5 unusual items from the University of Reading Special Collections

Erika Delbecque, Special Collections Librarian at the University of Reading, tells us about some of the more unusual items they hold…

The holdings of the University of Reading Special Collections Service, which were added to COPAC earlier this year, are incredibly varied. They range from notebooks by Samuel Beckett to a medieval schoolbook and Russian translations of The Wizard of Oz. Working with such a wide range of material allows us, and our students and readers, to make interesting connections across collections and disciplines. To give a flavour of the type of material visitors may come across in Special Collections, in this blog post we highlight five of our most surprising items.

A miniature library for children

Photograph of the Book-case of knowledge, or library for youth (1803)

Book-case of knowledge, or library for youth. London: J. Wallis and John Harris, 1803. CHILDREN’S COLLECTION BOX—001

This tiny bookcase, entitled Book-case of knowledge, or library for youth, contains ten didactic books for children on topics such as English history and Mathematics. Dating from 1803, it was produced at a time when ideas by philosophers such as Locke and Rousseau on the innocence of childhood led to the creation of a new concept of childhood and a renewed interest in the education of children. Blurring the distinction between books and toys, bookcases such as these aimed to encourage learning through play.

It is part of the Children’s Collection, comprising over 6,000 children’s books and journals from the 17th to the 20th centuries.

A souvenir from a frost fair

Photograph of a Keepsake printed for John Alderson (1739/40).

Keepsake printed for John Alderson. London, 1739/40. JOHN & GRISELDA LEWIS—3/8

In the 17th and the 18th centuries, a number of severe winters resulted in the River Thames freezing solid. This phenomenon attracted many visitors, and fairs and pageants were held on the ice, including what were to become known as frost fairs. Stalls and booths were set up selling toys and books, beer, wine, and gingerbread, and oxen and sheep were roasted. One of the most popular entertainments on the ice was to visit one of the many printing presses on the frozen river. People had their names printed, sometimes accompanied by an illustration or a piece of verse, as a keepsake to commemorate the occasion of their visit.

This example, printed at the famous frost fair of 1739/40, is part of the John and Griselda Lewis Collection, which contains some 20,000 items illustrating the history of printing and graphic design from the fifteenth century to the present. This collection was in the spotlight recently when the discovery of a previously unknown leaf printed by William Caxton made the news.

Mythical monsters

Illustration from The history of four-footed beasts and serpents

Topsell, Edward. The history of four-footed beasts and serpents. London: E. Cotes for G. Sawbridge T. Williams, and T. Johnson, 1658. COLE–004Q

The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents (first published in 1607) is a wonderful illustrated bestiary that lists all manner of creatures from elephants to bees. Each entry describes the creature in detail, giving commentary from ancient, medieval and contemporary sources. Common animals and mythical creatures are listed indiscriminately. An example of the latter category is the hydra depicted here, a nine-headed monster from Ancient Greece with a fatally poisonous breath that grows two heads when one is severed.

This book can be found in the Cole Library, which covers the history of early medicine and zoology from the earliest times to the present day. It was compiled by F. J. Cole, who was a professor of zoology at the University of Reading from 1907 to 1939.

A view of the Great Exhibition of 1851

Lane's telescopic view of the ceremony of Her Majesty opening the Great Exhibition of All Nations, 1851

Lane’s telescopic view of the ceremony of Her Majesty opening the Great Exhibition of All Nations, 1851. London: C.A. Lane, 1851. GREAT EXHIBITION–11/29

The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, also known as the Crystal Palace Exhibition, was held in Hyde Park, London from 1 May to 15 October 1851. Our Great Exhibition Collection contains around 200 books, periodicals, pamphlets and ephemera from that time. It includes this souvenir diorama from the Exhibition, which folds out to reveal a three-dimensional view of Crystal Palace, seen through a peephole.

