Category Archives: New acquisition

Dorothy Hodgkin’s Nobel Prize – 50 years on

This year it’s 50 years since Dorothy Hodgkin won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964, ‘for her determinations by x-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances’. She is still the only British female scientist to have won a Nobel Prize.

The Bodleian recently acquired a small but significant addition to the Dorothy Hodgkin papers from her daughter, Liz. They give a unique insight into the excitement surrounding the award of the prize. At the time Liz was teaching at a school in Zambia and as letters could take a week or longer to arrive, her parents sent a telegram with the good news. To keep costs down, they sent the shortest possible message, ‘Dorothy nobel chemistry’!

MS. Eng. c. 8262, fol. 134

MS. Eng. c. 8262, fol. 134

In fact, Dorothy was also abroad at the time, visiting her husband in Ghana, where he was working. Following the telegram she sent a longer letter to Liz, describing how she had heard the news and how the small local post office was so overwhelmed with congratulatory telegrams, that she was asked to come and collect them herself.

The first cable came in from John Kendrew, Francis Crick & Fred Sanger - and then the girl at the other end said "There are too many here for us to telephone them all - they will block our lines. Come & fetch them, please". So we picked them up the next morning - & found a lovely one from the lab saying "Thrilled to have telephone call from Stockholm".

MS. Eng. c. 8262, fol. 133
The first cable came in from John Kendrew, Francis Crick & Fred Sanger – and then the girl at the other end said “There are too many here for us to telephone them all – they will block our lines. Come & fetch them, please”. So we picked them up the next morning – & found a lovely one from the lab saying “Thrilled to have telephone call from Stockholm”.

The most eminent men in science were lining up to congratulate her, and of course the telephone call from Stockholm was from the Nobel Prize committee, where Dorothy would go later that year to collect her prize.

This collection of letters has now been catalogued and is available to researchers in the Special Collections Reading Room at the Bodleian Library.

Day Of Digital Archives 2012

Yesterday was Day of Digital Archives 2012! (And yes, I’m a little late posting…)

This ‘Day’ was initiated last year to encourage those working with digital archives to use social media to raise awareness of digital archives: “By collectively documenting what we do, we will be answering questions like: What are digital archives? Who uses them? How are they created and managed? Why are they important?” . So in that spirit, here is a whizz through my week.

Coincidentally not only does this week include the Day of Digital Archives but it’s also the week that the Digital Preservation Coalition (or DPC) celebrated its 10th birthday. On Monday afternoon I went to the reception at the House of Lords to celebrate that landmark anniversary. A lovely event, during which the shortlist for the three digital preservation awards was announced. It’s great to see three award categories this time around, including one that takes a longer view: ‘the most outstanding contribution to digital preservation in the last decade’. That’s quite an accolade.

On the train journey home from the awards I found some quiet time to review a guidance document on the subject of acquiring born-digital materials. There is something about being on a train that puts my brain in the right mode for this kind of work. Nearing its final form, this guidance is the result of a collaboration between colleagues from a handful of archive repositories. The document will be out for further review before too long, and if we’ve been successful in our work it should prove helpful to creators, donors, dealers and repositories.

Part of Tuesday I spent reviewing oral history guidance drafted by a colleague to support the efforts of Oxford Medical Alumni in recording interviews with significant figures in the world of Oxford medicine. Oral histories come to us in both analogue and digital formats these days, and we try to digitise the former as and when we can. The development of the guidance is in the context of our Saving Oxford Medicine initiative to capture important sources for the recent history of medicine in Oxford. One of the core activities of this initiative is survey work, and it is notable that many archives surveyed include plenty of digital material. Web archiving is another element of the ‘capturing’ work that the Saving Oxford Medicine team has been doing, and you can see what has been archived to-date via Archive-It, our web archiving service provider.

Much of Wednesday morning was given over to a meeting of our building committee, which had very little to do with digital archives! In the afternoon, however, we were pleased to welcome visitors from MIT – Nancy McGovern and Kari Smith. I find visits like these are one of the most important ways of sharing information, experiences and know-how, and as always I got a lot out of it. I hope Nancy and Kari did too! That same afternoon, colleagues returned from a trip to London to collect another tranche of a personal archive. I’m not sure if this instalment contains much in the way of digital material, but previous ones have included hundreds of floppies and optical media, some zip discs and two hard disks. Also arriving on Wednesday, some digital Library records courtesy of our newly retired Executive Secretary; these supplement materials uploaded to BEAM (our digital archives repository) last week.

On Thursday, I found some time to work with developer Carl Wilson on our SPRUCE-funded project. Becky Nielsen (our recent trainee, now studying at Glasgow) kicked off this short project with Carl, following on from her collaboration with Peter May at a SPRUCE mashup in Glasgow. I’m picking up some of the latter stages of testing and feedback work now Becky’s started her studies. The development process has been an agile one with lots of chat and testing. I’ve found this very productive – it’s motivating to see things evolving, and to be able to provide feedback early and often. For now you can see what’s going on at github here, but this link will likely change once we settle on a name that’s more useful than ‘spruce-beam’ (doesn’t tell you much, does it?! Something to do with trees…) One of the primary aims of this tool is to facilitate collection analysis, so we know better what our holdings are in terms of format and content. We expect that it will be useful to others, and there will be more info. on it available soon.

