Tag Archives: archive

General Election 4 July 2024 – an appeal for election leaflets

Ian Coates, Library Assistant, working in Special Collections on our political materials, calls for the your help to preserve General Election flyers: Donate, don’t dump!

We are appealing for donations of General Election material published by candidates in the forthcoming General Election. Please gather up any election-related leaflets you receive and post them to us at Special Collections, Arts & Social Sciences Library, University of Bristol, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TJ.

  • We collect election addresses, leaflets, manifestos, and related political materials
  • This includes items produced by all political parties, and independent candidates, as well as other groups seeking to influence the election, in all UK constituencies, to represent the whole political spectrum
  • We welcome donations of material from members of the public, political parties, parliamentary candidates, and their agents. We redact any personal names and addresses printed on material added to the archive
  • Please bundle up what comes through your door and send it to us after the General Election, with a note of the location or postcode where it was received

A collage of election flyers.Special Collections at the University of Bristol holds the largest and longest established collection of election addresses (over 30,000) and campaign literature, from all British parliamentary elections since 1892. We also hold leaflets from London County Council and European parliamentary elections, along with campaign literature from other important national plebiscites such as the 1975 and 2016 referendums on membership of the European Union. This material is available for consultation by students, researchers, journalists, and members of the public.

Please help us to keep our UK general election leaflet collection up to date!

A leaflet from the 1906 General Election.A description of our political collections, including our election address archive, can be found at: http://www.bris.ac.uk/library/special-collections/strengths/politics/.

Our online archive catalogue is at: https://archives.bristol.ac.uk/. For example, have a look at DM2952 for our holdings relating to the 2019 General Election (23 boxes).

How to get in touch:

Email: special-collections@bristol.ac.uk

Phone: 0117 928 8014

Web: https://www.bristol.ac.uk/library/special-collections

Twitter: @BrisUniSpColl

Address: Special Collections, Arts & Social Sciences Library, University of Bristol, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TJ

Two maps of London constituencies, dated 1900 and 1906.

Archiving the Web: collecting web crawls for the University Archive

Sam Brenton, Bridging the Digital Gap Trainee, writes about his work in Special Collections and the Theatre Collection.

Hello, my name’s Sam and I’m the Digital Archives trainee on the Bridging the Digital Gap programme from The National Archives. This scheme aims to place people with technical skills within archives around the country to help preserve the increasing number of digital items they collect. Over the past fifteen months I’ve been at the University of Bristol, working on a number of digital archiving projects with Special Collections and the Theatre Collection. One of the things I’ve been working on is expanding the quantity of web pages in the University’s web archive.

Illustration by Jørgen Stamp digitalbevaring.dk CC BY 2.5 Denmark.

Illustration by Jørgen Stamp digitalbevaring.dk CC BY 2.5 Denmark.

So what is a web archive? And how is it different from the website itself? A web archive is a collection of web pages preserved offline and is totally independent from the source website. This means that should the original web pages become unavailable, or are altered in any way, there is still a perfect copy of the original. The pages are stored as WARC files, a format specifically designed for the preservation of web pages as it acts as a container for all the elements that make up the web page, such as text and images.

When we’re concerned with long term preservation we can’t guarantee that the pages will still be hosted by their original source. Sometimes this is simply because an organisation likes to regularly refresh its content, for example a manufacturer listing their current products. But even something that appears to be more permanent, such as online encyclopedias and other information resources, may be altered, or older content might be removed without warning. It’s important that an archive is aware of any websites that come under the scope of its collection policy, particularly any that might be at risk.

I’ve been archiving parts of the University’s own website, such as the various news and announcements and the catalogues of courses offered, by crawling them in Preservica (our digital preservation system). The websites were identified by the University Archivist as being similar to traditional paper elements of the archive. So in order to mirror those collections, I’ve been doing small individual web-crawls based on dates (either year or month). These smaller crawls deliver more consistent results and will allow for better cataloguing in the future.  Sometimes this is challenging, as it takes a lot of time to process each crawl. When web crawling, it is common to run in to issues when rendering the pages, this if usually because complex JavaScript elements of modern web pages, such as interactivity and animations, are difficult for the crawlers to capture, so it was important that I checked each crawl before adding it to the archive. Fortunately for me, the sites I’ve been crawling are relatively simple, so the only issues I had were with the .WARC viewers themselves. Each one behaves slightly differently, so it’s useful to try rendering the crawl in a different viewer (such as Conifer) if there are issues with it, before re-doing the crawl.

