Remote Access and your Dissertation

We’ve posted before about how to use Special Collections and Archives for your dissertation, and shared suggestions of collections we hold that could provide the basis for a fantastic dissertation.

Of course, this year has been a bit different, and while we hope to welcome you all back to our reading room soon, in the meantime you might be interested to know you can still access our content using our Virtual Reading Room service.

However we appreciate that you might find it easier just now to work from resources which are remotely accessible, and so we wanted to highlight the following content from our collections, all of which is available online.

In addition to the resources below, you may want to explore our main online portal for digital content, CollectionsCaptured, or our range of dedicated online resources.

If you have any questions about these resources, or using Special Collections and Archives more generally, you can get in touch with us using Library Help.


Remotely Accessible Dissertation ideas #1: Gertrude Bell Archive

Photograph of a group of riders on camels with the Pyramids in the background.
A group of attendees at the 1921 Cairo Conference on camels, including Gertrude Bell, Sir Winston Churchill and T.E. Lawrence. (GB/PERS/F/002)

Gertrude Bell was an archaeologist, explorer and diplomat in the early 20th Century. Bell initially travelled in the Middle East to support her interest in archaeology, and gained substantial knowledge of languages and Arab cultures. This led to British Intelligence asking her to support their work with her knowledge of the region and the people who lived there during the First World War. After the war, Bell continued to work in a diplomatic position, and was extremely influential in the establishment of Modern day Iraq. 

Bell frequently wrote to her family at home, as well as keeping extensive diaries and taking many photographs. Copies of the photographs and transcripts of the diaries and letters are freely available on a dedicated website.

Visit the Gertrude Bell website to explore her diaries, letters and photographs.


Remotely Accessible Dissertation ideas #2: Broadsides

Poster illustrative of items in the Broadside Collection.
Poster advertising the Annual General Meeting of the North Shields and Tynemouth Association for Prosecuting Felons in 1816 (Broadsides 5/1/9)

‘Broadside’ is a term applied to cheaply printed, single sided sheets of paper. Often used to convey news or political opinions, they are a valuable insight into popular culture. Special Collections and Archives has a substantial collection of mostly 19th Century Broadsides, most of which are digitized and available to view and search online. The majority of them were produced here in the North East, and provide a fascinating insight into contemporary concerns and local events, but also how information was communicated. As well as electioneering ephemera and propaganda, the broadsides include reward notices for the capture of criminals, announcements of events, and entertainment in the form of comic and tragic songs, known as ‘Broadside Ballads’.

Visit CollectionsCaptured to search and browse our Broadsides. 


Remotely Accessible Dissertation ideas #3: Jane Loraine’s Recipe Book

Handwritten page from Jane Loraine's recipe book.
A page from Jane Loraine’s Recipe Book including recipes for clotted cream and almond cream (MISC.MSS 5 pg 13)

Dating from the 1680s this manuscript (handwritten) recipe book includes recipes for food and medicinal products. The handwriting suggests multiple authors, but the majority has been attributed to Jane Loraine, a member of the Loraine family from Kirkharle, in Northumberland. The value of recipe books as sources for subjects beyond food history is still being explored, but it provides opportunities to explore subjects as diverse as gender issues (as examples of women’s writing) and empire (exploring ingredient availability).

Jane Loraine’s Recipe Book is available in full on CollectionsCaptured, but has also been adapted into a searchable digital edition which provides transcripts, contextual information and signposts wider reading.

Visit the Digital Edition to explore the recipe book in more detail.


Remotely Accessible Dissertation ideas #4: Local Illustrations

Hand drawn illustation from the Local Illustration Collection.
Illustration of the interior of Newcastle Central Station dating from the 19th Century. (ILL/11/240)

Our Local Illustration Collection brings together engravings and other illustrations from the 18th and 19th Century which depict landmarks and landscapes from the North East. They offer the opportunity to explore changes in the region during a period of vast technological change, but also how urban and rural landscapes were depicted. Insights into contemporary society can also be taken from the figures which appear in the images.

Visit Collections Captured to browse the images in this collection.


