Building a Better World Creative Residency-Student Statements

The Building a Better World Creative Residency, has artist in residence Stefan Szczelkun at the fore, creator of the Working Press Archive. The residency is to explore the Working Press archive, books by and about working class artists, 1986-1996, and respond to the collection artistically. The Working Press, which contains correspondence, conference material, publicity, the published book collection (some annotated) and pamphlets and zines collected by Stefan, looks at  difficulties of marginalized groups being published, funding difficulties, and intersectionalities between class, gender, race, nationality and disability. The archive also questions what class actually is-what makes someone working class?

You can find an introduction to the archive is here

Below are examples of some student statements. Interviews from Susan and Tom are available here
Tom Ridgway, BA photography,Year1, inspired by a leaflet related to disability representation. In Class, Culture and Identity conference file
Archive Project : Mail Art asking for an image from childhood to subject
s to gain access to their stories and build an exhibiton.
Poor Dear [leaflet relating to disability],  a leaflet in the working press archive (WPA) was the trigger for my idea. Which developed through looking at reports about the͞
Life Beyond The Label exhibition (Colchester castle 2007-8) [looking at disability representation] into my exhibition of how we choose to represent our own identity by looking at childhood memories and upbringing, provided by people in response to a mail art request to a shortquestionnaire. This collection that I have gathered results into a display of prints with text as well as the combination of a book including documents and information gathered and collected from the subjects. The WPA is a truly amazing collection and has really inspired me with my own work. The extent and broad paths that things can be gathered from is mesmerising and it truly has confirmed the path I want to follow as my career [Archivist].
Susan Merrick, MA Fine Art. Using the annotated Conspiracy of Good Taste book, and inspired by the themes of identity, language and power

During this residency I am responding to the Working Press archive as a whole. The substance of the archive is for me as important as the premise for it. I am considering some of the themes and issues raised by the artists who worked with and were represented by the Press and how we see these themes and issues today over twenty years later.

The main themes I am considering are Identity, Language and Power and the mediums I am choosing to use are photography and location specific performances.

Initially I am using a Facebook blog and Instagram to disseminate my photographs and my thoughts on the themes. I have created a gif for The Conspiracy of Good Taste and I am sending out two pieces of mail art as a live exhibition and will also show the pieces that I receive in return as part of the exhibition. I will also be using one of the photographs from my blog to create a life size cut out of myself as an installation piece reflecting the culmination of my residency. This piece will be used for the exhibition but I would also like to place it in some significant locations (probably in London) and photograph these. This will be a continuing work for me.

Reactivating the Working Press archives has in turn reactivated my own sense of identity and my acknowledgment of being a working class woman artist. There is much to discuss on the issue of class; relevance, fluidity, identification or stigma, limitations and freedom. But as any artist (in my opinion) needs to consider their own perceptions and where these come from, owning your own identity is a huge part of this. Twenty years on the Working Press has a great deal to offer artistically, academically and historically and the considerations of the writers in this Press need to be disseminated much further, especially in relation to Building a Better World.

Iana Mizguina, Photography , inspired by a pamphlet, Random Access Memory Raids
My project is based on working with a ‘Random Access Memory Raids’ pamphlet found in Working Press archive. This is an agitational left wing booklet made by Conscious Collective in early 90s. My work would contain quotes and phrases from this pamphlet, as I find most of the messages still relevant nowadays. Text will be used as a part of collage, that will also include random screenshots made on my phone. Final images will be modified in Photoshop and replicate visual content that can be seen on any mobile phone screen. Images will be disturbed by certain phrases from the booklet, replacing original meaning with another. Final stream of images will be displayed as a digital slideshow and represent the on going search for truth. Also work will include QR code taking viewers to a link where images can be seen and possibly edited
Catinca Malaimare, Fine Art, inspired by Class, Myths and Culture book (published by Working Press)
In the work produced in response to the Working Press Archive I am referencing the illusion of glamour and the self-scrutiny it attracts as presented in 52 Glamour Cards (Class, Myths and Culture). Glamour is a form of visual persuasion, it is cultural and thus,
deceptive. Glamour, as visual activity, forces the eye into a compliant gaze constructed by repetition and the absence of it leaves the eye without purpose, forced into chaotic repetition.

