Exploring British Design at the Europeana AGM 2015

I’m just back from another enjoyable and useful Europeana Network Association event where I gave a four minute ‘Ignite Talk’ on our recently completed ‘Exploring British Design’ project that Pete and Jane worked on. As it was such a short talk, I wanted make sure I got the timing right, so actually wrote the talk out. I think it gives quite a good summary of the project, as well as mentioning our connection with Europeana, so I thought it would be worth posting it here along with a link to the slides:

“Hello, my name is Adrian Stevenson and I’m a Senior Technical Coordinator working for Jisc in the UK.

[Introduction slide]

Today I want to briefly outline a one year project we’ve recently completed called ‘Exploring British Design’ which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The technical work and front-end interface for Exploring British Design was developed by the Archives Hub based in the UK. The Hub aggregates archival descriptions from about 280 institutions in the UK, from the very large such as the British Library to the very small such as the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, making these archives available to be searched through our website, APIs and findable on Google. For some institutions, the Archives Hub provides their only web presence, so it’s an important service for the archives sector in the UK.

For ‘Exploring British Design’ we collaborated with one of our enthusiastic contributors, the Brighton Design Archive, based at the University of Brighton. We used the ‘Britain Can Make It’ exhibition from 1946 as a focal point because the Archive has rich collections relating to this exhibition.

So what’s the connection with Europeana? The Archives Hub is in the process of contributing data to the Archives Portal Europe. The plan is that the portal data will be available through Europeana at some point in the future.

[Home page slide]

So lets have a look. This is the home page of the website. You can see that we take people, i.e. the designers and architects, their organisations, and the events they were involved with, such as the exhibition as the starting points, i.e. not the archive records as such.

What’s unique about this project is that we’re going beyond the record as being about about one person, one organisation and having one focus. The reality is that archives are about the connections between all sorts of people, places, and events, such as exhibitions, and much of this information is effectively ‘locked in’ the archival records. This is what we’re trying to draw out.

The idea is that anything can be a primary focus:  people, organisations, places, events or archive collections. Some of you may recognise this as an idea relating to linked data, and indeed this is loosely the approach we took for the under the hood implementation. We also looked at an archival name authority standard called EAC-CPF to help with this.

[Designer slide]

You see here how we’ve tried to emphasise the relationship types, such as ‘friend of’, ‘collaborates with, ‘colleague of’ and so on. Researchers are most interested in people, events, etc. not in archives per se.

[Exhibition slide]

This is a view of the exhibition page, focussing in on it as an event in its own right with a location, related people, etc. This sort of information hasn’t historically been captured all that usefully in archival descriptions.

[Visualisation slide]

We included visualisations, but these actually fall far short of the complexity of the relationships. It’s quite hard to get these to work effectively, but they give a sense of the relationships between architect Jane Drew and Le Corbusier, or even Croydon High School for Girls.

So hopefully you can get a sense of how we’ve tried to present researchers with more flexible routes through the connections we created, helping to surface relationships between people, organisations and events that were effectively hidden in the more traditional document-based way of presenting information.”

There was an excellent reception in the evening at the Rijksmuseum where we were lucky enough to get a private view of the ‘Gallery of Honour’. It was a great opportunity to get a picture by Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’ so we made the most. Thanks again to Europeana!

In front of the 'Night Watch

Adrian Stevenson and others in front of Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’ at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

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The Anna Eliza Bray archive at West Sussex Record Office

Archives Hub feature for November 2015

The papers of 19th Century author Anna Eliza Bray (1790-1883) have recently been catalogued at West Sussex Record Office and are now available for researchers to access.  The catalogue can be viewed via our Search Online facility at http://www.westsussexpast.org.uk/searchonline/.

Frontispiece of Anna Eliza Bray’s book The White Hoods

Frontispiece of Anna Eliza Bray’s book The White Hoods (WSRO Bray 3/2)

Anna Eliza Bray (formerly Stothard, neé Kempe) was born on 25th December 1790 in Newington, Surrey, the daughter of Alfred Kempe and Ann Arrow, and sister of the antiquary Alfred John Kempe.  She was originally destined for a career in the theatre but this endeavour was cut short as she fell ill days before her first performance at Bath’s Theatre Royal in May 1815, and she subsequently lost the opportunity to appear on the stage again.

In February 1818, she married Charles Alfred Stothard, an antiquarian draughtsman whom she had met a number of years before through his father, the Royal Academy artist Thomas Stothard.  She travelled to France with her husband in 1820 for his work, and afterwards published her first book ‘Letters written during a tour of Normandy’.  This established her as a writer and enabled her to progress into the literary circles of her day, which included notable figures such as Sir Walter Scott, John Murray, Amelia Opie, Letitia Elizabeth Landon and (the most influential character in her career) Robert Southey, who was Poet Laureate from 1813-1843.  However, her husband died shortly afterwards in a tragic accident on 28th May 1821, when he fell from a ladder in Bere Ferrers Church in Devon while drawing the stained glass window.

In late 1822, she married Reverend Edward Atkyns Bray and moved to Tavistock in Devon.  The West Country was a significant influence on her writing and it was during this period that most of her literary output was produced, including her best-known work ‘A Description of the part of Devonshire bordering on the Tamar and the Tavy’, published by John Murray in 1836.  Other works included a 10-volume set of historical novels, another travel book entitled ‘Mountains and Lakes of Switzerland’ and a children’s book entitled ‘A Peep at the Pixies’.

