The Special Collections has a developing programme of events and visits designed to introduce students to both the collections and the work of the Division. Last week a group of students joined the team for a behind the scenes visit and a taster session working with the collections. As well as the opportunity to decipher Queen Victoria’ handwriting, the students assessed albums compiled by the Society of Old Hartleyans relating to student life from the first half of the 20th century, helping to choose items that we could use for promotional purposes. Here are the choices of three of the group, Greg, Núria and Victoria, with their explanations of why the items appealed to them.
“As a photograph the striking contrasts of black suit and white shirt make the tone exciting and help to define the faces of the past by highlighting facial features. Their finely combed hair and crisp collars show the evident attempt on their part to produce a smart picture, tarnished only by the bulb that somewhat hangs randomly on one side of the image as well as the reels of wire stacked in the left of the picture.”Greg’s second choice was a photograph of the football team, 1901-2:
“Personally, with a keen interest in the history of football in England, this photo gives a sense of the amateur origins of the game of the time. I love the lack of formality that is conveyed in the mish-mash of clothing on display. It appeals to me as you are able to see the rugged leather boots and thick long sleeved shirts donned by the players, whilst also seeing the traditional ‛flatcap’ and suit style of the time being worn by gentlemen to the side of the team. The rawness of the wooden terrace gives a sense of the crowd they played in front of, and the battered pitch an idea of the style of game!”The early days of the University’s Football Club were on a modest and local scale. Home matches were mainly played at the Shirley Ground. The emphasis of the Football Club of 1900s was on “healthy recreation and vigorous exercise for men students” rather than on sporting prowess, hence the lack of formality in the clothing that Greg noted.
NúriaNúria’s choice of photographs of the swimming teams was inspired by both the gender balance in the teams and the costume they wore: “It’s mostly boys in the pictures, although there are 7 girls in one of them, which probably shows the start of gender equality in regards to swimming club membership. I also like the gender equality in the swimming costumes: the men’s costumes are also covering their chests, like the women’s. The swimming club photos are the ones where you can see the biggest fashion change!”
The one-piece costume as worn by the men in these images was typical of the designs in the 1920s. In response to demand designs became more body-conscious and athletic abandoning long sleeves and replacing them with generously-cut armholes. This mass produced one-piece enjoyed a considerable chunk of the market in men’s swimwear in this decade.
Núria also was drawn to the images of the tennis club in the 1920s and 1930s, evoking memories of her experience of joining a sports club at the University.“The photo album I’m looking at is a collection of photographs from the sports clubs at university. The tennis photos seem to be the only one where men and women appear together. I really like the sense of inclusion that these photographs transmit, it reminds me of my own experience when I arrived at Southampton and joined the fencing club, where I made really good friends, both men and women. I also find it curious that one of the ladies in the 1927 picture is wearing a tie.”
There are other photographs in the collection which show women students wearing ties. This was a period of formal dress codes when academic dress was still required when students attended lectures and exams.
VictoriaFor Victoria, it was the informality and realism that appealed in this photograph. “It really looks as though two of the people have got the giggles when the photo was being taken. The woman on the right is also pulling a face – this might not have been deliberate, but does add realism to the photo.”
The second choice relates to the reunion picnic, in the New Forest, at Whitsun, 1951, of the Society of Old Hartleyans: this was the final event of the weekend programme, including a dinner attended by 226 the previous evening. The minutes of the annual general meeting of the society noted that “11 members attended a picnic to Beaulieu Heath organised by Mr Glover-James”.
Victoria notes, “it is the informality that appeals to [me] more than anything and the fact that … people look happy…. The photo also provides an insight into the clothing… and even though this is a picnic, people are still fairly formally attired”.The Special Collections will be running a number of drop in sessions focusing on different aspects of its holdings in the autumn. So if you are interested, do keep an eye out for announcements. We hope that you might be able to join us.