All posts by Katie

Focus on an Archive Researcher: Eve Smith


Eve Smith is a first year doctoral candidate in the Drama and Theatre department.

Roy Waters as a young manAbove: Roy Waters as a Young Man

Since August I have spent a lot of time sat in a room on the third floor of The Founder’s Building, looking out over the quad and listening to the clock chime the hours away. This room houses the archives of RHUL. It is due to one of the collections within the archive that I received a place to study for a Collaborative Doctoral Award with the Drama and Theatre Department and the Victoria and Albert Museum in January 2013. This collection is called the Roy Waters Theatre Collection and helped to inspire my PhD which is concerned with collectors of theatrical ephemera and the private and public spaces occupied by the collection. The Roy Waters Theatre Collection is a result of Roy’s collecting over a period of forty years. It contains an enormous number of objects related to the theatre such as playbills, posters, autograph letters and photographs, with a particular emphasis on ephemera concerning Oscar Wilde and Noël Coward. The notion that the archive is solely a resource for history students is a great misconception: the breadth and wealth of information contained in the Roy Waters Theatre Collection is an invaluable source for any drama student at RHUL. Indeed, the archives also contain Gay Sweatshop Theatre Company collections and RedShift Theatre Company collections amongst others. Similarly, Blythe House in West Kensington holds the theatre and performance archives for the V&A and is another fantastic archival resource for drama students that I often use.

At this point in my studies, I am more interested in who the collector is, and the motivations for collecting theatrical ephemera rather than the actual content of the collection itself. Since the summer, therefore, I have been working on the personal papers contained within Roy’s collection. Eighty boxes hold Roy’s old bank statements, family trees, diary entries and personal photographs. I have found this research absolutely fascinating and, at times, very amusing (Roy’s diaries and newsletters demonstrate his wonderful way with words and his weakness for gossip!) Roy died in 2010 and it is a privilege to be able to read through the personal papers of a man who, unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to meet. I am now aware of intimate details concerning Roy’s health, his friendships, his daily routine and, vitally, his motivations for collecting. Working with such collections in the archive, and particularly handling such objects, allows the researcher to feel a surprisingly strong connection to the past and develop a genuine relationship with the person behind the collection. This in-depth exploration of Roy has greatly enriched my own research on collections and collectors and I genuinely look forward to going up to the archive to see what I will discover next.

The scale of a collection can be daunting. Roy’s collection is very large. The material housed in just the very first box of Roy’s personal papers is so dense that I sometimes doubt I’ll ever get through all eighty of them! It is therefore incredibly useful to have a defined purpose or research question in mind when accessing the collections. Without this there is the real possibility of spending hours and hours looking through beautiful objects or reading hundreds of diary entries without any clear idea of what it is you hope to discover. Although this makes for a pleasant afternoon, you may come away with little idea of how this has impacted upon or benefited your research. It is also really important to access the online catalogue for the collections before you start work in the archives. The catalogues contain hugely detailed descriptions of the boxes within the collection and the contents found within them. This is a fantastic way to hone in on the specific objects that may be valuable to your work as well as providing a more general overview of the contents of a particular collection.

The romantic image of the dusty, silent archive may not be entirely accurate but there is something rather special about opening up a box and untying the cream ribbon from the individual folders to explore what is housed inside. I think that this is where the appeal of the archive really lies: the possibility of discovering something that has the potential to hugely inform, enrich, and even subvert your research. Whatever your subject area or research topic, the archive is an invaluable resource. Start by exploring the catalogues online to see what the collections at RHUL contain: you never know what treasures you may stumble upon.


You can find out more about our Roy Waters Theatre Collection in this online exhibition.


Finding Archives in the UK

The UKs archival collections are an incredibly rich resource and there are a significant number of tools online to help you discover and access them.  However, navigating these resources can sometimes be a bit tricky, because there is no national discovery service for archives, instead there are a number of regional and thematic archival networks which contain the descriptions of different types of collection.  The purpose of this blog post is to highlight all the main tools that are available to help users find archives.

The best place to start is the National Register of Archives (NRA).  The NRA contains information on the nature and location of manuscripts and historical records that relate to British history. It is structured around the creators of the records and contains information about records that have been created by some 53,000 individuals, 9,000 families, 32,000 businesses and 116,000 organisations.  The entries in the NRA range from major historical figures such as Winston Churchill ( to individuals who left behind records which give an interesting insight in day-to-day life in the past, such as the diaries of Daniel Duck, a Clergyman from North Yorkshire whose 10 volumes of diaries cover the period 1785 to 1824 (with some gaps) –

The descriptions in the NRA tend to be fairly brief; however they also contain links to fuller descriptions, either in other archival networks, or in an archive’s own catalogue.  They also contain links, where relevant, to an individual’s biography on the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  As an archival finding aid the NRA is unrivalled in its comprehensiveness and variety, containing entries from archives across the world.