WARC files of crawled University web pages in Preservica.

WARC files of crawled University web pages in Preservica.

In the future I’d like to look into adding relevant external web pages to the collections. In due course, we also hope to be able to catalogue and make web crawls accessible. In the longer term I would like to look into archiving social media profiles.  These are far more challenging to preserve due to log-in requirements and the large number of interactive elements, but they are arguably just as important as standalone web pages. The posts are far more ephemeral than web pages and we are reliant on the platform to maintain them.  They are also a key way that the University communicates with the public.

Pieces of China in Bristol – cataloguing Historical Photographs of China material

Jamie Carstairs has recently catalogued the ‘Historical Photographs of China’ material held in Special Collections. In this post, he describes the material in outline and mentions some highlights.

During the fifteen years of the Historical Photographs of China Project, a surprisingly large amount of archival material was accumulated. This was never the plan, but came about incidentally. As well as photographs, the project acquired negatives, 35mm colour transparencies, post cards, books, vintage cameras, newspaper cuttings, scrap books, maps, silver shooting trophies, shipping labels, cine film, memoirs, ephemera – as well as a Shanghai Municipal Policeman’s whistle, penknife, bus pass, freemason regalia, slippers and other objects (John Montgomery Collection, DM2836). Most of this material was donated, while a few photographs were purchased with a view to filling gaps in the collection.

A print of a caricature by Miguel Covarrubias, of the successful businessman Sir Victor Sassoon with a Leica camera and lighting kit, in Bali, dated 1934. Sir Victor loved photography, horse racing, travel, international friendship and the party life of 1930s Shanghai. This print is in a scrapbook in the George Hutton Potts Collection (DM2831/21).

A print of a caricature by Miguel Covarrubias, of the successful businessman Sir Victor Sassoon with a Leica camera and lighting kit, in Bali, dated 1934. Sir Victor loved photography, horse racing, travel, international friendship and the party life of 1930s Shanghai. This print is in a scrapbook in the George Hutton Potts Collection (DM2831/21).

The first few frames of a roll of 16mm cine film, in the Robert Peck Collection (DM2838/4/1). This part of the footage seems to show a Christian proselytising in a street in China, c.1937. The two reels of cine film in this collection have not yet been viewed or digitised.

The first few frames of a roll of 16mm cine film, in the Robert Peck Collection (DM2838/4/1). This part of the footage seems to show a Christian proselytising in a street in China, c.1937. The two reels of cine film in this collection have not yet been viewed or digitised.

A barograph trace, made on the luxury liner ‘Empress of Asia’, showing an off-the-chart drop in atmospheric pressure during a typhoon in October 1921. The barogram is in a scrapbook in the George Hutton Potts Collection (DM2831/19).

A barograph trace, made on the luxury liner ‘Empress of Asia’, showing an off-the-chart drop in atmospheric pressure during a typhoon in October 1921. The barogram is in a scrapbook in the George Hutton Potts Collection (DM2831/19).

A portrait of a boy reading ‘Amateur Photographer’ magazine, 1940s/1950s (HPC ref: Ha-s056), from the extensive Tita and Gerry Hayward Collection (DM2830), which includes Basil Edward (Dick) Foster Hall (1894-1975) material. A few images in this collection have been published on the HPC web site.

A portrait of a boy reading ‘Amateur Photographer’ magazine, 1940s/1950s (HPC ref: Ha-s056), from the extensive Tita and Gerry Hayward Collection (DM2830), which includes Basil Edward (Dick) Foster Hall (1894-1975) material. A few images in this collection have been published on the HPC web site.

This archival material is now held in Special Collections. It has recently been catalogued and these records can be consulted on the Online Archive Catalogue. To see all the catalogue records for the HPC material, select ‘China (Historical Photographs of China)’ in the ‘Major collections’ drop-down menu in Advanced Search. Or search for a particular archival DM reference in ‘Reference number’ in Advanced Search, or a keyword lucky dip in ‘Any text’ in Advanced Search.

A screenshot showing some results of a search for ‘China (Historical Photographs of China)’, in the ‘Major collections’ drop-down menu in Advanced Search, in Special Collections’ Online Archive Catalogue.

A screenshot showing some results of a search for ‘China (Historical Photographs of China)’, in the ‘Major collections’ drop-down menu in Advanced Search, in Special Collections’ Online Archive Catalogue.

