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To Honour a Great and Good Man’ exhibition talk

– 19th September 2017

Martin Luther King









The Friends enjoyed a talk by Professor Brian Ward, who co-curated the ‘To Honour a Great and Good Man’ exhibition. Professor Ward spoke about events surrounding Martin Luther Kin’s visit to Newcastle University to receive an honorary degree on 13th November 1967.

The exhibition is part of Freedom City 2017, the city-wide programme across Newcastle marking the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King receiving an honorary degree at Newcastle University. Visit the Freedom City website for information on planned events.

Drawing on material from the University Archives held in Special Collections at Newcastle University Library, this exhibition tells the story of Dr King’s visit to Newcastle. It looks at what led to his nomination for an honorary degree, the communications and preparations building up to the visit and what happened on the day itself, as well as the aftermath and legacy of Dr King’s visit.

Brian is Professor in American Studies at Northumbria University. Previously, he held the Chair in American Studies at the University of Manchester (2006-2012), served as Head of the Department of History at the University of Florida (2000-2006), and taught at Newcastle University (1991-2000) and Durham University (1990-91). He is currently Chair of the British Association for American Studies. A historian of the US South and the civil rights movement, and a successful published author on the subject, Brian has just published his latest book, Martin Luther King in Newcastle upon Tyne: The African American Freedom Struggle and Race Relations in the North East of England.



Convocation Weekend 2017: Special Collections and Archives Show and Tell

– 17th June 2017

Alumni looking at items from the University Archives at the Show and Tell event

Alumni looking at items from the University Archives at the Show and Tell event

Newcastle University Alumni were invited to join the Friends of the University Library on Saturday 17th June to ‘revisit, rediscover and reconnect’ for Convocation 2017.

Alumni were able to explore some of Newcastle University Special Collection’s rarest and most unique treasures from our achives and rare book collections. They were able to learn about the scandal behind our murderers’ socks, cast their eye over Henry VIII’s seal, and check out how to make ‘mackrowns’ from a 17th century recipe book. Items from the University Archives were also on display including photographs of the campus during the 1960s and issues of the student newspaper, ‘King’s Courier’ from the 1950s.



Every book has its own history: reflections of a collector of children’s books

– 14th June 2017

Brian Alderson in front of part of his book collection at his home

Brian Alderson in front of part of his book collection at his home

The Friends enjoyed a talk by a pionee of children’s literature studies in Britain, Brian Alderson. He showed some of the less usual children’s books and manuscripts in his collection, relating many of them to his career as a writer, translator and editor. This talk accompanies a free exhibition at the Philip Robinson Library which Brian has curated the exhibition, A Lilliputian Miscellany. Other items from his collection were also on display to have a look at.

The exhibition display is designed to show some of the less usual books and manuscripts in his Collection and to relate many of them to Brian’s career as writer, translator, and editor.  What a commingling will be seen as the Brothers Grimm rub shoulders with Charles Kingsley, or a tribute is paid to those Northumbrian figures of Thomas Bewick illustrating Mother Goose’s Melody and Joseph Ritson with his Gammer Gurton’s Garland.

The talk is part of a fascinating sequence of talks as part of the Looking at Children’s Books series. This series of talks are presented by Newcastle University’s Children’s Literature Unit and Philip Robinson Library in association with Seven Stories: National Centre for Children’s Books.

The talk will coincide with an exhibition on Level 2 of the Philip Robinson Library titled ‘A Lilliputian Miscellany’.



The Life of the Collector: Frederick Charles Pybus

– March 2017

Pybus pictured in the operating theatre at the 1st Northern General Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne (Frederick Charles Pybus Archive, FP/1/3/9/1)

Professor Pybus (pictured centre back) in the operating theatre at the 1st Northern General Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne (Frederick Charles Pybus Archive, FP/1/3/9/1)


Newcastle University Library’s Special Collections archivist, Alex Healey, presented a talk on the esteemed surgeon and Emeritus Professor of Surgery at the Medical School at Durham University (now part of Newcastle University), Frederick Charles Pybus (1883-1975). The talk coincided with an exhibition, of the same name, surrounding Pybus and his book collection on Level 2 of the Philip Robinson Library. Pybus is arguably best known for his collection of historic medical books, held by Newcastle University Library Special Collections. However, items from his personal archive reflects his medical career and personal interests, demonstrating that collecting was only one aspect of his personality.

The talk explored how the Frederick Charles Pybus collections was acquired by Newcastle University’s Special Collections, Pybus’ origins and his medical career.

Afterwards, the Friends were invited to view a selection of books from the Frederick Charles Pybus Collection . These included some rare and unique items, including ‘Natural Magick’ by Giambattista della Porta and hand illustrated plates, by Paulo Mascagni (1823), from the ‘Anatomia Universa’.

Explore the Frederick Charles Pybus Collection and Archive at Newcastle University’s Special Collections.



World War I Stories Talk

– February 2017


Captured in Flight Exhibition PosterPromotion Image 1











Our first Friends event of 2017 was two talks in one!

The Friends enjoyed an exhibition talk on 23rd February 2017 by two of our archivisits Rachel Hill and Ruth Sheret, on the two exhibitions which were on display; ‘Captured, In Flight: An Officer and A Private on the Western Front’ (Philip Robinson Library) and “People don’t know about them…” (Marjorie Robinson Library Rooms).