Anna Eliza Bray’s travel journals of Cornwall and North Devon

Anna Eliza Bray’s travel journals of Cornwall and North Devon (WSRO Bray 2/3 and WSRO Bray 2/11)

After her husband’s death in 1857, Mrs Bray moved back to London and continued to write well into the 1870s, editing and publishing her late husband’s sermons and writing further books on French history and Devon folklore.  In the last few years of her life, she was briefly back in the public eye again, after being accused of stealing a small part of the Bayeux Tapestry on her trip to France almost 60 years before.  Fortunately, the publication of an article in the Times written by her nephew subsequently cleared her name.  She died on 21st January 1883 at the age of 92.

The archive was presented to West Sussex Record Office in November 2000 by a member of the Kempe family, the present day descendants of Anna Eliza Bray.  Later members of the Kempe family also have their archives housed at the Record Office, including Mrs Bray’s great nephew, the mathematician Sir Alfred Bray Kempe.

In terms of size, the archive is a very small one but the saying ‘quality over quantity’ certainly applies here, as it spans nearly 70 years of the late Regency and Victorian period.  It has been catalogued into four series: correspondence, manuscripts, printed books and miscellaneous.

The correspondence has been sub-divided into the main families represented in the collection: Landon, Southey, Warter and Kempe as well as an additional section for miscellaneous letters.

The manuscripts are handwritten journals and drafts; most of the works are by Mrs Bray, but also include drafts of works she has copied from books of other authors such as Amelia Opie and a handwritten poetry book dating from the early 1820s belonging to Mary Maria Colling, an amateur poet from Tavistock.  Mrs Bray, with assistance from Robert Southey, published a selection of Colling’s poetry on her behalf in 1831 entitled ‘Fables and Other Pieces in Verse’.  Mrs Bray’s autobiography, published posthumously in 1884, forms a significant part of the draft papers.  The archive includes a printed copy and a 3-volume draft manuscript of the autobiography which have been immensely helpful in revealing a great deal more about her life; parts of it have also been used to make sense of other documents in the archive.

Printed books are her publications; although not all are included in the archive, there is a good selection of her work represented, such as her biography of the artist Thomas Stothard.

Miscellaneous items include a scrapbook of watercolours, locks of hair belonging to Robert and Caroline Southey and a piece of mourning stationary signed by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in the latter part of the 19th Century.

The archive also contains over 100 letters from Caroline Southey, the second wife of Robert Southey, with whom Mrs Bray was first acquainted in 1840.  Regular correspondence continued until Mrs Southey’s death in 1854, and letters in the archive mention notable figures including William Wordsworth and members of the Coleridge family.  There is also ‘Mrs Southey’s Narrative’, a biographical piece written by Caroline Southey in 1840 regarding her courtship and marriage to Robert Southey, copied by Mrs Bray’s niece from the original manuscript.

Letter to Anna Eliza Bray from Caroline Southey written after Robert Southey’s death

Letter to Anna Eliza Bray from Caroline Southey written after Robert Southey’s death (WSRO Bray 1/3/26)

I will be presenting a talk on the Bray archive at West Sussex Record Office in Chichester entitled ‘A Peep at the Pixies’: exploring the life and literary archive of Anna Eliza Bray (1790-1883) on Tuesday 24th November 2015 at 7pm.  Tickets cost £7.50 including refreshments, and a selection of documents from the archive will be out on display.  Places must be booked in advance by contacting our reception on 01243 753602.

For any enquiries regarding the collection, catalogue or the November talk please contact West Sussex Record Office by emailing records.office@westsussex.gov.uk.

Holly Wright
Searchroom Assistant, West Sussex Record Office


Papers of Anna Eliza Bray (1790-1883) on the Archives Hub:

Browse other collections of West Sussex Record Office on the Archives Hub.

All images are reproduced with the permission of West Sussex Record Office

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From Ivory Tower to People Power

Here is a presentation I gave at ELAG 2015 to introduce our innovation project, Exploring British Design. The presentation is entitled ‘From Ivory Tower to People Power‘ (You Tube link) and emphasises the collaborative nature of the project and the focus on people as a topic, rather than on archival description, which is not always the best starting place for researchers. The presentation covers:

  • Aims of the project
  • Workshops with postgraduate students about how they research and analysis of their research paths
  • Workshops with postgraduates about websites: what students do and don’t like in terms of discovery
  • Traditional archival cataloguing ‘lock in’ of entities such as people, places and events.
  • Connectivity beyond single A to B connections; ‘anything can be a focus’ and can link to a myriad of other things
  • Use of EAC-CPF (XML standard for archival authority files)
  • Creating the data, handcrafting data, limitations of our approach, too many ideas not enough time!
  • Demonstration of the Website


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Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition Centenary

Archives Hub feature for October 2015

Photo of Sir Ernest Shackleton by James Frances (Frank) Hurley (SPRI ref: P66_19_001A)

Photo of Sir Ernest Shackleton by James Frances (Frank) Hurley (SPRI ref: P66_19_001A)

On the 27th October 1915 Antarctic expedition ship Endurance was abandoned on the orders of Sir Ernest Shackleton. The ship had been stuck in the ice since 18th January at the mercy of the currents of the Weddell Sea. The ship sank on 21 November leaving the men thousands of miles from home and Shackleton’s dream of being the first to cross the Antarctic continent via the South Pole in tatters.

The Endurance had sailed from England just as war was declared in August 1914, Shackleton had offered the ship and her crew to to the Admiralty but the response was that the expedition should proceed as planned. Sailing via Madeira and Buenos Aires the Endurance made her final port of call at the whaling stations of South Georgia.

Sir Ernest Shackleton, the expedition leader was no stranger to the Antarctic; he had been a member of Captain Scott’s first expedition in 1901-04 before leading his own expedition in 1907-09. That second expedition had seen him come to within 100 miles of the South Pole before making the difficult decision to turn back rather than risk the lives of his men further. In the intervening years the Norwegian Roald Amundsen had led the first team to reach the pole in 1911 and Captain Scott and his companions had perished on their own return journey in 1912.