The oldest photographs we hold date from the late 1860s/early 1870s, in an album thought to have been compiled by John Gurney Fry, of the famous chocolate family (DM2887). Many of these beautiful and well-preserved albumin prints are photographs by the great photographers Lai Fong and John Thomson. The John Gurney Fry Collection has been digitised and the images can be viewed on the HPC web site.

Four musicians (singers), with instruments, Fuzhou, c.1868-1874 (HPC ref Fr01-044). Photograph by Lai Fong (Afong Studio). A page from the John Gurney Fry album (DM2887).

Four musicians (singers), with instruments, Fuzhou, c.1868-1874 (HPC ref Fr01-044). Photograph by Lai Fong (Afong Studio). A page from the John Gurney Fry album (DM2887).

Most of the HPC material dates from the 1870s to the 1950s, but we have also collected slides and photographs taken during the early stages of China’s Cultural Revolution (Colin Andrew Collection, DM2818), and slides taken during a bicycle trip from Nanjing to Shanghai in 1983 (John Lyle Collection, DM2993) as well as photographs taken in the 1980s for two historical architectural books by Professor Ronald Knapp (DM2992).

Unidentified event, Jingshan Park, Beijing, c.1966 (HPC ref Aw-t415). One of 553 slides (35mm transparencies) taken by Colin Andrew during the Cultural Revolution (Colin Andrew Collection, DM2818/4).

Unidentified event, Jingshan Park, Beijing, c.1966 (HPC ref Aw-t415). One of 553 slides (35mm transparencies) taken by Colin Andrew during the Cultural Revolution (Colin Andrew Collection, DM2818/4).

The collection includes fascinating self-published memoirs, such as I Remember One Time by Paul Kaye (DM2990/6), and Out of China by Ronald Kliene (DM2990/10). Both Kaye and Kliene were in the Shanghai boy scouts, 1930s. Also of great interest is an ‘extra-illustrated’ mss entitled ‘The Diaries and Letters of Rev. Robert Walker Debenham Peck’ (DM2838/1). Peck was a Methodist missionary in Wuhan during the Second Sino-Japanese war. Other donated books include Five Months of War (North-China Daily News, 1938), illustrated with drawings by the Shanghai’s premier cartoonist ‘Sapajou’ (Georgii Avksent’ievich Sapojnikoff) (DM2836/7).

The cover of Five Months of War, published in 1938. This book about the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) contains many photographs by North-China Daily News photographers and others, cartoons by Sapajou, and maps. (John Montgomery Collection, DM2836/7).

The cover of Five Months of War, published in 1938. This book about the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) contains many photographs by North-China Daily News photographers and others, cartoons by Sapajou, and maps. (John Montgomery Collection, DM2836/7).

Some of the material in Special Collections has been digitised, but many historical photographs remain uncopied and their content undescribed, samples below.

A page from the album in the Pearl Bercht Collection (DM2820). Pearl Bercht was an American missionary, in Guangzhou (Canton) 1919-1922.

A page from the album in the Pearl Bercht Collection (DM2820). Pearl Bercht was an American missionary, in Guangzhou (Canton) 1919-1922.

An uncaptioned photograph in a large album entitled 'Coronation Day / 12th May 1937 / British Embassy / Peking' (Berkeley Gage Collection, DM2827/2). The photographs in this album are by the Russian friend of Hedda Morrison, Serge Vargassoff (1906-1965). Research is required to identify the guests at the Legation event, which include Qin Dechun (秦徳純) (1893-1963) and Zhang Guangjian (張廣建) (1864-1938).

An uncaptioned photograph in a large album entitled ‘Coronation Day / 12th May 1937 / British Embassy / Peking’ (Berkeley Gage Collection, DM2827/2). The photographs in this album are by the Russian friend of Hedda Morrison, Serge Vargassoff (1906-1965). Research is required to identify the guests at the Legation event, which include Qin Dechun (秦徳純) (1893-1963) and Zhang Guangjian (張廣建) (1864-1938).

A trade fair in a mat shed, either in Hong Kong or Singapore, early 1930s. The women are in sailor rig, emblazoned with the words ‘BOVRIL – PREVENT THAT SINKING FEELING’. The John Arber Collection (DM2985) includes many Hong Kong photographs relating to advertising and marketing.

