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The British Library The Knowledge Network: The British Library Annual Report and Accounts 2008/09

Preserving stories from 2008/09

Ted Hughes archive

Over 220 files and boxes of letters, personal diaries and manuscripts offer a new insight into the life and work of this renowned poet.

Ted Hughes archive

The acquisition of the Ted Hughes archive provides an outstanding resource for research into the life of the late Poet Laureate, widely regarded as one of the most influential literary figures of post-war Britain. The archive contains material spanning virtually his entire 40-year career, from the year after Hughes’s first poetry collection was published to his death in 1998.

‘We are thrilled that this wonderful collection will now be preserved in perpetuity in the British Library,’ says Rachel Foss, Curator of Modern Literary Manuscripts. ‘The archive will play a crucial role in developing and challenging critical understanding of his life and work.’

The archive comprises more than 220 files and boxes of manuscripts, letters, journals, personal diaries and other material. At its heart are manuscripts relating to Birthday Letters, Hughes’s widely acclaimed collection of poems exploring his relationship with his first wife, the poet Sylvia Plath.

The work of cataloguing and preserving the collection can be followed through a blog accessible on the British Library’s web pages. As part of the Library’s enhanced curation initiative, 3D panoramic photographs of Hughes’s study in his Devon house are available to researchers.

The Sound and the Fury Exhibition

Listen to recordings ranging from Neil Armstrong's moon landing message, to Gwyneth Paltrow's emotional Oscar acceptance speech.

The Sound and the Fury

After a year when US President Barack Obama focused world attention on the power of public speaking, the British Library’s The Sound and the Fury exhibition offers a fascinating perspective spanning 150 years.

The exhibition (open until 31 December 2009) presents historic recordings together with images from the British Library newspaper collection. It explores the impact of Edison’s invention of the phonograph in 1877 and features sound bites from Parliament including William Gladstone, the first British prime minister to be recorded. Visitors can hear how the style and purpose of speeches evolved during the 20th century, exemplified by Lloyd George’s radical use of rhetoric during his speech on the People’s Budget, Winston Churchill’s ability to galvanise a demoralised public with ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ and Tony Blair’s famous election victory speech in Downing Street.

‘Drawing on the British Library’s vast sound archive, this interactive display presents the spoken word in perhaps its most forceful guise,’ says Steve Cleary, Sound Archive Curator of Drama and Literature. ‘Audio recordings range from historic public addresses and rousing political speeches to amateur oratory, formal debates, Shakespearian soliloquies, stand-up comedy and sporting commentary.’

Kodak, Clerkenwell Road

This acquisition is a significant addition to the Library's photographic collection, and will contribute to a major exhibition opening in October 2009.

Kodak Ltd archive

A treasure trove of material for historians and researchers of the history of photography, the company archives of Kodak Ltd were donated to the British Library. Dating back more than 120 years, the contents include documents and photographs charting the development of photography from a gentlemen’s pursuit to a mass pastime. The earliest items date from 1885 when the UK subsidiary of the US-based Eastman Kodak Company opened its first London offices.

‘We were delighted to acquire such a significant collection, which we will make available in perpetuity,’ says John Falconer, Head of Visual Materials. ‘It will form a unique resource for the study of the growth and development of photography as a professional tool and popular amusement from the 1890s onwards.’

The acquisition represents a major addition to the British Library’s photographic collection, which contains around half a million photographs, and forms the subject of a major exhibition in 2009. The Kodak Ltd archive also contains early financial ledgers, advertising material, publications, correspondence, minutes of meetings and research reports.

The Library collaborated with De Montfort University, Leicester over the acquisition. Books and journals from the archive, largely duplicated by items already held by the British Library, were donated to the university, which is launching a Master’s Degree in Photographic History and Practice.