Shackleton’s diary entry for the abandonment of Endurance in October 1915. SPRI MS 1537/3/8.

Shackleton’s diary entry for the abandonment of Endurance in October 1915. SPRI MS 1537/3/8.

Shackleton’s plan was to land a party of men, dogs and supplies on the Weddell Sea side of the continent and travel across uncharted territory to the South Pole. Here he would then follow Captain Scott’s journey before picking up the route he had taken back in 1908 to reach the Ross Sea. While he was making his attempt from a second party would lay depots of food and fuel across the Ross Ice Shelf towards the pole along that route for his crossing party to pick up.

Photo of Endurance in ice by James Frances (Frank) Hurley (SPRI ref: P66_19_057)

Photo of Endurance in ice by James Frances (Frank) Hurley (SPRI ref: P66_19_057)

When the Endurance was crushed in the ice of the Weddell Sea the expedition changed from one of exploration to one of survival. The men camped on the sea ice, from October 1915 through to April 1916. When the ice broke up around them they took to the three small lifeboats and spent a week at sea before reaching Elephant Island, their first dry land since leaving South Georgia. This uninhabited island was only a temporary salvation. With no means of contacting the outside world the expedition had to save themselves.

Shackleton’s lifeboat crew list. SPRI MS 1537/3/8.

Shackleton’s lifeboat crew list. SPRI MS 1537/3/8.

Sheltering under the upturned hulls of two of the boats the majority of the crew lived on the Island for five months. Meanwhile Shackleton and a five man crew sailed across the southern ocean in the third boat – the James Caird – to South Georgia. Shackleton, Worsley and Crean were then forced to undertake a 36 hour walk across the uncharted island to raise the alarm. The three walked into the Stromness whaling station on the 20th May 1916. It took four attempts to rescue the men left behind on Elephant Island, all of whom were successfully rescued in August 1916.

Evacuation instructions for Ocean Camp 1915. SPRI Archive MS 1537/2/33/4/3.

Evacuation instructions for Ocean Camp 1915. SPRI Archive MS 1537/2/33/4/3.

Throughout the expedition Shackleton and his men kept up their diaries. These precious volumes were preserved when so much was abandoned with the ship. Writing in pencil, sometimes on scraps of paper sewn together, the diaries provide the personal account of what the men went through.

Miss Naomi Boneham
The Thomas H Manning Polar Archives
Scott Polar Research Institute
University of Cambridge


Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton collection on the Archives Hub:

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All images copyright the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

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The Wallace Collection Archives

Archives Hub feature for September 2015

In 1897 Lady Wallace died and bequeathed the contents of the ground and first floor of Hertford House, her art-filled London residence, to the nation. This included paintings by Rembrandt, Reynolds and Canaletto, the finest collection of Sèvres porcelain in the world and nearly 2, 500 pieces of arms and armour. These items were collected by the first 4 Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess.

The Wallace Collection Archives consist of papers relating to the founders, records of the Museum’s history and activities, and discrete archive collections relating to our subject specialist areas of French 18th century art, princely arms and armour and the history of collecting.

The Hertford and Wallace family archive paints a picture of the lives of the founders and how their art collection grew over the course of the 19th century. The archive holds a number of inventories revealing the contents of properties owned by the collectors on their deaths; these include objects in the collection today and items which were not included in Lady Wallace’s bequest.

The inventory taken on Sir Richard Wallace’s death in 1890 reveals that Lady Wallace’s bed was ‘a 6ft carved and gilt Parisian bedstead, stuffed head, and footboard covered in blue silk’ costing £200 (over £12,000 in today’s money). We know that Lady Wallace was a fan of Fragonard’s The Swing as it was one of the 15 paintings she chose to adorn her bedroom.

Image of The Swing, 1767.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, 1767, © The Wallace Collection

The inventory shows that Richard Wallace had 8 horses, with names ranging from the more common Rodney to the clearly art-inspired Rembrandt, and 12 carriages for himself and his wife. Plans in the archive reveal that what were once the stables and coach house are now the arms and armour galleries. A mezzanine level was in place between the ground and first floors, where the stable boys and coachman’s family slept; the stable boys directly above the stables and the coachman’s family in a flat above the coach house.

Image of inventory, 1890

Extract from the 1890 inventory showing the names, ages and values of Sir Richard Wallace’s horses, © The Wallace Collection

Following Lady Wallace’s death a government enquiry determined that the Collection should remain in Hertford House and it was bought for the nation from her heir and former secretary, John Murray Scott. A large amount of building work was required to make Hertford House more suitable to display the Collection. For example, the mezzanine level above the stables was removed to create higher ceilings.

The Wallace Collection opened to the public on June 22 1900. John Murray Scott was appointed the first chairman of the Board of Trustees; he remained chairman until his sudden and dramatic death in 1912. Trustee minutes in the museum archive reveal that: ‘Sir John Scott was taken ill in the Boardroom about 12:30pm on Wednesday 17 January. At the moment of his seizure he was conversing on the history of the collection, and giving the Keeper notes on various objects contained in it. He died little more than an hour later.’

Photo of Underground Railway store at Paddington

The Post Office Underground Railway store at Paddington, © The Wallace Collection

On the outbreak of the First World War the Trustee minutes record that fire extinguishing equipment was purchased in case the Wallace Collection took a direct hit in aircraft raids. In 1916 the Collection was closed due to a lack of staff and in 1917 the decision was taken to evacuate the collection to the Post Office Underground Railway at Paddington – the move was completed in October 1918, one month before the Armistice. Various government departments used Hertford House during the war and it wasn’t until November 1920 that the Collection was able to re-open.

