Archive for the ‘Behind the scenes’ Category

Mary McIntosh (1936-2013)

February 5th, 2013 by Sinead Wheeler

I recently joined LSE as archives assistant, and one of my first tasks has been listing and describing additional papers of the sociologist and activist Mary McIntosh for addition to the Archives. It’s been an interesting and enjoyable job (although very sad, following news of Mary’s death – see Sue’s message below). Mary’s research and activism covered a great deal of ground, and the papers reflect this – hence the long-ish post here. Mary made an initial deposit of her personal archive with us in 2001, and last year made two further deposits; the most recent, in November, was prompted by a general sort out in preparation for a house move. Below I’ve outlined some of what’s included; it’s also worth noting that beyond the documentary facts of her work and activism, the notes and correspondence (both personal and ‘business’) carry a lot of Mary’s good humour, energy and determination.

From MCINTOSH/M3765/15 - original GLF activists Mary McIntosh (far right), Juno Jones (left) and Nettie Pollard (centre) at the 1995 anniversary event for the first Gay Liberation Front protest

From MCINTOSH/M3765/15 - original GLF activists Mary McIntosh (far right), Juno Jones (left) and Nettie Pollard (centre) at the 1995 anniversary event for the first Gay Liberation Front protest

Spanning 1955 to 2004 the papers, including correspondence, research notes, campaigning materials, journals and pamphlets, document her time as a graduate student (and protestor) at Berkeley; research into the sociology of homosexuality, and the homophile movement; research into prostitution and prostitutes’ rights campaigns; involvement with the women’s liberation movement and socialist-feminist groups; gay rights activism and time with the Gay Liberation Front; and race equality campaigning.

From MCINTOSH/M3765/15: Sticker with logo of the Womens Liberation movement, and poster promoting the '5th Demand'

From MCINTOSH/M3765/15: Sticker with logo of the Womens Liberation movement, and poster promoting the '5th Demand'


LSE students get the ‘Third Degree’!

January 31st, 2013 by Ellie Robinson

One of the tasks I’ve taken on recently is to review the Archive’s accessioning procedures (i.e. what happens when new material arrives in the Archive) and see how they can be bettered. In practice this means that I often get sight of new material before anyone else, and I get to do a bit of detective work establishing what it actually is.

This is precisely what happened with a recent transfer of material from LSE’s Conferences department. Dispersed among various copies of The Beaver and newspaper reports on ‘The Troubles’ were a number of black and white photographs of what appeared to be a party and of some sort of BBC broadcast. A small minority of pictures had some sort of name on but nothing to indicate the date or occasion. Intrigued, I decided to put my detective hat on.

Third degree002
Third degree001

The names written on the back of the photos were ‘Marion Griffiths’, ‘A. D. Baume’ and ‘J. Bishop’, and a quick search of our student database revealed that these people were students at the LSE in the period 1965-1970, so that at least narrowed down the time period and some of the people involved, but not the occasion. Armed with the knowledge that these people were at least members of LSE, I deduced that if they had done something with the BBC, they may have got a mention in The Beaver.

Happily, our copies of The Beaver have recently been digitised, and are fully text searchable online. It didn’t take long to find this entry from 1968, which revealed that the students had participated in BBC Radio’s ‘Third Degree’ quiz show, and that they had done quite well. On the basis of this article I’m happy to deduce that the party photos are celebrating the team’s success (as everyone looks pretty happy), confirmed by this final picture of the team with their trophies.

Third degree003

Do any former students remember this occasion, or the team members? Do let us know if so!

The Future of LGBTI History – Amsterdam 2012

August 8th, 2012 by Sue Donnelly, Archivist

I am just back from the LGBTI Archives, Libraries and Museums conference which was hosted by IHLIA and held in the wonderful Amsterdam Public Library which boasts pianos for visitors to use on several floors. This was the fourth conference and the first to be held in Europe with the 102 participants from Europe, USA and Africa representing a wide range of institutions from national archives and museums to small community groups. One presenter from the June Mazer Lesbian Archives in California called it ‘the Olympics for LGBT history – but you have to collaborate rather than compete!’

