100, 50, 25 Years

At the start of a new year our thoughts often turn to what the year might bring, and we start making plans for the coming months.

It can also offer a chance to reflect on the past and this has inspired us to search our collections to find items that are 100, 50 and 25 years old. It is interesting to see how much some things have changed and how others have stayed the same.

In January we installed a new display in our research room exhibition cabinet which showcases a selection of these items, which have been carefully chosen from our University, Dance, and E H Shepard archive collections.

Middle and bottom shelf of research room exhibition cabinet showing items that are currently on display.
Research room display

Whilst exploring items that met our criteria of being 100, 50 or 25 years old it became apparent that this timeframe provided us with an opportunity to share some of the different media formats we hold within our collections that demonstrate the significant developments that have taken place during this time. We have included in the display a CD, MiniDisc, a open-reel helical scan videotape and a VHS video. Changing formats can be a considerable concern for organisations that maintain archive collections, as obsolete formats can make access to original recordings impossible without specialist intervention.

Blue MiniDisc with Sudarsana written on white label.
Recordings of the music for Sudarsana on
MiniDisc. Ref no. AK/3/1/9/1

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to display the items we would like to due to their size, condition, or fragility so we have not been able to put on display a shellac record from the 1920s; as shellac records tend to shatter if knocked or dropped. Vinyl records have had a resurgence over the past few years, but shellac has failed to make a comeback!

Label of 78 shellac recording with red background and gold text and an illustration of a dog listening to a gramophone.
Shellac 78 record recording of Miss Annabelle
Lee Fox-Trot and the Blue River Fox-Trot. Ref No. LM/A/48

Something that has continued from the early days of our predecessor institution, Battersea Polytechnic, is the publication and distribution of student magazines. The names and formats of the publications have changed over time, but magazines written by students for students are still very much a part of campus life.

The campus itself has also changed a lot. We are lucky enough to have an aerial photograph of the original Battersea Polytechnic building on Battersea Park Road, London (now converted into luxury flats) which was taken in the 1920s. We can compare this to the Stag Hill campus in Guildford in aerial photographs we hold from 1973 and 1997/8 to see exactly how the campus has changed and developed.

Student magazines and aerial photographs in the display.

From our E H Shepard collection, we have included a reproduction of an original letter (dated 15 November 1923), held in the archive, that was sent to E H Shepard from the publishers Methuen & Co regarding the illustration of verses written by A. A. Milne. The ‘Volume of Verses’ that is referred to in this letter turned out to be the book ‘When We Were Very Young’. The first edition of this book was published in 1924 and features an illustration of a teddy bear which looks very much like Winnie-the-Pooh. We have a facsimile edition from 1999 on display.

A colour edition of Winnie-the-Pooh was first published in 1973. Copies of the original E H Shepard ink drawings were sent to the illustrator which he then coloured with ink or watercolour. These coloured illustrations are available to view in our research room, if you would like to see some of the illustrations please book an appointment by emailing archives@surrey.ac.uk.

Research room display

It’s unlikely that the MiniDisc will make a return as the music player of choice any time soon, but it is safe to say that Winnie-the-Pooh is still a much beloved bear!