The archive reveals that the Collection was well-prepared for the Second World War, with planning for the possible evacuation of the Collection starting as early as 1933. Meetings were held on a regular basis throughout the mid-1930s and when the Munich Crisis occurred in 1938 the rarest Sèvres and majolica objects in the Collection were packed as a precaution. Priority lists were drawn up and practice drills held so when on August 23 1939 the Home Office gave the word ‘GO!’ to all the national museums and galleries to evacuate, the Wallace Collection was ready.

Photo of storage at Hall Barn

Part of the Collection in storage at Hall Barn during World War II, © The Wallace Collection

In fact they were so prepared that when Sir James Mann, the Director of the Museum at the time, returned from the continent on August 28 he found ‘Hertford House practically empty’. Between August 24 and September 4 the vast majority of the Collection was transported in 28 lorry journeys to Hall Barn and Balls Park. As with most national museums and galleries, the Collection remained outside London for the duration of the Second World War.

Hertford House itself had many lucky escapes during the Blitz; on the night of September 18/19 1940 a high explosive bomb fell in the front garden but did surprisingly little damage. Incendiary bombs fell on the roof in November 1940 and May 1941 but museum staff put the fires out before more than slight damage to the woodwork was caused.

Image of exhibition catalogue, 1942

Artists Aid Russia (1942) exhibition catalogue, signed by Sir Winston Churchill, © The Wallace Collection

Hertford House was not completely empty during the war as it was made available for temporary exhibitions, including the Arts and Crafts (1941) and Artists Aid Russia (1942) exhibitions. Below is a catalogue for the latter exhibition signed by Sir Winston Churchill; it was auctioned for Mrs Churchill’s Aid for Russia fund and presented to the Wallace Collection by Sir Alec Martin in 1942.

Information about most of our collected archives can be found on our Archives Hub contributor’s page, further descriptions including those for the family and museum archives will be added in due course.

Carys Lewis
Archivist & Records Manager




Browse the collections of The Wallace Collection on the Archives Hub.


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Early English Ballet and the Royal Academy of Dance

Archives Hub feature for August 2015

The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) was founded in 1920, a time when there was a heightened interest in the establishment of a British ballet tradition. As a result, the RAD’s archive collections contain a variety of materials that relate to this period. The following article draws on resources from several of the archives and special collections held in the RAD’s Philip Richardson Library, some of which are also described on the Archives Hub.

Photo of Phyllis Bedells c. 1911.

Phyllis Bedells c. 1911. Rotary Photographic Series.

At the turn of the twentieth century, ballet in Britain existed primarily in Music Halls. Danish-born Adeline Genée was the star of London’s Empire Theatre between 1897 and 1909 and it was here that Phyllis Bedells became the first British ballerina to hold the position of Première Danseuse in 1914. Bedells was also the first to resist the pressure upon English dancers to Russianise their names after the status of ballet began to change in 1911 with the appearance of Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in London, and in 1912 the celebrated Russian dancer Anna Pavlova made London her home. Both Diaghilev and Pavlova employed English dancers disguised with Russian-sounding names such as Alicia Markova (Lillian Marks), Anton Dolin (Pat Kay) and Hilda Butsova (Hilda Boot).

Audiences began to appreciate the artistry of fine performers and the production of great nineteenth-century repertory works alongside new ground-breaking choreography, design and music. By the 1920s strong moves were afoot to establish a British ballet tradition, spearheaded by Philip Richardson – the editor of the Dancing Times magazine. Alongside Adeline Genée, Phyllis Bedells, Tamara Karsavina, Edouard Espinosa and Lucia Cormani, Richardson had co-founded the Association of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain (AOD) in 1920 (later to become the Royal Academy of Dancing – RAD). The AOD set the standard by which ballet should be taught and examined. The next step was to ensure that ballet could provide a viable vocation for dancers and associated artists in this country.

Image of programme for the Association of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain’s First Annual Matinée performance, 1923.

Programme for the Association of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain’s First Annual Matinée performance at the Gaiety Theatre, 8th November 1923.

In November 1923, The AOD presented its first ‘Annual Matinée’ at the Gaiety Theatre, the object of which was to draw attention to the technical capabilities of the Association’s members. The programme included a divertissement by Philip Richardson entitled No English Need Apply, which satirised the prejudice felt to exist against British dancers at the time and the assumed greater success of dancers from the continent.

Established artists such as Phyllis Bedells and Tamara Karsavina presented their own individual programmes of ballet during the 1920s, but it wasn’t until 1926 that bookseller and publisher Cyril Beaumont attempted to establish one of the first British ballet companies. The Cremorne Company – (named after the famous pleasure gardens of the early nineteenth century) – debuted at the New Scala Theatre on March 11 of that year.

Image of Programme of A Grand Matinée devoted to Ballet, Divertissements & Song Scenas, 1926.

Programme of A Grand Matinée devoted to Ballet, Divertissements & Song Scenas, presented by the Cremorne Company on Thursday, March 11th, 1926, at the New Scala Theatre.

Beaumont enlisted the help of ballet teacher Flora Fairbairn and although their repertory was not particularly successful, the cast included Penelope Spencer, Stanley Judson and marked the stage debut of budding choreographer Frederick Ashton.