Friday was more SPRUCE work with Carl, among other things. Also a few meetings today – one around funding and service models for digital archiving, and a meeting of the Bodleian’s eLegal Deposit Group (where my special interest is web archiving). The curious can read more about e-legal deposit at the DCMS website.  One fun thing that came out of the day was that the Saving Oxford Medicine team decided to participate in a Women in Science wikipedia editathon. This will be hosted by the Radcliffe Science Library on 26 October as part of a series of ‘Engage‘ events on social media organised by the Bodleian and the University’s Computing Services. It’s fascinating to contemplate how the range and content of Wikipedia articles change over time, something a web archive would facilitate perhaps.

For more on working with digital archives, go take a look at the great posts at the Day of Digital Archives blog!

-Susan Thomas

Sir Walter Bodmer’s Archive

Sir Walter Bodmer

Sir Walter Bodmer

In 1992, in an answer for a Daily Telegraph questionnaire, the eminent geneticist, and then Director-General of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Sir Walter Bodmer identified his chosen last words as, ‘To my wife: please do not shred all my papers!’.

His concern to retain his papers is commendable and the resultant archive, which has just been boxlisted by archivists Tim Powell and Adrian Nardone, is huge: over 2,000 archive boxes.

As the size of the archive indicates, Sir Walter kept good records of his activities and the collection documents nearly all aspects of his career, from schooldays at Manchester in the early 1950s to his recent research at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine.  It includes voluminous documentation of areas of research and activities with which Sir Walter is particularly associated: research and publications into HLA and immunogenetics, cancer research, his Professorship of Genetics at Oxford 1970-1979, and terms as Director of Research and Director-General of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund 1979-1996. Other major responsibilites included his presidency of HUGO – the international human genome organization, chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of the Natural History Museum and chairmanship of the National Radiological Protection Board.

Continue reading

Hugh Sinclair as collector

We recently received from Reading University a collection of materials relating to Oxford medicine from the archive of Hugh MacDonald Sinclair (1910-90), nutritionist.

In 1941 Sinclair created and led the Oxford Nutrition Survey, which reported to the Government on the effects of the wartime diet. Five years later this became the University Laboratory of Human Nutrition, of which Sinclair was director until 1955. He was Reader in Human Nutrition at Oxford from 1951 to 1958. From 1970 he was a visiting professor at Reading University. His archive is currently being catalogued at Reading, where the Hugh Sinclair Human Nutrition Group was set up in 1995 with the proceeds of Sinclair’s estate.

The material now at the Bodleian includes papers of Professor Kenneth Franklin, Dean of the Medical School 1934-46, and Assistant Director of the Nuffield Institute for Medical Research 1935-47. There is also correspondence of Sir John Scott Burdon Sanderson, Regius Professor of Medicine 1895-1904 (see our post of 1 June) and various other figures in Oxford Medicine, documents relating to the Oxford Medical School, photographs and ephemera. There are a number of photographs of Sanderson and he is easily recognised in caricature on the menu card for the Oxford University Annual Medical Dinner 1898:

Hugh and Menu card

A final word on Hugh Sinclair. In 1979 he undertook an experiment to demonstrate the effects of essential fatty acids, restricting his diet to seal meat and fish only for 100 days. His bleeding time rose from three to fifty-seven minutes, supporting his long-held theory that certain essential fatty acids have an important role in inhibiting blood clotting, thus preventing thrombosis. A former colleague remembers joining Sinclair for dinner at Magdalen College high table, where he refused the meal and ate his piece of grilled seal. He commented that he enjoyed his diet, but when he pruned his roses his boots filled up with blood!

Bodleian Libraries acquire Sir Edward Heath archive

1970 election poster from the Conservative Party Archive Poster Collection

Last month, the Bodleian Libraries, with support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) acquired the archive of former Conservative Prime Minister, Sir Edward Heath (1916-2005). The collection comprises almost 1,000 cartons and includes rich and diverse papers from his time in office and the shadow cabinet, as well as personal papers from his early life including his time as an undergraduate at Balliol College and his active role in student politics during the 1930s.

 A Young Conservatives flyer from the Conservative Party Archive

An Oxford alumnus, Sir Edward Richard George ‘Ted’ Heath, KG, MBE (9 July 1916 – 17 July 2005) served as Conservative Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974 and was Leader of the Conservative Party from 1965 to 1975.  He continued to have a major influence on British politics throughout his life and was Father of the House from 1992-2001.

The Heath Archive complements other holdings of modern British political papers within the Bodleian’s Department of Special Collections, including our material in the Conservative Party Archive.

The archive will be made available to scholars and researchers following cataloguing.

Our first local ‘dead’ hard disk acquisition

We’ve imaged lots of removable media over the past year (~ 400, according to Victoria’s stats), and I’ve also done a  fair amount of forensic imaging of material on-site with donors (live acquisition) . One aspect of our ‘forensic’ armoury that has not been subject to so much testing is the imaging of whole hard disks at BEAM. So-called ‘dead’ acquisitions.

In the past few months two new accessions have presented us with an additional four hard disks. This is excellent news, as I have finally had the chance to use our forensic computer’s Ultrabay (write-blocking device) to image a real ‘collection hard disk’. Everything went smoothly. So far so good.

-Susan Thomas