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Visit our new exhibition exploring QMUL’s archive collections through some of our favourite photographs, cartoons and illustrations.

21 September 2018

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Sketch by James Smetham showing him addressing William Davies and others, 1855 (Ref. JS/1/18)

Archival collections are not typically highly visual, often comprising of text based content. However, by focusing our attention on photographs, sketches and plans, we are inspired to journey back into the story which gives the image meaning.

In our new exhibition we have arranged a selection of material from the full array of our archival collections. This includes the core institutional records of Queen Mary University of London, from its origins in Westfield College and the People’s Palace, as well as a sample of our personal paper collections. Furthermore, we have included a sample of material from our rare book collections – these may be found on the library catalogue, but due to their rarity value are accessed by emailing archives to arrange an appointment in the Archives Reading Room.

Highlights of the exhibition include photographs from the history of Queen Mary and Westfield Colleges, such as students meeting Queen Mary of Teck, staff and student protests in the 1970s and 1980s, and our personal favourite, Westfield College Student Union adopting its mascot, Honeysuckle the penguin, at London Zoo in 1995.

Also included are three beautifully illustrated rare books from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, covering the topics of plant anatomy, James Cook’s voyages around the world and African geography. The latter, L’Afrique by Nicolas Sanson d’Abbeville, contains a number of detailed maps of African countries dating from the 1650s.

The exhibition also contains items from the Archive’s collections of personal papers. This includes the papers of the Lyttelton family, a British aristocratic and military family. Their papers give us an insight into various issues from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, ranging from the British in India to early experiences of using the telephone.

The papers of three artists have also been selected for their visual appeal. This includes sketches by James Smetham (1821-1889), a Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood painter, contained in letters to his friend William Davies. There are also prints of paintings by John Martin (1789-1854), best known for his epic religious scenes.

A selection of items have also been included from one of the Archive’s newest acquisitions, the papers of performance artist Ian Hinchliffe (1942-2010). The papers for his 1998 retrospective exhibition ‘Estate’ at Beaconsfield Gallery give a 360 degree view of the creative practice, from background sketches and exhibition publicity, to photographs of the performance/exhibition in progress.

We hope you enjoy exploring some of these stories from Queen Mary’s Archive. The exhibition can be found on the second floor of Mile End Library, outside the Archives Reading Room. If you are an external visitor please email us in advance on so that we can inform the Library Welcome Desk.



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