– 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.

termly report HT 2016

The Archivist’s work, November 2015 – January 2016. Several early November events were included in the Michaelmas report, but should have been in this one, so they are repeated.

St Cross reader & visitor numbers by month

Unique Users Seats occupied Visitors (non-research) Collections consulted
November 10 12 ca 90 (10 MCR viewing, 12 NaNoWriMo, 50 Into University pupils, 12 ABTAPL, 7 individuals) Clough, Browning, AL Smith, College records (7)
December 6 7 3 AL Smith, College records (2), Greene-Reid, MSS
January 5 8 4 medieval & early modern mss, George Malcolm papers, college archives
Totals 21 27 Ca 100

Remote enquiries

No. of enquiries
November 109
December 71
January 95
Total 275

Image management:

  • Oxfile (OUCS)– used 12 times Nov-Jan to send from 1 to several hundred images, externally and within college, across archival collections.


  • Facebook: 852 total ‘Likes’ (+105).
  • Twitter: total 1288 tweets (+74), 1173 followers.
  • Blog: 15 new posts, average 750 views/month, 44 followers.
  • ‘Document in Focus’ features continue on display in Broad St Library
  • November
    • staffed College Archives stall at Graduate History Thesis Fair (Exam schools)
    • with Librarian, hosted MCR viewing of Swinburne exhibition and selections, some requested by students, from print and manuscript research collections
    • staffed Arts & Heritage stall at OU Careers Fair (Arts, Media & Marketing day)
    • started regular display of facsimiles from the archives in the antechapel. Nov – Jan topics: Gerard Manley Hopkins, Remembrance Day, illuminations from medieval manuscripts.
    • taught Preservation on a Shoestring study day for ABTAPL librarians (small-institution lone/volunteer/part-time librarians with early and rare collections and archives) with Anna James (Pusey House Library & Regents Park), at St Cross
    • hosted 3rd year of weekly Write In sessions for local novelists (NaNoWriMo)
    • Daniel Tyler & Balliol English class examining draft states of poetry MSS (Clough & Browning)
  • December
    • supervised 5-day unpaid ‘micro-internship’ through OU Careers Service (medieval manuscripts photography)
    • Unlocking Archives talk by Charlie Dawkins (Merton) re Harold Nicolson, James Joyce and censorship at the BBC in the 1930s, drawing on unpublished versions of Nicolson’s original diaries
    • teaching session on planning archival research with Queen Mary students (MA Early Modern English, repeat invitation)
  • January
    • invited speaker, DIY Digitisation Day workshop, org Prof Daniel Wakelin & Prof Henrike Laehnemann (Weston Library)
    • with Librarian, prepared JCR viewing of archives, manuscripts and rare books, and hosted with Asst Librarian (0 attendance)
    • visit by Prof Patrick McCullagh (Eastman) and Prof Stephen Stigler (UChicago) to see medieval mss of texts on music and arithmetic by Boethius – lots of diagrams!


Cataloguing & collection care

The papers of CG Stone have been listed for the first time, and the list published online and a fonds level description sent to the Archives Hub.

The current box list of George Malcolm’s archive has been published online, and a fonds level description sent to the Archives Hub. Detailed listing of the George Malcolm archive is underway; a researcher has begun using these papers intensively with a view to mounting an exhibition on Malcolm in his centenary year (1917), and is providing useful background information for cataloguing.

Conservation: the boxing project is half complete. Measuring unboxed manuscripts paused  in January for conservation work on items from a new acquisition of Belloc books but should resume before the end of HT, and most boxing, except for those needing major repairs before they can be measured for  a long term box, should be completed in time for the Trinity Term report. Several manuscripts have been to OCC for small repairs in conjunction with boxing. Fasciculing of AL Smith’s letters has reached the letter F.

In conjunction with the early manuscripts boxing project, and coincidentally with staff manual handling training and lifting-load awareness, all the large/old/not archival quality boxes in the archives are being replaced with new acid-free and lignin free boxes from Conservation by Design/Bodleian boxing. These are standard size, and are unlikely to weigh more than 6 kg even when full of particularly heavy material. Reducing the weight of boxes is particularly important given that many are retrieved at height and carried up and down ladders in restricted spaces. More than 100 boxes have been replaced so far. Heavy boxes will be marked with their weight.


  • photo album and 1920 college photo from the family of RE Gundry (HT 1919)
  • JCR & sport photos 2006-2012 from Denise Hurd (JCR office)
  • dead members’ dossiers from College Office

Events scheduled so far:

HT (Feb onwards)

  • Unlocking Archives talks by Anna Sander (AL Smith and WW1) and Eleanor Greer (Indexing Balliol’s manuscript illuminations)
  • OU Bibliophiles Society visit to St Cross to see medieval mss
  • session on planning archival research for dissertations with Balliol history students and tutors, at St Cross with display of archival material
  • Dr Elena Lombardi and Balliol students – medieval manuscripts seminar
  • Oxford Emmaus group – talk and display of medieval manuscripts and early archives, requested by Prof Martin Burton
  • supporting Visiting Fellow Prof Elliott Horowitz in planning ‘Balliol Judaica’ & ‘Jews of Balliol’ linked exhibitions for September and MT 2016
  • presentation on St Cross and Balliol’s archives & manuscripts to St Margaret’s Institution, with John Jones

TT: Unlocking Archives talks by Naomi Tiley (Shakespeare exhibition) and Prof Lesley Higgins (GM Hopkins)


CPD completed (Anna):

  • Balliol staff manual handling training
  • 1-day course on Excel for Archival Listing, given by Gillian Sheldrick via OUCS, January.
  • speaker at DIY Digitization workshop (Bodleian, January)
  • visit to New College Archives
  • attended IHR Winter Conference ‘The Production of the Archive’ – keynote Eric Ketelaar

OUIP micro-internship: Mary Maschio (Queen’s) did an excellent job in her 5-day placement, photographing two complete medieval manuscripts for research requests and completing a third; all are now online and images have been shared with the researchers. Mary’s blog post about her experience is here. Thanks to Library staff for providing her with a desk at Broad Street for her last day of image processing.

Consulting: site visit and advice on archival preservation, cataloguing and building planning to Blenheim Palace archivist and historian, November


  • chapter on handling special collections material in A Handbook of Editing Early Modern Texts, ed. H Phillips & C Williams, Ashgate, forthcoming 2017 (delayed by 2015 Ashgate takeover, will now appear under Routledge imprint)
  • chapter in published proceedings of DIY Digitisation workshop , ed. D Wakelin & J Siefring, Bodleian, forthcoming 2016.

– Anna Sander, HT 2016

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