DMU Rugby Varsity!

De Montfort University Rugby Varsity

This evening the De Montfort University Rugby teams take on the University of Leicester’s in the last events of the annual Varsity games!

Faces shall be sufficiently planted into the mud at the famous Tiger’s Stadium! Good luck to both our Women’s and Men’s teams!!!

Looking back through some of De Montfort’s predecessor student magazines we came across the Men’s XV from 70 years ago. These smiling bruisers are noted for playing a full game on a flooded pitch on Vicky Park against the Leicester Thursday team resulting in a “very slippery, muddy game.”

Details of tonight’s fixtures can be found by following this link.

#LoveInternational March 2017

In anticipation of DMU’s latest #Loveinternational event scheduled for tomorrow, we thought we would show our support by highlighting how DMU and its predecessors has always had an international outlook that actively promotes tolerance and compassion.

On this day in 1980, the Leicester Mercury reported on how DMU and its students  took action to help refugees:

Tomorrow’s event will feature the unveiling of an installation created by art graduate, Marcus Dove, in the Vijay Patel Building. This will be followed by a speech from the Vice Chancellor, Dominic Shellard who will then lead a march to Welford Road for the inaugural men’s and women’s rugby fixtures.

Keep supporting #Loveinternational

Goodbye and Good Luck, Miten

Today is our volunteer, Miten’s, last day in the DMU archive.

Soon to start as a Trainee Digital Archivist at the Bodleian Library, Oxford we wish him lots of luck and success. Your work and commitment to the Andrew Davies Archive has been invaluable. We thank you very very much.

We will miss your sanguine approach to everything. Keep in touch!


International Women’s Day 2017

Today is International Women’s Day and as a way of showing our support for the campaign to make a more inclusive gender equal world we wanted to showcase one of our collections that we felt reflects this year’s theme #Beboldforchange: the Papers of Bryony Lavery.

Feminist playwright, Bryony Lavery was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Arts from DMU in 1998 and she donated her papers to the archive in 2011. Associated with feminist and socialist theatre groups such as Monstrous Regiment and  The Women’s Theatre Group she has also been artistic director for Gay Sweatshop and Female Trouble.

Lavery was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, in 1947. To date, she has written over 60 plays, many of which have all-female casts and include feminist and queer themes. Some of her most well-known works include Origin of the Species (1984), Peter Pan (1991), and Frozen (1998). The latter won the TMA Best Play Award and was nominated for 4 Tony Awards when it appeared on Broadway.

Much of Lavery’s work can be considered from an adaptation perspective as she draws on historical events and well-known literary works and films for inspiration and as a means of challenging patriarchal and gender norms in narratives as well as in real life.

Examples include,Witchcraze (1985) , a masked play with only three actors that charts the history of witches and witchcraft across the centuries, encouraging us to consider how women who do not conform become societies’ scapegoats or “witches”:


Her Aching Heart (1992), a Gothic lesbian romance and pastiche of the Mills & Boon genre:

and Ophelia (1996), a retelling of Hamlet from the perspective of its traditionally tragic heroine:

The collection includes a diverse range of materials, including play scripts, sound recordings, reviews, playbills, proposals for radio and television dramas, and project files. As well as writing fictional works, Lavery has also been involved in many other creative projects, producing educational sketches and courses that raise awareness about gender issues and promote gender equality. Materials in the collection that refelct this work include drafts of plays and workbooks on family planning, ‘Developing Women Managers’, challenging the glass-ceiling, and sexual harassment in the work place.

Bringing humour and wit to some serious and challenging issues Lavery’s creative take invites us all to “be bold” and to strive for change to accelerate gender parity.

This has to be one of my favourite collections in the archive!

Happy Birthday DMU

To celebrate DMU’s 147th birthday this week we thought we would dig out some material that would shed some light on how the institution first came into being.

On 1st March 1870, DMU, then known as Leicester School of Art, was officially opened to students. The foundation of the School had been driven by Leicester citizens and local societies, including the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society with the desire to create educational and trade opportunities for local men and women. The Art School Committee selected Wilmott Pilsbury, a landscape painter who had exhibited at leading London galleries from the 1860s, to be the first Principal.


