And so we move to a new decade and an array of new activities for the Special Collections in the coming year. But before we look forward to what is to come, let us take a moment to look back at some of our activities during 2019.
Exhibitions and events
The first exhibition of 2019, The Leonardo Link: Image-Making from Anatomy to Code, which opened in February, worked as a companion to the exhibition of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci on show at the Southampton City Art Gallery. Southampton was one of 12 galleries to feature drawings by da Vinci from the Royal Collection, part of the UK events marking the five hundreth anniversary of the artist’s death.
For the summer we had an exhibition drawing on images of University life over the decades, particularly resonant as 2019 marked the hundredth anniversary of the move to the Highfield campus.
The autumn exhibition, A philanthropic spirit, drew on the Special Collections material to look both at ideas of philanthropic activity and at the work of individual philanthropists. It also featured material on the impact of philanthropy on the development of the University and there was a parallel exhibition in the Level 4 Gallery of portraits from the University Fine Art Collection of notable philanthropists in the development of the University.
In April we hosted the latest Wellington Congress. Featuring keynote lectures from Professor Charles Esdaile, Professor Nicholas Lambert, Dr Alicia Laspra and Dr Richard Gaunt, the 2-day Congress presented a wide range of papers on aspects of military, political, literary and social themes for the nineteenth century. And we were delighted to round off proceedings with the 2019 Wellington Lecture given by Professor Chris Woolgar on Wellington, “the scum of the earth” and the army in the Iberian Peninsula.
Special Collections took part in both the Science and Engineering Day on the Highfield Campus in March and at the Hands-on Humanities at a new venue at the NST City in November. The Science and Engineering Day provided an opportunity to offer a range of activities relating to the printed and archive collections and to the science behind conservation work undertaken by Special Collections.
Alongside research sessions and introductory sessions for students from a range of disciplines – including History, English, Global Media Management – Special Collections has continued hosting drop-in sessions and visits for a range of groups. And as it was the centenary of the move to the Highfield campus, we held a drop-in session during Freshers’ Week for the first time that focused on student life over the decades since 1919.
Visits hosted in 2019 ranged from members of the Nautical Archaeology Society and from SCONUL to that of the Indian High Commissioner, as well as sessions for scholars from China visiting the UK as part of the China Scholarship Council scheme. Two items on show that these latter visitors found particularly interesting were nineteenth-century publications on the Chinese language by Robert Morrison.
In November the Special Collections hosted, in conjunction with the Honor Frost Foundation, a workshop discussing issues around curating the heritage of maritime archaeology.
Social media and publicity
Throughout the year we have run a series of blogs and tweets relating to Highfield 100, marking the centenary of the move to the Highfield campus site. Starting in January, we posted monthly blogs looking at the developments of the University from 1919 onwards. An article on the Highfield 100 also was the Archives Hub feature for September 2019.
Since October we have embarked on a Highfield in a 100 objects Twitter series which will culminate in the Spring 2020 when the new Centenary Building on Highfield Campus is due to be officially opened. Images and material from the blogs has appeared on banners and on buildings around campus and have contributed to University publications such as a special edition of Hartley News sent out to thousands of alumni and to editions of Staff Matters. Complementary to these were a shorter series of blogs that looked at aspects of university development through time, such as sports facilities, Rag or the University grounds.A number of blogs were linked to anniversaries such as World Poetry Day in March; the passing of the Catholic emancipation act over which the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, fought a duel in April 1829; British beer day in June, in honour of which we brewed a beer based on a recipe from Faulkner’s The Complete Family Piece (1739); the 75th anniversary of D-Day on 6 June; World Watercolour Month in July; the Great Exhibition of 1851 in October; and Human Rights week in December.
Blogs that highlighted different facets of the Special Collections have ranged widely, encompassing newer collections that complement that material within the archive of the first Duke of Wellington In the company of Wellington; Lord Shaftesbury the nineteenth-century philanthropist; geological collections in the Rare Books material; refugees in the twentieth century with a companion blog telling the stories of child refugees from Russia in the 1900s; and sanitation and health in Southampton. For the summer we posted a number of blogs on the theme of travel and voyages, starting with a look at western traditions of maps and map-making. Other blogs looked at travel to Far East and to South and Central America, accounts of three women travelling in Europe between the late eighteenth and early twentieth century and of those travelling nearer to home in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
The collections and staff also have featured in local TV and radio broadcasts, including one relating to Victorian valentines in February, and the Anglo-Jewish archives.
The Special Collections has continued to add to its holdings, most notably adding a number of collections that relate to nautical studies and maritime archaeology. The year started with the transfer of the papers of the eminent nautical archaeologist and maritime historian Lucian Basch (1930-2018) to the Special Collections. His extensive collection has been joined by working papers of Sean McGrail, who was a key player in the establishment of the Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University, and of the maritime geoarchaeologist, Nicholas Flemming.
Amongst some of the smaller collections that arrived in 2019, were a couple of delightful volumes that complemented the existing holdings of the Basque child refugee archives. One is a photograph album recording a visit to the Basque country by Betty Lascelles Arne in May 1997 to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the departure of the Basque children on Habana on 21 May 1937 [MS440/6]. The other is a scrapbook by Helvecia Hidalgo (née Garcia Aldosoro), who was one of the child refugees who travelled in 1937: the album contains a range of photographs, booklets, cuttings and even the id and medical inspection tags pasted into the volume [MS440/4]. This scrapbook was added to a photograph album of Helvecia Hidalgo previously donated to the Archives.
The year also brought a further donation of material that relates to the holdings of the poet F.T.Prince. This was a small collection of correspondence between Professor Michael Kirkham of the University of Toronto with Prince, together with articles by Professor Kirkham relating to Prince which includes reflections by Prince on his poetry [MS328 A4222].
And as we began our reflection on 100 years of the University of Southampton at its Highfield campus, we were delighted to receive as part of a donation of papers of A.Evans – who had been the clerk of works of Hartley University College, Southampton, 1911-14, when the buildings at Highfield were being planned and built – a copy of the proposal for a rather more grand building at Highfield before these plans were scaled back. It provided a real glimpse into what might have been.The year saw the completion of a number of cataloguing projects in the Special Collections. Work on the papers of Michael Sherbourne was the subject of one blog. Perhaps the most substantial archive cataloguing project undertaken by the archivist team in 2019 was the Yerusha Project relating to the Jewish archive collections at Southampton. A major project within the Printed Special Collections was the completion of the cataloguing of the Honor Frost Library.
Looking ahead to 2020
With new cataloguing projects and a new Archives management system, new collections and a range of events already planned, 2020 looks set to be another full year.The first exhibition of the year will be We Protest! due to open on 17 February. Taking the Cato Street conspiracy of 1820 as its starting point, the exhibition also will look at two subsequent nineteenth-century protests, before exploring the work of a number of 20th-century protest and pressure groups – such as the Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry – and of student protests.
As 2020 is also the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from Southampton, the Special Collections will be looking at the theme of Voyages of Discovery in blogs and activities during the year. And this will be the focus of the autumn Special Collections exhibition opening in October.
Do look out for details of our activities through social media and the Special Collections website.