Fat alpacas

Page from The alpaca, 1844

The alpaca. [s.l]: [s.n.], 1844. MERL LIBRARY RESERVE–3519-ALP

The library of the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading is the most important collection in the country for the study of the history of British agriculture, the countryside and rural society. This pamphlet from 1844, aimed at British farmers, promotes the alpaca as a profitable alternative to other breeding stock in England, claiming that the alpaca is “as fat as any sheep I ever saw” and that the animals “never ramble from their hill pasture”. In case alpacas are not of interest, the advertisers add that they also sell “turtle alive, or ready cooked and securely packed in jars”…

Erika Delbecque
Special Collections Librarian

Special Collections Services
University of Reading
Redlands Road
Reading
Berkshire, RG1 5EX

specialcollections@reading.ac.uk
merl@reading.ac.uk

+44 (0) 118 378 8660

All images copyright University of Reading Special Collections, reproduced with kind permission of the copyright holder.

Highlights of the National Aerospace Library

Tony Pilmer, Librarian at the National Aerospace Library, picks out some of the things that make the library special…

Photo of the National Aerospace Library reading room

National Aerospace Library reading room

The National Aerospace Library is the rather grand name of the library and archive of the Royal Aeronautical Society. The Society is open to anyone who is professionally interested in aeroplanes, helicopters, drones, launching things into space, hot air balloons etc., whether they are involved in designing, building, maintaining, testing, flying, administering, litigating – or simply enjoy researching the history of aviation.

The Society started in 1866 when a group of scientifically-minded individuals got together to work out how people could fly. For that, of course, they needed access to the best literature available, and so the library began. Then, as members got older and started looking for safe homes for their collections, the Society’s library was found to be a natural choice.

For over one hundred and fifty years we have continued to give members (and now non-members) access to the best of new resources, whilst also preserving some amazing historical materials for historians, and indeed anyone looking for old answers to new questions.

Photo of the interior of the National Aerospace Library

We open the doors of our Farnborough Reading Room to all, although the specialist nature of our collections means that we mainly attract professionals, historians and undergraduate and postgraduate students – there are hundreds of dissertations and theses waiting to be written on our shelves.

Our tours can last from two minutes to two hours (more if you get lost exploring our shelves), so I thought I’d better limit myself to highlighting seven things that make the National Aerospace Library so special…

#1: New stuff

We collect the best new aerospace publications, including textbooks, conference proceedings, journals and magazines. We also go through our new journals and transfer the details of the articles of most interest to our members and readers onto our library catalogue and, as a consequence, onto COPAC.

#2: Rather old stuff

The Library holds aeronautical material dating from 1515 onwards. Some of the gems of our collections have been digitised and placed on our heritage website, including the first technical drawings of an aeroplane and the notebooks of the Father of Aeronautics, Sir George Cayley.

Page from the notebook of Horace Short (1909)

Page from the notebook of Horace Short, containing detailed sketches of the Wright Flyer from which the first official aircraft plans were made (1909)

Page from Sir George Cayley's notebook - 'Sea' (1799-1811)

Page from Sir George Cayley’s notebook – ‘Sea’ (1799-1811)

#3: Royal Aeronautical Society stuff

Letter from Orville Wright to Griffiths Brewer, 1922

Letter from Orville Wright to Griffiths Brewer, 1st April 1922

Royal Aeronautical Society members have always been at the cutting edge of research.

Not only do we have letters from members of the Society to key figures in aviation, including the Wright Brothers, we also have recordings of lectures and interviews with many of them.

We have started to make available some of our audio material as podcasts, including recordings of Chuck Yeager and the men behind the Fairey Delta II and the World Speed Record of 1956.

We also hold the Royal Aeronautical Society Archive, which contains some wonderful material, including this cartoon of Sir Robert Hardingham, one of the Society’s past presidents.

Cartoon of Sir Robert Hardingham, President of the Royal Aeronautical Society

Cartoon of Sir Robert Hardingham, President of the Society of Licensed Aircraft Engineers and Technologists, later part of the Royal Aeronautical Society. Tech Air (February 1969)  p.23

#4: Photo collection

We hold over one hundred thousand images in our photographic collection. We work with the Mary Evans Picture Library to market our digitised collections to individuals and to corporate users and…

Okay, I’m rumbled, I’ve just added this paragraph so that I can include some nice photos of aeroplanes!

