Recovering Publishing Histories: the Adam & Charles Black Letterbooks

By Amara Thornton (Research Officer, Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology)

The publishing house Adam and Charles Black was established in 1834 in Edinburgh. Now its archive is held in University of Reading Special Collections, and over the last few weeks I’ve been looking at one part of the collection – the Letterbooks containing delicate copies of “letters out” from the company to prospective and contracted authors and artists.

Much publishing and book history concentrates on fiction – novelists, short story writers and the publishers and editors with whom they worked. But there is also interest in non-fiction publishing history, particularly in relation to popular science and travel.  I’m interested in non-fiction publishing and book history too; my first book, Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the People (UCL Press, 2018), focuses on works written by archaeologists for a general readership.

It was in researching for Archaeologists in Print that I first came across the A. & C. Black archive at Reading. The company acquired another publishing house, Ernest Benn Ltd, in 1984.  As Benn had published several popular archaeology books – including various archaeological volumes in its “Sixpenny Library” – I came to Reading initially in 2015 to see archives relating to these books.

But I’m currently concentrating on the firm of A. & C. Black and its non-fiction and reference books.  In the early 20th century, the company published various series of illustrated art, history, archaeology, science and travel books.  These ranged from pretty pricey twenty shilling “Colour Books” to smaller volumes for as little as one shilling and sixpence.

Two books, one blue, one red.

Picture of Peeps at Ancient Egypt and Peeps at Ancient Greece. (Photo: Amara Thornton)

During the early 20th century, the firm developed special series aimed particularly at children, “Peeps”.  In the “Peeps” A. & C. Black catered for young readers’ interest in diverse subjects – there were “Peeps at Many Lands and Cities”, “Peeps at History”, “Peeps at Great Railways”, “Peeps at Nature”, “Peeps at Industries” and individual “Peeps” for topics such as “Great Men”, “Postage Stamps”, “Heraldry”, and “Architecture”. The Scotsman considered the “Peeps” to be “as varied as the films in a cinema house and quite as entertaining.”

One of A. & C. Black’s “Peep” authors was a Scottish minister named James Baikie.  When he began writing for the firm he was based at the United Free Church in Ancrum, in the Scottish borders, and a popular lecturer.  He started as a science writer; his first book, Through the Telescope (1906), was a popular introduction to astronomy (his Times obituary noted he had been a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society from the age of 25).  On the strength of Telescope‘s success, Baikie pitched an idea for a new book – this time on Egyptology.

The response from A. & C. Black director W. W. Callender was hesitant at first. He would not accept the proposal outright, but asked for a specimen chapter.[1] On reviewing this and other articles Baikie had written on the subject, Callender offered terms for publication, which Baikie accepted.[2] Story of the Pharaohs was eventually published in A. & C. Black’s Autumn List for 1908.  A review copy was sent to the Egypt Exploration Fund among a few others.[3]  The publication was the start of a new archaeology series for A. & C. Black; Story was marketed alongside two other titles, George Cormack’s Egypt in Asia (about “pre-Biblical Syria and Palestine”), and Ethel Ross Barker’s Buried Herculaneum.

Story of the Pharaohs was an almost immediate success (despite eminent archaeologist Flinders Petrie‘s refusal to provide an introduction).[4]  While much of the correspondence on the book relates to image permissions, two letters sent post-publication relate to the efforts the company made to market the book in Egypt.  A letter from Callender to Baikie on 27 November 1908 noted “You will be pleased to hear that all the Cairo booksellers are stocking your book…” and outlined plans to send special copies to the city’s “six principal hotels” for hotel managers to place – prominently, of course – on Reading Room tables.  Although no list of the six hotels is extant it seems unlikely that Cairo’s famous Shepheard’s Hotel wasn’t one of them.  Only one letter to a manager is included in the Letterbooks; it went to the Ghezirah Palace Hotel.[5]

One of the reasons I’m looking into James Baikie is because I’m interested in his wife, Constance Newman (Smith) Baikie, an artist whose stunning illustrations contribute a definite ‘wow factor’ to accompany Baikie’s texts.  She provided in-text line drawings for Story of the Pharaohs, but it was really Baikie’s first “Peep” that enabled her to stretch her creative wings. This was Peep at the Heavens, another work on astronomy.

