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.

PM Message

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.

layla and MAjnun004

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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DMU Rugby Varsity!

De Montfort University Rugby Varsity

This evening the De Montfort University Rugby teams take on the University of Leicester’s in the last events of the annual Varsity games!

Faces shall be sufficiently planted into the mud at the famous Tiger’s Stadium! Good luck to both our Women’s and Men’s teams!!!

rugby team 1946

Photograph from DUO: The Magazine of The Leicester Colleges of Art & Technology, 1946-47 session.

Looking back through some of De Montfort’s predecessor student magazines we came across the Men’s XV from 70 years ago. These smiling bruisers are noted for playing a full game on a flooded pitch on Vicky Park against the Leicester Thursday team resulting in a “very slippery, muddy game.”

Details of tonight’s fixtures can be found by following this link.

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#LoveInternational March 2017

In anticipation of DMU’s latest #Loveinternational event scheduled for tomorrow, we thought we would show our support by highlighting how DMU and its predecessors has always had an international outlook that actively promotes tolerance and compassion.

On this day in 1980, the Leicester Mercury reported on how DMU and its students  took action to help refugees:

Students; Aid for Refugees

From the ‘Leicester Mercury’ March 21st 1980. pg 32

Tomorrow’s event will feature the unveiling of an installation created by art graduate, Marcus Dove, in the Vijay Patel Building. This will be followed by a speech from the Vice Chancellor, Dominic Shellard who will then lead a march to Welford Road for the inaugural men’s and women’s rugby fixtures.

Keep supporting #Loveinternational

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Goodbye and Good Luck, Miten

Today is our volunteer, Miten’s, last day in the DMU archive.

Soon to start as a Trainee Digital Archivist at the Bodleian Library, Oxford we wish him lots of luck and success. Your work and commitment to the Andrew Davies Archive has been invaluable. We thank you very very much.


Miten: the dental chemist turned digital archivist. At work here on the Andrew Davies digitisation project.

We will miss your sanguine approach to everything. Keep in touch!

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International Women’s Day 2017

Today is International Women’s Day and as a way of showing our support for the campaign to make a more inclusive gender equal world we wanted to showcase one of our collections that we felt reflects this year’s theme #Beboldforchange: the Papers of Bryony Lavery.

Feminist playwright, Bryony Lavery was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Arts from DMU in 1998 and she donated her papers to the archive in 2011. Associated with feminist and socialist theatre groups such as Monstrous Regiment and  The Women’s Theatre Group she has also been artistic director for Gay Sweatshop and Female Trouble.

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Bryony Lavery in the Graduation Cermonies Programme, 1998

Bryony Lavery grad2096

Bryony Lavery receives her honorary Doctor of Arts award from DMU at the 1998 ceremony

Lavery was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, in 1947. To date, she has written over 60 plays, many of which have all-female casts and include feminist and queer themes. Some of her most well-known works include Origin of the Species (1984), Peter Pan (1991), and Frozen (1998). The latter won the TMA Best Play Award and was nominated for 4 Tony Awards when it appeared on Broadway.

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A selection of material from the collection including theatre programmes, posters, flyers and scripts.

Much of Lavery’s work can be considered from an adaptation perspective as she draws on historical events and well-known literary works and films for inspiration and as a means of challenging patriarchal and gender norms in narratives as well as in real life.

Examples include,Witchcraze (1985) , a masked play with only three actors that charts the history of witches and witchcraft across the centuries, encouraging us to consider how women who do not conform become societies’ scapegoats or “witches”:

Witch 2

Theatre programme and script for ‘Witchcraze’


Her Aching Heart (1992), a Gothic lesbian romance and pastiche of the Mills & Boon genre:

Her Aching Heart 2

Promotional material for ‘Her Aching Heart’

and Ophelia (1996), a retelling of Hamlet from the perspective of its traditionally tragic heroine:


Theatre programme and first draft for ‘Ophelia’

The collection includes a diverse range of materials, including play scripts, sound recordings, reviews, playbills, proposals for radio and television dramas, and project files. As well as writing fictional works, Lavery has also been involved in many other creative projects, producing educational sketches and courses that raise awareness about gender issues and promote gender equality. Materials in the collection that refelct this work include drafts of plays and workbooks on family planning, ‘Developing Women Managers’, challenging the glass-ceiling, and sexual harassment in the work place.


