you there!

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To ‘shee’ and not to ‘ski’? That was the question…

…puzzling winter sports enthusiasts in 1928. Ski Club of Great Britain (SCGB) member Mr. G. D. Greenland was so concerned that he raised the matter in a meeting.

S/006/A/04/05/001 Affiliated Clubs Sub-Committee Minutes, 21 November 1928


The meeting minutes, which are preserved in the SCGB archive held by De Montfort University Special Collections, record that he “asked for an official ruling on the pronunciation of the word “ski”. The Meeting were of the opinion that either of the usual forms might be used.”

Ski history buffs will note that this answer was endorsed by the famous Arnold Lunn, an important figure in the development of the sport, as Chair of the Committee.


While Mr. Greenland may have been reassured to know that he could use “either of the usual forms” of pronunciation of the word ski, today the answer leaves us a little confused. Surely the word is pronounced ‘sKi’ with a hard ‘k’ sound in the middle? Given the spelling, how could there ever have been any doubt?

Go back twenty years to 1908 and the cause for uncertainty begins to emerge. Skiing was a new sport in the midst of development from a Nordic way of life to a codified competitive pastime enjoyed initially by a wealthy elite of mainly British pioneers. The Ski Club of Great Britain itself had been in existence only five years. British skiers looked to Norway’s long history of skiing for inspiration.

W. R. Rickmers, ‘On the Pronunciation of the Word “Ski”‘, Alpine Ski Club Annual 1908, pp56-58



In the Alpine Ski Club Annual of 1908 W. R. Rickmers, another pioneer of skiing, wrote an article ‘On the Pronunciation of the Word “Ski”.’

Here he explained that ‘ski’ is a loanword from Norwegian. Britain not having historically been a nation of skiers, there was no existing word in English.

The debate over pronunciation was a debate about whether to use the original Norwegian pronunciation, which approximates to “shee” in English, or to read the word as the spelling would suggest it to sound in English: “skee”.

In spite of the fact that twenty years later Mr. Greenland remained unsure, in 1908 a consensus seemed to have been reached and Rickmers was not happy about it:

“There is no scientific excuse for the adoption of the Norwegian pronunciation of the word “ski”… The same root word is found in the English “skid,” and ski pronounced s-k-ee would have been easy and natural…”

Rickmers sees the preference for Norwegian pronunciation as a “laudable wish” but ultimately “mistaken pedantry” and even “snobbishness” which makes little sense and is inconsistent with historical precedent since “[f]or centuries the Englishman has loftily ignored the sound of the foreign tongue”.

Rickmers himself had been using his preferred pronunciation of ski (as we say it today) for years, and had even formulated his own spelling. On 5th May 1903, the day before the Ski Club of Great Britain was founded, Rickmers delivered a speech to The Alpine Club entitled “The Alpine Skee and Mountaineering.”

The “shee” pronunciation still found favour, however. Key figures in the history of the sport took the opposite view to Rickmers. The very first sentence of ‘The Ski-Runner’ by E. C. Richardson (1909), a classic text written by a founding father of skiing, reads:

“Let us begin with a brief description of the ski themselves, premising that the way to pronounce ski is “she”, as in “he, she or it.”

The matter settled, Richardson moves on to other concerns. Given so definite a verdict by so notable and influential a figure, in a book so widely read, it becomes easier to understand how the “shee” pronunciation took hold in the first few decades of the twentieth century.

But it was not to last. Skiing grew in popularity and by the late 1920s when Mr. Greenland asked his question, the Ski Club of Great Britain had grown from a founding committee of 6 men to a membership of nearly 3,000. Members learned about the latest skiing techniques, equipment, resorts, tours, competitions and social events through Club publications such as Ski Notes and Queries and the British Ski Yearbook. In an era without television and in the very early days of radio, the chances are that many skiers seldom heard anyone talking about skiing before they read someone write about it. It can be difficult to pinpoint when and why language change occurs, but perhaps Rickmers was right when he observed that it is

“…the common sense habit of all peoples…to follow the line of least resistance, and to knock the foreign importation into shape, as it were, for immediate use at home.”

It appears that not even the authoritative instructions of well-respected pioneers were enough to counteract the phonetic temptation to say it like you see it. Language evolves through use and the ‘shee-ers’ of the early twentieth century evidently found sentences such as “she shees down the shee slope” too much of a tongue-twister to cope with.



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Reel cool: expert assessment for Ski Club of Great Britain films

As I’ve mentioned before, the Ski Club of Great Britain collection is very varied, comprising not only the administrative record of the organisation but also photographs, skiing equipment, competition awards, a library and a film collection dating from the 1930s to the 1970s.