On submission of a sample illustration – a watercolour drawing of Saturn – Callender only had minor revisions to make to enable the work, when reproduced, to fit the physical size of the book.  He offered James Baikie terms of 20 shillings per drawing for his wife’s work and equal credit for her work on the book’s title page.[6]  Notably (and unfortunately), there is no correspondence in the Letterbooks directly to Constance Baikie on her work during this period – everything went to her husband.  But I’m hoping that as the Baikies relationship with A. & C. Black strengthened, she began to correspond directly with the firm herself.

When all eight of her illustrations were received in the spring of 1911, Callender was enthusiastic about the skill she demonstrated, declaring “The drawings are excellently done and most interesting…”.[7]  It’s not hard to see why – the frontispiece illustration for Peeps at the Heavens is a striking image of “The Moon in Eclipse” – the sphere is in red-tinted shadow barring a thin crescent, brilliantly illuminated.  She went on to provide colour illustrations to accompany most of her husband’s other books with A. & C. Black.

Beyond my special interest in the Baikies, a number of other interesting details emerge from the Letterbooks.  Each book begins with an Index, listing in roughly alphabet

A list of names, with Corelli's name in the centre.

Corelli’s name listed in the Index of Letterbooks (A/1/26 C)

ical order the names of those to whom letters were sent.  Perusing the Letterbook Indexes revealed the company’s efforts to solicit work from a number of well-known women.

The first woman whose name popped out at me in this way was Marie Corelli, a noted and very popular novelist of the period. In February 1907 the firm wrote to her at her home, Mason Croft, in Stratford-upon-Avon, to ask her to write text for a book on the town.  She must have responded positively. The next letter, sent a week later, sought to pin down firm details on the proposed book, suggesting Corelli could have a great deal of creative freedom:

“Your letter is so kind that we venture to trouble you again.  May we ask if you would write the letterpress were we able to secure an artist of whom you thoroughly approved & to whom you could give instructions as to the choice of subject, etc., & if so, what terms you would suggest.”[8]

This theme of soliciting notable women for text continues in subsequent letterbooks, as two years later the company wrote to Gertrude Jekyll, garden designer, writer and horticulturalist, to ask her to write the text for a “colour book” on gardens.[9] (There is no indication in the Letterbooks of whether or not Jekyll agreed.)

A typed letter in blue ink. Focusing on Marie Corelli's name and address at the top of the page. The address is listed as Mason Croft, Stratford Upon Avon.

A close up of Marie Corelli’s name and address at Mason Croft, Stratford upon Avon.

A. & C. Black’s Art Editor Gordon Home wrote to Countess Elizabeth Von Arnim (author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden) in spring 1911 to ask her to provide text for a “colour book” on Germany. Like Corelli, von Arnim was also offered great creative freedom:

“Should the project attract you we would not wish to restrict you as to the method or style you employed so long as the reader gathered an idea of German life, scenery, historic spots, medieval towns and so on.”

As with Jekyll, there is no evidence in the letterbooks that von Arnim agreed to the proposal.[10]

The letterbooks also provide insights into the diversity of contributors to A. & C. Black series.  I was fascinated to come across two letters to a Japanese artist named Wakana Utagawa.  The firm contracted her to create eight colour and twenty black and white illustrations for its “Peep at the History of Japan”.  The first letter was sent to her at the Baillie Gallery, located on Bruton Street in London, where in Spring 1911 she was exhibiting a series of her paintings to rave reviews.[11]

There is great potential for interesting research and analysis in the A. & C. Black archive in a variety of fields – but particularly the popular publishing of science, archaeology, art, and history, yielding further insights into the artist- and writer-contributors.  The possibilities to recover hidden histories (for lack of a better term) abound, even where the subjects are relatively well known.  I’m looking forward to continuing my own research into the Letterbooks during the course of my time at Reading. I hope that this post encourages others to dive in to the Letterbooks too.

 

The catalogue for the A. & C. Black archive held in University of Reading Special Collections can be found here. For further information, email specialcollections@reading.ac.uk

Dr Amara Thornton is Research Officer for the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology.

 

References/Further Reading

Adam & Charles Black Letterbooks A/1/26, 29, 30, 32, 36, 39.

The Scotsman, 1912. Christmas Gift Books. [British Newspaper Archive], 28 November.

The Sphere. 1911. A Talented Japanese Artist Now in England. [British Newspaper Archive] 18 March.