An elephant in the stacks, Amsterdam Public Library

An elephant in the stacks, Amsterdam Public Library

We had three very full days of meetings and to make sure as many groups got to speak as possible the conference had an interesting format – papers have been published on the LGBTI ALMS blog to be read before the conference and presentations were limited to a strictly timed ten minutes followed by break out sessions for further discussion and questions. The format worked well and the break out sessions has some excellent discussions which doesn’t often happen in a large conference theatre. Discussion was also aided by the welcoming 7th floor cafe with its roof terrace views over Amsterdam.

With so many presentations over the three days we covered a lot of ground but a few themes did emerge including:

  • How can LGBT community groups partner with more mainstream organisations to share skills and resources while retaining their identity and community focus? Tamsin Booker of the Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive gave an interesting paper on their partnership with the Bishopsgate Institute and the Pride Library at the University of Western Ontario in Canada was another example.
  • The need to continue to identify gaps in our collections. Several organisations noted gaps in documenting lesbian lives and experiences and the final day keynote speaker, Professor Stephen Whittle spoke about recording the transgender community including collections like LSE’s recent acquisition of the Press for Change archive.
  • The issues that arise around collecting homophobic and transgressive materials along with the difficulties of gathering materials created on the edge of society – ephemeral material intended to be disposable which becomes very collectable eg zine collections.
  • The challenge of the digital world for smaller institutions. It was clear that many of the groups were making great use of social media to promote collections and develop audiences but were struggling to preserve and provide access to digital media. LSE Library’s recent experience in supporting community groups in providing long term preservation and access to oral histories perhaps provides one model.

From among the keynote speakers Joseph Hawkins from the One Archives at the University of Southern California talked of conflicts between archiving and activism – and arguing that sometimes archiving should take precedence and Richard Parkinson of the British Museum gave an fascinating account of his work in introducing a LGBT history trail through the museums collections.

Browsing the exhibition, Amsterdam Public Library

Browsing the exhibition, Amsterdam Public Library

Access and findability was discussed on the final day – while many of the groups and institutions were doing a great work on outreach and events, many were finding it hard to catalogue and digitise their collections. IHLIA’s project Open Up! has been supporting groups in Eastern Europe, particularly Czech Republic and Hungary to digitise magazines and archives and the Hungarian archives are making interesting use of wikipedia to promote their work.

Perhaps one gap in the programme was the scope for using LGBTI archives to reach audiences beyond the community although the Stonewall National Museum and Archives in Florida talked about its educational work with schools across the USA.

All these and many more are accessible on the LGBTI ALMS blog.

Beyond the conference theatre the city of Amsterdam hosted a canal trip and we piloted a new museum app following an LGBT history walk around the city which provided some much needed exercise. We hope that the conference blog will develop as a forum to develop ideas and share experiences until the next conference in 2014 in Florida.

Lighting in Amsterdam Public Library

Lighting in Amsterdam Public Library

Jubilee Days

May 30th, 2012 by Sue Donnelly, Archivist

Diaries and journals are great resources for historians giving a contemporary view on events and at LSE we have a wide collection of diaries from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With the Diamond Jubilee weekend approaching I decided to see what some of our diaries had to say about Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in June 1897. I came up with  accounts by  three women each with a different perspective on the event.

Kate Courtney, sister of Beatrice Webb

Kate Courtney, sister of Beatrice Webb

Kate Courtney (1847-1929), Beatrice Webb’s sister and wife of the Liberal politician, Leonard Courtney (1832-1918) had trained as a social worker with the Charity Organisataion Society and worked at Toynbee Hall. She was also a keen internationalist who strongly opposed the Boer War. In 1897 Leonard Courtney was MP for Bodmin and they spent jubilee week in London and had a view of the royal procession from the Houses of Parliament. Despite the couples anti-imperialism Kate Courtney was generally enthusiastic about the event but it didn’t warrant more than a brief paragraph in her diary:

‘A wonderful week. Surely never did a few days give enjoyment to a greater number and with not a single bad accident as far as we know……11.30 by steamboat to the House of Commons. The cloudy morning became a brilliant hot day about that time and we lingered on the Terrace and about the House until 10 o clock when we took our seats and immediately after the procession went past. After the Queen perhaps the most interesting part was the troops and mounted police of our Colonies and Dependencies – every shade of race and colour and all sorts of costumes & they had a great reception.’

