DMU Special Collections launches on Twitter

Special Collections now have a dedicated Twitter feed: @DMUSpecialColls. Please follow us for news about our services, images from the collections, and the occasional adventures of Roary the Archives Dinosaur.

Twitter screenshot

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Learning at Work Week 2017: A History of Library Services at DMU

There were emotional scenes yesterday as Katharine delivered a lecture on the history of DMU’s libraries with a focus on the creation and development of Kimberlin. Without too many spoilers (we don’t want to miss out on the anticipation of our potential publication for the 40 years anniversary in November), the talk brought back many memories for our longer-serving staff members in terms of original building layout, extensions, and obsolete technology and systems.



The talks gets underway and already you can see the memories flooding back!


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The archive contains a wonderful collection of slides demonstrating the Library’s commitment to keeping up with technological advancements over the years.


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Plans showing the three subject libraries that were housed in separate buildings before the opening of Kimberlin in 1977. The Architecture and Building Library was housed in Clephan, the Art Library in Fletcher, and the Technology Library in Hawthorne.

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A fresh-looking Kimberlin, 1977. There is something a bit Rubik’s cube about it.

Most importantly, however, the images and promotional videos reminded all of earlier days and the people they used to work with. While many were able to share forgotten memories with their colleagues, we were also reminded of absent friends: those who have moved on to pastures new or those who have now passed away.


P Hawthorne Library c 1964

Interior of the Technical Library in Hawthorne, c 1964


A slide showing some familiar faces from our staff photographs collection with Katharine at the lectern.


As with any trip down memory lane, there are always mixed feelings, but much fun was had looking at 80s hair-dos, big glasses, and trying to name the faces in our”unidentified” collection of staff images. It is even hoped we might hold an archives event to help match up names and faces.

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Enjoying having a browse through a small sample of the staff photographs collections after the talk.



To accompany the talk we also installed a mini exhibition table showcasing some of the libraries past publications, catalogues, and newsletters.

The Special Collections team would like to say a big thank you to all who attended the event yesterday; we were honoured to put the talk together and we enjoyed watching your responses to it!

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World Baking Day 2017

World Baking Day 2017

World baking day is something that we are not all too familiar with in the office but we cannot be happier to find an excuse to cake the sides of our kitchens in flour as we try to replicate a Paul Hollywood delight! I feel as happy as I did when I discovered the magic of Half-Christmas (That’s the 25th of June btw)!

The Baking course was taught at De Montfort University’s predecessor, the Leicester College of Technology from 1927 and taught young students the fundamentals of the trade. As was with most courses at Leicester Colleges of Art and Technology students would follow a syllabus that was drawn up by the City Guilds Institute, helping to prepare them for the industry.

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prospectus 1927237

Baking Timetable231












In the Gift Book there are mentions of donations of ingredients in February 1932 such as raspberry and strawberry jam as well as something known as “gold medal icing sugar”… must be some pretty fancy sugar!

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Speaking of gold medals, Leicester Technical School has produced Master Bakers such as L. J. Capps in 1937 with other students winning similar awards through the years until the 1970’s.

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The course ran for approximately fifty years until the Leicester College of Art and Technology became the City of Leicester Polytechnic and Baking was moved to the Charles Keene college where courses catered for 15-18 age groups.

However you choose to celebrate this day, make sure you and some hungry (brave!?) loved ones tuck into something delicious.

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International Nurses Day 2017


May 12th has been celebrated as #internationalnursesday since 1965 as a way of appreciating and raising awareness about the important and diverse roles nurses play in our society. The date is significant because it is Florence Nightingale’s (1820-1910) birthday, a social reformer and the founder of modern nursing.


Commemorative medal produced to celebrate Nightingale’s work during the Crimean War (1853-1856). The reverse reads: “as a mark of esteem and gratitude for her devotion to the Queen’s brave soldiers”.

