– 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 TT16

Week 6 TT 16 (June) Library Committee: Archivist’s report

This paper reports on the Archivist’s work February – May 2016. Cf. the Librarian’s report for more activities at St Cross.

Reader & visitor numbers by month


  • Unique Users: 10
  • Seats occupied: 12
  • Visitors (non research): ca 100 (private event, Balliol class, Bibliophiles visit, Unlocking Archives, Into University sessions, individuals)
  • Collections consulted: medieval mss (2), Morier, Malcolm, college archives (Musical Society, building plans), Jowett, TH Green


  • Unique Users: 14
  • Seats occupied: 18
  • Visitors (non research): ca 35 (Balliol historians, Unlocking Archives, individuals)
  • Collections consulted: Greene-Reid, Arnold, medieval mss (4), Bradley, Maxwell, college records (2), TH Green, AL Smith, Hopkins, Malcolm


  • Unique Users: 6
  • Seats occupied: 11
  • Visitors (non research): Ca 100 HM Festival, 9 DIY Digi study day + exhibition visitors
  • Collections consulted: AL Smith, Ernest Walker, George Malcolm, Hope-Simpson, Greene, college records



  • Unique Users: 4
  • Seats occupied: 7
  • Visitors (non research): 18 Swedish group visit, ca 15 Unlocking, 4 individuals
  • Collections consulted: Sweet-Escott, Malcolm, college records


  • Unique Users 34
  • Seats occupied 48
  • Visitors (non research) Ca 280

Remote enquiries

  • February 94
  • March 75
  • April 94
  • May 93
  • Total 356
  • 2016 running total 451

(Real) subjects of requests for information about the contents of archival material:

– Swinburne manuscripts & early editions; college photos; history of closed Fellowships and Scholarships; tracing personal archive of a former member of the college; Harold Nicolson’s diaries; Christopher Hill’s research papers; requesting information about former members; Prof RM Hare’s correspondence; Balliol Musical Society archive; Graham Greene – Josephine Reid papers; Arnold Family papers

(Real) examples of administrative/internal enquiries:

– requests for info re individual Old Members;  St Cross building management admin;  current student club records management; requests for illustration from manuscripts for college publication; request to prepare a display for visit by parishioners of a College living; request to talk with current students about St Cross and the archives & manuscripts; request to talk with current students about preparing for dissertation research using original/unpublished archival material


  • Social media
    • Facebook: 25 posts (mostly weekly updates and event announcements), 852 total ‘Likes’.
    • Twitter: total 1459 tweets, 1279 followers.
    • Blog: 20 new posts, average 750 views/month, 46 followers.
  • Image management:
    • Oxfile (OUCS): used 30+x times Feb-May, total 185 times, to send images, externally and within college, across archival collections.
    • Flickr: approaching 2 million individual image views of 83,000+ images.
  • Outreach
    • ‘Document in Focus’ features prepared by Anna continue on display in Broad St Library; new ones will be delivered to the Library for MT.
    • new antechapel displays: Balliol in winter 1915-16, a treasure hunt of decorative features in the chapel
    • planning Balliol Hebraica and Judaica exhibition for MT with Prof. Elliott Horowitz
    • see also events, below



  • Prof Martin Burton & guests (supporters of Oxford Emmaus) – talk, Q&A and display of medieval manuscripts and early archives
  • OU Bibliophiles Society visit to St Cross to see medieval mss
  • Elena Lombardi and Oxford Dante class: hands-on teaching session on medieval manuscripts
  • planning ‘Balliol Hebraica and Judaica’ exhibition for September with Visiting Fellow Elliott Horowitz
  • with OUIP staff, talk and Q&A about optimising applications for prospective applicants to future OUIP microinternships
  • Bruce’s Brunch – talk and Q&A with Balliol students about Balliol’s history, archives & manuscripts
  • Unlocking Archives talk – Anna on ‘AL Smith on the Home Front’: about college life and a Mastership election during WW: text here


  • with other college archivists, staff college archives desk at undergraduate history thesis fair (Exam Schools), fielding queries and providing advice about finding and accessing archival sources across Oxford and beyond
  • teaching session with Valentina Caldari for Balliol history undergraduates at St Cross on planning archival research for dissertations, locating and using unpublished primary sources and their finding aids (Balliol, Oxford and elsewhere), with archival material for illustration
  • Unlocking Archives talk – Eleanor Greer on indexing decorative features in Balliol’s medieval manuscripts and her library traineeship at Trinity College, Cambridge


  • Anna and JHJ – talk on the St Cross building conversion project, Balliol’s archives and manuscripts and current activities at St Cross to St Margaret’s Institute
  • all staff participated in hosting the Spring Open Weekend at St Cross in April, with Shakespeare exhibition curated by Naomi Tiley, and Shakespeare play readings by Balliol students. The church was open to the public 12-4pm 9-10 April (Sat & Sun); 159 people visited, taking interest in both the exhibition and the building. Many visitors came as a result of the St Margaret’s talk the preceding week!
  • with Prof Daniel Wakelin (English & Bodleian) and his MSt students – medieval manuscripts handling training and research photography day with public lunchtime forum on DIY Digitization (practice & theory of digital humanities) – see Storify of tweets , and blog post; other tutors are already interested, and tweets generated interest in future repeats from e.g. Oxford DPhil student in history of Art etc
  • Holywell Manor Festival – St Cross as venue for talks throughout the day, with a repeat performance of Shakespeare play readings during the lunch break. Anna and James staffed St Cross for the full day.