Katharina Becker, Photography, inspired by Postcards from Poland

(published by Working Press)

Response to: Postcards from Poland by MARIA JASTRZEBSKA and JOLA SCINCINSKA


Your visual/conceptual strategy: Combining some bits of the text from the book ‘Postcards from Poland’ with images of Palestine and the current situation of occupation. Uncommented comparison between the two, how the texts strangely fits with the situation in Palestine (images). -> Text and Image

Display and dissemination strategy: Haven’t really decided on a way of presentation, I still have to experiment with different presentation types. I might print the images as postcards and put bits of the text on the back. I would also find it interesting to hear someone reading the text.

Your impressions, opinion and reaction to the Working Press Archive: I have never worked with an archive before, so it was very interesting for me to look through all the documents and to get access to a lot of different stories and opinions. It is a very sensitive and considered way of working. Making something new with something that is already there and to respond to it. Combining different opinions and perspectives.  Especially the book ‘Postcards from Poland’ which I am referring to in my project, really inspired me in many ways. It reminded me of my own family history and made me also think of the current situation in Palestine. It will be interesting to see how everyone activated or responded to the Working Press Archive. And the fact that it will grow even more through this workshop is amazing.

Yomi, Illustration

Posters from the anticopyright Flyposter book from the archives, which I used as a visual resource,inspires the image on the t-shirts.

When I was working on Creative Writing for my illustration I was looking a
t different film genres with the visual scenery from Classic film from the 1950s.
People may assume the solder is a man but I have used a silhouette, which could be
any gender or nationality.The solitary word “story” invites the viewer to decide what the image actually means.
Annie and Elodie, Photography
Inspired from records from the Class, Culture and Identity conference, related to middle class, working class mothers, they produced a performance piece, related to multiple identities
 Rebekah Taylor, Archivist & Special Collections Officer

Research Data, Records and Archives: Breaking the Boundaries

This event took place in the Playfair Library in Edinburgh, and was a workshop to discuss the challenge of managing research data in relation to records management and archives.

Key themes emerging from that day were that collaboration is needed regarding retention of records – what to keep, how long for, and preservation/sustainability of the documents.

The day started with Kevin Ashley from the Digital Curation Centre talking about the history of data curation, definitions, and the work of the DLM forum – (document lifecycle management)

The next part of the day looked at disciplines dealing with research data – record management, archives and research data management.


Playfair Library

Record management perspective

In the record management perspective they looked at relating research data to different record models – for example the record lifecycle vs the record continuum, which looks at how records have multiple uses at different times, and do not serve one purpose at one time. Questions were asked around governance – what is it, should we have it?, what legislative funding is attached to it? Can we/should we provide access to it, practical can we cope with it? How do we preserve it? How do we process it? How do we mediate/ensure appropriate access to it?

Useful links

The archives perspective – research data – University of Edinburgh-Rachel Hosker, Manager of Archives & Library Collections

 This looked at issues and barriers regarding collaboration, including communication and language – for example different people have different definitions for data and archives. It’s also interesting to look at areas such as ownership of research data – which department does it fall under? Library? IT?

In terms of managing research data we also need to look at archival processes in terms of appraisal. Do we have appropriate methodology that deals with large data sets, particularly in terms of digital records?

Perceptions of archives – do people associate research data with archives? The collections we have at UCA include research data – including artists work, so research data will actually become archives. There is in fact an appetite for the reuse of research data – looking at the notes, process of the mind in motion

They gave two case studies regarding appraisal, including the Roslin Institute Archive, and the Duncan Campbell archive. For the Roslin archive they took 10% example of data from the collection to be permanently preserved. It was unlikely that the whole data would be taken together in entirety

In light of looking at archives as datasets, they are revisiting their physical collections and seeing how they could be promoted/approached in terms of datasets

Research data perspective – Stuart Lewis, University of Edinburgh

 They look after phds, researchers. Records are housed in a Data Vault funded by JISC. Data management challenges including funding, academic engagement, improving practices. They work with archivists regarding what to keep

 Case studies

Victoria Cramma – London School of Hygiene

She manages Research Data which is based in the archives service, based in the library. A research data management service was funded in 2012- 3 year project, then permanent

Issues raised include lack of communication between the two professions of archivists and research data management.

It was noted that archivists can help with provenance and metadata. A knowledge exchange was held.