The Times, 1931. Dr James Baikie. Times Historical Archive. 7 February.

Footnotes

[1] ACB A/1/26/56 and 89, Callender to Baikie 23 and 28 Nov 1908.

[2] ACB A/1/26/598 Callender to Baikie 27 Mar 1907.

[3] ACB A/1/30/123 Callender to Baikie 3 Sep 1908.

[4] ACB A/1/29/835 and 882 Callender to Baikie 13 and 20 Jul 1908.

[5] ACB A/1/30/696 and 731 Callender to Baikie 27 Nov and 5 Dec 1908.

[6] ACB A/1/36/392 Callender to Baikie 21 Jan 1911.

[7] ACB A/1/36/694 Callender to Baikie 4 Mar 1911.

[8] ACB/1/26/427 and 444. A&C Black to Corelli, 15 and 21 Feb 1907.

[9] ACB/1/32/116 A&C Black to Jekyll, 5 Feb 1909.

[10] ACB/1/36/695 A&C Black to von Arnim 6 Mar 1911.

[11] ACB/1/39/774 and 819. Home to Utagawa 3 and 9 Aug 1911.

Born on this day? The strange case of Nancy Astor’s birthday

This weekend we celebrate Nancy Astor’s birthday, said to be on the 19th May. But is there more to this birth date than meets the eye? Head of Archive Services Guy Baxter takes a closer look at the mystery surrounding Nancy Astor’s birth. 

The first female MP to take her seat in the British House of Commons, Nancy Astor was born (as Nancy Langhorne) in Danville, Virginia. But when exactly?

It is not unknown for celebrities to be coy about their age, but there was no such vanity from Nancy Astor. The mystery in this case surrounds not the year (1879) but the date of her birth. Stranger still, it was not until the publication of Adrian Fort’s extensively researched biography in 2012 that the mystery came to the attention of the public – or even specialists in the field.

Fort sums up the mystery thus: “It was at street level in the newly built house at Danville, in a room with dull green walls and a bare wooden floor, that Nancy was born on 30 January 1979 – although subsequently, and throughout her adult life, her birthday was, for no clearly stated reason, given as 19 May.” The biography is aimed at the general reader so, understandably, there is no footnote; I therefore approached the author and asked his source. What came back to me was a scan of Nancy Astor’s birth certificate extracted (with some difficulty, I gather) from the State authorities in Virginia.

The plot then thickens somewhat. Waldorf Astor (Nancy’s second husband) was born on 19 May 1879. So Nancy Astor, for much or her adult life and to the extent it confounded biographers and academics for years, seems to have adopted the birth date of her second husband.

Apart from scratching our heads, what should we do with such information? I suggest three things: we can speculate on the reasons; we can do more research, or at least bear this my

A photo of two people on an ice rink. The man is kneeling on the floor.

Nancy and Waldorf Astor. Was their shared birthday an elaborate in-joke? (MS 1416/1/6/94/10)

stery in mind while researching in the archives; and finally we might use this as a starting point to explore some wider implications and issues.

The speculation first. Is the Virginia record incorrect? There would seem to be no good reason to back-date a birth record, and it seems like an odd error to make. Having said that, the strange case of Ulysses Simpson Grant springs immediately to mind.

Born and raised as Hiram Ulysses Grant, he was the victim of an assumption made by the Congressman, Thomas Hamer, who nominated him to enrol as a student at West Point. A family friend, Hamer only knew him as Ulysses and inserted Grant’s mother’s maiden name (Simpson) into the register. The United States Army bureaucracy proved immovable and Grant, once he realised the error, was unable to change it. By the time he became the head of the U.S. military and 18th President of the United States, it may well have ceased to bother him, and it gave him the patriotic initials “U.S.” which proved a boon as his military career took off. So mistakes in an official record can be hard to change.

If the record is correct, then we must ask whether Nancy was aware that this was her birth date. Could her family have deceived her? Apart from the fact that no obvious reason springs to mind, neither this idea, nor that of an administrative mistake, explains the co-incidence with Waldorf’s birth date. Though it should be noted that the odds of two randomly selected people sharing a birth date are not outrageously long.

Perhaps Nancy and Waldorf decided to align their birthdays: possibly for convenience, possibly as an in-joke or an intimate secret. Given their wealth, sharing a birthday party can surely not have been a money-saving measure. Or is it possible that Nancy concealed her real birth date from Waldorf? Could the shared birthday have been a ploy in her courtship? As the son of one of the richest men in the world, he was quite a catch – was it worth a small lie to grab his attention?

