Category Archives: Online

Take part in an online training session!

Books!Credo Reference has been a staple of Westminster’s 24/7 Library since the very beginning – before it even bore that name. Known in the past as ‘Xrefer’, it was originally a very limited collection of English reference books, all searchable online, and freely available on the web. It developed – slowly at first, gathering more titles and covering more ground, and was rechristened ‘Xrefer Plus’.

It began to charge a subscription to cover the cost of licensing content, and it was one of the first six of our ‘exclusive resources‘ – subscription sites which are available only to our registered members. From the start it was innovative and offered useful tools such as its Mind Map, which allows you to see and explore the interconnectedness of subjects, and its diverse array of tools, including an incredible crossword solver and a pronunciation guide. It boasted a Google-like search engine which made search results more precisely matched than its competitors, no matter how large the database became.

Years passed, it was taken over by an American company who continued to develop and expand the offering, and changed its name to Credo Reference Online. It is now international in scope, and features 1,120 books on subjects from Agriculture to Technology – all of them full text versions of published books, searchable through a common interface, and each one browse-able entry by entry.

Credo Reference

The sheer breadth and range of content makes the resource valuable to just about anybody, and its search capabilities continue to give it a competitive edge, but recently they have diversified again, adding content that appeals more to a younger demographic – particularly by adding a substantial package of lavishly illustrated Eyewitness titles from children’s information publisher Dorling Kindersley. Other appealing series for younger readers include the Handy Answers series, covering such curriculum topics as Art, Geography, History, Weather, Science, etc; the Teach Yourself collection (40 titles from Algebra to Understanding the Middle East); Visual Guides (5 titles presenting information in short video clips to impart an understanding of the Human Body, the Earth, the Universe, the Environment, and Plants); and Facts at Your Fingertips (16 titles on mainly scientific and technical topics)

In many ways, Credo is so much more than a collection of online reference books: it includes the huge collection of art images that is the Bridgeman Art Library; the Marquis Who’s Who in the World, and the Marquis Who’s Who in America from 1604 to date (complementing the OUP’s Who’s Who and Who Was Who in Britain); and the enormous Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide – an encyclopedia so big that it has never been printed!

Credo has become so complex and so multi-faceted over the years, that presenting it in its true colours has become something of a challenge to those of us who seek to make it appreciated by its target audience.

In an experimental move, the providers of this extraordinary resource will be offering an online presentation to students and parents in an effort to raise its profile and make it more familiar to them, as a resource that can help with school and homework. You can sign up for this session, which will take place tomorrow, Wednesday 20 January, at a family friendly 7.00pm, by emailing Credo at training@credoreference.com with the subject line “Register for 20/1/2016”.

As a reminder, Credo Reference, as with all of the exclusive resources in our 24/7 Library, can be accessed anywhere you have an Internet connection: there’s no password – all you need to enter is the barcode number from your library card.

[Michael]

The Life and Loves of a Victorian Clerk

Today the first week of the diary of ‘Nathaniel Bryceson’ (aka Westminster City Archives volunteer Sheldon Goodman) was published as a podcast, 170 years after it was first written. You can read – or listen to – the diary throughout the coming year at https://victorianclerk.wordpress.com/

Cemetery Club

By Sheldon

The City of London is known for many things. For centuries it has been the epicentre of trade, commerce and finance. To consider that events such as the Great Fire of London happened here are remembered largely due to the efforts of one of its most famous sons: Samuel Pepys.
Pepys, a seventeenth century naval administrator, kept his diary for seven years until poor eyesight and old age prevented him from maintaining further journals. Written in code and chronicling every day events such as watching plays, official business and the occasional tryst, much to the dismay of his wife; it is his account which keeps the embers of that rest conflagration alive to schoolchildren and adults up and down the line.
Pepys wasn’t the only one to keep a diary. Let’s move geographically and relocate to the City of Westminster, to the year of 1846. In Richmond Buildings, in…

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Christmas and New Year opening hours

Merry Christmas from Westminster Libraries & Archives!The libraries and archives are now closed for Christmas, reopening on Tuesday 29 December.