The importance of archiving research data to the institution was noted

Ian Deary Professor of Psychology University of Edinburgh

This talk looked at reusing historical data

Shorter talks were ‘filling the digital preservation gap’ at York University, looking at utilizing archivematica for research data

Adrian Stevenson talked about Archives Hub and Research Data, Rebecca Grant from the Digital Repository of Ireland on the Research Data Alliance, and Laura Molloy working with artists work

A very enjoyable and illuminating day!

Rebekah Taylor, Archivist & Special Collections Officer

Re-thinking the Body: New work inspired by UCA’s archive- Artist Statements

Re-thinking The Body
New work inspired by UCA’s archive
November – December 2015
Elaine Thomas Library

Re-thinking the Body aims to explore different ways in which disability has been represented and (mis)understood in society and culture.

Kim Cruickshank-Inns, BA Three Dimensional Design ‘Welcome’

Are we losing sight of our more sentient human qualities? Many people are currently forced into seeking asylum from war zones. Historically asylums were places people deemed mentally ill were confined away from society. Benches and tables are spaces where we can choose to spend time alone or share communally, often with strangers. Both can be commemorative, their placement being carefully selected.  We all need a small exterior corner of the universe to feel safe in, even though the physical location may not be of our choosing.  Feeling safe internally depends on individual psychological and emotional resilience. It is not only the place and how we feel, but the attitude of others that makes for safety and security.

Kim Cruickshank-Inns work 'Welcome'

Kim Cruickshank-Inns work ‘Welcome’

Joslyn Hobbis, BA Fine Art ‘Different, Not Less’  

H57cm x W167cm digital print on paper

My work was inspired by my experiences of interacting with people with invisible disabilities, as well as those with more obvious ones.  I wanted to show how at any given time you may be interacting with any number of people who have a disability and sometimes you not be aware of it.   Some people may have an intellectual disability, a medical issue which is not immediately apparent, Autism, or a mental illness as well as many different kinds of more obvious disabilities.  All are worthy of inclusion in society and we should help those with difficulties to be a part of our world as well as strive to be a part of theirs.

People who are different are just that – different – not less.

Setting up exhibition 31

Alli Inwards, BA Illustration ‘Origins’

Mixed Media (thread drawing on foam board, collage, acrylic, corkboard support)

Articles with titles such as ‘Lesbian erotica on show – By Women for women’ and dated dot matrix style printed documents referencing Sylvia Pankhurst’s socialist activity were in the archival box that provided inspiration for ‘Origins’. Borrowing from ‘L’origines du monde’ (Courbet), this illustration is by a woman primarily for the female gaze. Copies of archive material are juxtaposed with other historical and contemporary references around the focal point of a vagina.

The principal goal with this image is to arrest the viewer, to start a conversation – it is not intended to be a piece of wall decoration. The conversation is as much about Illustration and the role it has to play within the body of a largely fine art dominated world, as it is about women – especially women within the male controlled media and art world. It is unashamedly feminist; it is not misandry.

Imperfections and the ‘unpolished’ nature of the work are intentional and a reaction against the unrealistic, airbrushed versions of perfection that relentlessly present themselves to females of all ages in magazines, digital media, ads, even in selfies and profile photos. Related to this is awareness that the postmodern era of art may be giving way to a new ‘ism’ grounded in authenticity. What will this mean for women as individual, as a collective, as artist and as subject?

and what could it mean for Illustration?

Setting up exhibition 32

Daire Lawlor, BA Illustration

I come from a family of medical practitioners, and so I have grown up around hospitals and doctors and nurses my entire life.  Talk about medicine has been a staple part of my growing up, and as someone who suffers from chronic recurring depression and insomnia, constant visits to my GP are something of the norm.  This project allowed me access to the archives where stigma was present and art was made into a conductor of emotional resonance for those who suffered.  During my research, I began to wonder, how can I reflect the trials of mental illness?  Is it necessary to show the face at all, which initially had been so important to me?  In the end, I wanted to create something that was uncomfortable to look at, that was empty inside, hollowed out, and drained from the constant need to put up a front.  Mental illness renders you invisible to society, and yet also considered a burden.  In this piece, I wished to explore the feelings of otherness, powerlessness, seclusion, and, through the perception of others, the loss of personhood and autonomy.  