  • visit led by Revd. Hugh White (Balliol 1981) – group of Swedes visiting Oxford on a course about the city at the church-run St Sigfrids folkhögskola (community college) in Växjö, Oxford’s link diocese in Sweden. Members had a particular interest in libraries and in architecture; I spoke (partly in Swedish) about the building’s history, the conversion project and the collections.
  • Unlocking Archives talk: Naomi Tiley on ‘Representing the Ghost of Shakespear’:  summoning the spirits for Balliol’s spring exhibition; recorded by Voices from Oxford.

Cataloguing & collection care

  • GM Hopkins material has been listed for the first time in detail; the list has been posted online and sent in full to the Archives Hub.
  • Jowett IG.16.4 (70 letters) have been numbered individually and several dates corrected in the online catalogue.
  • Images of Harold Nicolson’s pre-1930 MS diaries are complete and online.
  • 4 boxes of the Malcolm papers have been listed in detail for the first time; updates to the list are appearing online as sections become available.
  • JHJ’s recent detailed lists of the Robert Scott papers and of college archives pertaining to Timsbury, Tendring, Colchester, Duloe, Tirley & Chaceley have been edited/numbered for public consumption and are online.
  • Completion of replacement of all nonstandard boxes in the institutional and personal archives with new acid-free and lignin-free archival standard boxes is expected over the summer.
  • Manual copying of JHJ’s 2003 Archive List to the Adlib database should be completed over the summer. This includes considerable editing and correction of spelling mistakes and reference numbers. This will facilitate addition of not only new and future accessions to the correct sections of the catalogue but reassignment of several thousand files previously categorised as ‘miscellaneous’ to the appropriate series in the college records.

Future events:

  • 10 June: Traherne Collator Seminar – new digital tools for old books. Organised by Chris Palmer, Balliol Lecturer in Physics, and Julia Smith, General Editor of Oxford Traherne. This is a return to St Cross for the Traherne editors after a successful editorial meeting last year.
  • 27 June: Unlocking Archives – Prof. Lesley Higgins on GM Hopkins,  ‘Spelt from Hopkins’ Leaves: Considering Archival “Remains”.
  • MT:
    • Unlocking Archives – Prof Elliott Horowitz and Anna Sander: ‘Balliol Judaica and Hebraica’ (exhibition talk)
    • Unlocking Archives – Dr Matthew Balensuela: ‘Medieval Musical Illustrations: Balliol MS 173A’
    • There will be at least one other talk/event in MT related to the Judaica and Hebraica exhibition, arranged by Prof. Horowitz, details TBC.


Anna CPD:

  • attended ‘Teaching the Codex: Pedagogical Approaches to Palaeography and Codicology’ symposium at Merton College
  • attended Oxford Conservation Group lecture by Dr Kelly Domoney (Ashmo) on the uses of XRF for object analysis
  • Visits with Abby-Eleonore to archives and archivists at Pusey House, Regents Park, New College, St Hilda’s, University College
  • attended Jane Eagan’s (OCC) talk to Oxford archivists’ termly meeting on ‘Old Libraries and Muniment Rooms – Managing the Environment in some Oxford Colleges’, focussing on solving particular heritage-building related difficulties at Magdalen and Jesus.
  • attended former OII and Balliol Visiting Fellow Christine Borgman’s talk on ‘Data, Scholarship, and Libraries’ (Bodleian Libraries Centre for Digital Scholarship ‘Research Uncovered’

Providing work experience & training:

  • OUIP microinternship HT9th week: Claire Heseltine (Univ) did an excellent job for 5 days, photographing medieval MSS (249, 278) as part of the ongoing project. As Claire had expressed (and demonstrated) an active interest in a possible career in archives, she came along on the visit to New College Archives. Her report.
  • Matthew Aiello (Worcester, MSt Medieval English) has been working with Anna, completing a shelf check of the medieval mss, reordering shelves where necessary to accommodate new boxes, and continuing and improving the database of decorative features in the medieval mss begun last year by Eleanor Greer, on most Monday afternoons since late February. He is also using his advanced codicological skill and experience to check RAB Mynors’ collation descriptions of the manuscripts, and has corrected several errors as well as adding substantive information to the catalogue. His emendations are being added to the online version of the catalogue.
  • Abby-Eleonore Thouvenin worked with Anna, in a voluntary role, on the archives and manuscripts at St Cross February-April; a 3-month overseas placement is a formal requirement for her professional Master’s degree in Cultures of Written and Iconographic Materials specialised in Heritage collections at the École nationale supérieure des sciences de l’information et des bibliothèques, Lyon (ENSSIB). Her tasks included: photography and image processing (MS nos 311, 112, 113, 118, total images); preservation packaging, numbering and description of archives (Malcolm, Hare, C18 baptismal certificates, Mallet); assisting with display preparation and presentations (medieval manuscripts x2); assisting with enquiries research; devising a school outreach activity. During her internship she also, as arranged by Anna, visited 11 other archives in and near Oxford to see their collections and facilities and talk with their archivists, attended relevant graduate seminars and meetings, and worked in the archives at Pusey House and Blenheim Palace.


Anna Sander

TT 2016 (9 June)

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