De Montfort University and Leicester has a long history of nursing and midwifery training and so today seemed like a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the valuable work of all nurses past and present (from those just beginning their training to the long-serving veterans) by showcasing two major collections, the School of Nursing and Midwifery and the Pauline Wells Collection. The latter was a member of the Leicester General Hospital Nurses’ League who qualified as a nurse in 1960 and she later donated her collection to the School.

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Showcasing the international work and achievements of the nursing profession, this display includes a photograph from the International Council of Nurses Conference, 1949, a programme for the award ceremony of medals, prizes and certificates given to nurses, 1972, a telegram from the Queen Mother sending her “congratulations and warm wishes” to the Leicester District Nurses Service, 1967, and a selection of medals and uniform badges (c 1920s – 1950s).


Leicester officially began training nurses at the Royal Infirmary in 1870 in association with the Institution for Trained Nurses and as the profession and training courses evolved, from 1903, nurses began to receive what should be considered essential tools for learning, such as access to a library, formal training and lectures, and good accommodation. In keeping with the theme for this year on sustainable development, long may these and other provisions continue.

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While there are a lot of course materials in the collection ranging from the 1900s to the present, this small sample shows the course booklets produced for nurses during the 1970s and 1980s.

Both collections include a diverse range of artefacts and papers, from course guides, syllabus booklets, and examination reports to photographs, medical equipment, certificates, and correspondence. Such materials provide a fascinating insight not only into the history of nursing but into the personal experiences of some of the nurses themselves.


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This small component of the collection focuses on Miss Janet Coleman who received a long service badge in 1959. Along with her invitation to the ceremony in London there are several photographs of her at work during the 1940s as a midwife.

A formal two-year nursing course was established in 1966 and the School itself relocated a number of times across the decades. One of the School’s most significant developments came when it merged with De Montfort University in 1995  to become the School of Nursing and Midwifery within the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences with training taking place at the Charles Frears Campus.

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A selection of prospectuses, nursing equipment and uniform pieces, including a district nurses bag and a buckle and belt.

The Charles Frears campus was closed in 2011 and the School of Nursing and Midwifery is now based in Edith Murphy House providing classrooms, lecture theatre, ICT lab, meeting rooms and offices.

As well as wanting to show appreciation to all nurses past and present we also wish all our current nurses and midwives in training success in the upcoming exam period.

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Be the Change

Today DMU is holding a 24 hour event which will explore key issues ahead of the General Election. Beginning at 9 a.m. on Wednesday 3 May, the same day that Parliament is expected to be dissolved, it will conclude at 9 a.m. the following day. Subjects under consideration will include Brexit, education, the NHS, climate change, policing, diversity and inclusion, fake news, the arts, universities and immigration.

DMU students and their predecessors have often shown deep interest in political matters, as this 1974 Lunchtime Events programme from Leicester Polytechnic demonstrates.

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Amongst film screenings, poetry readings and concerts we find several speakers on political and social activism. In his talk “Aims of Industry” Peter Thompson discuses free enterprise and the importance of a free market economy, opposing state control of British industry. Two directors of Spare Rib magazine, Marion Fudger and Rose Ades, were invited to speak about their magazine and the feminist cause.

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The General Will, a theatre group, used sketches and songs to express political opinions on current issues. Ben Whitaker, Labour MP and director of the Minority Rights Group, spoke on the problem of discrimination against ethnic, religious and cultural minorities, while George McRobie from Intermediate Technology discussed the need to bring technology to underdeveloped countries.

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As the leaflet states: “it is well that we should from time to time sit back and give serious thought to the purpose of our actions“, which our students are being encouraged to do today as well as 42 years ago.

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DMU Campus in 1923

Following a tweet by Library and Learning Services, I couldn’t resist having a closer look at this fantastic aerial photograph of the campus site. The image is from the wonderful resource at Britain From Above, digitised aerial photographs from the Aerofilms collection.