There are about 90 film reels in the collection. When the Ski Club collection came to DMU Special Collections a list was made, but there is significant information missing from it. Not having the equipment to show the films ourselves, we had to rely on what was physically written on the film reel or tin for a clue as to its contents. We found that some films had no title at all, some films had titles which had been crossed out and replaced with a new title, several films had the same title and very few had dates. Without watching the films it is impossible to tell if the films with the same titles are duplicates, what the contents of the untitled films might be, and what their age is.

We realised we needed specialist help.

The Media Archive of Central England (MACE) is the specialist public film archive for the East and West Midlands, an independent company and registered charity based at the University of Lincoln. MACE has the equipment and, most importantly, the expertise to carry out an assessment of the Ski Club films and provide us with the vital information that we are missing. Not only that, casting an expert eye over the films will enable MACE to report on their condition, give us guidance regarding their future storage, and identify film gauges and formats.

So last month Katharine and I took a trip to Lincoln to deliver the films to MACE.


We were lucky enough to be given a tour around the facility and were very impressed! We saw our films safely into the very cold specialist storage room with its banks of roller racking…








…and then gazed in wonder at the collection of historic film recording and playing equipment on display in the reading room.




We met the members of the MACE team who will be working on the Ski Club films and listened with increasing perplexity and admiration as they explained the work they proposed to do on the collection with equipment like this:

Understanding all of the individual words but little of the overall meaning of the explanation, Katharine and I were impressed with the specialist technical knowledge of the staff, which only confirmed our belief that this was definitely not something we could have attempted ourselves.

One thing we did understand was a comment that white is a tricky colour to work with, meaning that a collection of skiing films presents a real (reel) challenge of technical skill!

We look forward to seeing the results.


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New Cataloguing

We’ve added some fascinating new catalogues to our Epexio site today!

D/085: Papers of Janet Reger Lingerie Company








Janet Reger (1935-2005) studied at the School of Corsetry at the Leicester College of Art before going on to found the lingerie brand which made her a household name. This collection dates to 1999-2011 and includes patterns, drawings, advertising material and fabric swatches.

S/007: Papers of Jack Greenstock, boxer








Jack Greenstock (1894-1980) was a boxer, trainer and promoter active in the East End of London. He boxed in matches in the UK, America and Europe between 1910 and 1926 before retiring. He opened his own gym and trained new boxers, promoting tournaments and matches across London and the South-East. The collection contains press cuttings, promotional materials and photographs.

See also this previous blog post.

D/046: Papers of Kenneth Tindall, architect

Kenneth Tindall was a trained architect and surveyor, and was head of the Department of Building, Surveying and Land Economy at the Leicester College of Art (later Leicester Polytechnic) between 1955 and 1980. The papers include architectural drawings, press cuttings and photographs.


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Ski Sundae: cafés and cocktails in the Ski Club of Great Britain archive

Like all the best start-ups, it began in a café with a small group of people, a shared interest and a new idea. The Ski Club of Great Britain was born at the Café Royal, London on 6th May 1903. One hundred and sixteen years later, the tradition of celebrating important moments and sporting activities over a good meal is still going strong as the Ski Club hosts this year’s End of Season Party on 18th May.

That first meeting was a genteel and informal affair as fourteen well-heeled gentlemen enjoyed the fine food, fine wine and fine surroundings of one of the most fashionable establishments of the day. Over dinner,

“it was agreed to found a ski club…[as] It was pointed out by those who spoke, that the sport had now gained considerable ground in this country, and that an institution was needed which could assist its members in such matters as where to go, what sort of ski to purchase, from whom initial instruction could be had, and what the general condition of the snow was in such and such a place at such and such a time of year, &c.”

(From a letter to the press entitled ‘Ski Club of Great Britain’, signed by E. Syers, E.H. Wroughton and E.C. Richardson).

The original menu for this dinner, signed by the founding members, is a prized piece of the Ski Club archive.

S/006/A/01/01/001 Committee and Annual General Meeting Minutes 1903 – 1909

The following year, another dinner was held at the Café Royal, this time following the Annual General Meeting, a tradition which was to be upheld for decades to come and which brought members of the Committee together with ordinary members, often with a noted guest speaker. As the detectives amongst you may have spotted in my last blog post, in 1912 it was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The cuisine on offer in 1904 included ‘Bombe Nesselrode’, the most popular ice pudding of the nineteenth century according to historicfood.com and a clear inheritance from the bygone Victorian era.

Underlining the importance of dinners to the Ski Club and assuring its place in history, the dinner menu was once again used as an attendance record and firmly stuck into the minute book for safe keeping.

