Tag Archives: Royal Holloway College

Archives for Everyone!

Archive blog post image

In the past we’ve written blog posts about the collections we hold in the archives and also how to find archive collections in other UK repositories. In this post I want to introduce some of you to the archives just for fun or personal interest, not necessarily for your coursework or research. I think often the archives seem like an impenetrable fortress that only people with a proven academic reason can visit – that is not the case! Throughout the year we take part in lots of events which help us to showcase our collections to people who may not have been to an archive before. We run tours of the archives on Heritage Open Day and at the annual Garden Party and we also provide exhibitions for various events going on on campus. Last year we provided a display for the Play Festival about our theatre collections which is now on display on the 2nd floor of Founder’s library and earlier this term we held two sessions for the Feminist Society looking at the history of the College at the forefront of women’s education.

Next week we will be holding an event looking at the effect World War One had on the lives of students and staff at both Bedford and Royal Holloway Colleges. The event will have two short talks from Stella Moss (History) and Anne Varty (English) on life at the College during the War and student poetry written during the war. The event will also include a display of items and information from the archives. If you’d like to come along (the event is free and includes tea and biscuits!) you can book a ticket here.

In addition to events and displays we also have lots of examples of items from the archives on our website. There are online exhibitions on College Fashions (including sections on clothes for sport and academic and evening dress), College Community and Sustainability (including sections on the introduction of men and the infamous College fire drills) and Social Life at the Colleges (including sections on the importance of tea and student discos and balls).

We also have an exhibition which includes highlights from the Roy Waters Theatre Collection. The Collection contains Roy’s lifetime collection of theatrical ephemera including material on the backstage workings of the theatre and satirical productions.

The website also contains all the items of month (now in its thirty eighth month). These are a chance for us to show items from the archives, rare books and art collections that we think are interesting or are related to a current event or news story. This month’s relates to World War One and the event we are holding. Some of the most popular editions are the polar bear painting from May 2013 and these dashing chaps from November 2012.

Hopefully these little insights into the archives will give you an idea of the kinds of things we hold. Don’t be shy if you want to find out more about the archives, our contact details are on the website and we are on the third floor of Founder’s library if you want to pop up and take a look at the display we have up here about the opening of Royal Holloway College.

Annabel Valentine, College Archivist

RHUL’s Archive Collections

RHC PH/207/9
Students in a classroom at Royal Holloway College 1899

As Library Loves… Archives month draws to a close this post will tell you a bit about the collections we hold here at Royal Holloway. If you haven’t made it to one of our Explore Your Archive sessions you may still be in the dark as to what we actually have. The collections can be split into two main groups: institutional records and special collections.


Institutional Records

These are records which have been created by RHUL or its predecessors.  In the 1980s Royal Holloway and Bedford Colleges merged together to form RHUL and we have the records of both the Colleges in the archives. Bedford College was the first to open (in 1849 in central London) and was the first higher education college for women in the country. Royal Holloway followed a few years later and was opened by Queen Victoria in 1886. Both collections hold records from the opening of the Colleges including foundation deeds and trust documents as well as photographs, committee minutes, papers of student societies, student and staff records, College and student publications among many other things!

We also continue to collect records from the College today so that future researchers can look back at how the College operates now. This newer material isn’t always catalogued – it’s an ongoing process! So if you want to look at something which you can’t find in the catalogue get in touch and we can see if we have it.


Special Collections

Different repositories use the term ‘special collection’ to mean different things (something which puzzled me a lot when I first started working in archives!) but here we call any collection that has been created/collected outside the College and then donated to us a special collection. Our special collections include rare book collections as well as archives but I’m just going to focus on the archive special collections in this post.

Our main collecting area for special collections is theatre archives. We have three collections from theatre companies – Gay Sweatshop, Half Moon and Red Shift. All three contain similar records relating to the running of the company and the productions they put on. This includes administrative and financial records, scripts, promotional material (including flyers and posters) and photographs of productions. We also have two ephemera collections: the Coton collection which contains material relating to ballet and other forms of dance including photographs, postcards and programmes; and the Roy Waters collection which is the largest of our theatre collections. Roy Waters was a theatre enthusiast who spend 40 years of his life collecting anything and everything to do with the theatre. The collection is hugely varied and includes postcards, posters, playbills, programmes, autographed letters from famous actors and actresses and much much more!

We also have the Alfred Sherman papers which cover Sherman’s role as an advisor to Margaret Thatcher and the Anselm Hughes collection which are the personal and research papers of a liturgical music scholar.


You can find out more about all of our collections through our website: www.rhul.ac.uk/archives which also has a link to the online catalogue and our contact details.


If you don’t think our collections would be of use to you in your research but would like to find other collections which would be take a look at our previous blog about finding archives in the UK: https://libraryblog.rhul.ac.uk/2013/11/14/finding-archives-uk/

Annabel Gill, College Archivist