Remotely Accessible Dissertation ideas #5: Trevelyan Family Albums

Album page containing photographs of cats, a newspaper clipping and ticket for an event.
Page from one of the albums of Charles Philips Trevelyan including photographs and ephemera collated between 1904 and 1906. (CPT/PA/3 pg. 27)

The Trevelyan family were based at Wallington Hall Northumberland, now a National Trust property. The property was donated to the Trust by Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, a Member of Parliament, Education Secretary and campaigner against Britain’s involvement in World War I. Trevelyan’s wife Mary Trevelyan (nee Bell – half-sister of Gertrude Bell), kept family photograph albums and scrapbooks from the late 19th Century until her death in 1965. They provide an insight into the life of a politically active landed family in the North East in the early 20th Century. The albums offer the opportunity to explore gender roles and childhood in the aristocracy, travel and empire (through albums depicting Charles’ ‘Grand Tour’ to North America, the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand) and the activity of collecting and memorialising family life.

Many of the photograph albums can be browsed and text searched on our Page Turners platform, and cover nearly 70 years of family life.

Visit our webpages for direct links to each album on Page Turners.


Remotely Accessible Dissertation ideas #6: Bloodaxe Books Archive

Front cover of a book.
Front cover of When I Grow Up I Want To Be A List Of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen, published in 2019 by Bloodaxe Books. (BXB 811.6 CHE)

Newcastle University acquired the archive of Bloodaxe Books in 2013, an archive dating back to 1978 and the beginnings of this internationally important poetry publisher. The Poetics of the Archive offers innovative ways to explore digitised content from this archive. Through BOOKS, you can browse a library of Bloodaxe’s titles and a wealth of digitised poetry in process towards its final published form. WORDS uses the text of the digitized items to suggest links, whilst SHAPES allows you to view or interact with the shape poems make on the page. DATA takes you beyond this archive to discover where else Bloodaxe authors have been published. In the GALLERY and RESEARCH sections you will be able to link to new works that animate and respond creatively to the archive (interviews, films, photos, artwork, texts).

Visit the dedicated website to explore this resource.


Remotely Accessible Dissertation ideas #7: Courier Archive

Front page of an issue of The Courier Newspaper.
Front page of The Courier (an independent newspaper produced by Newcastle University students) published on 7th July 2014. (Courier/2014/07/07 pg. 1)

The Courier Archive is a website containing over 70 years of back issues of Newcastle University’s student paper, The Courier. All the issues are text searchable and downloadable as PDFs. They provide the opportunity to explore campus life at the University, but also to track wider social change.

Visit the Courier Archive website to explore this resource.

Crime in the Broadsides – March 2020

At a time when newspapers were taxed, broadsides were vehicles for popular culture which were just affordable by the working class (the average cost of a broadside was a penny, with some ballads costing a ha’penny.) Typically, broadsides were single sheets, printed on one side only. Some communicated public information; many were printed for entertainment. They were ephemeral – cheaply printed for distribution among the lower and middle classes by chapmen, hawkers and street criers, or, for pasting onto walls by way of reaching wider audiences. In the Nineteenth Century, machine-press printing helped to bring about a proliferation of this street literature. It is remarkable that any broadsides have survived and yet almost 850 have been catalogued and digitised from Newcastle University Library’s Special Collections.

One of the many themes to be treated in broadsides, is crime. The end of the Eighteenth Century/beginning of the Nineteenth Century saw increases in both crime and poverty, with the majority of criminal acts being property offences. More goals were being built but there was also a move away from harsh punishment, with transportation replacing execution for some serious crimes and more lenient sentences, with attempts at rehabilitation, replacing harsh sentences for petty crimes. The first police force was introduced in 1829 and there would not be an organised police force until 1856 and so it was that prosecutions were usually brought about by private individuals; usually the victims of the crimes. Prosecution associations were community organizations whose members were citizens that paid dues to cover the costs of private prosecutions. Sometimes, they provided a form of crime insurance. Broadsides 5/1/35 5 Guineas Reward is evidence that these prosecuting associations also covered the costs around soliciting information: printing reward notices and contributing reward money.