Services will be open at the usual times on 29 and 30 December, closing at 5.00pm on New Year’s Eve Thursday 31 December and reopening as usual from Saturday 2 January 2016.

Of course, while the buildings are closed the 24/7 Library is always open to help you with those Christmas quizzes, find the facts to resolve disputes, help with project homework and provide a soundtrack to the festivities. Borrow an e-book or two, browse through an e-magazine or settle down with an e-audiobook – all free!

We hope you’ve enjoyed the daily goodies from the Advent Calendar, which will remain online until 6 January 2016.

However you celebrate, we wish you all the best this Christmas.

Three hundred and fifty years of history at your fingertips

Quiz time – what’s the oldest British newspaper still being published?

While you’re thinking about it, I will tell you that the oldest surviving paper in the world is  Post-Och Inrikes Tidningar, or ‘Post and Domestic Times’, the official government newspaper of Sweden, founded in 1645. It took 20 years for the British to catch on that this might be a good idea but on 7 November 1665, the London Gazette was born.

The London Gazette was first called the Oxford Gazette, since Charles II and his ministers had wisely left London to avoid the Great Plague. To be honest, the first issue, as described by the diarist Samuel Pepys sounds a bit  dull: ‘very pretty, full of newes, and no folly in it’, but things soon hotted up (literally) when the Gazette returned to London in issue 24, something the journalists may have regretted when they had to cover the ‘sad and lamentable accident of Fire lately happened in the City of London’ in issue 85.

You can read up on the history of the Gazette, and jolly fascinating it is too. But it’s not for news coverage that the paper is best known but as the official journal of record of the British government. It is published daily online and covers such matters as public appointments, military honours, bankruptcy, wills and probate.  This makes it a fascinating source for family history… and just general nosiness! You can search it to see if anyone you know has had an army promotion (see if Great Uncle Ernie’s claim to have become a Major while doing National Service was true), become insolvent or been given an honour. With 350 years of records, it’s a treasure trove for genealogists.

The London Gazette is available free online, but for many newspapers you need a subscription to access their full archives. However, don’t worry – we do that bit so you don’t have to! Just go to our Online Resources page and scroll down to see what we have. Remember to have your Westminster library card with if you are on your home computer as you’ll need it to log in. Most of the titles are self-explanatory but there are some gems you need to hunt for.

ukpressonline is the archive of the Daily Mirror and Daily Express, but the package includes some other oddities you might not have spotted. In the World War II collection (which actually covers the period 1933 – 1945) you can find not just the Express and Mirror but a whole range of other papers too. While we certainly wouldn’t endorse the politics of Blackshirt or Fascist Week, there’s no doubt that they make fascinating reading and shed light on a very dark period of British history. For some political balance, there’s also the (socialist) Daily Worker or if you want to see a different angle, have a look at the (Methodist) Watchman or (Anglican) Church Times.

If your taste runs to the rather more scholarly you might want to look at the International Index to Music Periodicals and International Index to the Performing Arts. Both do what they say on the tin – they are searchable databases of over a thousand  publications covering the full range of music, stage and screen and endlessly fascinating to anyone with an interest in the arts.

But if what you want to do is just read a newspaper, we have LibraryPressDisplay. On the left hand side of the display, pick a country and see what’s available. If you choose the United Kingdom you can browse through the latest issues of over a hundred newspapers and magazines. If you’re more interested in what’s happening on the other side of the Channel, there’s about the same amount of French and German papers though Finland is only represented by 16 titles and Bulgaria a mere five. Whichever part of the world you’re looking for, there’s bound to be a newspaper – there are 25 Lebanese periodicals, all available on the day of publication. So whether you’re researching your travels or feeling a little homesick, have a look and see what you can find. You may even see your own hometown paper.

Happy reading.

