#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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Coming to a living room near you…

Charlotte Spink, a Learning Assistant in our Learning and Engagement Team, reflects on transitioning Little Dragons under 5s group from a multi-sensory museum-based programme to a digital session families access from home during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Charlotte presenting Little Dragons from the Galleries at the Oriental Museum
Creating digital content in the Oriental Museum galleries

Lockdown brought with it many changes to ways of working in museums, especially when it comes to engaging with our very youngest visitors – preschool children and their families. Little Dragons, the Oriental Museum’s group for children under 5 has been running as a weekly gallery-based session for over 8 years, attracting an average of 15-20 children per session.  Each session is themed around exploring an object the children can see on display, with craft activities, songs and sensory stories. All these activities were very much based on sensory engagement, communicating directly with each individual child and personalising the session for them.

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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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#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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#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”

#Colourourcollections (1)

Fancy a bit of colouring in? Get your crayons, paintbrushes, or favourite digital colouring app out and join us in making Durham Cathedral’s famous sanctuary door knocker more colourful!

You can click and save the image below to print off, download the PDF version or create a digital copy. 

We’d love to see the results, so do share your colourful creations with us via Twitter (@dulib and @PalaceGreenLib), using the hashtag #colourourcollections. But most importantly, have fun!

If you’d like to see more old drawings of the Durham area, have a look at our Pictures in Print pages: http://valentine.dur.ac.uk/pip/index.html.

Find out more about the Sanctuary Knocker on the Durham World Heritage Site website: https://www.durhamworldheritagesite.com/architecture/cathedral/intro/sanctuary-knocker.

Black and white drawing of the Sanctuary Knocker at Durham Cathedral. It has the shape of a lion's head.

Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre library: spotlight on archives and special collections (1)

From medieval manuscripts to an extensive archive of materials relating to the Sudan via the historically important 17th-century Bishop Cosin’s Library, in this series of posts we focus on an archive or book collection held at Palace Green Library. In this first instalment, we travel to 17th-century Liège to take a closer look at the library of the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre.

Pamphlet written by the foundress of the English community of Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre as a justification of their existence and an advertisement for other English Catholic women to join the community.
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