A trade fair in a mat shed, either in Hong Kong or Singapore, early 1930s. The women are in sailor rig, emblazoned with the words ‘BOVRIL – PREVENT THAT SINKING FEELING’. The John Arber Collection (DM2985) includes many Hong Kong photographs relating to advertising and marketing.

Material in Special Collections that has been digitised, but is not yet published on the HPC site, include rich collections such the James Helbling Collection (DM2829) and the Cyril Whitaker Collection (DM2845), samples below.

A Cartier-Bressonesque photograph by Cyril Whitaker, captioned in the album: ‘Calibrating a [petroleum] tank by pumping out and weighing water on alternate scales. Jan. 1938’ (HPC ref: CW08-80). Whitaker was a talented ‘semi-pro’ photographer who documented the Asiatic Petroleum Company (APC) installation near Chongqing. Cyril Whitaker Collection, DM2845/8.

A Cartier-Bressonesque photograph by Cyril Whitaker, captioned in the album: ‘Calibrating a [petroleum] tank by pumping out and weighing water on alternate scales. Jan. 1938’ (HPC ref: CW08-80). Whitaker was a talented ‘semi-pro’ photographer who documented the Asiatic Petroleum Company (APC) installation near Chongqing. Cyril Whitaker Collection, DM2845/8.

This photograph of an impressive matriarchal family group is captioned on the back ‘Lau Ahchiang & family / Tai Ping Compradore 1906 / Foochow’ (HPC ref Od-s017). James Helbling Collection, DM2829/1.

This photograph of an impressive matriarchal family group is captioned on the back ‘Lau Ahchiang & family / Tai Ping Compradore 1906 / Foochow’ (HPC ref Od-s017). James Helbling Collection, DM2829/1.

A recent donation is the fruit of a lockdown clear-out, the Yangtse Corporation Collection (DM2998). The images of salt mining in this collection are on the HPC site, referenced as YC-s.

Special Collections also hold a large born-digital collection of images – the Nicholas Kitto Treaty Port Image Collection (DM3051) – over 4000 colour images of surviving/restored pre-1950 architecture in the former treaty ports, photographed by Nick Kitto in 2008-2016. Kitto drew from these in his book  Trading Places, A Photographic Journey Through China’s Former Treaty Ports (Blacksmith Books, 2020).

The Custom House, Guangzhou, one of the oldest Custom Houses in China, photographed here by Nick Kitto in 2008. This image is on the cover of 'Trading Places, A Photographic Journey Through China's Former Treaty Ports' by Nicholas Kitto (Blacksmith Books, 2020).

The Custom House, Guangzhou, one of the oldest Custom Houses in China, photographed here by Nick Kitto in 2008. This image is on the cover of ‘Trading Places, A Photographic Journey Through China’s Former Treaty Ports’ by Nicholas Kitto (Blacksmith Books, 2020).

DM2956 is a catalogue record of the c.62,000 HPC digital images (i.e. the output of fifteen years digitisation by the HPC project), now stored in a DAMS (Digital Asset Management System). All 168 HPC collections are listed in DM2956, as well as their archival DM references and whether the images in a collection have been added to the HPC web site, or not. DM2956 also includes an outline history of the HPC project, which ended in 2021 – details here.

For the future – a new HPC web site is due to be launched later in 2022. The redesigned site, on a new platform, will draw images and metadata direct from the DAMS. There’s plenty more work to do inputting metadata into the DAMS. This metadata includes descriptive information about the image, names, dates, locations, keywords, etc, which makes images findable on the HPC site. All being well, some of the many thousands of already digitised China photographs that we hold in Special Collections, which are not yet on the HPC site, will gradually be added to it.

If you have any queries, do please contact us.

Link

Covid-19 Collecting and the University of Bristol Community

Like me, you might well be sick of the phrase that we are living through interesting times, though it could be argued that living through a Covid-19 lockdown and trying to work/study from home, is ‘interesting’.

As this is the case, and as we like to collect contemporary materials which may go into a future archive relating to the coronavirus and how it has affected the University of Bristol Community, we are proposing a collection of Covid-19 related materials.

We are well aware that this is a stressful and sensitive situation for all, and that many of you are more busy than usual; trying to adapt to new situations; working to care for people and develop strategies to combat the pandemic; and suffering losses of loved ones. However we would appeal to you all as part of your busy day to consider what is happening around you, and if you think it could be relevant to how people in the future will study how we coped with the Covid-19 pandemic, do please get in touch with us.