The sister database to the NRA is ARCHON –  If you are interested in visiting an archive in a region then ARCHON is probably the best place to start.  It allows you to view all the archives in a particular area, and see further information on their collections – with both links to the NRA and other archival networks.

A2A – is another archival database that is also maintained by The National Archives.  The A2A database contains a significant number of catalogues of local record offices in England and Wales.  While the NRA contains summary descriptions of records held at a large number of archives, A2A has far more detailed catalogues from a more limited number of institutions – it is therefore worthwhile searching both, if you are looking for something specific.

A number of other important archival networks also exist, providing the means of searching archives in a particular region, or a particular sector.

The Archives Hub ( and AIM25 ( are the two archival networks for University archives.  Royal Holloway’s archival collections are available through both services.

AIM25 contains summary descriptions of collections held by a rich variety of archives in the London area.  As well as University archives it also contains information on the holdings of a number of other London institutions which have archival collections, such as the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Geographical Society.

Archives Hub contains collection level descriptions of the records held by 222 Universities and Colleges across the UK.

Archives Network Wales ( is the archival network for Wales, containing information about more than 7,000 collections of historical records in the holdings of 21 archives in Wales.

SCAN ( is the Scottish archival network, which contains catalogues of collections from 52 repositories in Scotland, ranging from the National Archives of Scotland and Edinburgh University Special Collections to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

In addition to the archival networks the national institutions also hold incredibly extensive collections of archives and are mainly based in London, which makes visiting fairly straightforward.  The most significant are:

The National Archives – Their Discovery Service ( is the best place to start if you are interested in the records of central government .

The British Library – Has an incredibly rich collection of archives and manuscripts, searchable through their catalogue of archives and manuscripts (

Amy Warner, Associate Director (E-Strategy and Technical Services)

Explore your Archives!

Archives blog

Explore Your Archive free events           


As part of Library Loves Archives month we are running three sessions (an extra one just added) offering students and staff the chance to find out more about the College’s archival holdings. The archivist will show you a selection of our original material from the College archives and theatre collections. It’s also a chance to find out how we look after our historical collections.

This is a great opportunity to come up and explore the 3rd floor of Founder’s regardless of whether you have a research topic in mind or not. All you need is some curiosity!

The session on the 12th November is now sold out but there are still places for the sessions on Wednesday 20th November at 11am and Monday 25th November at 3pm. Click on the dates to book.


If you have any questions please email


Top tips for Researchers (from Researchers!)

Top tips for studying for research (from those who have survived it!)

  • Enjoy the PhD. It is a strenuous process, but it is also a wonderful process
  • Use your brain. The PhD is a good period to exercise your brain as much as you can and find out your limits.Write something every day
  • If you find yourself panicking and staring at a blank page, try handwriting a couple of paragraphs instead of typing
  • Congratulate yourself on achievements – remember that you don’t need to be working all of the time and in fact it makes good sense in the long run to give yourself a break
  • Use as many library resources as you can lay your hands on – electronic, going to Senate House, using the British Library reading rooms
  • Get involved in the wider research community by participating in reading groups and attending seminars – you never know what you might learn!
  • Do not expect to be treated as an undergraduate or masters student. You are not. Prove that you know how to conduct research and that you can find your ways around the problems arising regarding the research.
  • Subscribe to the PhD Comics. You will feel a lot of times that these postings are just for you
  • Have “thirsty Thursdays” and go to bars. At least I did!
  • Read the Thesis Whisperer Blog– it’s super helpful!
  • Follow #PhDchat on twitter
  • If you’re a scientist, use Research Gate.
  • Use Fig Share to make what you’re doing visible

Do you have any top tips you’d like to share? Let us know and we’ll add them to our list!

Read our interviews with other researchers about their experiences: Fiona, Laura and Nancy

Spotlight on a Researcher: Laura Christie

Please start by introducing yourself

My name is Laura Christie; I’m an Educational Development officer in the Educational Development Office. Laughs
 How long have you been at RHUL?

Just a month! Just today I have my one month review.

Are you enjoying it so far?

Yes yes, it’s been interesting coming from a different university to see the changes in how different departments are run, different universities are run, this is a much bigger university than the one I worked at before.

What is your role at RHUL?  

Well, 50% of the role is developing the Generic Skills Programme (GSP) for Postgraduate Research students (PGR) and teaching on it- I teach the academic writing courses, the other 50% is helping and teaching on the inSTIL programme which is a teacher training programme for PGR students.

