– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

monthly report August 2015

A few numbers about what was happening at St Cross during August:

  • Number of enquiries (email etc): 67, and see below
  • Number of researchers in person: 12
  • Number of person-days in the reading room: 16
  • Collections consulted: medieval mss (7), Jowett papers, college records, papers of Baruch S Blumberg, Clough-Nightingale papers
  • No of non-research visitors: ca 40  (Meritas group, individual visitors)
  • blog posts: 6
  • interesting events: OUIP intern Matthew completed 6 week research project (see blog posts); Balliol intern Robin (all month) and OUIP intern Sophie (3 weeks) working on research projects; participants in the Oxford Patristics Conference consulting medieval mss; display on Broad St site for Nevil Shute Society conference; Meritas summer school group visit with Balliol tutor Scot Peterson on the theme of ‘Magna Carta – building a society’

I am sometimes asked what kinds of enquiries I receive. Here’s a summary of August’s enquiries, which was fairly typical except a smaller number than usual of all kinds of enquiries both internal and external, as so many people are on holiday in August – in no particular order:

  • family history/biographical information re former members of Balliol of all periods
  • requests for info about Balliol paintings/works of art
  • authors & curators requesting images of items in the collections for publication/exhibition
  • academics requesting images of medieval manuscripts
  • invitation to speak & discussion of talk
  • researchers needing information about content and formats of collections prior to research in person
  • planning displays to support external conference held at Balliol and a Balliol tutor’s seminar at St Cross
  • archival sources for history of C19-20 Balliol-India connections, especially the history of the Indian Civil Service
  • requests for assistance in how to locate other archives and sources for information on Balliol-related and non-Balliol-related subjects
  • requests for information on various aspects of the college’s and individual members’ involvement in WW1

and professional issues from other archivists, internal administrative correspondence, records management requests from offices within college. Requests for appointments to conduct research in person are not counted unless they entail further correspondence, providing catalogues and other information etc in advance – which most do.

I am also asked who the enquirers are. In principle, this doesn’t matter – anybody can enquire about and consult Balliol’s collections. Most are either university academics – from all over the world, at all levels from undergraduate to Professor Emeritus, in all sorts of fields – or private individuals, mostly conducting family history research for their personal interest. Many are authors and curators. Some are Old Members of Balliol – and others may be who don’t mention the fact (we like to know!). Many others don’t provide any information about their own background or particular reason for asking, and they don’t need to. Occasionally one doesn’t even provide a name! (They get a response too, of course, addressed to ‘Dear Enquirer.’) The vast majority of enquiries are sent via email now, and wherever possible responses are also electronic. I receive perhaps half a dozen letters a year, and if an email address is provided I will respond that way. Most telephone requests have to be answered in writing, as responses based on archival material and research usually require half a dozen sources to be checked.

Comments are closed.