By this time, both Ninette de Valois and Marie Rambert had established studios in London. The Marie Rambert Dancers, including Frederick Ashton, appeared in a London Revue called Riverside Nights in June 1926 presenting Ashton’s first choreography – A Tragedy of Fashion; or, The Scarlet Scissors. Meanwhile, Ninette de Valois was pursuing her idea of establishing a repertory ballet company at Lilian Baylis’ Old Vic Theatre and was engaged as ballet mistress and choreographer at both the Festival Theatre in Cambridge and the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

In July 1929 the AOD presented a ‘Special Matinée’ at the Gaiety Theatre which included an appearance and choreography by Ninette de Valois. Following the performance critic Arnold Haskell wrote to the Dancing Times to express his pleasure at “the dancing of the English girls who have been trained under the principles of the Association, which is rapidly taking the place of a State organisation.” *

Image of Programme for The Camargo Ballet Season at the Savoy Theatre in 1932. The performances were presented in conjunction with the Vic-Wells Ballet and The Ballet Club

Programme for The Camargo Ballet Season at the Savoy Theatre in 1932. The performances were presented in conjunction with the Vic-Wells Ballet and The Ballet Club.

Following the death of Serge Diaghilev in August 1929, the Ballets Russes company disbanded. Philip Richardson, through the Dancing Times, encouraged the founding of a society whose aim would be to produce regular programmes of ballet in London. The ‘Camargo Society’ was formed in January 1930 and the committee included Richardson, Arnold Haskell, Phyllis Bedells, Lydia Lopokova and Edwin Evans as chairman. The first performances were given in October of that year and included choreography by Frederick Ashton, Ninette de Valois and Penelope Spencer. In 1932 the Camargo Society presented a season of ballet at The Savoy Theatre in conjunction with the recently formed Ballet Club and Vic-Wells Ballet, set-up by Marie Rambert and Ninette de Valois respectively. The three companies for a short time shared dancers, choreographers, composers and designers. In 1933, following two Gala performances at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, the Camargo Society was closed and the remaining profits and repertory works were handed over to the Vic-Wells company, later to become the Royal Ballet.

In 1932, Adeline Genée arranged for an ‘English Ballet Company’ to travel to Denmark to appear at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen. The company was made up of members of the AOD and Phyllis Bedells appeared alongside other famous British ballet names such as Alicia Markova, Anton Dolin and Ruth French. Ninette de Valois directed the performances and the programme included repertory from the Camargo Society and the recently formed Vic-Wells ballet company. Although it was not intended to be a permanent company, the ‘English Ballet Company’ was an important step for the promotion of British Ballet on an international level.

Photo of The English Ballet Company in Copenhagen, 1932.

The English Ballet Company in Copenhagen, September 1932. (Ninette de Valois is in centre front with Adeline Genée partially obscured behind her. Phyllis Bedells and Philip Richardson can be seen to the left of Genée).

* Quoted by ‘The Sitter-Out’ in the dancing Times, New Series no. 237, August 1929, p. 418

Eleanor Fitzpatrick
Assistant Library & Research Services Manager
Royal Academy of Dance


Browse the collections of the Royal Academy of Dance on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright the Royal Academy of Dance, and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

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Thomas Baron Pitfield (1903-1999): a visual autobiography

Archives Hub feature for July 2015

Monstrous Monster drawing, 1979

TP1.12 Pen-and-wash drawing of the Monstrous Monster, the Duophonia, and landscapes, 1979

This month’s archive one true love is the Thomas Baron Pitfield Collection at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Pitfield was, to name a handful of epithets, a composer, teacher, poet, artist, engineer, furniture maker, calligrapher and engraver.

He studied and later taught at the Royal Manchester College of Music (RMCM). He is a well-loved composer. However, it is the rest of his creative life that I wish to draw attention to here in this feature. In particular, his sketchbooks.

A bit of context

Pitfield was born 5 April 1903 to a strict Church of England family in Bolton. His parents had him late in life and according to his memoirs he was an unwanted and unplanned for child.

Pitfield was not born into an environment of plentiful inspiration and artistic encouragement. His creative nature was exactly that: his nature. Nurture was not a feature. In his autobiographies he mentions that he was given no means to entertain himself as a child save for his own resourcefulness which he believed fostered innovation in his early years.

Painted minstrel, 1933

TP1.10 Painted minstrel, 1933

By age two he was notably good at drawing and in school his ability to learn music almost instantaneously by ear was remarked upon. Much, he assures us, to the unimpressed pillars of his parents who intended for him to be a joiner like his father. He strove on however, collecting scraps from his father’s workshop and working them into toys and other objects.

At age 14 he was pulled from school and enrolled in an apprenticeship in the millwrights’ department of a local engineering firm, which he despised. It took time away from his creative and musical endeavours which he sneakily developed when everyone else was asleep. He also abhorred the idea that the machines he was helping to maintain could one day severely harm or even kill someone, as the near misses he witnessed assured him could happen.

The artist

“The artist [it is said] should be able to find his inspiration in the objects and life about him. I could never wax poetic about the gasometers and industrial plant.” (Pitfield, A Song After Supper, 1990 p84). And so he haunted the Bolton moors at the weekends bringing sketchbooks with him. “The countryside is the backdrop of most of my creative thoughts.” (ibid 12)

Tree drawing, 1981

TP1.15 Pen-and-wash drawing of a contorted tree, Dunham Park, 1981

Here we witness the birth of his sketchbook obsession. By the end of his life he had filled over 6,000 pages of thoughts, ideas, paintings, music, teachings, prose, poetry and designs. The calls them “a visual autobiography… so that they have become an outline of my life’s activities.”(ibid, p95)

Calligraphy, 1960

TP1.16 Calligraphy swirls, 1960

In his books we see everything that influenced his life for over seven decades. From the many pen-and-wash sketches of churches, woodlands, creatures and characters, to the incredible astuteness of his calligraphy and furniture designs. This stream of creative consciousness follows him through his short time as a student at the RMCM after quitting engineering at 21; working as a teacher of woodwork for the unemployed from 23; his fruitful composition career; his fondly remembered time returning as a teacher to the RMCM and beyond.

