– 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.

Posts tagged “#askarchivists

Digital images of medieval manuscripts

What an encouraging tweet exchange this morning:

Daniel Wakelin @DanielWakelin1
@balliolarchives Balliol’s energetic use of Flickr was one of our inspirations to experiment with this medium for ‪#‎DIYdigitization‬ @BDLSS.

Balliol Archivist ‏@balliolarchives
@DanielWakelin1 @BDLSS WOW. That has made my day.

Daniel Wakelin ‏@DanielWakelin1
@balliolarchives Truly. Your ‘roll up my sleeves and get on with it’ process of #DIYdigitization. @BDLSS may want to interview you about it.

Balliol Archivist ‏@balliolarchives
@DanielWakelin1 @BDLSS Always happy to talk about opening access to manuscripts 😀

YES. Big grants are great but one person with one camera can get a lot done even in an hour or two here and there (my photography has to fit in along with all the rest of the job) and make a real difference – and, it seems, not just to the individual researchers who request particular images but to institutional policy and approaches to openness of access. Lovely to find my hunch (gut feeling/considered professional opinion) is turning out to be correct. Keep on clicking!


Q&A: the Register

When using the Balliol College Register images online, I am confused by sets of usually 3 initials in parentheses, following the Balliol years in the education section of many entries. What do they mean?

Initials in parentheses are those of that student’s Balliol tutor(s). You can find a list of tutors’ initials just before the Index, and then use the Index to find that tutor’s own entry.

College Register 2nd edition 1833-1933

College Register 3rd edition 1900-1950


a query

How can I access a copy of George F. Kennan’s Reith Lecture of 1957? Many thanks.

Thank you for your enquiry re Reith lectures of GF Kennan (George Eastman Professor at Balliol College 1957/8). If you Google ‘kennan reith lectures’ you will see that the BBC has made audio and full transcripts available online.


Family History enquiries

Looking for information about an individual who may have been a member of Balliol College? Here’s how:famhistenqs3
(1) Balliol biographical research resources – see also the University Archives’ helpful links to several of the same sources.

(2) AE Emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to AD 1500 (3 vols, 1957) and a supplementary volume 1501 to 1540 (1974). (Print resource only)

(3) Joseph Foster, Alumni Oxonienses 1514-1700 and 1700-1886

(4) Oxford University Archives

(5) Oxford University Calendar and the Oxford University Degrees Office

(6) Oxford Archivists’ Consortium (OAC) – contact details for all college archives and other local resources

(7) Balliol Archivist


Open Days this weekend!

ohct

Balliol College’s Historic Collections Centre at St Cross Church, Holywell

will be open to the public as part of Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust Ride & Stride

Saturday 13 September 2014 12-4 pm

and

opt

Oxford Open Doors (Oxford Preservation Trust in partnership with the University of Oxford)

Saturday & Sunday 13-14 September, 12-4pm both days

There will be an exhibition in the church about the Balliol Boys’ Club and the First World War – more information on p.31

These events are of course FREE!

Ride & Stride participants, please note that the church will not be open during the whole official event time of 10am – 6pm – please come and visit us between 12-4pm.

Directions: http://archives.balliol.ox.ac.uk/Services/visit.asp#f


reading closely

tcd1An interesting enquiry from last year, demonstrating that the internet is a brilliant research tool, but that like any source it needs careful interpretation, and that not all immediately available information is correct or complete.

The enquirer requests information on William Hussey 1867-1939, son of Thomas Hussey of Kensington, stating that the images sent with the enquiry, of a Ladies’ Challenge Cup medal,  clearly show that WH rowed for Balliol when they won that particular race in 1891.

The enquirer has probably searched for something like ‘ladies challenge cup 1891’ and found the Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ladies’_Challenge_Plate for the Henley Regatta’s Ladies’ Challenge Plate race, won by a Balliol crew in 1891, and concluded that Hussey must have been part of this crew.

In fact the medal shows nothing of the kind, and a closer look reveals quite a different story.

