Away Day Display

Special Collections were asked to contribute to the Finance Department Away Day by giving a talk on the history of DMU as one of several optional activities for finance staff.

IMG_20170719_103529 We started with a warm-up activity based on old coinage – at least one person knew his bob from his groat and his sovereign from his crown, without needing the crib sheet!

Thoroughly in a historical mood, we then moved on to a presentation about the history of DMU since 1870. This was followed by the chance to look at a display of material from the Archive collection, illustrating the range of items we hold.

The display included our first register of students, press cuttings albums, examples of staff and student work, annual reports, prospectuses, student and staff magazines, a piece of Victorian physics demonstration equipment, events brochures, and the School of Architecture scarf from the 1940s.

We also found a few files of finance work to show the team how much their jobs had changed! Year end certainly seems to have been completed more quickly back then.



The Special Collections team are available to give talks and tours relating to the history of the institution, both internally and externally – please contact to discuss.


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Austenmania in the Archives

Today marks the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death and 200 years on her novels continue to be lauded among the best in the English language. Like Shakespeare and Dickens, even if you’ve never read one of her works you are sure to have heard of her and her novels as they have come to exist in the cultural collective imagination. Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma are undoubtedly the most well-known and evoke images of rolling English countryside, stately homes, drawing-room drama, Regency frocks, and Colin Firth in a wet shirt – no wait, that’s Andrew Davies’ 1995 television version!

Moving on… so to celebrate the occasion, I thought I would showcase a few treasures from our collections that are either related to her works or provide a window into her times.

Jane Austen  (1775 – 1817) was born in Hampshire and although a popular author in her day (the Prince Regent was a huge fan and asked for Emma to be dedicated to him) she did not receive recognition as a great novelist until long after her death. All her novels were published anonymously, by “A Lady”, but all offer a beguiling glimpse into Regency life in rural England. The images below, taken from The Lady’s Monthly Museum, aka Polite Repository of Amusement and Instruction, 1801,  and La Belle Assemble, 1817, depict Regency fashion, and could almost be illustrations:

You can easily project your fave Austen character onto these figures: the lady on the far-left bears a striking resemblance to Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet in BBC’s 1995 Pride & Prejudice. And the figures on the far-right could be the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, in Sense and Sensibility.

From Regency fashion to furniture: some books from our Art Design and Architecture collection show a typical room layout and some furnishings and decorations from the day.

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The Dining Room in Jourdain, M. ‘English Decoration and Furniture of the Later XVIIIth Century 1760-1820’. 1982.

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Two arm chairs dating from around 1808.

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Escutcheons (decorative fittings used around keyholes and door handles) from a contemporary pattern-book.

While the the elegance of the Regency drawing room and the accomplishments of young ladies are often the topics of conversation in Austen’s novels, they are not without their social commentary and contextual references. One should always remember that Austen was writing during the height of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) and a militia presence can be felt throughout her novels, reflecting the stationing of thousands of British Army troops along the South Coast of England in the early 19th Century as Napoleon continued his expansion across Europe and readied for an invasion of Britain.

While the naval Captain Wentworth in Austen’s final novel, Persuasion, cuts a rather dashing romantic figure whose love for Anne does not falter while he is away at war, the Redcoats (the army troops) do not always turn out so favourably, such as the dastardly Wickham in Pride and Prejudice. Again, this depiction reflects concerns of the time that not all the troops behaved in a moral and gentlemanly way while stationed in areas where no one knew them or their histories.

While all of this offers some wonderful insight into the construction of Austen’s novels, to round up my Austenmania trip I will finish by including some materials that relate to the adaptations of her works and their link with DMU. We are fortunate in the archive to be the custodians of the Papers of Andrew Davies, one of Britains most well-known television and film screenwriters who is considered an auteur in the field of classic novel adaptation. His most famous is of course the 1995 Pride and Prejudice but for something different I thought I’d dig out Northanger Abbey, as its journey from inception to production, taking nearly a decade, would make a fascinating case study.