Aerial view of campusThe development of the campus site is an aspect of university history that Special Collections have been focused on over the last few years, with the development of the Heritage Centre and the ‘Building DMU’ exhibition last year. Nevertheless I do not tire of poring over images that show just how much has changed – and how much has not – on our campus.

This photograph is Oxford Street and Environs, 1923, available here, and is copyright of Historic England.

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Easter Greetings

Cover of Art and Craft magazine, 1986

Cover of Art and Craft magazine, 1986

Special Collections staff would like to wish all our readers a happy Easter. To celebrate here are a few Easter related items from the collection.



Firstly, Easter baking in a time of rationing meant Simnel Cake was off the menu due to lack of ground almonds. Hence the ‘Easter Pie’ in the picture, a kind of lemon custard tart.

Easter baking including Easter Pie, Hot Cross Buns, Birds' Nest Tartlets and Fondant Easter Eggs. Good Housekeeping, April 1949

Easter baking including Easter Pie, Hot Cross Buns, Birds’ Nest Tartlets and Fondant Easter Eggs. Good Housekeeping, April 1949





The Art Journal produced the Easter Art Annual, a special publication usually focusing on the work of one British artist – perfect for reading over the long weekend.

Easter Art Annual on Edward Burne-Jones, 1900Other featured artists included Walter Crane and William Morris:

Vision of the Holy Grail

The Vision of the Holy Grail, design for tapestry, from the William Morris edition of the Easter Art Annual, 1899

A Herald of Spring, by Walter Crane, published in the Easter Art Annual, 1898

A Herald of Spring, by Walter Crane, published in the Easter Art Annual, 1898


Those of you with children may find you need some crafts ideas to occupy little hands during the school holidays. Art & Craft magazine was a Scholastic publication aimed at teachers. It has various ideas for Easter related activities:

Easter eggs

Cracking Eggs

Instructions for making 'doors' in eggs and ideas for decoration, 1985

Instructions for making ‘doors’ in eggs and ideas for decoration, 1985

Seasonal table decoration using a margarine tub, dried beans and drinking straws, 1985

Seasonal table decoration using a margarine tub, dried beans and drinking straws, 1985

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Archives at Risk

Disasters often strike archive services: the collapse of the building that housed the Historical Archive of the City of Cologne, for example, burying 90% of their holdings; or the fire that ravaged Glasgow School of Art including their library. In both cases archives professionals from across the world offered their support and practical help.

All too often the threats that archives face are economic – in this austerity climate heritage and cultural services are frequently at risk from severely reduced budgets or even closure. In this situation fellow professionals can help by advocating and campaigning via professional bodies such as the Archives and Records Association.

Sadly another European archive is now at risk, but from political forces rather than natural ones. The Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, is threatened with closure after the government introduced legislation that requires the university to comply with certain criteria that it will not be able to meet. Commentators believe that the government wishes to close an institution noted for its liberal policies.

The closure of CEU threatens its archival holdings. Csaba Szilagyi, Head of Human Rights Program and Acting Chief Archivist at CEU, has asked for support:

As you know, the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives, an internationally known human rights archives dealing with the history (and afterlife) of communism and Cold War, and of human rights movements and violations worldwide is an organic part of CEU. Our activities and collections are therefore also in danger.

It is time for friends, supporters, and educational and academic communities to defend our institution and the independence of higher education institutions around the globe. Please visit the CEU website to see how you can help.

As fellow university archivists, myself and my team want to express support for our colleagues at CEU caught up in this situation, and we hope that they are able to secure the safe future of their archive collection.



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#Brexitday: say au revoir but not goodbye

While many of today’s newspaper articles and reports will become the archives of the future, documenting the UK’s controversial and divisive exit from the European Union, for the sake of balance, we thought we would revisit our holdings for 1973, the year Britain joined the EU. This reminds us that Britain was not always a member of the EU and therefore there is hope, that one day, we will be reunited again.


The London Illustrated News, 1973.