First I checked whether William Hussey had indeed been a member of Balliol – the college registers are not 100% infallible, but they are pretty good. No result, so back to the medal for other clues. A little more scratching around online revealed several things that didn’t add up to support the Henley & Balliol assumption:

  • Date: Henley is always held over the first weekend in July, but 1 July 1891 was a Wednesday. (thanks Time and Date!)tcd2
  • Race name: the Ladies’ Challenge Plate race at Henley has never been known as the Ladies’ Challenge Cup – it is the only Henley trophy that isn’t the Something Cup.
  • Winner name: the LCP is an Eights race, not an individual one, so even if each member of the winning Eight had a commemorative medal, it would not be inscribed ‘won by [any single name]’. Cf. Henley commemorative medals at http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/18783/lot/59/, a particularly nice find after searching for images of the LCP medals for visual comparison.
  • Double-checking with another source – even supposing everything else was somehow wrong, we have a photograph of the Balliol Eight that did win the LCP in 1891; the rowers were: Rofe, Rawstone, Darbishire, Mountmorres, Fielding, T Rogers, Farmer, F Rogers, cox Craig-Sellar. Not surprisingly, no Hussey.

So if it was not at all connected with the Henley Royal Regatta or Balliol’s win there in 1891, what is this medal? Balliol-based evidence stops here, but ‘we have no further information about this’ seemed a bit abrupt when most of what I had already found out was from non-Balliol sources anyway. Besides, by this time I wanted an answer to the puzzle, if I could find one!

Look at it again – the intertwined letters on the medal look like T C D, in a distinctively Irish style, and Trinity College Dublin’s Regatta does include a Ladies’ Challenge Cup race. But to check up further, one might try looking at the club’s own site: http://www.tcdlife.ie/clubs/boat/archive.php. The answer is probably in Raymond Blake’s book, In Black and White: A History of Rowing at Trinity
College Dublin
. My research ends here; I can’t spend any more time on this enquiry, and the answer won’t add to knowledge of the Balliol archives.

And there are still questions: why should the medal read TCD when TCD’s boat club has been known as the Dublin University Boat Club since 1847? Is the DUBC (TCD) Ladies’ Challenge Cup race rowed by singles or eights? Is there any evidence at all that this is a rowing medal?

It’s rare that answers to archival enquiries are either complete or absolute – often, the best we can hope for is to add another interesting piece to the puzzle, or point in another direction.


Q&A: time, gentlemen, please

Q: Another good question from @RussWrites to #AskACurator: Do you get annoyed if people don’t want to leave the museum [or archive, or library] on time at the end of the day or is it a compliment?

A: I’m always glad to hear that researchers have had a good day, but it really is important to plan the day’s work, keep an eye on the time, and pack up promptly when advertised reader hours are coming to an end. I hate having to hurry people or sound like a jobsworth, but I’m not paid to stay late and I can’t just take time tomorrow or some other day, because other researchers will be turning up on time. I can’t very well take a hint from this post’s title and invest in a handbell – ridiculous for a room occupied by only a few people.

The fact is, many archives, and small and/or specialist libraries, only have one or perhaps two (or one and a half)  members of staff – who are trying to do a full day’s work of their own as well as invigilating and assisting researchers. There’s no leeway; there’s no faceless institutional system that automatically takes care of these things.  If a researcher stays ‘just another fifteen minutes’ to finish what he or she is doing, somebody is probably going to miss a train. Be aware that staff hours are often longer at both ends of the day than the advertised reader hours. Especially in small repositories, it comes down to individual courtesy.

P.S. Any researcher hoping for an enthusiastic audience is advised to avoid starting a detailed description of the day’s discoveries just before closing time! Archivists tend to love their work, and many put in unpaid hours to assist researchers and get the job done as they want it to be – but they don’t live there.

I shall finish what seems a rather negative post by saying that most researchers in person are efficient, courteous, interesting and a pleasure to work with!

P.P.S. Best response from the Twitter discussion from @Rupriikki: ‘Nice one! We are of course very flattered! (…And politely trying to go home at the same time.) They can revisit!’