Philosophy and themes

Pitfield was a complex mould breaker. He remarks that early on he “began to see that an almost rabid conformity in those about me was no assurance of their sanity.” (Pitfield, No Song, No Supper, 1986, p24) In his life, themes of self-efficiency and great personal motivation permeate, whether it be stepping away from the religious upbringing, becoming vegetarian at a young age, his pacifism or his love of John Ruskin and William Morris.

Dunbleton Church sketch, 1968

TP1.1 Dunbleton Church sketch with Aaron Copeland quote, 1968

Nevertheless Christian iconography is very apparent in his notebooks and sits alongside furniture designs and the wild nature scenes which uproot the carefully penned calligraphy and drafts for lino prints, prose and poetry. The finished artworks crop up elsewhere in the archive but it is in the sketchbooks, the first manifestation for many of his creative outputs, where we find an absolute wonderland of inspiration.

Thanks for reading. If you would like to know more about his wonderful creations then do get in touch: archives@rncm.ac.uk.

Heather Roberts
College Archivist
Royal Northern College of Music



The Thomas Pitfield collections on the Archives Hub: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb1179-tp.

Browse the collections of the Royal Northern College of Music on the Archives Hub.

Artworks copyright: The Pitfield Trust.

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Connecting through defining people and relationships

If, as a researcher, you search for ‘Jane Drew’, the celebrated architect and town planner, on the Archives Hub, amongst other things, you might discover a single item, “Letter from Jane B Drew to John and Myfanwy Piper”, a letter in the “Papers of John and Myfanwy Piper”.

You can see that its a letter in a collection at the Tate Gallery Archive. The description of the collection is an example of a good quality traditional archival catalogue, giving a fairly detailed listing of the content this particular collection.  But as a researcher you are really just interested in just this one letter.  You may ask yourself a number of questions, possibly starting with (1) Is this the Jane Drew I’m interested in? and then (2) What is the relationship between Jane Drew and John and Myfanwy Piper? You may well be able to find answers by accessing the letter itself, but at this stage you may just want to place this connection in the broader context of Jane Drew’s life and work. As a researcher, understanding how these people are connected may shed light on your research interests.

In this blog I want to think about this question of relationships. The fact is that archivists rarely provide structured information about relationships; if there is information, it is usually in the biographical history, which might outline key events and people in someone’s life, referring to their parents, work colleagues, friends, etc. The nature of the relationship is sometimes explicitly given, but often it is not. Our standards don’t really say much about relationships between the entities (people, organisations, places, etc) that we describe in our catalogues.

Going back to the Papers of John and Myfanwy Piper as an example, the biographical history includes the following:

[John] Piper began writing reviews from the late 1920s making a name for himself as a critic writing for periodicals like ‘The Listener’ and the ‘Architectural Review’. From 1935-1937 he assisted Myfanwy Evans, with the production of a quarterly review of contemporary European abstract painting called ‘Axis’. In 1937 Piper was commissioned by his friend John Betjeman to write the ‘Shell Guide to Oxfordshire’. Piper went on to write and provide photographs for a number of the guides as well as edit the series. In the same year John Piper married the writer Myfanwy Evans.

This is a typical of a biographical history – useful historical information about the individual or organisation. Within this there is information we can potentially use to create explicit relationship information:

John Piper ‘worked with’ Myfanwy Evans
John Piper ‘was friends with’ John Betjeman
John Piper ‘worked for’ John Betjeman
John Piper ‘was married to’ Myfanwy Evans

There are a number of issues to consider here:

How can we unambiguously identify the people?
How do we choose the vocabulary we use to define the relationships?
Do we try to include dates?
Is it reasonable for us to interpret relationships as ‘friendships’ or ‘collaborations’ if this is not actually explicit?

We are looking at some of these issues through our AHRC project, Exploring British Design. They are all issues that archivists need to explore in a debate around relationship information, but the first issue to consider is simply whether we should be thinking more about including this kind of relationship information in our archival finding aids. Is it something that would be of real value to end users?  This issue is coming more to the fore as we start to think about implementing ISAAR (CPF) and working with EAC-CPF , and also as Linked Open Data gains traction.

In a (well worth reading) recent article in the Journal of Contemporary Archival Studies, on the potential impact of EAC-CPF, K.M Wisser reports the findings of a survey about relationship information. The survey received 208 responses from archivists/archives in the US. Wisser wrote “The survey results indicate that the archival community has only just begun to consider relationships in the context of archival description and the role that explicit description of those relationships may play.”

As one respondent wrote:

“relationships are among the most important facets in a collection and deserve a high priority in description. One cannot understand the historical value of an event, person, or organization without knowing [the] relationship among and between them.”

One thing that really strikes me in Wisser’s findings is that archivists see relationships that are documented outside of the collection as almost as significant as those that are documented within the collection. Going back to our original topic of Jane Drew: who else did Jane Drew work with? Should we provide that information to our users, whether or not it is documented within the collection? Is our role to give as full an account as we can of Drew’s life and career? Is it to limit ourselves to what is within the collection?

Wisser’s survey asked respondents about the importance of relationship types. It is curious to me that archivists rated ‘collaborated with’ as a more important relationship than ‘studied with’; they rated a friendship as far more important when it was documented in the collection; and they rated ‘influenced by’ as generally not so important. I’m surprised that the respondents had such definite ideas about the relative importance of different types of relationships, especially when the majority appeared to agree with the importance of ‘objective cataloguing’.

In our Exploring British Design project, the work we did with researchers definitely confirmed to me the fairly self-evident observation that any relationship can be of major significance in research, even if it appears of minor significance within the archive, or indeed, within the literature in general. A brief collaboration may have been a crucial influence, a short friendship may have had hitherto unrealised impact, and anyway, the importance of the relationship depends upon the research you are doing. Researchers are not really aware of how challenging it is for us as information professionals to establish these kinds of relationships in ways that they can then access. But it is clear that this is the sort of connectivity they are after.