Susan Merrick, MA Fine Art  ‘She’s in a nightie and so forth’, (subtitles: Troll tweet to female MP/Female causes of insanity, Politician arguing against suffrage/Tweet from male MP to female MP, The 17th century rape exemption used until 1991/US Senator speech about marital rape/ Corinthians 14:34-35/Pope’s speech)

Understanding can never be assumed. As the French philosopher Derrida discussed many times, words only ever have meaning in relation to the other words that they are used in conjunction with or in relation to. What we say, what we do and even who we think we are is described by language. Language that can be interpreted and reinterpreted, corrupted and changed beyond all intent.

As a professional Interpreter I’m placed in a position of privilege and power in relation to this very aspect of understanding. The power to have control over the interpretation, the meaning and intent.

I have begun to explore texts, letters, reports and articles from people within power in history and compare the beliefs and prejudice that I saw to contemporary society. With this I am starting to ask; Do we ever have full understanding of the intended meaning of a message or piece of text? What happens when we see it out of context? From a different source, or translated in an unexpected way? Does it gain or lose power? Do meanings of terms stay the same through time? Or do we simply apply our current understanding to them?

Exhibition set up

Madeline Sparrow, MA Fine Art

With art I find it easier to translate my thoughts and emotions, for communication is a weakness for me. This goes back to my dyslexia; some part of me feels like an outsider because my sense of language differs from others. I suppose it is the child-like empathy, which is why art gives me creativity from the difficulty in communicating, especially in written language. Art welcomed me into a warm embrace to continue speaking out loud with a visual noise of colours. Some have critiqued my style, but I conclude that it is my own Madeline-ish madness in the moment.

I became inspired by UCA Archive to re-think my narrative art. I questioned myself in how my body is a mechanical object in writing. I felt merely typing or handwritten was not enough to thinking beyond my own movements. Instead of the process in making, I want to reflect on how the audiences would use their bodies in part of the narrative. I thought about the visual appearances and the energy to read. I felt Braille was a unique development in the creation. Due to awareness in disabilities and the harsh word beginning with ‘Dis…’ I want to remove this ‘disadvantage’ of who we are.

Abilities are a strength in which we learn and grow in knowledge. I felt that those who can read Braille are advance to the power of this secretive language in which appears in everyday life. The Braille is not about the dots, but the space surrounding them. As the artist who wrote these narrative and have not the ability of actually read Braille, yet, I felt as if my words were simplified into an extraordinary pattern basis. The aesthetic feeling of movement of my finger around the space and dots became curiosity at its best.

Setting up exhibition 24

Preserving UCA’s Film Heritage

The archive has inherited the student film collection from UCA going back to the early days of the Guildford School of Art whose film unit produced some impressive work with the expertise of tutor KN Singh. As a Film Archivist this is great news for me and I have been enjoying delving in to the collection much of which dates from the late 1960s – 1990s.

filmcansArchive film is a very fragile medium requiring careful handling. Many of the films have suffered from poor storage and have become warped and their colour has faded. The archive is keen to secure the future of the films by storing them correctly and is working with partners to ensure the films are kept in optimal conditions for their long term survival.

I’ve begun cataloguing the films using a steenbeck and so far the films have covered a wide range of topics. “It Could Happen to You” made in 1981 to mark the international year of disability looks at the everyday lives of a variety of individuals with disabilities either from birth or due to accidents. “The Patient” made in 1977 follows cancer patients and the medical staff who treat them and shows various medical procedures in graphic detail. In contrast “The Day of the Mounties” records the 1969 Surrey County Show with images of Guildford high street and Stoke Park during that period and “The Other Day” circa 1970 is a tale of young love. It’s fascinating to look back at the fashions, lifestyle and viewpoints held during that time.

The collection comprises some 700 reels of 16mm film and it is our hope that some of the material can be digitsed so that it is made accessible for students and staff to view. It is important that collections like this can be preserved for future generations. Not only do they show the work of past students of UCA but they also capture life in a different era and are in themselves historical documents which if preserved correctly can leave a lasting legacy.

I’ll be posting regular updates as I work my way through the collection.

Carryl Church, Assistant Archivist

‘Great’ Women throughout History

Women’s History Month Archive Events

In March UCA Archives and Special Collections celebrated Women’s History Month by hosting different events and promoting themed material as part of our #UCAWHM social media campaign.