[Nicky]

A Controversial Sculptor: Jacob Epstein in Westminster

Looking up in London by Jane PeytonJane Peyton in her book Looking up in London draws the reader’s attention to the often unobserved hidden architectural features above eye-level. I discovered a good example of this recently in Marylebone during a lunchtime walk along Wigmore Street. On the north side of Cavendish Square is Dean’s Mews, which contains a striking statue of the Madonna and Child suspended upon an arch.

Intrigued by this imposing but unlabeled sculpture I did a quick internet search and discovered that the sculptor was Jacob Epstein. This is not the only public piece of sculpture by him within the borough. He was also commissioned in 1908 for the British Medical Association (now Zimbabwe House) building façade 18 large nude sculptures. The architect for this building was Charles Holden who also designed the 1929 London Underground headquarters at 55 Broadway, Holden commissioned Epstein again to decorate this façade with the nude sculptures Day and Night above the entrance. These also stirred up controversy with protestors objecting to the sculpture on moral grounds.

Dean’s Mews, Cavendish Square: Jacob Epstain's Our Lady and the Holy Child

Now owned by The Kings Fund, the Dean’s Mews buildings were formally occupied by the Convent of the Holy Child of Jesus. The sisters had previously occupied cramped accommodation near Marylebone High Street but, needing more space for their teaching activities, they moved here in 1889.

Bombed in the Second World War, the convent commissioned the architect Louis Osman to restore the damaged buildings and also to create the linking bridge across the mews. It was his idea to include a statute of the Madonna and Child “levitating” against the bridge’s façade; the statue to be cast from roofing lead acquired from the bombed building. Osman independently commissioned Jacob Epstein to design the cast for the statue which caused a further artistic controversy.

Our Lady and the Holy Child by Jacob Epstein

This was due to people questioning whether it was appropriate for a Jew (Epstein) to create a Christian image and there were also requested alterations to the statue’s faces. The statue was formally unveiled on 14 May 1953. The Times reported this ceremony – you can read a facsimile in The Times Digital Archive (log in with your library card number). It’s also worth checking out other 24/7 resources for artistic and biographical information on Jacob Epstein, such as the Art & Design section and The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Please note that some of the listed art resources can only be accessed in-house at Westminster Reference Library. You will also need to visit the library if you’d like to consult Richard Cork’s well known biography of the artist.

Jacob Epstein by Richard CorkApart from the sculpture discussed above, other examples of Epstein’s work can be found in the borough at Tate Britain. The gallery includes his famous sculpture “Torso in Metal” [Rock Drill] – seen reproduced on the cover of Richard Cork’s biography, together with several other displayed paintings and drawings.

Jacob Epstein is of course not the only sculptor to create public works of art in London. Rupert Hill’s book Walking London’s Statues and Monuments is one of several guide books for the curious explorer of London’s treasures.

[Francis]

Great Zimbabwe and Black History Month

Copy of Zimbabwe Bird sculptureOne of my great regrets from childhood was that whilst on holiday in Zimbabwe I was too grumpy to go on a journey to visit Great Zimbabwe. Reading through an article from the Encyclopedia of Archaeology on our online resource Credo Reference (log in with your library card number), we learn just how amazing and historically important it is; it describes the site as “possibly the largest settlement in Sub-Saharan Africa”.

  • There are stone towers, steps and many buildings covering a wide area
  • It survived for over 500 years between 900 and 1450 AD
  • It gained its wealth from gathering local gold and other resources, and traded with other distant civilizations as far away as China

When the area was discovered by Europeans, there was a misapprehension that something so complex must have come from another outside ancient civilization (maybe China, India… some even suggesting it was King Solomon’s Mines). For a great many years the site suffered from looting and damage from those who did not place any value on the history of the site. Both these issues the article describes as attempts to strip the indigenous population of their history and archeological heritage. Indeed, acknowledgement of its origin and importance is seen as growing only in 1929/30 with the visit of Gertrude Caton-Thompson, when ideas of its creation by “a vigorous native civilization” were given some credence. It was almost as though many could not believe that the indigenous people could have been “a national organization of a high kind of originality and industry” (as quoted from the Times Digital Archive from 1929).