One of the challenges with documenting relationship types is that they can be hard to define. As Wisser notes:

“The concept of influence, however, proved the most problematic. Comments such as ‘influence is a squishy sort of relationship’ and ‘I think it would often be very difficult to prove that Entity A was influenced by Entity B’ indicate a notion of intangibility.”

The conclusion could be that we should leave well alone relationships that are hard to define. On the other hand, if we are in a position, as we research a collection, to highlight potential connections, that action could be of major value to a researcher, who may otherwise never know about a link that ends up being crucial to their particular research. The relationships that are easy to define are likely to have been defined already.

One thing that strikes me about the whole notion of introducing interpretation and opinion into cataloguing (a possible argument against defining relationships) is that the horse has pretty much bolted. I’ve looked at enough ‘objective’ descriptions to be aware that the names archivists choose to add as index terms are a choice; they inevitably have to be an opinion about the names significant enough to add as index terms. And subjects are a similar case – some collections are indexed thoroughly, some not at all.

Aside from indexing, each person would create a different scope and content entry, including and excluding different information, and whether you call that subjective or not, it is certainly always selective. You could also argue that the level of detailed hierarchical cataloguing, might indicate the relative importance of the collection. On the Archives Hub there are some collections catalogued in huge detail, and it is inevitable that researchers will assume these collections are particularly important.

All of these choices have implications for discoverability.

In Wisser’s survey, a significant proportion of respondents felt that the importance of a relationship should be based upon the use of the collection.  But this, again, raises the question: When thinking about relationships, is the cataloguer reflecting the scope of the collection, or are they trying to give as full a picture as they can of the person or organisation? Are we within the world of the collection; or is the collection within the world?

The reason that I believe that we should think beyond the bounds of the collection content is that I think it promises much richer rewards for our users and encourages archives to be a major player within a broader landscape of information resources. I base my thinking on the premise that the researcher is primarily interested in their research topic, which is not likely to be an archive collection per se, but rather an event, a person, an organisation, a subject, and the way things are connected. I think archivists are still tending to think in terms of a document that describes a collection, rather than how to link the collection into the cultural heritage landscape, and even more broadly beyond that. I wonder if archivists don’t always think beyond the catalogues they currently create because the researchers they have contact with (who visit the archive) are already fairly confident they want to use that repository, or a particular archive within that repository. In other words, the researcher is already in their space. When I worked in a specialist archive, I thought about researchers discovering our archive as a whole (having an online presence) and then I thought about them using our collections (individual collections each with their own description); I didn’t think about how our collections could be seen as part of a whole information landscape.

The loudest – and most convincing – argument I hear against this kind of approach is that it takes time, and archivists are short on time. But I wonder if that means we have to think fundamentally differently. Going back to Jane Drew, and think about the value of relationships for research into her life and work…

If one archive collection description highlights just a few relationships, this could take us a long way (although relationship types are a whole different thing…). If the individuals and organisations are unambiguously identified, this can help with the process of creating links out to other data sources, so that information can be linked together; then we have the chance to benefit from finding out about relationships that have been defined elsewhere. In other words, the connections one person has throughout their life can only be fully realised through the pooling of information resources, very much a joint effort. If the data is structured it can potentially be brought together.

Traditional archival cataloguing focuses on the collection, and what is documented within the collection. It tends to think in terms of a self-contained document. Pursuing relationships breaks the bounds of any one information source. That seems like a good thing, but it raises questions around approaches to cataloguing. One obvious way to tackle this is to start to think more about archival authority records. These should enable us to move beyond a collection-centric description of the collection and towards a more entity based approach, because you describe an agent (entity) independently of any one archival collection. Another option is to think in a Linked Data way, where you are concentrating on entities and relationships.

There are so many questions raised by the whole area of entities and relationships. A few of my current conclusions are:

We should primarily be led by what benefits research. Researchers are far less likely to think in terms of individual archive collections, and far more likely to think in terms of research areas (topics). The Web gives us the opportunity to think in a broader context.

Maybe it is worth considering taking some of the time used to provide a really detailed biographical history as an unstructured narrative, or the time to provide a really detailed multi-level description, and taking more time to provide (or provide the potential for) connections between our descriptions and the larger information environment. This could allow researchers to bring together much more comprehensive information, even if what we provide about individual collections is less detailed. Just adding something like a VIAF identifier to a name would be a great big leap forwards (http://viaf.org/viaf/51792789).

There is great value in being a small fish in a big pond, because most researchers are fishing for data in the big pond. As Wisser’s article says, “relationships are…seen to free collections from the isolation of individual repositories.” If we aim to be part of the big pond, we can continue to tend our smaller ponds as well!

To go back to the Piper Collection and Jane Drew….I used this as a random example, thinking of a researcher interested in one particular designer. But of course, the Tate Gallery Archive can’t be expected to define all the relationships within the description. It’s great that they have provided enough detail to find this one individual item – without that, we would not know about the connection with Jane Drew. I’m arguing for unambiguously identifying entities (people, organisations) because if we can potentially link this instance of ‘Jane Drew’ to other instances in other information sources, then it is very possible that we can find out more about this relationship; And if the relationship can’t be established through other sources, then maybe this archive provides unique evidence of a connection that could significantly benefit research.

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Researching 150 years of Salvation Army history

Archives Hub feature for June 2015

As an international Christian Church and charity active in 126 countries, The Salvation Army is a well-known public presence. This year is its 150th anniversary and the occasion will be marked in the first week of July with the Boundless International Congress in London.