‘The Illustrated London News’ Front cover, 1973. Detail from Claude Monet’s ‘View of Westminster and the Houses of Parliament’, 1871.

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Fanfare for Europe: Message from the Prime Minister, Edward Heath. Page 33.












The articles in the Illustrated London News perfectly explain how the membership was not purely driven by economics but by a desire to unite Europe politically and peacefully.

How the Community Works

Articles introducing and explaining what EU Membership means: ‘How the Community Works’ by Roger Berthoud. Pages 37-38.

Like our VC, Dominic Shellard, we hoped that #Brexitday would not become a reality, however, now it is here we have to stay positive and focus on nurturing our international relations. Since the referendum result last spring the campaign #LoveInternational to protect residency rights for international staff and students has made us proud to be a part of a university that takes action.

Today, in response to the triggering of Article 50, the VC has visited Poland to reach out to concerned students and communities to reassure us all that DMU remains an international and outward looking university.

Plaque commemorating the visit of Wojskowa Akademia Techniczna from Warsaw, Poland to De Montfort University, 18-22 April 1998.

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Shakespeare Week 20th-26th March 2017

Alternative Shakespeare

While in the past we have done numerous posts and exhibitions showcasing some of the amazing Shakespeare-related materials we have in the archive, we could not resist posting something for Shakespeare Week

So, we set ourselves the challenge of trying to find some of the more unusual items in our collections that have not been used before. The following four items are a testament (as if we were ever in doubt) to the fact that Shakespearean culture and references can be found everywhere and in archival collections where you might not expect!

First up is this beautiful slide from the UNESCO World Art Series: Iran. The image shows the titular characters, Laila and Majnun, from the Persian love story written by poet, Nizami Ganjavi in the 10th century. Despite being written before Shakespeare’s play, the poem is often referred to as the Romeo and Juliet of the East.

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No. 25 ‘Laila and Majnun’ from the National Art Slide Library Collection. Originally housed at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, the collection came to DMU in the 1990s and includes a number of art and architecture series.


Second, is an extract taken from a book that has only recently come to Special Collections with the acquisition of the Briggs-Blake-Zurbrugg Memorial Library. Eyewitnesses of Shakespeare: First Hand Accounts of Performances 1590-1890 is a fascinating collection of contemporaneous reactions to Shakespeare’s plays and how they were performed, with one nineteenth-century reviewer bewailing the tendency for Juliets to over-act their grief in a violent manner. For variety, the extract below is one of the earliest records of an audience report of Julius Caesar from 1599.

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This brief response is a wonderful insight into how one Swiss traveller spent an autumn afternoon in London – dinner followed by a matinee! ‘Eyewitnesses of Shakespeare’ by Gamini Salgado. London: Chatto and Windus Ltd, 1975. pg 18.


Third, is an image from our Vogue collection. In the 1940 August issue this fabulous image of Laurence Olivier (swoon) and Vivien Leigh celebrates their marriage as well as promoting their Broadway performance in Romeo and Juliet which took place during the same year.

Olivier as R&J

‘Vogue’ August, 1940 pg 25. The caption reads: “The true-life love story of Scarlett O’Hara and ‘Rebecca’s’ Maxim de Winter was apotheosised in their broadway ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Tepid press notices but a big thrill for their fanatic fans.”

The Vogue Collection spans from 1937-1997 and includes the British, French and Italian publications as well as L’uomo Vogue (Men’s Vogue).


And finally, we have a script taken from the Andrew Davies Collection, Rohan and Julie, sub-titled Romeo and Juliet Today in Northern Ireland. Here we have a contemporary setting and instead of the Capulets and Montagues our vying families are the Caffertys and Morrisons.


Title page and character list from ‘Rohan and Julie’ first performed in 1975.


Rather unexpectedly, this post has developed a distinct Romeo and Juliet theme. If only I had started earlier in the week  – I could have done a play a day!



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