As part of our celebrations marking Women’s History Month, we held a pop-up event on 18th March to showcase animation archive material featuring prominent female historical figures such as Queen Mary I, Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria and Margaret Thatcher.

Women's History Month Display

Great Women Throughout History Pop-Up Display

Material from the animation Millennium – The Musical included artwork from a musical sequence about the Tudor dynasty. In the sequence, Queen Mary I is depicted as ‘Bloody Mary’ with crowds watching in horror at the sight of flames burning Protestants. The portrayal of her character is shown in the image above. The artists have designed Mary with an unpleasant, almost conniving facial expression, with the scene consisting of Mary chuckling as she rubs her hands together. In contrast, Queen Elizabeth I has an upbeat section, celebrating the reign of ‘Good Queen Bess’ as ‘the Virgin Queen’. In the artwork displayed next to the image of Mary, Elizabeth is smiling as she playfully winks at the viewer in the scene. These contrasting images present an interesting comparison of the two rulers, and are one example of how they have come to be portrayed throughout the years following their rule.

We also looked at material from the Oscar award-winning animation Great, which features caricatures of Queen Victoria. The other figure we focused on was Margaret Thatcher, whose character is portrayed in the animated series Margaret Thatcher: Where am I Now? The Steve Bell animation takes a satirical look at the life and work of Britain’s first female Prime Minister.

Our Flickr account with images used in our advertising talk

Our Flickr account featuring images used in our advertising talk

On 19th March we also held a talk featuring material from our other collections, such as the Tessa Boffin archive and the West Surrey College of Art and Design archive. ‘Men Act, Women Appear: Women in Art and Advertising’ discussed the gender portrayal of woman in advertising, with reference to college prospectuses and course guides.

We advertised these events via our social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter using #UCAWHM as our hash-tag of choice. Throughout the whole of March we posted quotes and images from our collections, which were also available for viewing on our Flickr account. Finally, we pulled together the results of our campaign into a story, using Storify.

Our media campaign with #UCAWHM

Our extensive media campaign with #UCAWHM

 We hope that through our efforts we have contributed towards the celebration of Women’s History Month and highlighted women whose lives have played a prominent part in society.

The archive material featured is available to search on the UCA Archives and Special Collections Online Catalogue.

All images are for educational purposes only. Artwork copyright Bob Godfrey. Millennium – The Musical copyright Channel Four Television Corporation.
Contact UCA Archives and Special Collections for more information at

Hannah Ratford, Archive Cataloguer

Love is in Archives…

…Every shelf we look around! February Archive Pop-Up Event

We hosted our latest Pop-Up event to showcase archival material with themes of love and romance in line with Valentine’s Day.

Love is in the Archive's Display

Love is in the Archive’s Display

The day of love finds its origins as a liturgical celebration for one or more saints named Valentinus. Valentine’s Day was not associated with romantic love until the Middle Ages, when ideas of courtly love and chivalry gained popularity. There are references to the association of Saint Valentine and love throughout the Tudor period, where the first surviving Valentine’s letter can be traced. However, the day became more popular in the 18th century, when lovers gave each other flowers, confectionery and greetings cards. In modern times certain symbols have become associated with love and Valentine’s Day, such as love hearts, doves and the figure Cupid.

We see the influence of modern ideas surrounding Valentine’s Day in the Henry’s Cat episode ‘Valentine’s Day’. Throughout the episode we see the symbol of the heart and references to romantic love. In this episode Henry’s Cat and his friends attempt to cheer up Pansy Pig by hosting a Blind Dates show. Will Pansy find her true love through the processes of the dating trials of the 20th century?

Items from Shakespeare's Music Hall, including material from A Midsummer Night's Dream

Items from Shakespeare’s Music Hall, including material from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

We also displayed items from Shakespeare’s Music Hall, or, A little of As You Like It does you good. The material for this animation project was based on a musical written by Colin Pearson, which looked at the life and works of William Shakespeare. The musical features songs about a selection of plays by Shakespeare, including Hamlet, where St. Valentine’s Day is mentioned by Ophelia:

Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.

We displayed artwork showing scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a storyboard for Romeo and Juliet, the famed star-crossed lovers.