We should receive archives of committees and the like due to our current collecting of archives of the University of Bristol, but there are many other strands that will be of interest.

-Webpages and SharePoint sites: The University Coronavirus web pages and share point sites for students and staff

https://www.bristol.ac.uk/students/coronavirus/current-students/

https://uob.sharepoint.com/sites/coronavirus

The work with the Community to help, support, and discover

The work of the Uncover team

We have created our own SharePoint site so people can upload material and submit it to us. This is new to us, so let us know if there are any problems with it.  It is now available here: https://uob.sharepoint.com/teams/grp-Covid-19-collecting

-Press and media: Our academics and students are busy engaging with many forms of media, (we are aware of the public relations web pages and thank them for being supportive)

-Social Media: Blogs, twitter, Instagram, twitter, facebook, yammer. All of which may show a more informal side of what is happening

-Emails: From colleagues/managers/schools to students/staff/individuals giving support and laying down new regimes/suggestions

-Talks and interviews: Such as staff addresses and talks from individual academics.

-Photographs: Images of your working at home desk/study area. Your new co-colleague pets and family. Rainbows, teddy bears in the windows of houses around you. Signs in shop/business/domestic windows. Graffitied messages of support

-Objects: When we go back to campus keep the signs put up to record that a building/library was closed. Did you sew a face mask? Did someone you know create PPE using school 3D-printers or sew scrubs? Did you get involved in volunteering in the community in many different ways? If you don’t want to give up the actual object we would be happy to have a photograph.

 

-Writing: Some people are writing diaries, finding solace in poetry, reading more (or less). The Brigstow Institute has supported diary projects, Mass Observation is collecting diaries on 12 May, and we would love to see your work (but only if you are happy to share).

https://www.bristol.ac.uk/brigstow/projects/re-imagining-diary/

http://www.massobs.org.uk/write-for-us/12th-may

Our Request

We are going to concentrate on the University as a community, be that student, staff, or alumni. We are interested in your story, whatever faculty you are based in (not just the arts) and whatever your job title or course of study.

We are conscious that there is a lot of collecting already going on. For instance the MShed in Bristol is collecting; as are multiple archives, libraries, museums, and organisations.  Collections may be physical or digital, or a mixture of the two.  The Wellcome Trust is also giving some good guidelines about the ethics of current collecting, which we are very anxious to follow.  So if you would like to talk to us that is brilliant, but if you have already offered your materials to another organisation that is equally fine (we are a bit late in asking).

We also realise how busy everyone is and though we seem to be entering the next stage of the pandemic after 7 weeks of lockdown, we would rather that you save something and get in touch in the future, when you have time to process what you are living through.  As I write this on 11 May 2020, the Government and University authorities, and the wider community are talking about what the next stage will be for us all to cope with what we are experiencing.  It is a rapidly changing situation, and we would love to record this as it is happening.

Do get in touch with us at

grp-Covid-19-collecting@groups.bristol.ac.uk or special-collections@bristol.ac.uk

We would love to hear from you, and thank you for your time.

Special Collections Web Page: https://www.bristol.ac.uk/library/special-collections/

Hannah Lowery on behalf of the Special Collections Team

11 May 2020

(images all Hannah Lowery)

A guide to our Online Archive Catalogue and other resources

Hannah Lowery, Archivist and Special Collections Manager, has penned this guide to Special Collections resources available online.

Special Collections holds over 5km of books, archives, photographs, and artefacts dating from the eleventh to the twenty-first century.  Due to the current Covid-19 situation you can’t visit us, but here is a brief guide to viewing some of our holdings remotely.

Ceremonial key used by King George V to open the Wills Memorial Building on 9th June 1925. DM320.

Ceremonial key used by King George V to open the Wills Memorial Building on 9th June 1925. DM320.

Start with our web pages.

Use our guide to ‘collection strengths‘ to find out more.

Use the library catalogue to find out about our book holdings, though you will often have to use other sources to find physical or electronic copies of the books.

Our colleagues are bringing together lists of resources available online, so go to the Library page to find them.  Some may only be for University of Bristol people, but there is a wide variety of materials available for all.

Remember if you need advice, or want to find out more, do email us at special-collections@bristol.ac.uk and we will try and help.

Sit down for a tour of our Online Archive Catalogue, and a guide as to where you might find digitised materials, which you can investigate.