Violet Markham

Violet Markham

Twenty five year old Violet Markham (1872-1959), who counted Joseph Paxton designer of the Crystal Palace, amongst her ancestors, was down from Chesterfield for the event. She was later to be active in the organisation of women’s labour in both World Wars. Violet had great fun over the three days of celebrations and and wrote pages about her activities over the Jubilee weekend describing the decorations, processions, crowds and parties. Violet thought that the best street decorations were to be found on Piccadilly but felt:

‘one grows a little tired of the endless combinations of red, white & blue. But there can be no doubt the loyalty & enthusiasm of London are universal. No house, however poor, is without a bit of bunting or a Union Jack of sorts.’

I think I might agree this year about the ubiquity of red, white and blue!

Violet watched the procession from the Reform Club with her family. She would have agreed with Kate Courtney about the representatives from across the Empire. However, it was her impression of Queen Victoria which created the greatest surprise:

‘I was delightfully surprised when the carriage with the eight cream horses came into view. I thought I should see a poor little shrunk old woman looking worn and overdone. But on the contrary there was a bonny old lady sitting smiling and upright & as spry & capable as one could wish. She really looked ten years younger than when I saw her last at Cimiez & so well!! ‘

The following night she went out with friends to see the illuminations but spent most of the evening stuck in a carriage jam:

‘The traffic was stopped in the Strand, Piccadilly and St James & down the City. It was a wonderful sight the dense wedge of carriages & ominibuses….The good temper of this densely packed mass of humanity was incredible, chaff, jokes, drinks & concertinas were the order of the day.’

Not everyone was so immersed in the celebration and spectacle and some were distancing themselves from the events. Beatrice Webb (1858-1943), one of LSE’s founders and Kate Courtney’s sister, provides a very different view of the event from her vantage point of a holiday in the Surrey hills.

‘June 22nd Jubilee Day. Brilliant summer sun veiled with mist, absolute stillness in the country – no sound except an occasional cock crowing – all the countryside has moved into London. The little town of Dorking also deserted – the flags flying disconsolate in villa and cottage.’

Beatrice enjoyed the warm summer’s day out in the fields noticing the flowers and the sky. A few days later Beatrice returned to London:

‘Back in London: Imperialism in the air – all classes drunk with sight seeing and hysterical loyalty.’

Beatrice Webb, 1904

Beatrice Webb, 1904

So whether you are staying in London to view the pageant, running the local street party or escaping to the country – have a good long weekend.

UK Archives Discovery Forum at TNA: part 2

March 22nd, 2012 by Sue Donnelly, Archivist

This was a great day for meeting others working to promote archives and related heritage collections. Colleagues had travelled to Kew from all over the UK and aside from a generous supply of  M&Ms one of the highlights was the UKAD Lonely Hearts notice board – some examples included:

  • Archivist with legacy cataloguing backlog seeks help in working out where to start…
  • Popular blog for national institution seeks new followers!
  • Digital professional, likes history, cake, structure & logic, hates dust, WLTM archivists interested in learning programming, for fun and comradeship.

Outside of the keynote sessions Nick and I split our visit to get maximum coverage of the sessions.

Joy Palmer from JISC kicked off with Making the most of your date on the web: Practical  Next Steps for the JISC Discovery Initiative . Joy was keen to encourage us to to develop a thriving metadata ecosystem with the emphasis on opening up data as widely as possible to enable richer discover for researchers. The project aims to develop a risk assessment rather than a rights based appraoch to opening up data and champions the use of explicit open and standardised licenses and clear and reasonable terms and conditions of use. Everyone needs to think about this but the open approach of the LSE Digital Library is clearly a move in the right direction.