Newcastle University Library’s Special Collections has several reward posters that were printed under the auspices of the North Shields and Tynemouth Association for Prosecuting Felons. Like the hanging ballads, these reward posters were formulaic, made use of stock woodcuts and were cheaply printed. They were moralistic, casting criminals as “evil disposed” persons that carried out their deeds “maliciously” even though the crime might have been the theft of food to feed the family.

In this example from 1818, Monkseaton farmer John Crawford has suffered criminal damage to a gate, two ploughs and a railing. He has put up three guineas (roughly £180.90 today) as a reward for information leading to successful prosecution and the prosecution association has increased the reward by two guineas (roughly £120.60 today).

Calendars of Prisoners, like Broadsides 5/3/1, are lists of prisoners awaiting trail. They are formal documents, typically providing the names, ages, trades and offences of the accused as well as the names of the Magistrates that committed them.

This example lists the prisoners awaiting trial in Newcastle, in August 1825. The prisoners range from Mary Simpson (age 17) who was accused of stealing fabric, pillow cases, books and brooches to Robert Scope (age 80) accused of assault and theft. Some of the printed entries have been annotated by hand to record the verdict after trial. There is also a section for convicts at the end of the document: those prisoners to have been found guilty at trial and which have now been sentenced. They include Mary Ferguson (age 71) who was sentenced to gaol and given four months’ hard labour, such as working the treadmill.

Broadsides 5/2/12 Execution of George Vass, is an example of a hanging ballad, or execution ballad. In the Nineteenth Century, public executions attracted large crowds of spectators and one of the ways in which people experienced public executions was through broadsides and ballads. Hanging ballads would be sung at executions and the ballad sheets sold by the singers. They were formulaic but combined news from local reports with sensational, moralistic accounts of the crimes committed. The audience could expect to learn about the crime, the behaviour of the prisoner, an account of his/her last words, a description of the execution and a warning against leading a similarly criminal life lest the audience end their days at the gallows too.

George Vass was 19 years old when he became the last person to be executed by public hanging in the Carliol Square gaol, Newcastle upon Tyne, at 08:00 on 14th March 1863. He had been found guilty of the rape and murder of Margaret Docherty on New Year’s Eve 1862. Margaret lies in the cemetery of All Saints Church.

In the Nineteenth Century, crime was never far from the common people and, through broadsides and other publications, knowledge of criminals and their crimes became well-known; often sensationalized.

You can find many more digitised images from our Broadsides Collection online on CollectionsCaptured.

You can also find out more about another Broadside from a previous Treasure of the Month for A reward poster concerning the breaking into the shop of Messrs Wigham and Prior in the Fish Market, North Shields and subsequent theft of part of a side of bee (1817) on our blog.

The Twelve Days of Christmas – #ChristmasCountdown Door no. 4

#ChristmasCountdown
Door No. 4

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Broadsides, BROA Volume 1/2/10)

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Broadsides, BROA Volume 1/2/10)

“On the fourth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Four colly birds
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves, and
A partridge in a pear tree.”

Has anyone sent you anything for the fourth day of Christmas?

Thirty guineas reward – May 2008

A reward poster titled 'Thirty Guineas Reward' concerning the breaking into the shop of Messrs Wigham and Prior in the Fish Market, North Shields and subsequent theft of part of a side of beef
A reward poster concerning the breaking into the shop of Messrs Wigham and Prior in the Fish Market, North Shields and subsequent theft of part of a side of beef, 1817 (Broadsides, Broadsides 5/1/8)

Broadsides were typically single sheets, printed on one side, for the purpose of public information and entertainment. They were ephemeral – cheaply printed for distribution amongst the lower and middle classes and for pasting onto walls but not intended to last. This street literature included songs (broadside ballads), the dying speeches of executed criminals (hanging ballads), public notices, advertisements and, like the selection seen here, reward posters.

That we have these broadsides in our holdings is quite remarkable since they were intended to be discarded once they had served their purpose. Whilst some of our broadsides are currently uncatalogued, the White (Robert), Rare Books, Bell-White and Robinson (Marjorie and Philip) collections contain broadsides.

Many of our Broadsides have been digitised and made available online via CollectionsCaptured.