Classes were initially based at 2 Pocklington’s Walk, in a disused warehouse. This area of Leicester is now associated with legal proceedings and chancery as the street is now home to the Magistrates Court, the Registry Office, and a number of solicitors’ offices. While substantial work had to be carried out to make the building a suitable teaching space, it became clear early on that the premises were unsuitable in terms of lighting and ventilation and the School was soon re-located to a site adjoining New Walk Museum in 1877.



What we do have from the early days of the School however are the first annual reports and student registers providing an exciting window into the evolution of the institution and the lives of its students.













The first annual report prepared in April 1871 details the foundation of the school, its location, and the achievement of finally getting the School up and running where previous efforts had failed. It states that 269 students attended the School of Art in the first year which according to national tables at the time meant ‘it already ranks amongst the largest Art Schools in the Kingdom’ (pg, 5). At a meeting of the national examiners from the Department of Art and Science the work of the students was highly commended: ‘the works from Leicester were numerous, and evinced promise as the product of a first year of instruction’ (pg 7)


The registers, organised alphabetically, list students by surname and includes their age, date of entry, and occupation.


Here I have chosen, at random the first page of ‘B’ entries but like all the pages in the register the document is a real testament to the diverse range of students who attended the school. The list below are some examples of the entries taken from the page above:

Lawrence Banfield, age 22, 1870, Teacher

W Broadhead, age 29, 1875, Photo Colourist

Arthur Brown, age 12, 1877, Ironmonger (father’s profession)

Violet Baker, age 11, 1878, Clergy (father’s profession)

Aubrey Bright, 16, 1879, Architect’s Assistant

Mrs Isabella Blunt, age 31, 1879, None

Janet Barclay, age 18, 1879, Physician (father’s profession)
As well as attracting a diverse range of students from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances DMU’s courses have always fostered strong links with industry and employability and public enthusiasm for the School can be found in an anonymous letter, signed ‘A Lover of Art’, published in the Leicester Chronicle and Mercury where the author describes the benefits of art education for not only the individual apprentice but for wider society:

“There is no doubt it would improve [the apprentice’s] habits, and perhaps reveal latent talent… None could be more interested than manufacturers in the increase in taste and ability in their employees; indeed it is on these elements in a great measure that the prosperity of our country and trade must depend…”

Leicester Chronicle and Mercury Saturday February 26th, 1870. pg 7.

In a time when the importance of art and art funding appears precarious, a reminder of DMU’s continuing role and its founding principles and aspirations is a timely reminder of the cultural, economic and global value of art and education in industry.

Museum and Exhibition Design Student Seminar

Last week Special Collections held a seminar for MA students taking a module in Museum and Exhibition Design. The purpose of the seminar was to examine the preservation requirements of historic objects and how these requirements might affect exhibition design.

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Preservation refers to preventative measures taken to halt the deterioration of historical objects and extend their life, slowing down natural decay. Each artefact or document has unique needs so the measures taken to protect a glass vase would be different to those needed for a vellum manuscript.

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Major threats to historical items are:

  • Poor handling and storage
  • Vandalism or theft
  • Fire and flood
  • Pests (insects, rodents, birds)
  • Environment (pollution, light, temperature, humidity)

After discussing the threats and seeing some examples of damage caused by pests, mishandling or poor storage, the students were invited to examine eight items chosen from DMU’s Special Collections. For each object the students were asked to consider what preservation requirements the item had and what special measures they might take when using the item in a display.

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There was a great deal of lively discussion and the opportunity to practice handling fragile items. After everyone had the opportunity to look at all the items we reconvened and discussed the needs of each one, with suggestions as to how they could be displayed. Particularly challenging were items with an element of interaction, such as this ‘slipping slide’ which needs to be moved to be appreciated. Ideas included making a video, replicating the item itself, or constructing a display case with protruding levers that visitors could use to manipulate the item.

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The Special Collections team is responsible for two display cabinets in the Library and are happy to work with any student who would like to gain some exhibition design experience. Please contact us on