As an an honorary graduate and visiting Professor of the university, Andrew Davies has been involved with many events at DMU, such as Cultural Exchanges week, and last year he gave a public Q&A and interview. DMU is also home to the Centre for Adaptations and Jane Austen and her works have long been the focus of many an interesting study day, such as this one from 1996:

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Davies was a speaker at this Jane Austen Study Day hosted by the School of Humanities following the success of the BBC’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Taken from ‘Annual Review: 1995-1996’.

Austen biopics and adaptations of her work have been plentiful in recent years and soon she will be more ubiquitous than ever – given her image is to feature on the reverse of the new Polymer £10 note that goes into circulation today. While there are many events across the UK celebrating Austen’s achievements, if you can’t get to one you can always have a marathon Davies DVD fest, come and see the scripts in the archive, or settle down to read one of her novels; perfect summer reading…


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Strawberries and Cream in SW19

Yesterday at SW19 Johanna Konta, British number one, became Britain’s first women’s Wimbledon semi-finalist since 1978! And today at Wimbledon the men face off, all eyes will now be on Andy Murray who will look to follow Konta into the next round.

Looking through our shelves we were sure we could find at least something related to the sport that requires a strong neck from its spectator! Perhaps it was Suzanne Lenglen who gave the designer the inspiration for this French Fashion Drawing pictured below. Lenglen was a trendsetter and one of the first international female sports stars:

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Cover of French Fashion Drawings, catalogued in the main Library collection and housed in Special Collections Rare Books area.

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An unfinished drawing by an unknown French designer, c1920’s.


Below are some details of the French designed tennis outfit.


Within our Sports History Rare Books collection we have a number of handbooks and almanacs relating to Tennis, Wimbledon and the Lawn Tennis Association.


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My favourite find today is from the ever posh Encyclopedia of Sport, 1912:

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This beautifully bound collection of volumes contains a vast array of sports both familiar and less-so. Between the entries of the hunting of exotic creatures  the encyclopedia describes the tennis player as someone …”imbued with the antiquarian spirit” and nods to the more complex rules that govern the game.

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Best of luck to all still in the competition! COME ON TIM….aaargh, I mean ANDY!

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OTD: birth of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of Special Olympics

Image courtesy of

On this day in 1921 Eunice Kennedy Shriver was born. Inspired by her disabled older sister Rosemary, Eunice founded the Special Olympics, with the aim of providing athletic opportunities for children with intellectual disabilities. The first event was held in July 1968 in Chicago and the movement soon spread globally. Eunice died in 2009 aged 88, but her influence in changing perceptions of those with intellectual disabilities was profound.




In 2009 Leicester hosted the Special Olympics, and we are fortunate to have a collection of documents, photographs and objects from the event. See the catalogue for more information.

IMG_20170525_155629 H/T to A Mighty Girl for recognition of the anniversary.

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Public School Stories

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first Harry Potter story, as author JK Rowling noted:

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The world of Harry Potter centres around the adventures of a young wizard while at a boarding school for magicians in training – a fantastical place with moving staircases, talking portraits and spell-casting lessons. Underneath these magical elements, however, the Potter-verse is steeped in traditions of the English public school or boarding school, and the stories themselves draw on conventions found in many school-boy tales. Sneaking into forbidden rooms at midnight, collecting house points, avoiding certain members of staff, inter-house sporting events, visits to the tuck shop, chatting in the common room, going out of bounds – all would be familiar to a Victorian reader.

Special Collections holds the Tozer collection – a sequence of books which illuminates the Victorian public school tradition. As well as schoolboy stories the collection includes analytical works studying this educational moment, memoirs by headmasters and staff of such schools, and histories of the schools themselves.


The Tozer Collection is an excellent resource on the history of education, and also touches on aspects of sporting, social and colonial history. The books are as yet uncatalogued but visitors are welcome to visit Special Collections and browse the shelves.

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25 Years of De Montfort University

On 26 June 1992 national and civic dignitaries joined governors, staff and students at the official launch of De Montfort University. 2000 guests toasted the new university on the lawns of De Montfort Hall. The annual report for that year notes that “1992 will be remembered in this University’s history as a year of milestones and fundamental organisational changes”.