Photo of 18 Hawker Hunters of 111 Squadron at the Farnborough Air Show in 1960

18 Hawker Hunters of 111 Squadron at the Farnborough Air Show in 1960

Photo of Airship R101 at its mooring mast at Cardington, about 1929

Airship R101 at its mooring mast at Cardington, about 1929

Photo of the first flight of the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works DarkStar, 29 March 1996

The first flight of the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works DarkStar, 29 March 1996

#5: Volunteers

We have a great band of volunteers who are helping us to conserve and record our collections…

Photo of National Aerospace Library volunteers at work...

National Aerospace Library volunteers at work…

#6: Staff

…and we have a small, but perfectly formed staff to help readers find the material they want, whether in person, by phone or via e-mail. Our Chief Librarian, Brian Riddle, has worked in the Library for over thirty years – so what he doesn’t know about the collections isn’t worth knowing!

Photo of Brian Riddle

Brian Riddle

#7: Turning grown adults back into small children

After just an hour at the National Aerospace Library, even the most serious grown-up has often turned back into the girl or boy who first saw an aeroplane swoop down in front of their eyes.

We have heard though that not everybody likes aeroplanes as much as we do, and for those who don’t there are over fifty other libraries like ours – of professional and learned societies – both scattered around London and further afield. You can find out how to access the library on your favourite subject by visiting the website of the London Learned & Professional Societies Librarians’ Group.

Tony Pilmer
Librarian

The National Aerospace Library
The Hub
Fowler Avenue
Farnborough Business Park
Farnborough, Hampshire
GU14 7JP

+44 (0)1252 701038 or +44 (0)1252 701060
hublibrary@aerosociety.com
www.aerosociety.com/nal

All images copyright the National Aerospace Library/Royal Aeronautical Society, reproduced with kind permission of the copyright holder.

Changed Utterly: The 1916 Easter Rising Resource at the Library of Trinity College Dublin

In our latest feature Shane Mawe, Assistant Librarian at the Library of Trinity College Dublin, tells us about Changed Utterly: Ireland and the Easter Rising, the Library’s new online resource about the history of the 1916 Easter Rising.

 

Photograph of the Berkeley Library, Trinity College Dublin, Trinity Week 2015

The Berkeley Library, Trinity College Dublin, Trinity Week 2015

The 1916 Easter Rising was an armed insurrection against British rule in Ireland which took place between 24 and 30 April 1916, mainly in Dublin, but with skirmishes in other areas. Mounted by around 1,200 insurgents from republican groups, the Rising was quickly suppressed by British forces, culminating in the execution of fifteen of the leaders in May 1916.

In April 2015 the Library of Trinity College Dublin embarked on an ambitious blog project to commemorate the Rising. 52 blog posts were published during the lead up to the anniversary commemorations in April 2016. The aim of the blog was to showcase the surprising breadth of the 1916 collections held by the Library and to act as a catalyst for research. Topics ranged from our copy of the Easter Proclamation to working conditions in Dublin Zoo during the conflict.

The summer of 2016 saw a performance of Bairbre Ní Chaoimh’s site-specific theatrical work, ‘Meeting ghosts in College Park’, which focused on characters whose 1916 stories were covered in the blog (John Joly, Elsie Mahaffy’s sister Rachel, and Lilly Stokes). We were also fortunate in 2016 to host the visit of Harry and Pearse O’Hanrahan, grandnephews of Micheál Ó hAnnrachain. Features in the print media (including The Irish Times and The Guardian) helped promote the work and raise the profile of the collections, and a number of our blog posts contributed to the Irish Examiner’s Irish Revolution series.  The project also proved useful as an educational tool for primary schools throughout Ireland.

Overall, it was very gratifying to see such an upsurge of interest in the 1916 collections throughout the year.

We are now delighted to announce that the Changed Utterly blog has been redeveloped into a website. Launched in April 2017, the portal incorporates a broader selection of Easter Rising resources. Among the many new features are links to our online exhibition (in conjunction with the Google Cultural Institute) of photographs taken by Thomas Johnston Westropp of the ruins of Dublin, and a 44 page booklet covering the history of Trinity during the Rising and recording the events which commemorated the centenary. We are also pleased to report that the website has been shortlisted in the category of ‘Promoting Ireland Overseas’ at the upcoming Ireland eGovernment Awards. You can access the full site here: www.tcd.ie/library/1916.