Note that when you click on a ‘thumbnail’ image at the bottom of a record in the Online Archive Catalogue, you can view a larger version. For even closer study, click on the symbol for a magnifying glass at the top right. Any text should be fully readable. To close the enlarged image, click on the ‘x’ at the top right.

University of Bristol materials

We hold the ever growing archive of University College Bristol (1876-1909) and the University of Bristol (1909 to date).  As well as papers of academics, departments and students you can find out about the buildings and much more.

Poster about Radio Wills. DM1447/2.

Poster about Radio Wills. DM1447/2.

Did you know that Winston Spencer Churchill (1874-1965) was Chancellor of the University from 1929 until his death?  A search in the online archive catalogue brings up 226 mentions of archives relating to Churchill.

For instance, DM270 contains digitised photograph albums relating to visits to Bristol by Churchill in 1951 and 1958.  Click here to find a photograph of Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) being granted an honorary degree by Churchill on 14 December 1951.

DM1310 is the archive of Sir Charles Frank (1911-1998), who was a physicist.

Although the entire catalogue is not yet available on line, there is a PDF, of the catalogue. We hope to spend the coming months working on making these lists more available.

There are extensive archives relating to the University of Bristol Physics Department, including the papers of Noble Prize winner Cecil Powell (1903-1969) – for example DM517.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859)

A view of Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol, from St Vincent’s Rocks, showing the piers under construction, along with chains, and scaffolding on the towers. DM216/3/4.

A view of Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol, from St Vincent’s Rocks, showing the piers under construction, along with chains, and scaffolding on the towers. DM216/3/4.

Interested in Victorian Engineering and the extended Brunel family?  You are in luck! Our extensive archive relating to Brunel and his family is held at the Brunel Institute, a collaboration between the SS Great Britain and the University of Bristol.

Our online archive catalogue is where you can find descriptions of the archives and related images.  Explore Brunel’s letters, letterbooks, sketchbooks, competition drawings for the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and more.

For instance, do a search for DM162, which was the first gift from the Brunel family to University of Bristol Special Collections…

DM162/10: Letterbooks.

DM162/10/1: Letter book covering 27 May 1832-5 November 1839.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel to W L Moorsom, 9 April 1836, concerning the Cheltenham Railway.

DM162/8: Isambard Kingdom Brunel Sketchbooks and Calculation Books.  There are 63 of these, covering the period 1829-1859.  Click on the link above and you can see sketchbooks arranged by size or topic (Small, Large, Great Western, Other).

A personal favourite of mine is in Great Western Sketchbook 10  – something we might not expect to see in an engineering related sketchbook.

We will return to Brunel in the future, but you can now view newly uploaded materials on the Great Eastern and more (See a previous blog by our colleague Emma Howgill about the Great Eastern ship).

The current change to how we work presents an opportunity to get more paper catalogue lists online, which will make them more accessible in the future.

Medieval Manuscripts

A grotesque or drollery, perhaps serving as a mnemonic, in the margin of a folio in the Cobden Book of Hours. DM832.

A grotesque or drollery, perhaps serving as a mnemonic, in the margin of a folio in the Cobden Book of Hours. DM832.

There are sixteen examples of medieval manuscripts if you search under the ‘Major Collections’ tab for medieval manuscripts in the advanced search, including:

DM104 Kingswood Abbey Deeds, Gloucestershire

The deeds cover the period 1225-1444, and include grants of land to the abbey, confirmation of grants, accounts of receipt and expenditure, confirmations of privileges, and papal letters. They are reputed to contain the oldest surviving rent rolls in England.

Go to the catalogue to find out more about the Abbey which was founded by William of Berkeley in 1139.  The fifty deeds have been digitised.  For instance here is a link to DM104/1 which is a grant of lands in Culkerton, Gloucestershire in 1225.

Two academics from British Universities have approached us about these recently, so it is nice to be able to share all of the images with everyone.

You might also want to explore DM832 Cobden Book of Hours

This is an early 15th-century Book of Hours designed for use in the diocese of Troyes, France and made on parchment, the text in French and Latin.  Watch Dr Erica O’Brien (Department of History of Art, University of Bristol) talk about its beauty and significance, currently understudied. It is beautifully illustrated, and this bird recently got people talking, what do you think it is?  (See our twitter feed for earlier discussion of a part of ff74r-77r Penitential Psalms – an image of this folio is at top of the thumbnails shown here)

DM58 Pinney Papers

We hold on deposit for the Pinney family extensive archives relating to their family, including their estates in Britain and the West Indies. If you are Bristol based, you may know that the Georgian House Museum on Great George Street, now in the possession of Bristol Museums, was once owned by the Pinney family.