De Montfort University Annual Report, 1991-1992.

De Montfort University Annual Report, 1991-1992. The recognisable DMU Lion Coat of Arms. 

Leicester Polytechnic had been formed in 1969 on the merger of the Leicester College of Art and the Leicester College of Technology. The two Colleges had shared central resources such as buildings and administration, and were managed by the same Committee. Polytechnics tended to concentrate on practical and applied subjects and degrees were awarded through the UK Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA). In 1992 the Further and Higher Education Act made provision for polytechnics to become universities, able to grant their own degrees. Formal agreement was given by the Privy Council for Leicester Polytechnic to be renamed De Montfort University in early June 1992.

In a speech at the launch event, Vice-Chancellor Kenneth Barker described the mission of the University: “to provide teaching, research and complementary services delivered through a distributed University which is internationally competitive, locally sensitive and everywhere excellent.” The name ‘De Montfort University’ was chosen as it acknowledged the institution’s Leicester origins, and a new corporate image was then unveiled, including the lion’s head logo we still use today.

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Under the new title DMU will develop as one of the new breed of dynamic, progressive universities, transforming Higher Education in the 1990s and beyond.” (quote from 1993 Prospectus)

De Montfort University, Full Time Prospectus 1993-1994. The first use of the DMU Logo for a prospectus.

De Montfort University, Full Time Prospectus 1993-1994. The first use of the DMU Logo for a prospectus.


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New Catalogues on the Archives Hub

Two new catalogues have been made live on the Archives Hub.

The archives of Youth Dance England came to Special Collections in April this year. They complement other dance collections, in particular the Foundation for Community Dance.

YDE ephemera

Youth Dance England was founded in 2004 with the aim of supporting and promoting opportunities for young people in dance. They aimed to advocate the benefits of dance to young people, support practitioners with information and training, and initiate high profile national projects. Programmes included Young Creatives for emerging choreographers and U.Dance, a national festival of performance, workshops and masterclasses.

In April 2016 YDE was merged with Association of Dance of the African Diaspora, Dance UK and the National Dance Teachers Association to form One Dance UK, a new national dance organisation aiming to provide an improved, joined-up service supporting everyone who works in dance.

The papers include Board minutes, correspondence, press coverage, project resources, publications, publicity material including flyers, brochures and certificates, and branded items including bags, a water bottle, badges and t-shirts.

AT Roberts Lithograph

Also live is the description of a small lithograph entitled “Islands on the Seine” by Albert T Roberts, donated to Special Collections in August 2016. Roberts was born in Leicester in 1868. In 1883, at the age of 17, he enrolled at the Leicester School of Art. He became an assistant teacher in 1891, rising to become Second Master from 1906 to 1920 and then Principal from 1920. At the beginning of March 1923 Roberts fell ill with abdominal troubles. He was thought to be improving but died suddenly on the 17th March.

Albert Thomas Roberts portrait medallion

Roberts specialised in lithography, typography and design relating to the printing trades and was Head of the Printing School. He frequently travelled to France and was influenced by French artistic schools such as the Barbizon movement.

The image above is a portrait medallion of Roberts, see Reference D/054/08 for more information.

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So today is International Archives Day 2017 #IAD17 and what better way to celebrate this year’s theme of citizenship and interculturalism by looking at DMU’s historical tourism — I mean research visits —  to other countries to encourage dialogue and knowledge exchange.

First up, DMU’s Cuba Study Tours which took place between 1997-1999 in association with HDRA, the Henry Doubleday Research Association to engage in horticultural study.

Cuba study

Some useful “tourism” guides: a map of the island and two fold-out leaflets on how best to see the hidden gems of Cuba, including Eco tours to explore the ecological achievements of the region.

The collection includes 3 photograph albums and it is clear to see those who went on the study tour did not miss the opportunity to soak up Cuban culture.


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Guide produced for those going on the first tour providing a detailed notes on Cuba’s history, ecology and culture.

