The development of Special Collections

From June until December 2016, there will be a building project taking place in the Hartley Library. As a result, between June and September, the Archives and Manuscripts and Rare Books reading room will be running a restricted service: this might include brief periods of closure. While updates will be made available through our website, we take the opportunity to reflect on the development of the Special Collections division down through the years…

Early developments
The archive holdings date back to the 1860s, soon after the foundation of the Hartley Institution, the earliest predecessor of the University of Southampton. The Institution was founded as a local learned institution and had among its facilities both a library and museum. Between them, they gathered in or were presented with a number of manuscript collections. The early collections were eclectic in nature, ranging from the papers of local seamen and materials clearly brought back from their travels; to records that may have their origins in the archives of the corporation of Southampton, with which the Hartley Institution was closely associated; and groups of letters, some coherent archive groups, put together by autograph collectors. As early as 1873, the minute book of the library committee records the presentation of ‘Specimens of old English writing in the form of deeds, upon condition that they be bound’ (now MS 28).

Item from a collection of deeds relating to property in Petersfield and Mapledurham, principally for ‘Gobyesmede', together with lands in Liss and Sheet, Hampshire [MS 36 AO143]

Item from a collection of deeds relating to property in Petersfield and Mapledurham, principally for ‘Gobyesmede’, together with lands in Liss and Sheet, Hampshire [MS 36 AO143]

The Institution’s collections included items of more general interest, ranging from Renaissance drawings to manuscripts from among purchases and bequests of books. The Library and Museum received materials relating to the locality, to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, the most important of which, the Cope bequest, contained manuscript (now MS 5) as well as printed items. With the establishment of local record offices, in Hampshire, for the county and city of Winchester, in and after 1947, for the corporation of Southampton in 1951 and for the corporation of Portsmouth, papers of local interest were directed there and local topographical manuscripts ceased to be an active focus for the University’s collecting policy. In 1972, the University dispersed to local record offices all the local material that it did not own; the material was transferred principally to the Hampshire Record Office, where it now has the reference 46M72 and 7M87-110m87. At the same time the remnants of the holdings of the museum of the Hartley Institution were transferred to Southampton City Museums, with the exception of some of the rock collections, which remain in the Geology Department. The maintenance of the Cope collection as a collection of materials of local interest continues, although its accessions are now almost exclusively printed.

Acquiring the Wellington and Broadlands archives
A new chapter of the University’s archive collecting commenced in 1983, when the papers of the first Duke of Wellington were allocated to the University under the national heritage legislation. There are close links between the University and the Dukes of Wellington: the seventh Duke became in 1952 the first Chancellor of the new University of Southampton, the fruition of a campaign supported by his family for a university of Wessex. Further significant acquisitions of manuscripts ensued, the Broadlands archive in 1985-7 (including the Palmerston and Mountbatten papers), followed by accessions of supporting collections. The conversion of a part of the University Library in 1982-3 to provide appropriate accommodation for the Wellington Papers was followed in 1987 by the provision of new archive strongrooms and an enlarged reading room.

The official opening of the Wellington Suite, 14 May 1983. Dr Chris Woolgar shows a bound volume of the papers to the Duke and Duchess of Wellington.

The official opening of the Wellington Suite, 14 May 1983. Dr Chris Woolgar shows a bound volume of the papers to the Duke and Duchess of Wellington.

The development of the Anglo-Jewish collections
The University has had through the collections of C.G.Montefiore, a former President of the University College, and through the library of Dr James Parkes, a special interest in papers concerning the relations of the Jewish people with other peoples; since 1989 this has been developed with a particular focus on the records of Anglo-Jewry, of national organisations and of individuals, and in 1990 many of the collections of the Anglo-Jewish Archives were transferred to the Library. The principal genealogical holdings of the Anglo-Jewish Archives, the Montefiore-Hyamson, D’Arcy Hart and Colyer-Fergusson collections were transferred at this date to the Society of Genealogists in London. In the range of these materials, the University and researchers have good reason to thank those individuals who, since 1963, had worked through Anglo-Jewish Archives towards the preservation of the records of the Anglo-Jewish community. A considerable number of major accessions relating to Anglo-Jewry has been received since 1990 and this continues to be an area where collecting is most active.

Expanded accommodation
As part of a major building project in the Hartley Library in 2002-4, the Special Collections accommodation was greatly enlarged. This included an additional strongroom and a new reading room, which doubled reader spaces. The extension also provided an opportunity to incorporate public exhibition space as an integral part of the library environment. This space includes the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery and the Level 4 Gallery.

Visitors to the Wellington and Waterloo exhibition in the Special Collections Gallery

Visitors to the Wellington and Waterloo exhibition in the Special Collections Gallery

The Special Collections Gallery was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund primarily for the display of material from the collections to encourage public awareness and access. The exhibition programme focuses on themes within the collection and links in with University academic activity including celebrations of research, conferences and contributions to national and international events and commemorations.

Recent developments
The range of collections continues to expand and develop with recent acquisitions including papers relating to Basque child refugees (MS 370 and MS 404), the papers of Ian Herman Karten (MS 409), and new collection of Wellington related material (MS 351/6). Meanwhile our first group of digitised collections are available to access online through the Virtual Reading Room, with other recent developments including the establishment of our social media channels, including our WordPress blog and Facebook page.

For updates on other developments and how the building project will impact on our services please visit our website at:
http://www.southampton.ac.uk/archives/.

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