What did you want to be when you were little?

I wanted to be journalist,  a war correspondent.

I wasn’t outgoing at all, and yet I wanted to be a journalist, I was shy as anything & wouldn’t talk to anyone but something about war corresponding, travelling, and being in the centre of all the action really appealed to me at the time. And then as soon as I started my English degree that all went out the window because I was so inspired by my English tutors and I just wanted to stay in university and teach English literature.

Do you have any hero (es), and why?

This is a hard question..

Ages ago I wrote a biography on the poet Alice Meynell , Alice Meynell was from the Victorian period has 8 kids and managed to be editor of different academic, poetry and fiction journals. And she was a poet herself. She had such a profusive writing career and managed to maintain a family and a household, and she had various medical issues as she got older as well, and managed to keep on top of everything- that’s pretty heroic to me!

You’ve already told us a little bit but what’s your degree/masters etc. in?

My first degree was in English Literature, and then I went straight into a Masters in Women, gender & writing so that focused on writing from 1750’s to present.

My PhD was in English Literature and actually was partially psycho analysis as well.

What advice do you wish you’d known when you were studying for your PhD? (give something wise to current students?)

I think two things.

One is, Well, it’s a plug for the GSP; but one is knowing about and knowing that I should because it will help in the long run, participate in these inter disciplinary type programmes. I was involved eventually during my PhD process, in helping to organise a PhD conference and that gave me the opportunity to meet with all the other PhD students, whereas before that it was very isolated. The first 2 years of my PhD were quite isolated until the University got a programme running and so participating in these sorts of programmes is really good.

The other thing is, I think I would have wanted to have realised, or be told earlier, that a PhD is only the start of an academic career, it barely even touches the start. The start is publishing, publishing is such a big thing, I wish I had known that at the beginning and I wish I had courses available to me, which weren’t at the time because it was a while before researcher training became popular. To know that during my PhD I should have been publishing, and I spent a lot of time teaching which is equally valuable and I got teacher training certificate while doing a PhD but you have go one further and you have to publish if you want an academic career, because coming out of the PhD with a teaching training cert is not enough.

 What was the hardest thing you found about studying?

I suppose it would be discipline, but I am actually quite disciplined so it’s not been an issue for me.

I guess the hardest bit is the isolation, not because I am massively social, but it helps to meet people who are going through the same things as you are, even if it’s once a month, once every couple of months just to know you’re all going through the same thing which is why having these shut up and write  sessions is a fabulous idea, giving people the opportunity to get together and informally talk about things. That was very hard being quite isolated, and it was knowing that it was only yourself pushing you forward, your supervisor can set targets but you’re doing it for yourself, you got no reason to submit something on a certain day to a supervisor, it’s just you propelling yourself forward.



Spotlight on a Researcher: Fiona Redding


Please start by introducing yourself      

My name is Fiona Redding. I started at Royal Holloway in 2007 on a BA English Literature programme, graduating in 2010. After my BA, I started working at the College as an Alumni Relations Officer. I am now the Change Communications Officer, and have just completed my Masters in Modern Philosophy.

How long have you been at Royal Holloway?

This September marked the beginning of my seventh year at Royal Holloway!

What is your role here?

Creating a cohesive and beneficial staff culture is critical if we are to succeed as a university in the long term – you cannot underestimate the importance of gaining acceptance of proposed changes amongst your colleagues across the College. My role involves writing communications strategies for the major change projects we have going on, including the Governance Review, the Masterplan, and staff engagement more broadly.

What did you want to be when you were little?

I really wanted to be a figure skater. Unfortunately I was completely lacking in the co-ordination and grace to achieve such a goal!

Do you have any hero (es), and why?

I really admire my Dad. He could easily have gone to university and trained to be a doctor, but when circumstances prevented him from doing that, he found other ways to develop professionally. That kind of flexibility, not being disheartened if the route you wanted to take isn’t an option, and ultimately succeeding in spite of these obstacles, are all traits I really admire.

What’s your degree/masters etc. in? Could you explain a bit about a MRes?

My Masters is in Modern Philosophy. My tutor was Andrew Bowie in the Politics, International Relations and Philosophy Department. He tutored me for a final year course and I got on with him really well, so he was the obvious choice when it came to applying to a supervisor for my Masters.

The difference with an MRes is that you are working pretty much independently the whole way through your course, so you have to create opportunities to interact with other researchers. I was studying part time over two years, so I had possibly even less interaction than one might expect on a Masters programme. As well as optional tutorials given by Andrew and Neil Gascoigne, another Philosophy Lecturer, I attended a reading group, seminar programmes, anything that brought me into contact with people working in my area of interest.