Storyboard for a Romeo and Juliet sequence (Shakespeare's Music Hall)

Storyboard for a Romeo and Juliet sequence (Shakespeare’s Music Hall)

View our other collections via the UCA Archives and Special Collections Online Catalogue.

Shakespeare’s Music Hall images copyright Bob Godfrey.
All images are for educational purposes only.

Hannah Ratford, Archive Cataloguer

“What a terrible mess. Kevin, what have you been doing?”

Cataloguing Kevin Saves the World

We are continuously working behind the scenes and making additions to the UCA Archives and Special Collections catalogue. The catalogue was recently updated online to include the newly catalogued series Kevin Saves the World, a children’s animated series based on a book of the same name by author Daniel Postgate. One of the larger series of the Bob Godfrey Archive, Kevin Saves the World comprises some 38 boxes of animation material, including correspondence, pencil drawings, acetate cels, dope sheets, sound recordings, scripts, and storyboards to name a few!

Material from Kevin and the Genie

Material from Kevin and the Genie

An initial delve into the boxes suggested that there were five animated shorts that formed the series: Kevin Saves the World, Kevin and the Computer Game, Kevin and the Big Lizard, Kevin and the Genie, and Kevin and the Bogeyman. There was pre-production and production material for these episodes. The scripts and storyboards provided information on the content of each episode, and some title scenes revealed the credits of the animations. Interestingly, the titles were in both English and Norwegian. These revealed that the series was produced by Bob Godfrey Films and Kine Aune and supported by the Norwegian Film Institute and the Nordisk Film & T.V. Fund.

Progress was being made. The key individuals and organisations behind the series and the synopsis of each episode were now known. However, there was still little contextual information about the series. When the last couple of boxes of material were sorted through, things got a little more complicated. There was evidence of other episodes previously unknown about – Kevin’s Christmas Treat, Kevin and the Recipe Book, and Kevin and the Ghosts. Not long after this discovery, an entire box full of correspondence and scripts was discovered. Sifting through this material created a more complete picture of the production of the series.

Just a small selection from the Kevin Saves the World scripts

Just a small selection from the Kevin Saves the World scripts

In total 14 episodes were found to have pre-production material (scripts and storyboards). There was partial production material for 2 of the episodes, and full production material for 5 of the episodes. The correspondence records revealed that a longer series of around 12-13 episodes was originally planned. However, it proved difficult to find broadcasters who were willing to broadcast animated shorts of only 5 minutes. The series also faced funding difficulties, which explains the halt in production and the presence of only pre-production material for a majority of the episodes. The first five episodes were broadcast in Norway, where some of the available funding had been sourced.

Using the information gathered, the series catalogue structure fell into place. A ‘series’ record was created for Kevin Saves the World. Each individual episode was then arranged underneath this with its own ‘sub-series’ record. Under these records, the material was arranged into pre-production and production material, where it existed. Correspondence had its own ‘sub-series’ record, as the material covered the contents of multiple episodes and was relevant to the series as a whole. Correspondence was then arranged into different ‘files’ according to their original order. Find out more about the structure of the catalogue by viewing this presentation.

Kevin Saves the World Catalogue Screenshot

Kevin Saves the World Catalogue Screenshot

After arranging a structure, further contextual information is added to the records in the form of authority files. Relevant names of people and organisations involved with the series are created in the authorities database and linked to the records, so that names may be cross-searched by users. Subject terms are also applied to identify key themes and subjects within the material.

Kevin Saves the World Authority Names Screenshot

Kevin Saves the World Authority Names Screenshot

The Kevin Saves the World series is now available to view on the UCA Archives and Special Collections Online Catalogue.

Kevin Saves the World images copyright Bob Godfrey and Daniel Postgate. All images are for educational purposes only.

Hannah Ratford, Archive Cataloguer

Explore your Archive Pop Up Events – UCA Farnham Library

Explore your Archive! Discover our hidden original artistic treasures at our archive pop up events!

This term Archives and Special Collections will be hosting a series of ‘Pop-Up’ Events in the Farnham Campus Library between 13:00 and 14:00 on various dates as listed below. We will be demonstrating original archival material from the Bob Godfrey Animation Archive and focusing on different themes with each event.

Programme of Explore your archive pop up events

Join us to delve through a range of exciting material and to find out more about the archive and the services we provide.