This must all remain as speculation until more evidence emerges. Neither Fort nor any previous biographers found any mention of it in Nancy or Waldorf’s personal correspondence, though this is very extensive. Nancy’s correspondence with her American relatives is more recently available and has been less used by researchers. Deceit, mistake or shared joke, it may well have been referred to in a deliberately obscure manner. Seekers of the truth will find the Special Collections Reading Room a pleasant and friendly environment in which to seek out needles from haystacks. As far as I know, Waldorf Astor’s birth certificate has not been checked: could there be a further twist in the tale?

So to the final, and more serious word about this. Just as his mistaken identity probably mattered little to Grant, especially as he rose to prominence, so Nancy Astor’s birthday must have been of little real

Photograph of a large house, set in gardens.

Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire, family home of Waldorf and Nancy Astor (MS 1616/2/6/94/3)

significance in her life or livelihood. The official record is of minimal practical benefit for the rich and famous. But as the Windrush scandal has brought into sharp focus, for many citizens the possession of verifiable identity documents can be a critical matter. It is not for nothing that patients are identified not just by their name but also by their date of birth: even then, horrific mistakes can occur.

Windrush is not the first time that the quality of the data recorded by the state to identify individuals has been questioned: Dame Janet Smith’s third report as part of the Shipman Inquiry – that looking at Death Certification – noted: “The information received by registrars forms the basis of an important public record that is widely used for statistical and research purposes. It is vital that it is recorded meticulously and accurately.” It was not until 50 years after her death that the search for documentary evidence of Nancy Astor’s birth began. Most citizens rely on the integrity of such systems in their lifetimes: for the most vulnerable, this can be crucial.

So let us toast Nancy Astor, whether it’s her birthday or not, for reminding us of the value of the written record. Or as the Universal Declaration on Archives puts it, “the vital necessity of archives for supporting business efficiency, accountability and transparency, for protecting citizens rights, for establishing individual and collective memory, for understanding the past, and for documenting the present to guide future actions”.

Are you intrigued to do your own research on this mystery? Or just interested to know more about Nancy Astor? Find out more about the Papers of Nancy Astor held at Special Collections here. For further enquiries, or to request access, email specialcollections@reading.ac.uk.

 

 

Book Covers and Robinsonades: Exploring the Crusoe Collection

This month’s blog post was written by Chloe Wallaker, a final year BA English Literature and Film student at the University of Reading. Chloe has been researching our Crusoe Collection as part of her Spring Term academic placement based at Special Collections. 

Today marks the 299th anniversary of the publication of one of our favourite novels – Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. It is one of the most popular and widely published books today. The University of Reading Special Collections holds hundreds of editions and imitations of the novel as part of their Crusoe Collection, so I decided to visit and explore what the archives have to offer.

For a novel that was intended for adult readers, it was striking to discover the vast number of publications of Robinson Crusoe that were aimed at children. Different editions emphasise different aspects within the story and aim at children of different ages. I have chosen to showcase some of my favourite modern editions of the text that are aimed at children and published in the twentieth century.

A red book cover including pirates, dragons, Alice in Wonderland and a Knight.

The Rand-McNally edition of Life and adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954)– CRUSOE COLLECTION–A1954.

I came across the edition published by Mcnally and Company (above), which includes the modernised text of Robinson Crusoe, with minor abridgements. The cover includes different illustrations referencing classical children’s literature, including Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland, that was also published in the eighteenth century and forms a part of popular culture today. The edition categorized Robinson Crusoe amongst famous children’s fairy tales and recognised it as an adventure story for young readers.

A book cover showing an island and the sea, with Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday sat together.

Nelson (1960), Robinson Crusoe – CRUSOE COLLECTION–A1960

There are many adaptations of the novel that are shortened for younger children. I discovered Nelson’s adaption of the text. The edition is published to be told to children by adults, demonstrating how the story is constructed for very young readers as well as older children. This edition stood out to me as the cover focuses on the more mature and violent themes of the novel, including slavery and death, than the covers intended for older children. This made me question the appropriateness of the story in challenging its young children

The adaptation published by Hunia (above, left) encourages young children to read the story for themselves, instead of being read to. The cover suggests the story focuses on the relationship between Crusoe and Friday, as opposed to focusing on the adventure story which most of the publications adopt to appeal to children. This demonstrates how Robinson Crusoe not only appeals to children through entertainment, but teaches moral lessons, highlighting the pedagogical value of the novel.