The whole way through, I was working towards completing a 35,000 word dissertation, on a topic of my choosing. There was a short 5,000 word essay mid-way through the course – to check you are on the right track – but apart from that there was everything to play for on the dissertation.

What advice do you wish you’d known when you were studying for your MRes?

The best piece of advice I can give you is to write something every day. That doesn’t have to mean a 5,000 exegesis closely related to your dissertation; it could be 500 words. The key point is that you are engaging your brain. For me, that came through writing a blog: (link)

What was the hardest thing you found about studying?

I’ve alluded to the independent study, which can be tough at times, particularly when you just need to talk things through with someone whilst writing a key paragraph, or talking more broadly about your argument to ensure you have an overarching theme. But this can be overcome. Of course, your supervisor is also a key part of the feedback process as well.



Spotlight on a Researcher: Nancy Pontika

Nancy is the Library’s resident expert on all things Open Access, as part of the Library Liaison team she has been previously interviewed about her role which involves being the Information Consultant for Physics, Research and Open Access. Read the Nancy’s previous interviewpontikaBW

Here, I’ve asked her a few quick questions about her PhD in Library and Information Science with a speciality on Information Science.

What was the hardest thing you found about studying?

I had my PhD at Simmons College, Boston, USA. The PhDs there are four years and at the end of your third year our program had comprehensive exams. That period it was the hardest and most boring. I had to read about 200 books and 1,000 articles in 3 months. It was impossible of course, so I was just scanning the text and I was keeping track of names and dates, most important ideas, influences, etc. I find memorising difficult; it is not one of my virtues. I also find studying boring in extremely quiet places. During my PhD I read many many many articles and books in a “quiet” pub. I could not concentrate otherwise- I needed this small level of noise. So, for example, here at Royal Holloway you would never see me at the “silent area” of the Bedford Library, I would probably be somewhere on the entry level floor, by the cafe.

What advice do you wish you’d known when you were studying for your PhD?

You need to chase people a lot. You need to chase your research participants for the interviews, your supervisors to read your versions and provide feedback, the institutional review board to approve your research. And the only way to do that is self-motivation. What motivates each one of us varies, but new PhD students need to find that motivation and be stubborn to keep going with the program. The PhD is not like an undergraduate or a master degree. There is no order, there is no stability, there is no routine in what students do.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Open Access, check out the library pages on Open Access

More interviews coming soon of researchers across the campus!

Who’s citing Who? the event!

who's citing who

When: 30th October 2013

Where: HITT Lab

(PC lab through the Horton Building)

Book Now:


Make Your Research Stand Out!

Make your research final

Doctoral students join us in this event to celebrate Open Access Week 2013.

Discover about the Library Services for Research, open access for scientific publications, how to manage research data and hear Tom Pollard, a doctoral student from UCL explaining how he makes his research stand out.

The event will include several short talks and an opportunity to chat with our guest speakers over lunch.

Free lunch is provided!

Book on to the event:

  The programme:

11:30- 11:55: The RCUK Open Access Policy and what this means for PhD students, Dr Nancy Pontika, Information Consultant for Research, Royal Holloway, University of London

11:55 – 12:10: Upload your research manuscript to Pure, Dr Dace Rozenberga, Research Information Manager, Royal Holloway, University of London

12:10 – 12:35:Why I am an Open Access advocate, Tom Pollard, Postgraduate Research Student, University College London

12:35 – 13:05: Managing your research data: tips and best practices, Martin Donnelly, Senior Institutional Support Officer, Digital Curation Centre

13:05- 13:30 : Free lunch

Shut up & Write: the event!

Procrastination Meter

The dreaded write up..

Many post graduate researchers talk about how difficult it can be to just sit down and write, write up their research, their notes, because research can sometimes only involve you, it can make it harder to remain motivated and focused.

Unfortunately, the nature of some research plus the lack of space provision on campus for post graduates often results in these students feeling a little lost, alone and disheartened.

To try and reveal some of these anxieties.. the Library services have set up ‘Shut up & Write’ an event for post graduates only.

It’s a pretty simple concept.. you turn up, you sit down, you write..

Then afterwards you get the chance to meet other postgraduate students and staff in your own dedicated space.

These events have proved popular across the country with other libraries, we hope that is will give you a time and place to crack on with some work before discussing ideas with others in a similar situation.

Here are the list of sessions for 2013/2014 so far!

9th December 2013; 

21st January 2014;

17th February 2014;

31st March 2014;

15th April 2014;

Booking Essential, All sessions run 13.45- 16.30 unless otherwise stated.


Just Write