S/006/A/01/01/001 Committee and Annual General Meeting Minutes 1903 – 1909

In 1924 the Club held a dinner to celebrate an important milestone in its history: its twenty-first birthday. The location this time was the Hotel Cecil, another renowned venue for dining and dancing, once the largest hotel in Europe. The cover of the menu has been specially designed to incorporate the trefoil logo of the Ski Club of Great Britain in its border and it features an image of a skier. Inside, we learn that toasts were raised to the King, to the Club’s founder members, some of whom were still involved in the running of the Club, and to the Club itself. Perhaps the Coupe Glacée on offer for dessert was the first ever ski sundae?

S/006/A/01/02/001 Circulars to Members 1910 – 1924

S/006/A/01/02/001 Circulars to Members 1910 – 1924









The Club logo has been incorporated into menu design many times since, as in this example (undated).


By the 1930s there was an Entertainments Committee to organise formal dinners and much more besides. In this report from 1934 the music suggested for the Spring Dinner seems to range from a dance band (Ted Sommerfield’s No. 1 Band of seven musicians – does anyone know anything more about them?) to Swiss waltzes and an accordion, an interesting mix of traditional and more current musical styles of the time. The Report also mentions an Exhibition of Ski-ing Films and a lectures by two great figures in ski-ing history, Gerald Seligman and Arnold Lunn.

S/006/A/04/06/002 ‘Committee Minutes II’ 1929 – 1952

An orchestra, a steel band and a discotheque provided the entertainment at the 1971 Ski Club Ball, continuing the Club’s penchant for mixing musical styles, but this time there was an opportunity to rest weary dancing legs and regain some energy before the journey home: hot soup was served to all attendees from 2 to 2.30am!

Auprès-ski rather than après-ski, the Ski Club dinner has a long and joyful history of bringing members together to celebrate their Club and their sport. If photographs could talk perhaps the attendees at this Ski Club Dinner eighty years ago would raise this toast to all those current members who will be at the End of Season Party on 18th May: cheers!

Ski Club of Great Britain Dinner, London, 4th May 1939



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Official Opening of the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre

Yesterday, 9th May 2019, saw the official opening of the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre on campus. The opening ceremony itself included speeches from the Centre’s director, Kennetta Hammond Perry, the Vice Chancellor Professor Andy Collop and Baroness Doreen Lawrence who went on to cut the orange ribbon before leading a tour around the Centre.

The Centre features a seminar room and communal study space as well as a permanent exhibition telling the story of Stephen’s life and murder and the legacy of Doreen Lawrence’s tireless work to achieve justice for her son by challenging the racially prejudiced frameworks inherent to the UK’s social infrastructure and criminal justice system.

Image taken from The Stephen Lawrence Research Centre website

Open to the public and featuring items from the archival collection, the work of the Centre aims to “drive forward conversations that will shape and influence how we think about race and social justice. It intends to honour the enduring legacy of Stephen Lawrence’s life and his family’s ongoing pursuit of justice by asking new questions, debating critical issues, raising awareness, and advocating to bring about positive change.”

And with that in mind, the evening progressed with a panel discussion including special guests Afua Hirsch, writer, broadcaster and barrister, Jack Straw politician and Home Secretary (1997-2001) who launched the Inquiry which led to the publication of the Macpherson Report, and Benjamin Zephaniah writer and poet.
















It was a real privilege to listen to the panel discuss issues and experiences surrounding race and representation, the problems with language and the current use of BAME and its homogenizing othering effect, the challenges facing young black people today in terms of opportunities and attainment and the great deal of work still needed to build an equal society without racial prejudice.

The panel was followed by the opportunity to talk further during the reception which included food, a steel band, and the DMU Gospel Choir

Through the generosity of Baroness Lawrence in depositing her papers and materials relating to the Stephen Lawrence case at DMU in 2016, Special Collections was able to contribute to the opening by creating 3 exhibition cases for guests to see further items from the archive.

Items from Stephen’s childhood















Items relating to the Family Campaign




Items relating to the work of the Stephen Lawrence Centre





It was a proud moment for our Archives Manager, Katharine, and the Special Collections team to finally see the launch of the Centre.

The archival catalogue is currently closed but it is hoped access arrangements will be finalised over the summer and the collection made available to the public at Special Collections at DMU and through our online catalogue.

The opening of the Centre is a historical moment for DMU and its commitment to the legacy of Stephen Lawrence in the ongoing struggle for equality and social justice which at Special Collections we are very proud to be a part.

The Special Collections team

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DMU Homecoming 2019

This weekend sees DMU’s first ever Homecoming event where all our alumni are invited back for a fun, activity packed celebration with the chance to catch up with old friends, reconnect with staff and explore the campus.