Look out for our Explore Your Archive badges and pencils!

To find out more email

Santa Who? Representations of Santa in the Archives

Santa Who? Christmas Pop-Up Event

In the spirit of Christmas, we decided to host our latest Explore your Archives pop-up event around the theme of the man in the red suit. Items displayed in the Christmas Pop-Up Event included material from animations such as The Christmas Dinner and The Mystery of the Missing Santa (both from the Henry’s Cat series) and Kevin’s Christmas Treat (from the Kevin Saves the World Series). The items demonstrate individual takes on the representation of Santa. The pop-up event explored questions such as “where does his reputation stem from?” and “how has his representation in popular culture developed over time?”

Christmas Pop-Up Display

Christmas Pop-Up Display

There are different suggestions for the origins of this holiday figure. Records date back to describe figures such as the Norse God Odin, Father Christmas and Saint Nicholas, with each displaying different characteristics now attributed to the modern day character – generosity, benevolence, kindness and good cheer.

As well as the name, the physical representations of Santa have developed over the years. In modern day the character is recognisable as a slightly plump older gentleman with a white beard, red suit and black boots. A common misconception is that this image derives from Coca-Cola. Instead, from the 1920s the company popularised a character design that was already imbedded in popular culture. The man in the red suit was a representation of Saint Nicholas by Thomas Nast, a respected painter who drew 33 Christmas drawings for Harper’s Weekly between 1863 and 1886.

Thomas Nast came to find inspiration from the poem by Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from Saint Nicholas, commonly known as The Night before Christmas, and depicted a jolly Santa in a red suit who gave gifts to children. In 1931 Coca-Cola commissioned illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop a new Santa image for their advertisements. He produced new images every year through to 1964.

Sketch of Santa, Kevin’s Christmas Treat

The animation material held at UCA develops upon this traditional image, with artists demonstrating their individual takes on Santa. Although commonly depicted with the red suit and black boots, we see varying representations of Santa:

Henry’s Cat, The Christmas Dinner: Henry’s cat and his friends end up getting stuck together. Santa arrives in his sleigh, hears their dilemma and rescues them by coming down the chimney. Here we have a kind Santa who is willing to help those in need. He maintains traditional representations by arriving on a sleigh and travelling down the chimney.

Henry’s Cat, The Mystery of the Missing Santa: It is up to Henry’s cat and his friends to rescue the kidnapped Santa. This time Santa is vulnerable and needs help. The kidnapper threatens to cut the bobble off of Santa’s hat, a key icon of modern day Santa’s image.

Kevin’s Christmas Treat: Initial sketches demonstrate Santa as an unattractive character – he is shown shouting into a megaphone with large pointy teeth. In the storyboards we are presented with a mechanical Santa, the episode demonstrating the modern day commercialised side of Christmas.

Sketch of Santa, Kevin's Christmas Treat

Sketch of Santa, Kevin’s Christmas Treat

As well as archival material, we also made use of material found on the library shelves. An old-fashioned Christmas in illustration and decoration, C. Hornung, (New York: Dover Publications; London: Constable, 1970) contains black and white images portraying Christmas scenes.  Christmas: Vintage Holiday Graphics, ed. Jim Heinmann (Koln;London: Taschen, c.2005) pays homage to St Nick via vintage graphic and print media. The pages are full of colourful Christmas images, with one showing a Hawaiian scene with Santa and his reindeer sipping on cocktails! These sources complemented our theme on the representation of Santa.

Volunteer Altaira with the Christmas Pop-Up Display

Volunteer Altaira with the Christmas Pop-Up Display

Look out for the Kevin saves the World series, soon to be included in the UCA Archives and Special Collections online catalogue. An entry for Henry’s Cat can be found here: Henry’s Cat

Kevin’s Christmas Treat Images copyright Bob Godfrey and Daniel Postgate. All images are for educational purposes only.

Hannah Ratford, Archive Cataloguer

Archives in Information Literacy Teaching

UCA Library & Student Services staff Adele Martin-Bowtell (Learning & Teaching Librarian) and Rebekah Taylor (Archivist & Special Collections Officer) have recently had an article published in the Art Libraries Journal.

The article, ‘A collaborative approach to the use of archives in information literacy teaching and learning in an arts university’ can be viewed here