Images from 'Views of the Ruins of Dublin', Thomas J. Westropp

Images from ‘Views of the Ruins of Dublin’, Thomas J. Westropp (Manuscripts & Archives Research Library, Trinity College Dublin, IE TCD MS 5870)

The blog posts on the site explore the Library of Trinity College Dublin’s collections of 1916 related material originating from before, during and after the Rising, from all sides of the political spectrum. Our Twitter account (@TCDLib1916) also draws heavily on the collections in an effort to promote the blog and the Library’s resources.

One such resource is the Samuels Collection of Printed Ephemera which consists of material related to the 1916 Rebellion, World War I, the War of Independence and the Civil War. It was gathered in part by the Royal Irish Constabulary, and collected by Arthur Warren Samuels (1852-1925), Solicitor General for Ireland (1917-1918) and Attorney General (1918-1919). The collection of 642 items includes political pamphlets and broadsides, ballads and songs, and other forms of printed political items. The collection is fully catalogued and available to explore on COPAC (search using the author ‘Samuels Collection’).

With the help of our colleagues in Preservation & Conservation and Digital Resources & Imaging Services the collection is now fully digitised and freely available to view via the Digital Collections portal.

Shane Mawe
Assistant Librarian
Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections
The Library of Trinity College Dublin
The University of Dublin
epbooks@tcd.ie

All images copyright the Board of Trinity College Dublin, reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

Horniman Library catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of the Horniman Library have been added to Copac.

The Horniman Library

The Horniman Library. Image copyright: Horniman Museum and Gardens

The Horniman Library collection contains books from the 16th century through to the present day. Holdings range from academic texts to accounts by early explorers and illustrated monographs. The collection covers a wide spectrum of subject areas related to the remit of the museum, focusing on natural history, anthropology and musical instruments.

The collection, which originated with Frederick Horniman’s own book collection, has been added to by subsequent directors, curators and librarians and now amounts to some 30,000 volumes.

The development of the library collections has been closely linked to object acquisition and curatorial practice in the museum and thus there is a strong connection between the book and object collections.

The library collection is primarily a resource for Horniman staff, and scholars with specific research needs. Public access is maintained to the library collections through our family reading programmes, including pop up library events in the museum and family reading spaces in our galleries, such as the Under 5s Book Zone beside the Apostle Clock on the North Hall Balcony.

To browse or limit your search to the Horniman Library, select the Main Search tab in Copac and choose ‘Horniman Library’ from the list of libraries.

University of Leicester Library: full catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the full holdings of the University of Leicester Library have been added to Copac.

Photograph of David Wilson Library at night.

David Wilson Library at night. Image copyright: University of Leicester.

Copac previously included the records for Leicester’s Special Collections and the holdings of the Mathematical Association Library. However this has now been expanded to include Leicester’s complete holdings.

The University of Leicester Library is housed in the David Wilson building. The Library contains over a million items and includes 1500 user spaces of all types, 350 PCs, 14 Group study rooms and a Special Collections Suite constructed to BS5454 standard, as well as several specialist study rooms and wireless network throughout. The building won the 2008 RIBA East Midlands Award for Architecture. It was designed by Associated Architects, and was formally opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 2007.

Leicester’s Special Collections include primary materials relating to Leicester authors, such as Sue Townsend and Joe Orton, extensive medieval manuscripts, and 19th century periodicals. One highlight is the Robjohns Collection, which contains most of the university’s medieval manuscripts and the library’s oldest book, a 12th century commentary on the Psalms by Gilbert de la Porée (Gilbertus Porretanus), Bishop of Tours (d. 1154).

The Special Collections also include the English Local History collection, which contains materials relating to English local topography, social and political history. The collection began with the Hatton collection (a special collection) which was donated in 1920-21 to coincide with the opening of the University (then the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland College). It was donated by Thomas Hatton, a local boot manufacturer, and includes his topographical library and major county histories.