Most of the children’s adaptations use illustrations to appeal to children. Wilkes’s edition (above, right) seems to construct the text to resemble a picture book. As well as focusing on the adventure aspects of the text, the publication focuses on the spiritual themes embedded within the novel, with its cover illustration resembling the biblical story of Noah’s Ark.

The publications I found most interesting were the imitations of the text, commonly described as ‘Robinsonades’, which reveal how Robinson Crusoe was not just a popular novel, but became an identifiable piece of popular culture. Crocket’s imitation of the text constructs Crusoe as a child figure, creating an identifiable protagonist for children. The edition takes the themes of adventure from the original text and constructs a version of the novel that is perhaps more suitable for children.

Perhaps the most interesting imitation of the novel is Ballantyne’s edition. This edition focuses on the relationship between a dog and his master, resembling the relationship between Crusoe and his man Friday. The edition removes the mature and violent themes of slavery, which could be considered inappropriate aspects of the novel, and constructs a pet-master relationship, which would appeal to children and in terms they could understand.

Some of the editions that stayed more true to the novel seemed to present problematic themes for children. This made me question the appropriateness of a novel that was intended for adults, being read by children. I found it interesting how each edition focused on different aspects and themes of the novel, demonstrating the number of ways in which the novel can be read and used to educate and entertain children. This investigation into the children’s editions of Robinson Crusoe has reminded me why the novel has remained a favourite read for people of all ages and continues to be published today.

For more information on our Crusoe Collection, visit the Special Collections website, or email us at specialcollections@reading.ac.uk.  

References:

 

Ballantyne, R.M (1970), The dog Crusoe, London: Abbey Classics, CRUSOE COLLECTION–A1942-2013 [BOX].

Crockett, S.R (1905), Sir Toady Crusoe, London: Wells Gardner, Darton & Co. Ltd, CRUSOE COLLECTION–A1905.

Defoe, Daniel (1954), Life and adventures of Robinson Crusoe, New York: Rand McNally & Company, CRUSOE COLLECTION–A1954.

Defoe, Daniel (196-), Robinson Crusoe, London : Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd., CRUSOE COLLECTION–A1960

Hunia, Fran (1978), Robinson Crusoe, London: Collins, CRUSOE COLLECTION–A1954.

Wilkes, Angela (1981), The adventures of Robinson Crusoe, London: Usborne Publishing, CRUSOE COLLECTION–A1981.

New Collections-Based PhD studentships for 2014/2015

Have you heard about the collections-based research programme here at Reading? This October, we’ll be welcoming the second cohort of a unique doctoral skills training programme here at Reading. Drawing on the extensive research potential of the University’s internationally recognised museums and collections, this programme will train doctoral students in the practical skills and intellectual sensitivities essential for quality collections-based research.

Applications are open until 31 July for the following fees-only bursaries commencing October 2014:

PhD Studentship in Collections-Based Research (English Literature) Project title: Beckett and the City
Department: Department of English Literature
Supervisors: Dr Conor Carville and Professor Steven Matthews
http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/graduateschool/GS-CBR8.pdf

PhD Studentship in Collections-Based Research (English Literature and History)
Project title: Four local parish libraries: Henley, Abingdon, Didcot and Buckland.
Department: Department of English Literature and Department of History
Supervisors: Dr Rebecca Bullard (English Literature), Dr Mary Morrissey (English Literature), Dr Helen Parish (History)
http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/graduateschool/GS-CBR7.pdf

PhD Studentship in Collections-Based Research (Typography)
Project title: Edward Johnston’s Underground typeface from inception to ‘New Johnston’
Department: Typography & Graphic Communications
Supervisors: Professor Paul Luna and Dr Rob Banham
http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/graduateschool/GS-CBR9.pdf

PhD Studentship in Collections-Based Research (History and Geography)
Project title: Preservationism and Development in Rural England, 1926-2016: Policy and Practice
Departments: History and Geography
Supervisors: Dr Jeremy Burchardt, Department of History and Dr Hilary Geoghegan, Department of Geography and Environmental Science
http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/graduateschool/GS-CBR10.pdf

