As part of our Heritage Open Days offering this year, our Archives & Special Collection team hosted a special public event showcasing some of the treasures from the E.H. Shepard Archive. In this blog post our Principal Archivist Rachel White writes about some of the highlights of the day’s events – so if you couldn’t make it on the day, read on to find out what you missed!
On one of the hottest days of the year, it was lovely to welcome visitors to our air-conditioned research room to find out more about the varied life and career of Ernest Howard Shepard.
Shepard is of course best known for his illustrations for A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, but we wanted to go ‘Beyond the Bear’ and explore his life and other works – as well, of course, looking a little bit at Winnie-the-Pooh!
Among the items we looked at were some of Shepard’s early sketches he made as a child – including of the Whiteley Department Store fire in 1887 (drawn when he was 7 years old) and sketches of historic battles on the back of his Latin homework.
Other material included pieces from the huge collection of cartoons and headers he made during his long career at Punch magazine, which highlighted social and political themes of the time.
Shepard served in the First World War in France, Belgium and Italy, and was awarded the Military Cross for ‘conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty’ after he came under heavy shelling at the Battle of Arras in 1917. We hold a wealth of information about his time in this conflict, from the letters (including pencil sketches) he wrote to his wife Florence, to, poignantly, a tiny pocket diary in which he recorded the death of his older brother Cyril on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.
We were able to see how Shepard’s skills were used for the war effort, including his sketches made of the Front, seen from his position in the trenches. Later, during the Second World War when he commanded the local defense volunteers in the Surrey Home Guard, he created local maps of the Merrow area of Guildford.
Lastly, we looked at some of Shepard’s illustrations – The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham to his own children’s books – Betsy and Joe, and Brock and Ben. We also managed to squeeze in a look at some Winnie-the-Pooh treasures!
If you missed this event, keep an eye on our social media channels over the coming months for future talks and displays.
In the meantime, check out our other Heritage Open Day events for this year – you can follow our self-guided trail around the beautiful campus of the University of Surrey to discover some of our art and sculpture collection, and find out what we keep in our stores in our online series of short videos: ‘What’s In The Box? Behind the scenes at the University of Surrey Archives & Special Collections‘.
Keep checking back on our blog and Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/uniofsurreyarchives/ for updates!