Fifty years ago, in November 1965, Rhodesia broke away from the UK. The Unilateral Declaration of Independence brought to the fore racial inequality and minority rule in the country. After many years of war, independence was internationally and legally recognized and elections took place involving the whole population. The new country of Zimbabwe took its very name from the houses of stone and the culture which surrounded them. The new currency displayed images of Great Zimbabwe (I loved the image of the stone tower on the Zimbabwean dollar) and the unique artifact known as the Zimbabwe Bird is displayed prominently on the flag. Indeed, the importance of this bird can be seen through the return of several examples of them by the South African government after independence was recognized (perhaps read an article from the time such as this one from the Guardian: Rock of ages, Zimbabwe (4 February 1981).

Flag of Zimbabwe

Sadly there are still a great many problems in the country, but perhaps the history of this ancient civilization can help inspire the creation of a community which can live together for several hundred years, trading with the outside world as did those who lived there all that time ago.

Other lessons must be learnt from what has happened with Great Zimbabwe: the importance of history, seeing past any prejudices/preconceptions and aiming to learn more (including trying to learn from our past), the evils of destroying or stealing archaeological artifacts for short-term gain, there is more to history including black and African History than we hear about on a day-to-day basis… and finally, if you are young and tend to get grumpy don’t let it spoil your chances of seeing/doing something special which you will remember forever!

[Owen]

Hold the front page

Edwin Evans, painted by Princess Mary Eristoff in 1916One of Westminster Music Library’s lesser-known – but, in my opinion, most fascinating – collections is the vast archive of newspaper cuttings which occupies an entire wall of the library’s basement store.

The collection is the handiwork of music critic Edwin Evans, and, alongside his many thousands of music scores and books, it formed the basis of Westminster Music Library (or, as it was then known, Central Music Library) shortly after his death in 1945.

While we refer to the collection as our “newspaper cuttings”, the archive in fact contains much more, and it is no small task to attempt to describe the contents of these hundreds of boxes. There are weighty concert programmes, and beautifully-designed promotional posters advertising many a long-forgotten soloist’s recital at one of London’s finest venues: Wigmore Hall, perhaps, or Cadogan Hall.

There are also, of course, the newspaper cuttings, gathered primarily between the years of 1920 and 1940, and these certainly do make up the bulk of the collection. We have cuttings from the ‘household names’ of the British press, such as the Times, Guardian and Daily Mail, alongside international publications like the New York Times. Regional papers, too, are represented, with the Sheffield Telegraph and Glasgow Herald making not infrequent appearances. It was common practice then for even these local papers to send journalists down to London for all the major events in the music world, for the benefit of their readership who presumably needed to know if it was worth their time and money making the trip to see Covent Garden’s newest production. Finally, we have thousands of cuttings from newspapers which have sadly not survived into the 21st century. The Pall Mall Gazette (an ancestor of today’s Evening Standard), Morning Post and Daily Chronicle will be unfamiliar to many, but are preserved in great quantity in our newspaper cuttings collection.

Sample from Westminster Music Library's newspaper cuttings collection

The articles saved from these newspapers vary in subject, but can be broadly divided into: Concert reviews, Concert announcements, Book reviews, Academic writings, and Obituaries. There are many exceptions to this rule, however, and the only real way to get a sense of what’s contained is to spend an hour or two rummaging. The time is well spent, though: one marvels at the care taken by one man to collect and then individually ‘process’ these thousands of items. Each cutting would be mounted on a piece of blotting paper, with the provenance (the name of the paper and the date of publication) lightly pencilled above, and only then would it be filed away under its relevant category.

