#Hist2020: History Day 2020, celebrating our collections

Every year University College London organises a day for academic, cultural and heritage institutions to come together to showcase the enormous range of historic collections in archives, libraries and museums. In pre-Covid times, the day would be held at Senate House and would be attended by anyone in London with a serious interest in historical research.

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Spotlight on the collections: Anne Stevenson Poetry Library

Anne Stevenson at a book launch in 2009 (Photo Credit: Simon James, Flickr, via CC BY-SA 2.0)

According to Anne Stevenson, who died on 14 September 2020, a poet is that rare person ‘who is in thrall to nothing but poetry’s weird tyranny and ungovernable need to exist’. The volume and breadth of her poetry and scholarly interests attest to this uncontrolled creative urge, and we are very fortunate to have part of her poetry library.

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A warm welcome to Durham University Library and Collections 2020-2021

A message from Mike Wall, Assistant Director and Deputy Librarian in the University Library and Collections

If you are a new student joining us at Durham University this year, welcome! We’re so pleased you’ve chosen Durham for your studies and we hope your time with us is a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding experience. And to those of you who are returning at the start of a new academic year, welcome back! After such an unceremonious parting six months ago, we’re excited to be able to open the doors of our libraries to you once more.

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Book conservation in lockdown

What do Conservators do when separated from the archives and rare books they normally work on? One answer is that they make their own! Tony King, our Senior Manager Collections Care and Conservation, describes the process of creating a historic bookbinding.

The history of Western bookbinding stretches back to antiquity and has involved significant changes in the way books are bound, sometimes leading to obvious external differences but often not. Books are complex 3-dimensional objects and working out how a book was put together several hundred years ago requires a fair bit of detective work. Very few descriptions of life in the bindery have survived so the only way to really understand the processes involved is to make a new book using what we believe to be the techniques, tools and materials of the period.

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Multicultural Amman: Engaging Jordan’s Youth (Part 2)

In part 2 of this blog post, Ross reflects on colleagues from Jordan visting us here in Durham…

The second part of the training was the most difficult as we needed to bring some of the trainees to the UK to complete part two at Durham. By October 2019 the trainees arrived in Durham for an 8 day training programme. The Jordanians worked with the Learning and Engagement Team with a visiting school, family activities and meeting staff from all over Library and Collections. We ate at various colleges, explored all the venues of Durham Castle, Palace Green Library and focussed many of our training sessions at the Oriental Museum. Both the Jordanian delegation and the Learning and Engagement Team found this a truly valuable learning experience on both sides!  


We then spent the second half looking at other museums. We explored the venues of Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM) at Newcastle, went to Beamish Museum and sampled the fish and chips – I can assure you British food is not as tasty as Jordanian food, and I’m sorry, but British Levant-esq restaurants don’t even come close to road side Jordanian coffee and falafel! We even explored as far reaching as the Bowes Museum!  

The aim was for the curators who have now completed both parts of the training at Jordan and the UK to now work in partnership between the private, public and museum sectors to develop a schools programme and deliver a school session.  

By November, the 28th November in fact, perhaps one of the proudest days of my career. Sat in Programming Panel my phone buzzed. I naughtily checked it (sorry colleagues!) and there it was, the images of the first organised whole day, facilitated school trip to the Jordan Archaeological Museum on the Amman Citadel. The university students helping the curators to deliver a session on the archaeology of the citadel. The children made model Umayyad Palaces, based on our Castle building session on our own visit. Truly lovely to see and an amazing thought that the training had come true. As time went on, school visits started to happen.  

By January 2020 word had reached UK Research and Innovation who contacted us to make a documentary highlighting the project as best practice for international example! Filming began in February and our filming in Amman was due to take place on the 19th March 2020. This has been postponed due to the COVID-19 situation. As has our final visit in October 2020 where we plan to hand over the reins to our newly trained curators to become the trainees and continue the legacy of learning and engagement in Jordanian Museums using the best practice of both UK and Jordanian museum and heritage sites.  