How to identify if an action constitutes sexual harassment. From the vignette, ‘Everyday Encounter’ which includes characters Cindy and Harry the Harasser c. 1995.

Bringing humour and wit to some serious and challenging issues Lavery’s creative take invites us all to “be bold” and to strive for change to accelerate gender parity.

This has to be one of my favourite collections in the archive!

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Happy Birthday DMU

To celebrate DMU’s 147th birthday this week we thought we would dig out some material that would shed some light on how the institution first came into being.

On 1st March 1870, DMU, then known as Leicester School of Art, was officially opened to students. The foundation of the School had been driven by Leicester citizens and local societies, including the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society with the desire to create educational and trade opportunities for local men and women. The Art School Committee selected Wilmott Pilsbury, a landscape painter who had exhibited at leading London galleries from the 1860s, to be the first Principal.

Wilmott Pilsbury

Photograph of Wilmott Pilsbury. n.d. Taken from the Leicester School of Art Photo Album 1870-1939. Created by the School in 1957.


Classes were initially based at 2 Pocklington’s Walk, in a disused warehouse. This area of Leicester is now associated with legal proceedings and chancery as the street is now home to the Magistrates Court, the Registry Office, and a number of solicitors’ offices. While substantial work had to be carried out to make the building a suitable teaching space, it became clear early on that the premises were unsuitable in terms of lighting and ventilation and the School was soon re-located to a site adjoining New Walk Museum in 1877.

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While there is no image of the area in the archive for 1870, here, 2 Pocklington’s Walk can be seen in the upper right of this city insurer’s plan from 1926.


Panoramic looking toward Site

Today the site is a car park but the space between the remaining Victorian buildings is suggestive of the size and situation of the former premises of the School.


What we do have from the early days of the School however are the first annual reports and student registers providing an exciting window into the evolution of the institution and the lives of its students.

Full Front Cover 1st annual report

A big moment in the history of DMU: the publication of the First Annual Report of the Leicester School of Art, April 1871.

Tenth Annual Report Cover

The publication of the Tenth Annual Report, July 1880, is a testament to the growing success of the school as it details an increase in student numbers and the garnering of more national awards and prizes. The front cover is decidedly more ornate than the one published 10 years earlier.













The first annual report prepared in April 1871 details the foundation of the school, its location, and the achievement of finally getting the School up and running where previous efforts had failed. It states that 269 students attended the School of Art in the first year which according to national tables at the time meant ‘it already ranks amongst the largest Art Schools in the Kingdom’ (pg, 5). At a meeting of the national examiners from the Department of Art and Science the work of the students was highly commended: ‘the works from Leicester were numerous, and evinced promise as the product of a first year of instruction’ (pg 7)

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Leicester School of Art Students Attending List 1870-1901


The registers, organised alphabetically, list students by surname and includes their age, date of entry, and occupation.

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The first page of ‘B’ students.


Here I have chosen, at random the first page of ‘B’ entries but like all the pages in the register the document is a real testament to the diverse range of students who attended the school. The list below are some examples of the entries taken from the page above:

Lawrence Banfield, age 22, 1870, Teacher

W Broadhead, age 29, 1875, Photo Colourist

Arthur Brown, age 12, 1877, Ironmonger (father’s profession)

Violet Baker, age 11, 1878, Clergy (father’s profession)

Aubrey Bright, 16, 1879, Architect’s Assistant

Mrs Isabella Blunt, age 31, 1879, None

Janet Barclay, age 18, 1879, Physician (father’s profession)
As well as attracting a diverse range of students from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances DMU’s courses have always fostered strong links with industry and employability and public enthusiasm for the School can be found in an anonymous letter, signed ‘A Lover of Art’, published in the Leicester Chronicle and Mercury where the author describes the benefits of art education for not only the individual apprentice but for wider society:

“There is no doubt it would improve [the apprentice’s] habits, and perhaps reveal latent talent… None could be more interested than manufacturers in the increase in taste and ability in their employees; indeed it is on these elements in a great measure that the prosperity of our country and trade must depend…”

Leicester Chronicle and Mercury Saturday February 26th, 1870. pg 7.

In a time when the importance of art and art funding appears precarious, a reminder of DMU’s continuing role and its founding principles and aspirations is a timely reminder of the cultural, economic and global value of art and education in industry.

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