December 15, 2014, by Kathryn Steenson
Our Autumn/Winter Collections
Earlier this year, we asked some of our volunteers and regular readers for suggestions about how we could improve our service. One of the most frequent requests was to publicise new acquisitions. Occasionally we will share information about large-scale projects, such as when we collected and catalogued the Water and Medical School records, but those aren’t representative of the material we acquire on a regular basis. Many of the individual items or smaller collections are simply added to the online catalogue quietly, but sometimes these are the ones researchers would most like to hear about.
Here are just a handful of the new manuscripts that have come in recently:
This detail of a minstrel playing a lute comes from ‘Serenade – Old Street – Genoa’ comes from ‘MS 943: Nine engravings of places in Italy including Rome, Venice and Genoa by Wilfrid Huggins’. Some, like the one above, are annotated with places and with Huggins’s name, but none appear to be dated. We currently know very little information about the artist, Wilfrid Huggins, beyond that he was born in 1873 in Lancashire and probably died in 1949. These beautiful pictures were donated to us by the daughter of Olive Andrews, who knew him.
MS 939/2: A Selection of Russian recordings on vinyl is proof that archives come in all varieties of formats. This came to us from a private donor, and we were very pleased to add to our collection of twentieth-century Russian material that we’ve built up, in part due to strong links with the Russian and Slavonic Studies department. Unfortunately none of the staff here can read Russian, so we are very grateful to Dr Polly McMichael, Lecturer in Russian and Slavonic Studies, and her group of students who came over for a morning and listed the records. They range from popular music and military bands to Russian language lessons and poetry readings.
Fortunately a record player accompanied the donation of the records, otherwise we would have struggled to play them. Despite the manufacturer’s confident declaration that the format would never be obsolete, just 40 years later they have been proved wrong.
This final document is an accrual to be added into a much larger collection. Ht: Correspondence of Mary Howitt (1799-1888) contains hundreds of letters that Mary, her mother, and sisters wrote to each other. The various family members moved around England, Germany, America and Italy, and consequently the letters contain extraordinarily detailed accounts of their daily lives and opinions of the world around them. This pencil portrait by Anna Mary Howitt accompanies a handwritten account of her meeting with the subject, William Robertson, at The Hermitage, Highgate, in 1854. She describes how an elderly man with a crippled leg came to their door begging. Noticing he was trembling with age and cold, he was invited in to warm himself by the fire. Whilst Anna sketched him, Robertson spoke about his wartime experiences during the Battle of the Nile and the Battle of Trafalgar, and how lonely he was since the death of his wife. The numbering and initials on the sketch suggests the account and the sketch were displayed together, or perhaps were part of a scrapbook that has long since been taken apart. It’s a lovely document and nicely complements the rest of the family’s papers.
None of these items have been fully processed, but we hope to add them to the online catalogue soon, after which they can be viewed in the Reading Room on King’s Meadow Campus. The Reading Room will be closed from Thursday 25th December 2014 until 9am on Monday 5th January 2015.