Blog post 2i
Ross, centre, with his Jordanian colleagues before the corona-virus digital shift

Ultimately this project has been a huge learning curve. We have learnt practice on from our Jordanian colleagues and I hope the same goes the other way too. It has opened doors and I now have a huge network of culturally engaged, professional and amazing colleagues working across Jordan to deliver our passion for history, collections and understanding where we come from and to disseminate this knowledge with our future, the children we educate and learn with every day.  

Coronavirus has paused the project, but together we have been sharing ideas on how we innovate digitally with some amazing projects happening with our Jordanian partners and with us. An amazing experience with amazing people in an amazing country.  

Fingers crossed that Ross can write a part 3 when we are able to travel and collaborate again!

#Colourourcollections (3): Sunderland High Street

Sunderland_Colouring resized

For those of you who are familiar with Sunderland, here is an image of the High Street in earlier times for you to colour in. The image is part of our Pictures in Print digital collection of printed local maps and topographical illustrations. This particular illustration comes from an extra-illustrated copy of William Fordyce’s The history and antiquities of the county palatine of Durham (1857), which is held at Sunderland City Library.

The domed building on the right-hand side is Hutchinson’s Buildings, opposite Havelock House where in 1898 the “Great Fire of Sunderland” started. Can you identify any other buildings?

Download the image above as a JPG or as a PDF. Do share your creations with us via Twitter (@dulib or @PalaceGreenLib).

Robert Chapman and his plea to the bishop of Durham

Simona Martorana is one of a small group of intrepid Durham University students wrestling with medieval handwriting. They are guided by Michael Stansfield, Senior Manager of Archives and Special Collections, normally in person, but over the last few months online. During these palaeography sessions, students catch a glimpse of a past world through the many stories that surface in our archival sources. Simona discusses a document from the Durham Cathedral Archive, which our staff look after at 5 The College.

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RLUK Collections: a virtual tour of our shared treasures

Durham University Library and Collections is a member of Research Libraries UK (RLUK), a consortium of the most significant research libraries in the UK and Ireland. As many members entered lockdown in March, Dr David Prosser (Executive Director of RLUK) took a virtual tour of RLUK member’s special collections via Twitter (#RLUKCollections), including those at Durham University, to highlight just a small selection of the extensive, diverse, and unique collections held within the member libraries and archives.

We have (with permission) highlighted here Durham’s brief entry, and provided links to each of the others, as an opportunity to quickly sample some of the many treasures held within the British Isles.

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#Colourourcollections (2)

This week we’re introducing you to a historic magazine for Durham University students, which we hold in our archives and special collections.

The Sphinx was a magazine produced by the students of  Durham University between March 1905 and June 1922 (it did not appear between July 1914 and the end of 1918). It contained short pieces, parodies, cartoons and accounts of sports and other social events.

The image below shows a view that hasn’t perhaps changed much over the last century or so! Right-click and save the image, or download a PDF version to colour in at your leisure. Why not share your efforts with us via Twitter (@dulib or @PalaceGreenLib)?

View of Durham Cathedral across the Wear from The Sphinx, volume 1 issue 9 (June 1906)
View of Durham Cathedral across the Wear from The Sphinx, volume 1 issue 9 (June 1906)

Whose book is it? Books owned by the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre

The following post, by our rare books cataloguer Dr Aya Van Renterghem, first appeared in a longer form on the Early Modern Female Book Ownership blog in May 2020. We are grateful to the blog’s moderators for allowing us to share the content.

When considering the many shapes and forms in which early modern female book ownership appears, thoughts and discussions usually turn to the various types of books owned by different women or focus on the difference in ownership between social classes of women, for instance. It is, however, possible to broaden this view and also think about gradations of ownership and about the level of agency female book owners had. I mean by this that we could think about questions such as how much control early modern women had over their choice of books or over the type of books they owned. The Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre collection, currently being catalogued at Palace Green Library, Durham University, presents an interesting case study in this regard and is worth exploring here. Continue reading “Whose book is it? Books owned by the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre”

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