Joy was followed by Teresa Doherty of The Women’s Library who talked about the benefits of using name authority records to provide alternative access points for researchers. In particular the Women’s Library have been adding short biographical or corporate histories for their authority records providing those searching for information with quick guides to their records. The standard for producing authority records (ISAAR(CPF)) was first published in 1996 and although many archives have created thousands of authority records there is little take up in producing full authority records. There is not doubt that such records would be very useful but the resources needed to populate them is rather daunting. However it is true that many users do use personal and corporate names as entry points into our collections. Teresa also talked about the impact of linking to the catalogues from relevant wikipedia entries – something we can confirm from our own experience of linking to wikipedia over several years.

After lunch we moved into born-digital archives with Simon Wilson of the AIMS project at Hull History Centre talking through a SWOT analysis of the current state of play in working with born-digital archives. The strengths include realising that digital archives remain archives and many of the skills in appraising, accessioning and description remain as relevant now as they ever did. It is also true that there are already many free tools available to work with the archives. The weaknesses included fear of working in a new area and a lack of technical skills. Archivists also need to be doing move advocacy with archive creators and funders to ensure that digital archives are recognised as important resources. Working with born-digital archives brings opportunities for new collaborations with ICT colleagues, other archives and new organisations as well as the possibility of using new tools to provide richer access to archives for users.  As for threats – perhaps one of the biggest are the user expectations which are already running way ahead of the technologies ability to deliver, the enormous scale of digital archives, and the need to work more closely with potential depositors at an earlier stage of creation. It would be useful to think about these issues on a regular basis as we work through on our own digital project. Next year we should take our own proposal for a paper.

The day finished with some quick fire sessions from a range of projects. Sam Velumyl of TNA talking about the Finding Archives project aiming to improve the systems which allow archivists and users to find archives across the country – the project will be looking to improve the experience both for those contributing information and those using the results. Teresa Nixon from West Yorkshire Archives Service introduced History to Herstory: Yorkshire Women’s Lives Online, 1100 to present day. The site gathers information and teaching resources from across Yorkshire into a simple and easy to use site.  Kimberley Kowal showcased a British Library project to crowd source georeferencing data for maps. Fascinating to hear that they had enough volunteers even before they had time to put out the publicity but that in common with other crowd sourcing project five of the volunteers undertook 50% of the work. The session finished with Alison Cullingford speaking about RLUKs Unique and Distinctive Collections project which will support libraries and archives in making the most of their collections.

We finished the day with a round of applause for Bill Stockting of the British Library announcing the launch of the BL’s first online integrated catalogue for its manuscript and archive collections. All new work on archives (including the papers of Harold Pinter and Ted Hughes) as used the new system since 2009 and work is now completed on transferring existing electronic lists into the system creating a database of over 1 million records. The next step will be the long and tricky task of retroconversion of the paper catalogues and integration ibnto the Library’s infrastructure.

It looks like the UK Archival Description Forum will become a regular feature in the diary of everyone keen to promote their archives.

Shaw the World Traveler

February 8th, 2012 by Imogene Inge, Man and Cameraman Project Archivist

The cataloguing of George Bernard Shaw’s 35mm film negatives is now complete. Shaw began to use 35mm film in the 1930s using a Leica Camera. In comparison with his earlier photographs they have an almost snapshot feel and document the places and people he visited. There are over 1900 images and they date from the early 1930s to around 1946. His trips around the world are recorded, including his cruises to South Africa, New Zealand and New York and his visits to Russia and Israel. There are also a number of images of Cliveden, seat of the Astor family and Chateau Impney, former home of the industrialist John Corbett.

In April 1931 the Shaws took a break from the Hellenic Travellers’ Club tour of the Mediterranean and went to stay in Venice for three weeks. During this time GB Shaw took over 80 photographs of the city’s unique sights. Here are a few of my favourite images.


Venice, 1931

View of San Giorgio Maggiore and the Venetian Lagoon


View across the piazza towards the Basilica di San Marco

View across the piazza towards the Basilica di San Marco


View of the statue of the winged lion representing St. Mark on the column in the Piazzetta di San Marco

View of the statue of the winged lion representing St. Mark on the column in the Piazzetta di San Marco


View of the facade of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

View of the facade of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute


Copyright: LSE, George Bernard Shaw Estate (Society of Authors) no part of this post may be used without permission.