Research by Students and Other Users

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…