Digital images of only one item from DM58 are presently available online, which is DM58/6/Pinney Miscellaneous 7.  This is a notebook covering the period 1783-1794, and includes instructions from the Pinney family to Joseph Gill their land manager, on how to manage their estate.  You can read each page separately.

We hope to do more work on this, so return if you want to find out more.

DM1031 Humphry Repton’s Red Book for Leigh Court, Abbots Leigh

Humphrey Repton (1752-1818) designed new grounds for the Miles family for their property at Leigh Court, Abbots Leigh, near Bristol, in 1814.

You can explore the drawings via the link above.  This book was loaned to the Garden Museum in London in 2018, with many other Red Books to mark the bicentenary of Repton’s death.

John Addington Symonds

John Addington Symonds on a toboggan, Davos, Switzerland. DM377.

John Addington Symonds on a toboggan, Davos, Switzerland. DM377.

John Addington Symonds, (1840-1893), lived at Clifton Hill House, Bristol, now one of the University of Bristol Halls of Residence.  He wrote on the Italian Renaissance, and had a talented and extended family, which included his daughters Madge Vaughan (1869-1925) and Dame Katharine Furse (1875-1952).

We may return to them in the future, but for the moment take time to look at the family scrapbook (DM375/1), compiled by Madge Vaughan and her daughter Janet.  Here you can explore photographs of family life in Bristol and Davos, Switzerland, where John Addington Symonds was forced to live due to health issues.  Find photographs of family groups tobogganing, of friends such as Robert Louis Stephenson (a portrait by Albert George Dew Smith), as well as artwork of flowers and alpine gardens, well-loved family dogs, and press cuttings.

We hope that this helps as a starter to the wealth of Special Collections materials available to all, and do return to find out more.  And remember to ask if you have any questions, and we will help if we can (email us at special-collections@bristol.ac.uk).

Spring is coming! Artwork by Margaret Symonds (Madge Vaughan) of the garden at ‘Am Hof’, Davos Platz, Switzerland, entitled ‘A View of my Mother’s Alpine Garden at Davos / Sketch by Myself 1897’. DM375/1.

Spring is coming! Artwork by Margaret Symonds (Madge Vaughan) of the garden at ‘Am Hof’, Davos Platz, Switzerland, entitled ‘A View of my Mother’s Alpine Garden at Davos / Sketch by Myself 1897’. DM375/1.

Photographing Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s S.S. Great Eastern

Emma Howgill is a project archivist at Special Collections, University of Bristol. She has recently completed the cataloguing of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s S.S. Great Eastern letter-books.

As a project archivist, my job is full of enjoyable moments and satisfaction. There’s the satisfaction of being one of a privileged few people who get to go through, in painstaking detail, a variety of archives. There’s the joy of getting to know someone who may be long dead, through their own words and personal correspondence and relationships. Then there’s possibly the best part of my job; the thrill of putting disparate bits of information together to make connections. These connections might be between different parts of the same archive, with material in other archives or with knowledge floating around in the back of my brain.  While cataloguing Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s correspondence relating to the S.S. Great Eastern (DM1306/11/1), I got to make all three sorts of connections.

The S.S. Great Eastern was Brunel’s last project; the third and largest of his three great ships and was dogged by misfortune throughout her life. From a fire in the shipyard and the bankruptcy of the shipbuilder, John Scott Russell, to the three months that it took to launch the ship and a disastrous explosion that blew up one of the funnels and killed several of the crew during her trial voyage from London to Weymouth, the ship seemed ill-fated. Even once in service, disaster seemed to follow the ship and eventually she was broken up in 1889, having served out her last few years as a floating billboard for a local department store in Liverpool. Yet in engineering terms, the ship was a significant achievement. At 692 feet and over 18,000 tons, the S.S. Great Eastern held the title of the largest ship ever built for over forty years.  The ship was also packed with revolutionary engineering techniques; from her double-layered iron hull to a series of bulkheads allowing compartmentalisation of the hull in case of flood or fire.  It is no wonder, with such revolutionary size and construction techniques that Isambard Kingdom Brunel wanted his magnum opus to be recorded in detail.  And that is where the connections come in.