Next up is a report on a tour of  academic and design institutions of the People’s Republic of China. The document was compiled by Professor Theo Matoff, Head of School of Architecture at Leicester Polytechnic, 1986.

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Front cover of the report written by Prof. Theo Matoff

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A look inside the report, outlining the initiatives objectives.










The tour of China was for scholastic purposes as was the return visit to the UK and both institutions highlighted the importance of immersing into each others cultures with guided tours of local architecture.

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I particularly like the mention in point 2.2d, of “At least one overwhelming banquet in each city.” Banquets are a popular way to strengthen the bonds between cultures and would have been an enjoyable way for the delegates of both institutions to build connections. Other documents like these can be found in study trips to Moscow and the US.

These are just two examples of the many study tours and research collaborations that have taken place that reveal something of our collective identity. Since then, the value of study trips for students and academics in terms of pushing research boundaries and providing unique life and learning experiences has become an award-winning feature of the institution through #DMUglobal

So whatever your culture, religion, language or nationality we hope that your have the chance to enjoy Archives and their rich collections everyday! In the mean time, Happy International Archives Day 2017!


For those wishing the visit the archive in person, our reading room is open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm. If you would like to pursue a particular research interest, please contact to book a visit.

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“Stand Up and Be Counted”

While the General Election campaign for 2017 has been short it has definitely been eventful. The polls have changed dramatically and more people have flocked to political rallies than they have for years according to some sources. We are proud to say that DMU has hosted 3 events — Be the Change, Be the Change 2 and Be the Change 3 which took place on Tuesday — to promote political debate and exchange and to raise awareness about the importance of voting itself.

So, on this final day of decision-making, June 8th, which also happens to be the 104th anniversary of the death of Emily Wilding Davison, the fearless suffragette who was continuously arrested and eventually killed when she stepped in front of King George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby in her final act of campaigning for Equal Voting Rights, we thought we would share some material to remind us that we should never take our vote for granted or let the media and polls with their predictions of successes or failure stifle our will to vote.

Emily wilder

This image from the illustrated newspaper ‘The Graphic’ (4th June 1913) shows the scene at Epsom Derby. While Emily’s hat can be seen tumbling to the ground in the above image the reader is clearly being directed at the crowds and the injured jockey rather than the issues that compelled Wilding Davison to act.

The following images are taken from a collection that belonged to Romola Christopherson which relate to the 50th anniversary celebrations of equal voting rights that took place in 1978.

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Indeed – STAND UP

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The front cover of this exhibition brochure is a powerful call for solidarity and I am sure it is no accident that through the image of the zip it references Erica Jong’s ground-breaking and controversial novel ‘Fear of Flying’ published in 1973. For all those who do not quite get the reference I won’t spoil it for you but will instead encourage you to read the book – if you do prepare to have your views challenged, even in 2017!


Connie Lowcock and Lucy Middleton at the celebrations displaying the sashes and ribbons they wore as suffragettes

Connie Lowcock and Lucy Middleton at the celebrations displaying the sashes and ribbons they wore as suffragettes

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Lady Burke and Shirley Williams deliver a speech at the 50th anniversary of equal voting rights in Tower Gardens, London








Front headlines of a special edition produced especially for the 50th Anniversary

Front headlines of a special edition produced especially for the 50th Anniversary

Katie Russell, writing for The Guardian today asks us to think about about why and what women still need to vote for today, and while I completely agree that we need to focus on the future, it is still important to remember the feminist gains of the suffragettes and the 2nd wave feminist movement of the 1970s – you never know their stories might be inspirational!

Whatever your views make your voice heard and vote!!!

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Leicester Castle opens on Heritage Sunday for the first time

The Special Collections team are often called on to assist with Heritage Sundays. A joint event run by Visit Leicester and DMU’s Heritage Centre, Heritage Sundays allow members of the public to access the medieval history of the campus site. The May event was the first Heritage Sunday where Leicester Castle was open to the public since its restoration by DMU. Everything looked beautiful sparkling in the sunshine and we welcomed many visitors of all ages to our heritage sites.

Please join us at a Heritage Sunday this year – they are held on the last Sunday of the month between March and November.


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