The Mathematical Association (MA) was formed in 1871 as the Association for the Improvement of Geometrical Teaching. The MA is now the leading UK association for mathematical education at all levels from primary school to university, including postgraduate work. The MA library started on a very small scale in the 19th century and now comprises nearly 11000 text books, popular mathematics and higher mathematics books, and around 700 runs of mathematical periodicals from many different countries.  The library also includes an exceptional collection of 300 largely mathematical manuscript exercise books from the 18th and 19th centuries: the John Hersee Collection. The MA library as a whole is a unique resource for the history of mathematics and its teaching, learning and popularisation in the UK from the 16th to the 21st centuries.

Since the mid-1950s, the collection has been accommodated in the University of Leicester Library, where the Special Collections include around 850 of the MA’s older (pre-1850) and rarer books and mathematical serials.  The oldest book in the collection is a 1533 edition in Greek of Euclid’s Elements.

To browse or limit your search to Leicester’s holdings, select the Main Search tab in Copac and choose ‘Leicester University’ from the list of libraries. Once you have done so you will be given the option to limit your search further, to the holdings of either the main library, or those of the Mathematical Association.

University of Sheffield Festival of Arts & Humanities Showcase Event

Jacky Hodgson, Head of Special Collections at the Western Bank Library, University of Sheffield, tells us about an event showcasing items from their collections to an audience beyond the University.

As part of the third Sheffield Festival of Arts & Humanities, the University of Sheffield Library’s Special Collections team recently took part in a Showcase Event in the Millennium Galleries in Sheffield city centre. Alongside us were colleagues from the National Fairground & Circus Archive (whose collections can be browsed at the Archives Hub), and many academics and students from across the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, presenting bite-size talks, activities and materials relating to their research interests to the general public.

The Special Collections team decided to showcase a variety of materials from our archive and rare book collections which support academic research, some of it relating to the local area and some of more general interest. As well as a stall on which to display physical objects for visitors to look at and handle, we also used a plasma screen to highlight some of our digital collections.

Examples of the collections on digital display included:

  • Photographs of late 19th century Sheffield from the Beet Lantern Slide Collection, a collection of almost 2,500 magic lantern slides covering a wide range of subjects, originally assembled by Arthur Edgar Beet in the early twentieth century
  • Twenty-four digitised images from the portfolio of hand-coloured lithographs entitled Recollections of the Great Exhibition 1851 

    Lithograph illustration from Recollections of the Great Exhibition 1851

    De Le Rue’s Stationary Stand and Envelope Machine, from Recollections of the Great Exhibition 1851

  • A selection of images from the Knoop Far East Photographic Collection (http://www.shef.ac.uk/library/special/knoop), documenting a visit to China, Korea, Japan and many other lands in 1913-1914 by Douglas Knoop, lecturer in Economics at the University of Sheffield

    Photograph of dancing Geisha girls

    Dancing Geisha girls, Japan (1913), from the Knoop Far East Photographic Collection

  • A sound recording of the Sheffield miner and poet ‘Totley Tom’ Hague, reciting some of his dialect verse

We also displayed material from our physical collections relating to research being carried out by academic colleagues in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, including:

  • Documents from the recently deposited James Montgomery & Sheffield Sunday Schools Union Archive, including hymn sheets and programmes for Whitsuntide gatherings, newspaper cuttings and scrapbooks

The event ran from 11am to 4pm on Saturday 11 March 2017, with the opportunity to set up the stall from 9am. Four members of the Special Collections team took part, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. As well as the material on display, we also took our pop-up banner giving information about our collections and our contact details, plus flyers and postcards inviting visitors to register to be kept informed about future activities.

Photo of the Special Collections stall

The Special Collections stall at the Arts & Humanities showcase event

It was an enjoyable and successful day – time flew by as we chatted to a steady flow of visitors about the material on display. Some of our visitors were members of the Faculty of Arts & Humanities who were interested to see a few of our less well known collections, but the majority were members of the public curious to know more about the University’s research and collections.

The caricatures volume drew particular interest, as did the Whit Walks hymn sheets which brought back memories for some of the older visitors.  We were also asked some general questions about using archives for family and local history research. Organisers reported that around 1,000 people visited the event during the course of the day, and that feedback was extremely positive.

