Browse Exhibits (22 total)

Our Golden Beginnings

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'Our Golden Beginnings' is an online exhibition on the philanthropic origins of the University of Leicester in the early 1900s. The exhibition is focused on the individual stories of the donations gifted during the founding of the University after the First World War ended in 1918. This is to commemorate those who have sacrificed much in aid of higher education at Leicester. This is part of the 'So thay may have life project' which is a National Lottery Heritage Funded project by the University of Leicester Special Collections.

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Mary Attenborough: The Hidden History

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An exhibition telling the 'hidden history' of Mary Attenborough: an humanitarian, advocate for equal rights, supporter of arts and culture, matriarch of the famous Attenborough family, and Leicester resident between 1932-1951.

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A Bridge from Then to Now: Heritage and the Sylvia Dowling Letters

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The Sylvia Dowling letters, written by the student Sylvia Dowling in the late 1950s, offers both a rare glimpse into the early days of the University of Leicester, while at the same time chronicling the academic and social experiences of students at this time. We hope you find the contents of these letters as endearing and captivating as we do, and we hope that they shed light on some of the intriguing and relatable qualities of student life that have persisted throughout the decades. Our ultimate goal and rationale for this exhibition is to bridge the disconnect between the past and present, and eliminate the presumption that the students who went to the University of Leicester in the past were inherently different from present-day students. We are confident that former students and present students alike regardless of age and background will find something in these letters to relate to, and in doing so, that will make the concepts of ‘heritage’ and ‘history’ less ambiguous and more personal and meaningful to them.

The exhibition will be seperated into the several categories including Sylvia’s academic life, her social life, her hall life, and a very special visit to the University from the Queen.

We have also taken the liberty of providing many original art pieces to accompany Syvlia's experiences. These images take the form of sketches and doodles that serve to compliment several of the authentic doodles Sylvia provided in her letters. 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Every Picture Tells a Story

University of Leicester coat of arms

What is metadata and why do we need it? An exhibition showcasing the work of our archives volunteers. 

So That They May Have Life: Stories from the University Archives

University of Leicester coat of arms

Hidden histories from our archives, uncovered by the So that they may have life research team.

Introduction by Dr Yewande Okuleye, Research Associate

“I look forward to the time when Leicester will not be content without some University or University College in its midst, where the various branches of knowledge will have a fitting home, and the Institution be part of Leicester’s daily life.”
Dr Astley V Clarke, Presidential Address to the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society, 1912

The So that they might have life project embodied Astley Clarke’s wish for the University of Leicester to become part of Leicester’s daily life. In this case the University Archives became a site of discovery for volunteers. The project call-out to research the collection for lesser-known histories attracted local people to the University. Volunteers worked with historians and archivists to conduct historical research and heritage interpretation. They also attended a range of courses, including historical research, archives, heritage interpretation, social media, writing and using Wikipedia. This process helped to formulate a community of researchers who researched, discussed and analysed their findings with their peers and the project team .

The history about the design of the coat of arms was a natural starting point to introduce the identity of the University. It captured the ideas that the founders and the people of Leicester had about the identity of the proposed university college. This revelation provides a space to reflect about the University as a living memorial to those that died during the First World War. This research project presented an opportunity to re-examine existing histories. For example, businessman and philanthropist Harry Peach’s role as a founding father is an established narrative. However, his role within the Arts and Crafts movement and how this shaped the occupational therapy of recovering soldiers is less known. Other hidden histories brought to the surface include Sir Malcolm Sargent’s association with the University. The world-renowned British conductor was the first head of the music department.

The role women played in supporting the realisation of the vision for the University of Leicester is difficult to recover. However, sharing stories about the women associated with the founding families provides insight about their lives and personal achievements. Research shone a light on the forgotten history of women pioneers like Dr Ethel Nancy Miles Thomas and Mary Swainson. Ethel Miles Thomas made important contributions in botany and founded the first Botany department. Her role was important in formulating the strong foundation for science at the University of Leicester. Research in the archives sometimes feels like time travel, and this is exemplified in Mary Swainson’s story. Here, we can reflect on how Mary Swainson’s campaign for change in attitudes toward student mental health was pioneering in establishing student counselling.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

The Rose Griffiths Archive

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This exhibition explores the process of publishing children's non-fiction, using the Rose Griffiths Archive as a case study. 

The archive was collected and created by Professor Rose Griffiths (Professor of Education, University of Leicester) and is now stored in the University of Leicester Archives and Special Collections. An online catalogue of the archive can be browsed here


Leicester 1918-1939

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The First World War finished in 1918. However, while there was officially a ceasefire declared on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, a formal state of war persisted for another seven months until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles with Germany on 28th June 1919. Even then, legal states of war between various countries continued into the 1920s.

It took some time for men to return from the forces. Many soldiers were unhappy with having to stay in the army longer than they felt was necessary and feelings sometimes ran high. It was said that, ‘In the event of rioting, for the first time in history the rioters will be better trained than the police’.

12,000 or more Leicestershire soldiers died during, or just after, the war. In Leicester, as in many other towns and cities, a tradition developed during the war of making street shrines recording the names of all those who had gone out from the street to serve the country, as well as being a memorial for those who were killed. A temporary war memorial was erected in Town Hall Square during the war and, more formally, on 4th July 1925, the Lutyens war memorial in Victoria Park was unveiled.

The story of Leicester during World War One has been told on the EMOHA website exhibition, 'Oral histories of the home front in Leicestershire and Rutland during World War One'.

This exhibition looks at different aspects of life in Leicester from 1918-1939. This period saw changes to almost every aspect of life in the town (as it was in 1918), and the city (as it was by 1939). The audio clips are taken from memories that were, mostly, recorded in the 1980s and 1990s. Many of the full length recordings can be found on Special Collections Online.

It has been compiled by volunteers and staff at the East Midlands Oral History Archive, particularly those who have volunteered for the Sounds for the Future project, which has been funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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Beyond the Rainbow

Progress Pride Flag

The Library is joining in with campus celebration of LGBT+ History Month by displaying six different LGBT+ Pride Flags across the Library building.

You can read about the origins of these various flags to discover their rich history and symbolic meanings.

The life of a sound archive


From July to September 2023, I, and two colleagues, had a two-month placement in the East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA) as part of my course in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester.

This web exhibition examines the reasons behind undertaking this project and outlines what we have accomplished thus far. Our goal is to shed light on the daily operations of EMOHA and enhance awareness and knowledge about oral history and sound archives.