In this week’s blog post we take a look back at some of the highlights of 2016.
The bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo meant that 2015 was a big year for Special Collections. While we were not involved in anything quite on the same scale in 2016, it was still a highly productive year for the division.
As a result of the recent building project taking place in the Hartley Library, the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery was host to only one exhibition during 2016. The Book The Object ran from February to May and celebrated the culture, the manufacture and the artistry of the book, from the 15th to the 21st century. We are now happy to confirm that, after a hiatus of almost a year, the Special Collections Gallery will be reopening this spring with an exciting line up of new exhibitions on the way!
The neighbouring Level 4 Gallery was host to three exhibitions over the course of the past year. Re: Making, which ran from February to March, was a documentary exhibition of three PhD seminars at Winchester School of Art. The following month saw Proof, an exhibition providing a snapshot of work produced within the Publisher Hub since its conception in 2015. Finally, the autumn brought Archive Senses, an exhibition looking at Archives as a part of the wide-ranging conversation around materiality, and emphasising the continuing importance of the archive object — not just as a less accessible alternative to the digital object as sometimes perceived, but as a critical resource that runs alongside and underpins the digital.
Archive Senses is currently on an extended run so be sure to drop by and have a look. You can also view Elastic System, an interactive artwork produced by Richard Wright whilst he was Artist in Residence at the British Library, which is currently on display in the foyer of the Hartley Library.
Special Collections continued its series of Explore Your Archive events in 2016. The first of these took place in April and focused on philanthropic sources among the collections. The event included a talk by David Brown, Professor of Modern History at the University of Southampton, discussing his work on the diaries of the great Victorian social reformer and philanthropist, the seventh Earl of Shaftesbury (which form part of the Broadlands archives). Later in the year, to tie in with the official launch of the 2016 Explore Your Archive campaign, there was a series of three open afternoons from October to December. The first of these took place ahead of the 28th Wellington Lecture, delivered by Bernard Cornwell, and focused on the papers of the first Duke of Wellington. The following month’s event focused on health and welfare sources and included a talk by Dr Brenda Phillips discussing her research on the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley. The final Explore Your Archives event focused on the Arts – specifically music, theatre and the visual arts – and included a talk from Eloise Rose from the John Hansard Gallery.
2016 was a big year for the Arts in Southampton. Activities taking place at the University and across the city included the launch of Arts at University of Southampton; the coming of British Art Show 8 to the John Hansard Gallery and Southampton City Art Gallery; and the development of Studio 144, Southampton’s new arts complex in Guildhall Square. To mark the occasion, Special Collections also launched an online exhibition looking at some of the key developments in the history the Arts at the University.
As part of our ongoing outreach and student engagement activities Special Collections continued to hold a series of sessions for students eager to learn about our collections and services. In addition, a number of this year’s second year history group projects focused on subjects relating to the collections, including Jewish immigration, Catholic emancipation, the Duke of Wellington, the Mountbattens and the travels of William Mogg. The division was also involved in the Parkes Institute’s 1st International Workshop on Jewish Heritage which ran from 11 to 13 July.
Cataloguing continues to be a key activity of the Archives with cataloguing projects over the past year focusing on a broad range of material from across the collections. Blog posts highlighting recent cataloguing activities focus on Sir William Temple, Jewish Friendly Societies, Ian Karten, S.G.P. Ward and the Peninsular War, the Cope Handbills, the World Archaeological Congress, and the Programme for Promoting Nuclear Non-Proliferation.
Other blog posts from the past year mark a range of anniversaries which tied in with the collections. These including: the first flight of the Spitfire; the 1916 Easter Rising; the end of the Crimean War; the General Strike of 1926; the Battle of Jutland; the beginning of the Spanish Civil War; the Suez Crisis of 1956; and the Battle of Cable Street. 2016 also saw celebrations taking place across the country for the Queen’s 90th birthday; Shakespeare’s quarter-centenary; and the 300th birthday of Lancelot “Capability” Brown.
Material from Special Collections recently digitised by the Library Digitisation Unit include parts of the Perkins Agricultural Library and the Gladstone collection of music. Also digitised were audio recordings from the archive of Revd James Parkes which are now available to access in the Archives and Manuscripts reading room.
Additional activities during the year included the launch of the Special Collections Facebook page; filming material from the Mountbatten Papers for an upcoming documentary on 100 years of the Windsors; and providing photographs of material for Hull’s UK City of Culture 2017 celebrations.
2017 looks set to be another busy year. So keep an eye out for details of all upcoming Special Collections activities and events!