On Friday 16 September our Alumni and Development Department hosted an event to celebrate the University of Surrey’s 125 year heritage with 280 of our Battersea alumni. This was a chance to see the fruits of the Build Our History project which has gathered in the memories of our former Battersea students and also their personal collections of records relating to their student days. We also got to see the newly unveiled Battersea timeline exhibition which is now a permanent feature in the Austin Pearce building.
As part of this event, the Archives & Special Collections team curated an exhibition to showcase some (there wasn’t room for it all!) of the material kindly donated by our Battersea alumni, alongside existing archive material. In all, we filled nine cabinets, two easels and one mannequin with photographs, student magazines, publications, objects and documents and were able to display over 100 items. Some items, such as the University of Surrey’s Royal Charter, have featured in a variety of exhibitions. But many of the items donated as part of this project were on display for the first time. So photographs of sporting events, balls and theatrical productions sat alongside programmes for plays and menu cards from important dinners for all our guests to see. Our highlight was a number of people recognising themselves in photographs in the annual reports and telling us that, although the photograph was promoting the chemistry department, there wasn’t a chemist amongst the group! (Perhaps the chemists were all busy in the labs when the photographer appeared?).
Generous donations of publications from our alumni also meant that we were able to put Battersea era magazines and reports out on tables where everyone could have a proper look through. This was a great success, so we know what to do more of next time!
The highlight of the day for Archives & Special Collections team was getting to talk to lots of people, some of whom we “know” (though have never met) from their oral histories and their donations, many of whom we were encountering for the first time. We learnt a lot and laughed a lot. Though perhaps I will leave what I learnt about early student radio and ferrets for another blog…
So thanks to all our guests who came to the event and were so generous in taking the time to talk to us, to our colleagues in the Alumni Department who organised both the day the Build Our History project and made us a part of them, and then to our colleagues at GSA whose generously let us borrow their display cabinets to add to our own, and our Estates team who transported display cabinets and easels around campus for us.