– 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 – Michaelmas 2017

 This report covers the Archivist’s work May-November 2017.

A) Enquiries, researchers & visitors



  • Enquiries: 60
  • Researchers – unique users:  5
  • Seats occupied: 7
  • Collections consulted in person:  Oriental mss, western medieval mss, Jowett papers
  • Files produced May-Sept:  33 boxes, 83 files, 50 items and 74 mss
  • Visitors (non-research):  ca. 20


  • Enquiries: 62
  • Unique users:  4
  • Seats occupied:  4
  • Collections consulted in person:  Nicolson diaries, college records, medieval mss (2)
  • Visitors (non-research): ca. 55


  • Enquiries: 54
  • Unique users: 11
  • Seats occupied: 16
  • Collections consulted:  Monckton (4), Morier, college records, Strachan-Davidson, Clough, medieval mss, David Urquhart
  • Visitors (non-research): ca. 50


  • Enquiries: 44
  • Unique users: 6
  • Seats occupied: 12
  • Collections consulted in person:  Monckton (2), medieval mss, TH Green, Rawnsley, Jowett
  • Visitors (non-research): 3


  • Enquiries: 61
  • Unique users: 3
  • Seats occupied: 5
  • Collections consulted in person:  College records, medieval manuscripts (3)
  • Visitors (non-research): 400+


  • Enquiries: 55
  • Unique users: 10
  • Seats occupied: 13
  • Collections consulted in person:  College records,  medieval mss (3), Browning, Nicolson, Monckton (2), Jowett, TH Green, Caird, RBD Morier, AL Smith
  • Files produced: 20 boxes, 14 files, 61 items and 24 mss
  • Visitors (non-research): ca. 55

November (incomplete at the time of reporting)

  • Enquiries: 43
  • Unique users: 8
  • Seats occupied: 15
  • Collections consulted in person:  College records,  medieval mss (3),  David Urquhart, Jowett, TH Green, RBD Morier, AL Smith, Oppenheimer, FF Urquhart
  • Files produced: 6 boxes, 3 files, 11 items and 34 mss
  • Visitors (non-research): 110+

Period totals

  • Enquiries: 379
  • Unique users: 47
  • Seats occupied: 72
  • Files produced: 53 boxes, 97 files, 101 items and 98 mss
  • Visitors (non-research): 860+

2017 running totals

  • Enquiries: 677
  • Unique users: 79
  • Seats occupied: 116
  • Visitors (non-research): 920+

*Files produced: one production slip may record anything from a single item to a complete box. These numbers tell more about the amount of fetching and carrying involved than about the volume, breadth or detail of material consulted. The number includes material consulted by the archivist while researching responses to remote enquiries as well as those produced to researchers in person.

 – A box may contain up to 10 bound volumes or 6 files containing several hundred individual items. Numbers of boxes given do not include files.

– A file may contain up to 200 items. Numbers of files given do not include items. 

– Individual items may range from a single letter to a bound volume. Numbers of items given do not include medieval ms codices.

A sample of research topics, by researchers in person and remote enquirers, from the reporting period:

‘I am assessing materials available and avenues of research on the history of the church of St Lawrence Jewry.’  (May)

‘[I would like to consult] the archives of James Justinian Morier… I am particularly interested in any correspondence, diaries or drawings/paintings relating to his accompanying the British intervention in the Russian-Iranian agreement that led to the signing of the treaty of Gulistan on the 24th October 1813.’ (June)

‘I am writing a book about the 1848 revolutions and I am interested in Arthur Hugh Clough, Arthur Stanley and Benjamin Jowett.’ (July)

‘I am looking in letters sent from India for evidence of health and health care in C19 India.’ (August)

‘I am looking for evidence of payments made in connection with the plates contained in Oxonia Illustrata to David Loggan, the engraver, ca 1670-1675, either by the colleges  or by the dedicatee (Sir Henry Littleton).’ (September)

‘My research work relates to the Anglo-American expatriate circle around Katherine Bronson in Venice during the 1880s.’ (October)

A digest of remote enquiry topics is now included in the monthly blog reports as well.

B) Arrangement & description and collection care

Lists by JHJ; edited and posted online by Anna:

  • Letters of Muriel Hatherley Rendell, later Cathcart
  • Papers relating to St Mary’s Portsea during WW1 (Hilda Pickard-Cambridge & OA Hunt)
  • Papers of AC Bradley, Fellow of Balliol
  • Courtenay Peregrine Ilbert (1841-1924), Balliol 1860 (Fellow 1864, Bursar 1871-1874)
  • Papers of Francis Oppenheimer
  • Papers of Peter Lyne re St Cross Church

Papers of AF Giles (Balliol 1936), 100+ fascicled letters to his parents while a student at Balliol and active in student politics and the Union, 1936-1939 (2 volumes & 3 mounted photos). Listed by Anna and posted online.

The Caird Papers have been physically numbered to correspond with JHJ’s relisting and better descriptions. The TH Green, David Urquhart and Morier Family papers have additional descriptions and clearer numbering. and improved physical numbering.

Medieval mss: boxing more than 100 manuscripts for the first time resulted in the need to adjust some of the shelving on N5. Shelving changes, shelf check and updated finding aid are complete.