The cutter cut up, or, the monster at full length… Anon (1790), from the collection of caricatures

As well as our colleagues from the National Fairground & Circus Archive, other stalls included Dr Jonathan Rayner’s research into the First World War magazine The War Illustrated which is held in our collections;  the AHRC-funded Digital Panopticon project, enabling researchers to trace and explore the lives of convicts between 1780 and 1925; an opportunity provided by the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS) for children to create a Greek Pantry God (Zeus Ktesios); and (rather worryingly for us librarians!) a family activity which involved chopping up books to create a stop-motion animation.

Cover of The War Illustrated Vol. 3, No. 72 (1916), from the War Magazines Collection

All in all, a very enjoyable and worthwhile occasion, providing us with the opportunity to showcase some of our collections and our work to the local community outside the University, and also to discover more about the research that our academic colleagues are engaged in.

Jacky Hodgson
Head of Special Collections
Western Bank Library
University of Sheffield

All images copyright the University of Sheffield Library and Michael Kindellan/Constitutional Information, reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

British School at Athens Library catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of the British School at Athens (BSA Library website) have been added to Copac.

British School at Athens Library.

British School at Athens Library. Copyright: BSA.

The British School at Athens is the United Kingdom’s hub for advanced research in the humanities and social sciences in Greece and its wider Balkan, Levantine, Mediterranean, and European contexts. The Library is at the heart of the BSA’s work in Athens, providing researchers with 24 hour access to a collection of more than 60,000 monographs, 1,300 periodical titles and a growing collection of electronic resources.

The collection covers all aspects of Hellenic Studies, with particular emphasis on:

• Art and archaeology of the Greek world
• Archaeology from the Balkans and Black Sea
• Archaeological Theory and Material Sciences
• Epigraphy
• Byzantine art and architecture
• Travellers to Greece
• A Rare Book collection based on the library of George Finlay

To browse, or limit your search to the British School at Athens Library, go to the main tab on copac.jisc.ac.uk and choose ‘British School at Athens’ from the list of libraries. Copac is a free service accessible at: http://copac.jisc.ac.uk.

 

University of Reading Library catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of the University of Reading (http://www.reading.ac.uk/library) have been added to Copac.

Image copyright: University of Reading

Image copyright: University of Reading

The Library is located at the centre of Whiteknights campus and contains over a million items across a variety of subject areas, with a range of collections of specific types of material:

* Artworks in the Library
* Course Collection (items in demand and on reading lists)
* European Documentation Centre
* Government publications
* Journals
* Legislation
* Maps, atlases and gazetteers
* Music
* Parliamentary publications
* Teaching Practice Collection
* Theses

The Library’s Special Collections Services are housed separately, in the same building as the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL). Collections include rare books, archives and manuscripts, and the MERL library and archives.

To browse, or limit your search to University of Reading , go to the main tab on copac.jisc.ac.uk and choose ‘Reading University’ from the list of libraries. Copac is a free service accessible at: http://copac.jisc.ac.uk.

Durham Cathedral’s Treasures

 Durham Cathedral MSS A.I.3 – St Cuthbert ©Chapter of Durham Cathedral


Durham Cathedral MSS A.I.3 – St Cuthbert ©Chapter of Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral’s Library can be traced back to the community of St Cuthbert originating in the 7th century at Lindisfarne. After fleeing Holy Island after Viking invasion, they settled in Durham in 995 bringing with them, alongside the body of Cuthbert and his sacred relics, their most precious manuscripts and scholarly works. In 1093, the Normans settled in Durham, establishing a Benedictine Community of Monks, and after the dissolution of the priory in 1539, the cathedral was re-founded under a dean and chapter who inherited much of what survived of the priory’s collection of manuscripts and printed books.

Durham Cathedral maintains the most complete in-situ medieval monastic library in Britain, built around these 308 surviving manuscripts and volumes, and also retains a collection of over 30,000 early printed books dating from the 16th to the 19th century. It also holds a manuscript music collection mostly comprising part-books used by the cathedral choir from the 17th to the 19th century, and printed secular and instrumental music. The post-1851 Chapter collection specialises in church history, local history, bibliography and architecture. We also maintain a modern theological lending library of around 15,000 titles on behalf of the Lord Crewe Trust.