Westminster Music Library's newspaper cuttings collection

Mr Evans’ filing system was a simple one (he was an avid collector, but never a librarian!), but is generally fit for purpose. The vast majority of folders simply have a name written on them, and the folder will contain all the relevant cuttings for that person. For most enquiries, this is perfectly adequate: someone wishing to research Puccini’s Madame Butterfly could simply turn to the ‘Puccini’ folder and begin browsing. The difficulty lies in more specific enquiries. A researcher wanting to read press opinions on the Royal Opera House’s 1922 production of Madame Butterfly would draw a blank hunting through the ‘Puccini’ folder; likewise, ‘Royal Opera House’ would yield no results. Only with the knowledge that a Miss Maggie Teyte sang the title role in this production would the researcher find what they were looking for. Turn to the ‘Maggie Teyte’ folder, and there are no fewer than seven independent reviews of the opening night of this particular production.

Difficulties in locating relevant material in part contribute to our desire to digitise the entire collection. Our vision is for a fully searchable online archive, whereby users could locate relevant cuttings by simply searching for key words; so, in the example above, not only would ‘Maggie Teyte’ bring up the required information, but so would ‘Puccini’, ‘Madame Butterfly’, ‘Royal Opera House’, ‘Covent Garden’… and the list goes on! The advantages of this system are endless, and it is our hope that a digitised collection will allow much easier access to our incredibly valuable archive of information. The collection is staggering in size and detail, and to make it more easily searchable and accessible to users would be an achievement of endless potential for researchers and musicians.

Westminster Music Library's newspaper cuttings collection

The ambitiousness of this project must not be underestimated. We cannot tell exactly how many items are contained in this collection, but a simple calculation would suggest:

95 boxes of approximately 460 items each = roughly 43,700 items

The sheer size of this collection is staggering, especially given that this represents only twenty years of press. Evans ceased collecting around 1940, and my theory is that the outbreak of World War II and its subsequent paper rationing had much to do with his decision to stop. Not only did the volume of papers being published fall dramatically, but hoarding of paper would not have been viewed favourably in light of the war effort. The prospect of how large this collection would be had it been continued after the War is tantalising, but it was not to be – Evans died in 1945, just two months short of VE Day.

We are in very early stages of the digitising process, and my task for the next few months is that of data gathering. To be sure that our collection has sufficiently relevant and interesting cuttings, I have been compiling a list of every “subject” – that is, every folder title which Edwin Evans used to store cuttings referring to the same person. These folders contain a minimum of one cutting each (my all-time favourite horn player, Aubrey Brain, has just one cutting in his folder), although most contain around ten, and some, like the folder for ‘the Bach Choir’, contain upwards of a hundred individual items. With these subjects I have also been recording basic pieces of information: whether the subject is a Performer, Composer, or ‘Other’ (these can be anything from festivals to librettists); the subject’s gender; if a Performer, the subject’s instrument; and, significantly, if the subject has their own entry in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

There is a long way to go in this data gathering process, but readers may perhaps be interested in some statistics gathered so far:

  • A significant majority (66%) of subjects are Performers. Of these Performers,
  • 34% are singers
  • 31% are pianists
  • 19% are string players
  • 8% are conductors
  • 6% are ensembles
  • Just 5% are wind players of any sort!
  • Composers represent 29% of subjects, while “Others” come in at just 5%.
  • 62% of all entries are Male, 31% Female (the remaining 7% accounts for non-individuals such as ensembles and festivals)
  • 40% of all subjects are featured in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Westminster Music Library's newspaper cuttings collectionTo a researcher in music, this last point is an exciting prospect. It indicates that 60% of the subjects included in our collection are in all likelihood under-represented in terms of source material for research. Greater accessibility of our cuttings through digitising would therefore be a massive, and certainly unique, contribution to the further study of these individuals.

Our project is in its very early stages, but we are excited to be investigating this fascinating resource. All our press cuttings are available for reference to our library customers, so don’t wait until they’re available digitally – please visit Westminster Music Library and we’ll be happy to give you access to this amazing collection.

[Jon]