PhD Studentship in Collections-Based Research (Literature and Science)
Project title: Nature’s Stories: Francis Cole, Zoological Collections and Narrative
Department: English Literature
Supervisors: Dr Andrew Mangham and Dr John Holmes
http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/graduateschool/CB11_-_Cole.pdf

PhD Studentship in Collections-Based Research (Archaeology)
Project title: Roman ceramic building material
Department: Archaeology
Supervisor: Professor Michael Fulford
http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AIA443/phd-studentship-in-archaeology/

PhD Studentship in Collections-Based Research (Archaeology)
Project title: Technological Innovation in the Late Iron Age: Ceramics as a Case Study
Department: Archaeology
Supervisor: Professor Michael Fulford
http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AIA560/phd-studentship-in-archaeology/

A unique offer: Collections-Based Research at the University of Reading

Have you heard about the collections-based research programme here at Reading? Head of UMASC Kate Arnold-Forster and Head of the School of Literature and Languages Alison Donnell take a look at the ways in which collections-based research is changing the landscape of doctoral work. 

cbr-Kate_MERL_slide

This October, we’ll be welcoming the first cohort of a unique doctoral skills training programme here at Reading. Drawing on the extensive research potential of the University’s internationally recognised museums and collections, this programme will train doctoral students in the practical skills and intellectual sensitivities essential for quality collections-based research.

The programme responds to the notable ‘material turn’ within humanities research but reaches across and beyond this field to generate a multidisciplinary environment for postgraduate primary source and object-based learning. Our first cohort will embark on research projects across Archaeology, English, Italian, History, Film and Theatre, Typography and Classics – working on collections as diverse as evacuee diaries, Greek vases and Mills and Boon editorial papers. The main objective of this new programme is to develop skills in interdisciplinary approaches to objects and archives so that research students are equipped to fully explore the visual, historical, cultural and material aspects of their research collections.

The doctoral skills programme will also take advantage of the exceptional range of scholarly and practice-based opportunities that a combination of the University’s world class researchers, facilities and strong professional and external links with stakeholder organisations can provide.  As well as writing their theses, students will have opportunities for placements and public engagement work that will enhance their employability by exposing them to experiences that may support future careers within and beyond academia. Building on recent investment in new teaching and learning expertise, the programme fits well with initiatives to embed collections-based teaching in undergraduate courses and will be a genuinely collaborative endeavour in harnessing a combination of academic knowledge and the experience and expertise of the University’s collections staff.

beckett manuscript 1

Collections like the Beckett Archives are key resources for the programme

The University’s outstanding museums and collections will provide the key resource for this programme and act as an impressive focal point for developing the skills required to invigorate postgraduate research culture across a wide spectrum of disciplines. These collections are regarded as significant and unique both nationally and internationally. Three are nationally-designated: the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), the Beckett Archive and the Archive of British Publishing and Printing. In addition the programme will engage the University’s other outstanding museums, the Cole Museum of Zoology and the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, departmental research and teaching collections (such as those of the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, and the Herbarium), as well as smaller teaching sets such as a fine representative collection of 16th- to 20th- century drawings by European artists in the Department of Art.

Museum Studies Programme Director Dr Rhianedd Smith

What is exciting is the speed with which the programme has attracted new partnership opportunities for students, researchers and collections specialists to work collaboratively in building what we believe is a nationally distinctive and innovative pathway to a PhD. For example, Dr Teresa Murjas and Dr Lisa Purse from FTT will be supervising a research-practice PhD based on MERL’s Evacuee Archive. Funding from the Arts Council (ACE) has contributed to essential cataloguing and digitisation and to support an associated project that will allow Dr Murjas to develop a performance based on the Archive. At the same time, strategic opportunities are already beginning to shape this new programme as we build links with a number of independent research organisations (IROs) who now develop the projects for AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Awards. This year, students on our pilot training will have the chance to join training workshops for London-based IROs, such as the National Archives and British Museum, and students from these institutions will be joining us.

In a rapidly evolving environment for arts and humanities research, the long term aim of this new doctoral training programme is to strengthen Reading’s leading position in Collections-Based Research. It will take advantage of the remarkable quality and scope of the University’s museums and collections to attract postgraduate students, both nationally and internationally, and to build a community of researchers genuinely equipped to reveal, understand and communicate the potential of the university’s vast reserves of still hidden research treasures.