The Cathedral also retains a substantial Archive, one of the most complete and extensive monastic archives to survive in Britain in its original location. Our colleagues at Durham University Library manage the Archives on our behalf. Among the many treasures held in the Archives, the Cathedral remains unique in holding three engrossments of the Magna Carta, alongside their corresponding Charters of the Forest – from 1216, 1225 and 1300.

King John Seal, Magna Carta, 1300 (DCL 2.2.Reg.2 ) ©Chapter of Durham Cathedral

King John Seal, Magna Carta, 1300 (DCL 2.2.Reg.2 ) ©Chapter of Durham Cathedral

The library is perhaps somewhat unique in that it retains responsibility not only for the paper and parchment collections owned by the Cathedral, but for all of its objects too. We care for tens of thousands of artefacts of historical, cultural, and religious significance including paintings, carved stones, textiles, metalwork, and even whale bones. The collections date as far back as the Anglo-Saxon period, and include the holy relics of St Cuthbert.

My role as Head of Collections is a busy one, overseeing the management of two Reading Rooms in order to facilitate access to the library collections (modern and historic), and since July, also having oversight of the Cathedral’s Open Treasure exhibition spaces. The claustral spaces have been opened to the public to host an interactive display showcasing the history of the Cathedral, the life of St Cuthbert and the many facets of life in a monastic community. We have also developed new exhibition galleries which will allow us to display many of the Cathedral’s treasured manuscripts and artefacts in environmentally controlled conditions. It’s an exciting opportunity to not only permanently display the relics of St Cuthbert in a beautiful environment which will help protect the objects, but also to be able to manage an ever-changing exhibition programme to allow people to see the wide range of objects held by the Cathedral. More information can be found here: https://www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/open-treasure.

Open Treasure, Monks’ Dormitory ©Peter Burmann

Open Treasure, Monks’ Dormitory ©Peter Burmann

To support Open Treasure, and to complement the exhibitions, new outreach programmes have been developed. The library plays a lead role through hosting visits from reading groups, displaying volumes from the collections which will hopefully inspire further learning and interest.

We will also contribute to the Education team’s Young Curator’s group. Targeting 11-15 year olds, the programme will teach children all about the art of creating an exhibition, to mirror those the Cathedral are creating.

The collections have traditionally been made available in a broader sense in a variety of ways.

Refectory Library ©Peter Burmann

Refectory Library ©Peter Burmann

Library staff undertake numerous displays and tours for all sorts of groups and to the public on a dizzying array of subjects – catering for coach parties, architecture and medieval manuscript students, specialist academics attending study days during Holy Week, potential donors, and on open days to the public.

Our visitors appreciate the opportunity to see material which is usually locked away and out of sight   – it can inspire that desire to learn more and widen access to the collections in the most positive of ways, adding an extra understanding to people’s concepts about the Cathedral and its wider role.

While Open Treasure will keep us even busier, we welcome the opportunity to showcase our collections in a beautiful and environmentally stable location. If you ever find yourself in Durham, please let us know. We would be delighted to show you around.

Lisa Di Tommaso
Head of Collections

All images copyright the Chapter of Durham Cathedral and Peter Burmann and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Royal College of Nursing Library catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of the Royal College of Nursing Library have been added to Copac.

Photo of Royal College of Nursing Library

Royal College of Nursing Library. Image copyright: Royal College of Nursing, London

The Royal College of Nursing Library and Archive Service is Europe’s largest nursing resource, with a wealth of print and e-resources.

The Collection dates mainly from the 1850s onwards. We strive to remain the pre-eminent specialist nursing collection of English language materials in Europe: collecting books, journals, nursing PhD theses, pamphlets, rare grey literature, audio-visual, digital objects, oral histories, images and archives through to the most recent e-books, e-journals and e-resources.

The Royal College of Nursing is a professional UK membership body and union of over 400,000 registered nurses, midwives, health care assistants and nursing students.

The Library and Archive Service supports our members, who work in a range of health care specialties and settings in the NHS and independent sectors. Around 35,000 nursing students are members.

To browse, or limit your search to the Royal College of Nursing Library, go to the main tab on copac.jisc.ac.uk and choose ‘Royal College of Nursing Library’ from the list of libraries.