Over a period of six months, I catalogued six volumes of correspondence, covering eight years and countless correspondents on numerous topics.  Cataloguing a sequence of correspondence like this allows themes to emerge. In October and November 1854, Brunel and his ship-builder, John Scott Russell, discuss a set of photographs that Brunel wishes to commission of the ship’s construction. This phase of correspondence finishes on 8 November 1854 with a letter from Brunel to John Yates, secretary of the Eastern Steam Navigation Company, mentioning that Brunel has commissioned a regular photographic record be made detailing the progress of the construction of the Great Eastern (DM1306/11/1/1/folio 304-305). Seven months later there is another set of correspondence about these photographs, beginning with a letter from Isambard Kingdom Brunel asking to see the photographs of the Great Eastern under construction (DM1306/11/1/2/folio 72). This set of correspondence ends with two pages of Instructions for Photographs listing exactly how Brunel wants any future photographs to be taken (DM1306/11/1/2/folio 85-86).  And just over a year and a half later, on 9 December 1856, there is a letter from Joseph Cundall of the Photographic Institute in New Bond Street, requesting payment for taking these photographs. Brunel’s letter-books, carefully showing the sequence of all the correspondence that he both sent and received about the Great Eastern allows us to trace the development of Brunel’s idea to illustrate the process of constructing his great ship, from its conception to payment.

First of page of Brunel’s Instructions to Photographers, 14 May 1855. DM1306/11/1/2/folio 85-86.

First of page of Brunel’s Instructions to Photographers, 14 May 1855. DM1306/11/1/2/folio 85-86.

This correspondence also allows us to connect our collections at the University of Bristol with those at the Special Collections of the University of Bath. The Hollingworth collection at the University of Bath contains typed transcripts of correspondence about the construction of the S.S. Great Eastern as well as copies of some photographs of the ship.  Close examination of these photographs reveals them to be the ones commissioned by Brunel from Cundall and Howlett, and in fact demonstrates that Brunel’s chosen photographers actually included many of the points made in his Instructions for Photographs of the 14 May 1855 (DM1306/11/1/2/folio 85-86).  For example, comparing the photographs shows them to have been taken from several distinct spots around the ship, so that when the photographs are arranged chronologically, it is possible to track the growth of the double-skinned hull across the months by comparing distinct landmarks incorporated in each photograph.  This echoes Brunel’s explicit instructions to ensure that the photographs are taken from comparable spots. The images also demonstrate Brunel’s wish to have the date of each photograph somewhere in the image itself, thus allowing quick and easy identification of the rate of progress, and it is possible to engage in a Victorian game of ‘Where’s Wally’, finding the date of each photograph, whether hidden on wooden beams or inscribed on the side of a watchman’s hut.

Photograph taken by Cundall and Howlett showing the S.S. Great Eastern under construction. 23 January 1856. Photograph from the University of Bath Special Collections.

Photograph taken by Cundall and Howlett showing the S.S. Great Eastern under construction. 23 January 1856. Photograph from the University of Bath Special Collections.

Now come the external connections. Joseph Cundall, the photographer writing to Brunel in December 1856 requesting payment for his work, was the senior partner in the firm of Cundall and Howlett. Cundall himself had earlier been tasked to photograph the rebuilt Crystal Palace with which Isambard Kingdom Brunel was also involved when he helped to design the steam heating system of the new Crystal Palace. Cundall’s junior partner, Robert Howlett, through this Great Eastern commission, was subsequently responsible for what may arguably be one of the most recognisable photographs of the Victorian Age. As well as photographing the construction of the S.S. Great Eastern, Howlett was commissioned by the Illustrated London News to capture the launching of the Great Eastern in November 1857.  As part of this later commission, he photographed Isambard Kingdom Brunel standing, with his ubiquitous hat and cigar, in front of the great drums of the launching chains of the Great Eastern, an image that has come to define not only Isambard Kingdom Brunel, but also Victorian engineering. Before Howlett’s untimely death in 1858, he had been commissioned by Prince Albert to photograph some of the interiors of Buckingham Palace and the works of artist Raphael, as well as being commissioned, with Joseph Cundall, to produce photographic portraits of soldiers returning from the Crimean war for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. And so this one letter from Joseph Cundall forges a series of connections within Brunel’s Great Eastern correspondence, with neighbouring archives but also with two of the early pioneers of photography and with one of the most instantly recognisable photographs of the Victorian age.

If you want to explore Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Eastern correspondence in more detail, please visit our online catalogue, or you can arrange to visit the original letter-books which are held at the Brunel Institute.