In its 150-year history, The Salvation Army has worked in many surprising ways and places. Since hiring its first professional archivist in 2007, The Salvation Army International Heritage Centre has steadily been opening up the organisation’s rich documentary heritage. Its recently catalogued archives provide a window into The Salvation Army’s diverse activities and the ways these have affected lives and shaped histories.

Image of First report of the East London Christian Mission, 1867

First report of the East London Christian Mission, 1867

A series of tent meetings held in East London in August 1865 led to the development of the East London Christian Mission, which became known as The Salvation Army in 1878. The Mission spread quickly outwards from London throughout the UK, and within two years of becoming The Salvation Army it had begun expanding overseas. The organisation had always aimed to bring the gospel to the poor and vulnerable but in the mid-1880s, it started developing new ways of helping struggling and marginalised people materially as well as spiritually through social work.

The international and social dimensions of The Salvation Army’s work are particular strengths of the Heritage Centre’s collections and expertise. This feature highlights just two among many aspects of this work that can be researched in depth using the archives at the Heritage Centre. ‘Criminal Tribe’ settlements in India and early women’s rescue work are now easily accessible subjects thanks to catalogues and other finding aids that have been produced as a priority because of increasing interest from and collaborations with the research community.

India: Denotified Tribes

Image of Criminocurology or The Indian Crim, and what to do with him, Frederick Booth-Tucker, 1911

Criminocurology or The Indian Crim, and what to do with him, Frederick Booth-Tucker, 1911

The Salvation Army describes India as its oldest mission field. Evangelical and social work started in Mumbai in 1882.

An important aspect of The Salvation Army’s work in India in the early to mid-twentieth century was its work with so-called ‘Criminal Tribes’. In 1871 the British Raj enacted the Criminal Tribes Act, which proposed that certain adivasi or ethnic, tribal communities in the Indian sub-continent were ‘habitually criminal’. As a consequence of the Act, Criminal Tribe settlements were established with the intention of altering the behaviour of these communities.

Anglo-Indian Salvation Army officer Frederick Booth-Tucker was a key exponent of developing agricultural and industrial settlements for Criminal Tribes. At first the British Raj did not agree to The Salvation Army’s attempts at rehabilitating Criminal Tribes but by 1908, after years of difficulties in managing settlements, it was willing to utilise missionaries. Within three years The Salvation Army was receiving government subsidies to run 22 settlements with approximately 10,000 residents and further settlements opened later.

Image of ‘Criminal’ tribeswomen attend a Salvation Army Home League meeting at Sahibganj settlement, Uttar Pradesh, c1940s

‘Criminal’ tribeswomen attend a Salvation Army Home League meeting at Sahibganj settlement, Uttar Pradesh, c1940s

The Salvation Army was still running five settlements when the Criminal Tribes Act was repealed by the newly independent Indian government in 1949. In 1952 Criminal Tribes were officially ‘de-notified’, but the impact of the former law is still being felt by communities today.

There has lately been considerable interest in the treatment of Criminal Tribes from a variety of researchers, including the production team of the documentary film Birth 1871: History, the State and the Arts of Denotified Tribes of India, so the Heritage Centre has prepared a guide to relevant records in its collections, now available on the Heritage Centre website. You can also read more about Salvation Army work in India and elsewhere on our blog.

Women’s Rescue Work

Image of cover of The Deliverer

The Deliverer and Record of Salvation Army Rescue Work, January 1891, published monthly 1889-1923 and 1928-1993

A number of highly successful student placements hosted by the Heritage Centre have led to an improved knowledge of The Salvation Army’s early rescue work with ‘fallen’ women, and better access to the relevant records. Each year, the Heritage Centre welcomes a student from UCL’s MA in Archives and Records Management and another from Birkbeck’s MA in Victorian Studies. In recent years, these students have focussed on the records of The Salvation Army’s Women’s Social Services resulting in a full catalogue of the collection and original research using the records.

The research of this year’s Victorian Studies student, Cathy David, has given new insight into the day-to-day running of The Salvation Army’s first rescue home for women, Hanbury Street Refuge, and the teething problems encountered in its earliest days. Cathy has also shown how different sets of our records can be read productively together to expose biases and subtext. Last year, Kate Taylor shed light on the extent to which the experiences of girls taken in by Hanbury Street Refuge influenced WT Stead’s journalistic exposé The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon, which led to the passing of the Criminal Law Amendment Act and the raising of the age of consent from 13 to 16 years of age. Their research was greatly aided by the catalogue produced by UCL student Arlinda Azaredo, which we hope to add to our existing descriptions on Archives Hub later in the year. It is already available on our online catalogue.

This year

Exhibition poster: 150 Years of The Salvation Army in Tower Hamlets, June-July 2015

150 Years of The Salvation Army in Tower Hamlets, June-July 2015

The 150th anniversary has afforded a wealth of further opportunities for the Heritage Centre to engage with communities, researchers and the media, improve its range of descriptive resources, and for staff to develop their expertise in a variety of ways. The Heritage Centre’s collections are expected to feature in a number of family history magazines in the coming months, and a two-week exhibition and programme of associated events in Tower Hamlets in early July is the outcome of a collaboration between the Heritage Centre, Stepney Salvation Army Corps and Tower Hamlets Council. The Heritage Centre also supplied images and loaned documents to the Geffrye Museum for the Homes of the Homeless exhibition, on now until 12 July. Subject guides and a blog have been added to our website, and more will appear throughout the year.

The Heritage Centre will be open longer during the Boundless Congress (29 June-6 July), and we look forward to welcoming many new visitors to our museum and archive reading room then. Full details of our extended opening hours are available on our website.

Ruth Macdonald
Archive Assistant, Salvation Army International Heritage Centre

All images copyright the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre, and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

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