Conservation: treatment of several medieval manuscripts was completed over the summer in preparation for the MT exhibition. In particular, MS 354 (Richard Hill’s commonplace book) has had key repairs to the sewing structure and badly softened page edges, and has been reboxed to replace an old non-acid free Maltby’s box. While it is still fragile and requires careful and minimal handling, it is now safe to produce for (a very limited number of) researchers again.


Social media

  • Facebook: 1003 Likes. Weekly updates, links to blog posts, notices of events, etc.
  • Twitter: 2172 total Tweets, 1602 followers
  • Blog: 30 new posts

Image management

  • Oxfile (OUCS) – used 24 times Sept-Oct, total 339 times, to send images, externally and within college, across archival collections.
  • I have been working with Emma Stanford and her successor at the Bodleian to correct some old (1997-2000) errors and missing images in the Balliol sets on http://image.ox.ac.uk/ , as the old site will be taken down once the contents have been checked and added to http://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/ .
  • Images created: 20K. More than 111K images on Flickr and 2.75 M views.

Outreach & Events


  • Anna & Gabrielle – handling workshop for Balliol English students
  • Unlocking Archives talk: Nikki Tomkins (OCC) on conserving Nicholas Crouch books for Wellcome project
  • Watford Girls’ Grammar school groups – manuscripts activity (repeat visit but new activity)


  • Bodleian archives & mss trainees – tour & careers talk (repeat visit)


  • Oxford Research & Innovation Support Conference delegates – general tour (recommended)
  • Dr Juliana Dresvina & students from St Peter’s College Summer School at Magdalen College – medieval manuscripts workshop


  • Open Doors – 7th year, medieval mss exhibition open, 300+ visitors
  • Balliol Society Weekend – medieval mss exhibition open
  • Evensong for the patronal feast of St Cross
  • Exhibition continues open all Michaelmas term
  • Visit to exhibition and service of Evening Prayer by participants in college incumbents’ conference


  • Antechapel displays and ‘Document in Focus’ features in Broad St Library, prepared by Anna, continue
  • Bruce’s Brunch talk by Anna re college history & special collections
  • Individual visitors to exhibition including Fellows and Old Members


  • with colleagues, staffed the College Archives stall at the postgraduate history thesis fair, Examination Schools
  • with Librarians, hosted an MCR viewing of the medieval manuscripts exhibition plus open display and discussion of early printed books (ca 15 attending)
  • Medievalists visiting exhibition, introduction and Q&A with Anna: tutors with students from Harris Manchester, Mansfield, the Education Department, Middlebury CMRS (Keble), Bodleian Conservation department’s preservation volunteers & staff
  • DIY Digitization workshop with Prof Henrike Laehnemann (SEH) for Palaeography, History of the Book, Digital Humanities Method Option MSt (following on from Prof Wakelin’s workshop in 2016)
  • Handling workshop and medieval manuscripts exhibition with Helen Appleton for Balliol 2nd year English students (return visit)
  • Oxford Conservation Consortium staff visiting exhibition (i.e. from the Grove Cottage studio)
  • Oxford Conservation Group visiting exhibition (conservators from Bodleian, Ashmolean, ORO, independents etc.)

Future events

Scheduled so far:

  • Display re Balliol’s WW1 poets and poetry (spring 18) & related talk/event
  • Book launch for Lynda Dennison’s ‘Oxford: All Souls-Lincoln’ volume of An Index of Images in English Manuscripts, from the time of Chaucer to Henry VII, c.1380 – c.1509, series ed. Kathleen Scott (Balliol has the largest section!) (HT18)
  • 3rd Holywell Manor Festival (April 18)
  • Visit from Wolvercote Local History Society (June 18)
  • Open Doors Oxford (Sept 18)
  • Exhibition of Reconstructing Nicholas Crouch project (MT18) & related talk/event
  • Oxfordshire Record Society AGM & visit to exhibition (Sept 18)
  • Loan of Gerard Manley Hopkins material to Campion Hall for display during GMH Symposium (Sept 18)
  • Display of photos and archives for Chalet Trust event (Sept 18)


Anna CPD:

  • Attended Archives Hub training meeting for college archivists (June)
  • Attended ‘Recent conservation and research on the two Winchester Bibles: a day symposium’ at the Weston Library (June)
  • Oxford-Cambridge & Inns of Court archivists’ meeting (July)
  • Chapter on handling special collections material finally appeared in Loffman, Claire, and Harriet Phillips, eds. A Handbook of Editing Early Modern Texts. Routledge, 2017. (July)
  • Visit to Somerville College Library & Archives (August)
  • Attended OCG-OAC-CCL talk by Chris Woods (one of the authors) on BS 4971, the new environmental standard for the conservation and care of archive and library collections (November)
  • Attended talk by Matthew Holford (Bodleian) about the use of TEI (text encoding initiative) for creating electronic catalogues of medieval manuscript books from hard-copy data in print catalogues, based on his experience of projects at the Bodleian and at Christ Church (November).

Balliol student Kai Dowding (Balliol 2017, MSt Medieval Studies) is working with Anna on Friday afternoons in MT-HT for practical archival experience.

More details, more often, on social media:




– Anna Sander, MT 2017 (November)


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