As well as access to the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre and the Heritage Centre along with a host of sporting events there will also be a variety of stands showcasing what the university has to offer, including one from yours truly!!!

The Special Collections team will be there showcasing some of our fabulous items, such as prospectuses, student work, and photographs of campus and the local area. We hope the archival collection will trigger some fantastic memories which we look forward to hearing about.

As a sneaky peek for those who aren’t alumni or for those who can’t make it, here are some of the items that will be on display.


Leicester Municipal Technical and Art Schools prospectus, 1897

The school at this time offered many vocational courses connected with local industry such as boot and shoe manufacture and dress making.

Next up is one of our all-time favourites – maybe some you remember this one with its depiction of education as a platform game?

Leicester Polytechnic Prospectus, 1986

In terms of iconic prospectus covers, I’m sure many of our almni will remember this one inspired by the BBC’s Trials of Life presented by David Attenborough.
















There’s nothing like looking at old photographs of landscapes and building for sparking some nostalgia and memories so here are a few highlights:

The Hawthorn Building c 1903. Still standing at the centre of DMU campus today, it used to house both the Art and Technical Schools.

The James Went building, not that architecturally popular while still standing, visiting alumni and previous staff love seeing photos of it. Demolished in the early noughties, Hugh Aston now stands in its place.

And finally, we couldn’t miss an opportunity to show the Kimberlin Library where I’m sure all our alumni spent many hours beavering away:


To conclude our alumni tour what better way than showing the students themselves hard at work during classes:

One of our favourite College of Art photographs from the 1920s

Art and Design students are now based in the Vijay Patel Building

Next we have an electronic engineering class.  The faculty of engineering is now housed in the Queens building, built in 1993.

Students volunteering, 1993

Student volunteering schemes have always been a huge part of DMU’s commitment to the community and provide invaluable learning opportunities for students.For further information on current volunteering programmes see DMULocal, DMUGlobal and MyGateway

We hope to see lots of our alumni tomorrow but if you are not attending and would like to visit Special Collections, please do get in touch using our email: archives@dmu.ac.uk or if you would like to contribute to our Archives Appeal click here.

Happy Homecoming 2019 from the Special Collections Team

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Snow far, snow good! Cataloguing the Ski Club of Great Britain archive

I’m afraid you can expect a few more poor winter-related puns over the next six months because I have just started work on the Ski Club of Great Britain (SCGB) collection, the first of four sports archive collections I will be cataloguing over the course of the next two years for the ‘Unboxing the Boxer’ project.

In 2018 DMU Special Collections was successful in its bid for a grant from The Wellcome Trust under the Trust’s Research Resources Awards In Humanities and Social Science funding scheme, which helps “collection and information professionals develop library and archive material for humanities and social science researchers”. DMU is a leading centre for the study of sport history and academics and students from the International Centre for Sports History and Leicester Castle Business School’s Business Management in Sport MSc have already been conducting research into the Ski Club collection since its arrival in March 2018. Cataloguing the collection in detail will develop the material for further research by making it easier in future to navigate, understand and search.

I began the process of cataloguing by physically looking at the collection to get an overview of the kinds of material I could expect, which is very varied! There are lots of objects in the collection, from trophies to skis, as well as the administrative records you would expect to find in the archive of an organisation which is over one hundred years old.

My next step was to analyse the existing box list (a sequential list of everything in the collection) to identify like material and patterns which would suggest the main functions and activities of the organisation. I used colours to distinguish different areas.

From this, I sketched out a rough hierarchical structure for the catalogue, to reflect as far as possible the way the organisation arranged its own records while they were in use. The benefit of such an arrangement is that the researcher can get a sense of how the organisation operated and how different documents are related to each other, preserving connections which might be lost if the items were catalogued as isolated entities.

With my rough structure in place, I began the cataloguing of individual items. I have started with the corporate administrative records because they tell me a lot about the formation of the Club, its purpose, its rules and its key figures, which is the essential background information I need in order to understand the meaning of all the other items I will go on to catalogue over the course of the next six months. Corporate records also give information about high-level decision-making and changes in policy, which I also need to be aware of because I am likely to find evidence of the impact of those decisions in the records of the day-to-day activities of the organisation.

There are about 150 administrative items to catalogue and I have made a start by physically arranging them into their different series. There is not always the space to do this with a large number of volumes, but I am lucky enough to have a spare couple of desks to spread out on!

I am now working on creating a description for each item from scratch and assigning each a unique reference number using our cataloguing management system. I am also adding in key names, places and subjects as access points so that future researchers can browse the catalogue by theme or person as well as by keyword searching. You never know when there might be a name you don’t expect to find!

This is the first in a series of blogs, so watch this space for more winter fun as the cataloguing progresses!


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