‘Captured, In Flight: An Officer and A Private on the Western Front’ explored the stories of two men who served during World War I through their archives; Lawrence Pattinson, an Officer in the RAF, and Thomas Baker Brown, a Private who was taken prisoner of war in 1918. Read more about the exhibition on the Special Collection blog.

“People don’t know about them…” was created as part of a student project to uncover the stories of our city. The exhibition was curated by Sam Wagner who, as an archaeology student in her final year of study at Newcastle University, uncovered the story of Ruth Nicholson and the women of the Royaumont Military Hospital who did not take no for an answer. The talk was followed by a guided tour of the Marjorie Robinson Rooms to view the exhibition.


Polar exploration in the archives: rediscovering The British North Greenland Expedition (1952-54)

– December 2016


On the 7th December 2016, Dr. Neil Ross, Lecturer in Physical Geography, presented a talk surrounding items in the Greenland Expedition Archive held in Newcastle University’s Special Collections. The archive is nationally significant and documents the first large-scale British expedition and scientific exploration of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The archive captures significant events, achievements (e.g. the crossing of the ice sheet), and logistical challenges of undertaking such a large-scale expedition at a time when polar logistics were inherently difficult and dangerous. It represents a unique day-to-day’ record of a large-scale, but little-documented, Cold-War era British scientific exploration.

Special Collections have recently had the archive fully conserved and digitised through a National Manuscript Conservation Trust grant, allowing new research and interpretation for scholars across disciplines (images of this transformation can be seen below).











Images before and after conservation techniques of a selection of papers from the Greenland Expedition Archive.



Poetry Competition: Flambard Poetry Prize

– November 2016


The Flambard Poetry Prize was set up in recognition of the achievements of Flambard Press and the inspiration of its founders, Margaret and Peter Lewis. Between 1990 and 2012, Flambard Press published an acclaimed range of poetry and fiction and helped ro nurture many emergent and established writers regionally and nationally. It was recognised as one of the finest small independent presses in the UK. When the press closed Margaret and Peter kindly donated the Flambard Press Archive  to the Library and is held in Newcastle University Special Collections.

The Friends of the University Library kindly sponsor the annual Flambard Poetry prize. The first competition launched in Autumn 2014, and is awarded annually to the best group of five poems submitted by a poet who has not yet published a single authored pamphlet or collection.

Each year the Friends have enjoyed a fantastic night of poetry readings in the Culture Lab, by the judges and shortlisted poets.

Congratulations to the previous year’s winners:

2016 poetry reading by first prize winner Bernadette McAloon

2016 poetry reading by first prize winner Bernadette McAloon



First Prize: Bernadette McAloon

Second Prize: Rachel Plummer

Judges: Andrew Forster and Linda France



Poetry reading by first prize winner Jane Lovell

2015 poetry reading by first prize winner Jane Lovell



First Prize: Jane Lovell

Second Prize: Patrick Errington

Judges: Cynthia Fuller and Jacob Polley




2015 first prize winner Alice Allen

2015 first prize winner Alice Allen



First Prize: Alice Allen

Second Prize: Kathleen Bainbridge

Judges: Peter Bennet and Gladys Mary Coles




Paleography Workshop

– August 2016

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On the 23rd August 2016, we held the first in what we hope will become a series of skills workshops. This session was a beginner’s guide to paleography presented by our resident experts Geraldine Hunwick and Sam Petty. The Friends learnt tips and tricks for deciphering a range of handwriting from the 16th – 20th century including getting to grips with non-standardised spelling, archaic letters and obsolete turns of phrase. The Friends then got to test out their knowledge by trying their hand at producing a transcription for a variety of original sources – with some very successful results!

We hope to do more skills workshops in the future, so keep a look out on our ‘Events’ page for what we are offering next.


Rudyard Kipling: The Voice of Britain and its Empire

– March 2016


UntitledOn the 23rd March, the Friends and the Kipling Society enjoyed a talk by
Special Collections staff, Dr Melanie Wood and Sam Petty, surrounding the poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling.

The talk discussed the exhibition ‘Rudyard Kipling: The Voice of Britain and its Empire’, which was on display during the months of January  – April 2016. The talk discussed many aspects of Rudyard Kipling’s life and work to complement the exhibition. It acknowledged the changing levels of popularity and critical reception of his work in relation to the wider political and literary landscapes of his time and beyond. Kipling’s reputation as a writer suffered as the old European empires were broken up and Kipling was seen as the voice of empire but no longer the voice of Britain. His writings, particularly in the                                                                                                               post-colonial age, reflected an uncomfortable reality that many readers and, indeed, educators wished to                                                                                               comfortably forget. However, the labeling of Kipling as a mere imperial apologist ignores both the literary                                                                                                  merit of his work and the changing influences that shaped his attitudes.


 Major Miss Bell

– December 2015


BellOn the 16th December, the Friends enjoyed a talk (complete with festive mince pies and mulled wine) by Emma Short, a Research Associate at Newcastle University’s English Department.

The talk discussed her exhibition ‘Major Miss Bell: Gertrude Bell and the First World War’. Emma looked at many aspects of Gertrude Bell’s life including her upbringing in the sixth richest family in England, her early war work in a hospital, her doomed affair with married Lieutenant Colonel Charles Doughty-Wylie and her contribution to drawing up land boundaries in the Middle-East. Her experiences were brought to life by carefully selected excerpts from her diaries and letters.