Dr Martha Fleming (Programme Director, Centre for Collections Based Research, University of Reading) ‘The Emergence of Disciplines in the Creation of Catalogues and their Re-workings: Sir Hans Sloane’

Hans Sloane (1660-1753) kept a rolling catalogue of his collections over the 70 years of his practice as a collector.  Since that time, the British Museum that he instated through his will has continued to catalogue and recatalogue these materials — for a further 300 years, even as the collections were distributed across the Natural History Museum (1888) and the new British Library (1996).  How can we use these multiple iterations and variants in object descriptions and categorisations of materials to understand not only the history of these collections, but also the knowledge and practice contexts in which they have been used — and indeed the actors who have created them?  It is possible to use catalogues as a tool in epistemologising post-Enlightenment disciplines and creating a structured interdisciplinary context in which to discuss the very notion of disciplines itself.

Monday 23rd February, 5-6.30pm, Museum of English Rural Life

Fleming Sloane

British Museum, manuscript catalogue of miscellanies created by Sir Hans Sloane and his amanuensi, circa 1680-1753. 329 folios, bound: Department of Africa, Oceania & the Americas. Am,CUPBD2/SH.4

Dr Lisa Stead (English & Film, Exeter) ‘Vivien Leigh as Creative Labourer: Archives, Gender and Visibility’

Vivien Leigh has primarily been read as a British star actress – known for her glamour, her renowned beauty and her iconic performances in films like Gone with the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire. Yet the variety of roles she adopted across her career suggests that a different history is yet to be written of her transatlantic creative labour in exchanges across Europe and Hollywood, obscured through an emphasis on her star persona alone. Leigh’s career demonstrates the mobility of women’s creative work across multiple spheres – in Leigh’s case, in theatre, film, fashion, modelling and photography, as war time labourer, celebrity, public figure and financer for stage productions – that cannot be unpacked through a singular disciplinary framework, nor a limiting focus on the female star body.

Focusing on Leigh as a case study, this paper will discuss the ways in which we might better understand histories of women’s creative labour in and around the 20th century film industry through archival research and collaboration, reflecting on the how scattered traces of her labour have been collated and collected within international, national and local museums and archives, in personal collections and online. It will consider how collaborations and interactions with a variety of non-academic partners need to be forged to fully explore the alternative histories of a star figure, making visible the invisible and side-lined acts of labour and concepts of identity forged through different forms of work. At the same time, it will foreground the tensions that exist in the ways in which such labours are valued –by the film industry, by Leigh herself, by archives and museums that hold Leigh materials, and by public audiences in their continuing interest in and consumption of her star image.

Monday 9th February, 1-2.30pm, Henley Business School, G03Vivien_Leigh_still

Dr Daniel Starza Smith (Oxford) ‘The Curious History of the Conway papers’

The Conway Papers were amassed between 1550 and 1700 by a family of statesman, soldiers, authors and collectors, including two secretaries of state – but when the family line expired, the archive was lost to history, apparently destined to suffer the vagaries of damage and dissolution. Thankfully they were rescued from obscurity by Horace Walpole, before passing through the hands of a great many people who weren’t quite sure what they were, or what to do with them. Only in the last twenty years have we been able to examine them and understand them properly. What do the Conway Papers contain? How can we piece them back together? And what research questions still lie among them?

Monday 26th January (week 3), 1.10-2.30pm, Henley Business School, G03

A joint seminar with the Early Modern Research Centre


Dr David Sutton (University of Reading) ‘Diasporic Literary Archives’

Dr Sutton will present an overview and progress report on the Leverhulme Trust International Network ‘Diasporic Literary Archives’


Questions of Location, Ownership and Interpretation

Authors’ papers offer unique insights into the creative process and as such are hugely valuable to the scholarly community, as well as an often treasured archive of national culture. In recent years the destination of individual collections has become a contested topic of international interest. Given that authors migrate, and papers become dispersed among collectors, families, publishing businesses, and in locations in different countries, the diasporic character of literary archives demands serious attention.

Monday 24th November (wk 9) 5-6pm, to be held at the Museum of English Rural Life (with a pop-up exhibition of archive materials)

Dr Innes M. Keighren (Royal Holloway, Geography) ‘Travels in a publisher’s archive: John Murray and nineteenth-century travel publishing’

Monday 27th October (week 5) 5-6pm, to be held at the Museum of English Rural Life (with a pop-up exhibition of archive materials)

In this talk, I present the findings of an AHRC-funded project which investigated the relationship between exploration and publishing in order better to understand how knowledge acquired in the field became, through a series of material and epistemic translations, knowledge on the page. In examining the transformation of travellers’ en route writing in journals and field notebooks into more-or-less polished print, I consider the significant role of editing, revising, and redacting in imposing order and authority on printed works of travel.

The paper considers-with specific reference to accounts of travel in South America, Africa, and the Arctic issued by the leading nineteenth-century publishing house John Murray-how journeys of exploration became published accounts and how travellers sought to demonstrate the faithfulness of their written testimony and to secure their personal credibility.

All welcome!

Professor Daniel Göske, Christian Weiß (Universität Kassel), ‘Inside Narratives: What Archives Tell Us about the Making of World Literature in the 1920s and 1930s’

Marketing international modernism in the 1920s and 1930s was a complex business, not least because of different structures in the publishing world in the U.S., Britain and Europe. Daniel Göske and Christian Weiß will approach this intriguing problem of texts in transit (across borders, literary markets and languages) by looking at some of the often forgotten “middlemen” (and “-women”) of literature: publishers (and their wives), literary agents and, mainly, translators who sometimes acted on their own in making contacts with “their” authors. The focus of the talk will be on the early German reception of, among others, Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence and Aldous Huxley, and it will draw on unpublished material held by Reading’s very special Special Collections.

Wednesday 19th March, 6pm, HumSS 127

All welcome!