April 27, 2020, by S Colborne
Carry on Collecting: Tri Campus contemporary collecting during lockdown
Manuscripts and Special Collections (MSC) may be WFH and unable to access the collections in our manuscripts store, but we’re still busy improving our catalogues, promoting our resources, and we’re also still busy sourcing material to add to our archives. The University’s new digital preservation system allows us to manage and preserve digital items such as photographs, PDFs, websites, audio and video files and much more. So now we would like you to spare a thought for the material YOU might have accumulated during your time at the University of Nottingham which would make a good addition to the university archives and which could be sent to us digitally while we’re away from the office.
MSC has been collecting since the 1930s. The University’s institutional archive (which includes minute books, letters, reports, photographs and publications) tells the story of the early beginnings of University College Nottingham, in 1877 (which from 1881 was based at Shakespeare Street in town), and the early development of University Park from 1920 onwards. Unfortunately we have less material which tracks the foundation and development of the China and Malaysia campuses, making it difficult to tell the story of the University’s growth into a global institution. Where gaps in the official records exist, archivists can turn to alumni, former employees, and current staff and students for help. Their photographs, documents and memories allow a more nuanced story to be told about what it was really like to work and study at all of our campuses. You can read more about our Tri-Campus collecting activities in our Time Capsule Blog, and in this blog post we feature a few examples of what we’ve been collecting so far.
We have been visiting Welcome Fairs in recent years, collecting flyers and posters to add to our collection from the 1980s. We have also had some successes in persuading current society officers to create a time capsule archive for their society. The Society of Nottingham Guides and Scouts has written into their constitution that society officers should add to their archive each year.
It has been fascinating looking at the different societies that have come and gone over the years. One of the officers from the short-lived Gothic Society reflected on what it meant to her to add her surviving photos to the archive. “On one level the items might seem frivolous, but I think they reveal a group of young people investigating art, music and culture, and discovering our identity. They show just how important and formative our undergraduate years, and the supportive atmosphere of the university was for us. I am very happy to think that these things will now be preserved for the future!”. What clubs were you a member of? Do you have any digital photos of events that your society organised?
Sports teams joined at university play a huge part in the lives of students. A former president of the Cross Country and Athletics club contacted us to pass on an extensive archive for his club. The boxes contain a treasure trove of information about the running of the club from the period 1949-1999, including a series of record books containing the names of members, photographs from events, fixture results, rain soaked maps of routes, and reports from races. These reports often feature detailed accounts of the trials and tribulations involved in getting to the race on time (mini buses not turning up, competitors oversleeping) and in taking part (weather and track conditions). What did your team/club mean to you? Do you have anything which illustrates your club’s activities or achievements?
We have 120 years’ worth of student publications including titles such as Gongster, Bias and Impact as well as more obscure and short lived examples such as Nottorama, but we rely on you to fill the gaps. Thanks to kind donations from alumni there’s always hope that we can find more student material thought lost for ever, so remember: if you’re moving house and discover a box full of student publications in your attic, do get in touch. If your society produced a newsletter, do you have any copies of these as PDFs? Or does your society have a website that we could capture?
Photographs donated by former students show how varied the experience of studying at university can be, as with the example of Heather Jarvis (née Beardall), a student at the School of Agriculture at Sutton Bonington from 1948-1950, whose studies involved bee keeping and tractor driving. We’d love our collection of photos of student life to represent a real range of experiences and we hope that current students will enjoy being able to compare life on their own campus to the day to day realities of life on other campuses, whether that’s Sutton Bonington, China or Malaysia.
Photographs, scrapbooks, ephemera (flyers, posters, tickets for events, etc.), records of involvement in student societies or activities such as elections, charity events, theatre productions, sports fixtures, and music performances, or even records of significant events in the development of departments, campuses, or halls of residence, are all great sources of information for the archive, but while we are unable to access MSC HQ, it’s particularly digital files that we are looking to collect. If you have digital photographs or files, or high quality scans of older items, we would love to take them. Please send them with some information (who/what/when/where) to help us create catalogue descriptions, and don’t forget to tell us your campus, year of study, and department. We’re particularly in need of content from the 2000s onwards.
The material we receive will be catalogued (examples of catalogues of alumni collections can be seen on our website), and selected items will be added to our digital gallery, used in our exhibitions or used in our other promotional, educational and research activities.
Please contact us via email to arrange submission: email@example.com. We look forward to finding out about your time at the University of Nottingham.
Time Capsule Blogs by Sarah Colborne, Archivist (Collections), Manuscripts and Special Collections