Survey on living authors and social media

The following request has been received from the University of St Andrews and the University of Dundee, who would like to hear from authors who use social media:

Archive staff at the University of St Andrews and the University of Dundee are looking for input from members of the Society of Authors regarding the preservation of an author’s social media content.

It’s only over the last two centuries that literary research through archives has evolved into the widely respected academic discipline that it is today. As a direct result of that literary archives are being collected and preserved in perpetuity across the world providing researchers with a unique insight into the inner workings of an author’s creative process. Access to this type of content is not only of value to those looking to deconstruct and analyse an author, their work and influences, but also to aspiring authors looking to hone their craft and seek guidance from those they admire. They are a truly valuable resource.

The research is looking at the attitudes of archivists and authors to social media and how they can collaborate to ensure an author’s social media content is preserved in perpetuity along with their print and/or digital archives. The research focuses on the digital legacy of the life and work of an author which may find its way into a specialist or institutional archive either by bequest, donation or purchase. It is the cultural norm today for published and aspiring authors to use an ever bewildering array of digital technology to write and draft new pieces of work, to build their profile and to communicate with friends, peers and business associates. Social media is one example of technology that is so ingrained in the way of life it is more instinctive, and efficient, to log in to Facebook, Twitter or a blog site and post information that can be instantly accessed by the public, than it is to write a letter.

To carry out this research it would be helpful if archivists could forward the following survey on to any living authors whose collections they actively manage.

Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Kirsty Lee

MLitt postgrad, University of Dundee and Archives Assistant, University of St Andrews

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London Metropolitan Archives Spring Arts Festival, 11-12 April

There are plenty of literary activities on offer in LMA’s Spring Festival, from creative writing workshops and readings, to talks on archiving publishing collections and how to get you children’s book published. For full details see the LMA Spring Arts Festival programme.

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Russell Hoban Archive in search of a home

Russell Hoban, photographed by Richard Cooper

Russell Hoban, photographed by Richard Cooper

The archive of the late novelist Russell Hoban is available for acquisition. The American author who lived in London from 1969 to his death in 2011 is best-known for his books Riddley Walker, The Mouse and his Child and the Frances books. Institutions interested in acquiring the archive should contact Paul Cooper, who has been working on the papers at Hoban’s London home. More information about the archive and its availability can be found on, including an article by Paul Cooper on Archiving Russell Hoban’s Work.

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Hanif Kureishi on depositing his archive at the British Library

By Rachel Foss, Lead Curator of Modern Literary Manuscripts at the British Library

On Wednesday we announced the acquisition of Hanif Kureishi’s Archive at the British Library’s Cultural Highlights preview for 2014.

Hanif Kureishi Archive at the British Library. © Hanif Kureishi.

Hanif Kureishi Archive at the British Library. © Hanif Kureishi.

Hanif kindly agreed to join us for the press launch. An early start meant an improvised breakfast in the staff canteen, but over eggs and hash browns he shared his thoughts with me on how he thinks his archive will be used in the future and why he was so keen for it to find a permanent home at the Library. Click on the media player below to hear the interview:

The archive includes drafts and working material relating to all of his major novels, as well as over 50 notebooks and diaries spanning four decades. The collection also includes electronic drafts of his work in the form of Word files, including some relating to his new novel, The Last Word, which will be published by Faber next month. The Last Word tells the story of the relationship between an eminent writer and his biographer. It raises some interesting questions about identity, posterity and the inter-dependence of the writer and those who attempt to write about him, both of them being re-made in the process.

The first diary in the collection dates from 1970 when Kureishi was just 15 years old. As well as recording everyday events and reflecting on his writing projects, the diaries are deeply philosophical in places and highly introspective. They give some fascinating insights into the workings of a restless, questing mind which is always driven to know more; as he records of his friend and hero David Bowie, at one point, his is a mind that’s ‘interested in everything’.

Entry from a diary of Hanif Kureishi’s describing a meeting with Shabbir Akhtar, 13 May 1992. After the controversy following the publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in 1988, Akhtar acted as spokesperson for the Bradford Council of Mosques. © Hanif Kureishi.

Entry from a diary of Hanif Kureishi’s describing a meeting with Shabbir Akhtar, 13 May 1992. After the controversy following the publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in 1988, Akhtar acted as spokesperson for the Bradford Council of Mosques. © Hanif Kureishi.

Along with the drafts of Kureishi’s best known writing, such as My Beautiful Laundrette and The Buddha of Suburbia, are those of some lesser known ones and some surprises. The archive holds, for example, a draft of his adaptation of Brecht’s Mother Courage (written for the 1984 production at the Barbican with Judi Dench in the leading role) along with an adaptation written with his long-time collaborator, Roger Michell, of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was never realised.

We’ll be starting work to catalogue the collection in the next few weeks and expect to be able to make it available in the Library’s Reading Room by the end of the year. Hanif Kureishi will be headlining the Library’s Spring Festival at the end of March which this year focusses on the art of screenwriting. Hanif will be reflecting on his work in film and introducing screenings in an afternoon event on 29 March, My Beautiful Film Career. If you can’t make that, you can always listen to him discussing My Beautiful Laundrette in this British Library recording from 1986.

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R C Sherriff Project Archivist vacancy

The project archivist post (fixed term for a year) for the R C Sherriff Project at Surrey History Centre is now advertised on Surrey County Council website.  The closing date is 24th January.  It is also being advertised in ARC Recruitment and on the Archives Listserv.

For more information please contact Michael Page, County Archivist, on 01483 518756 or Di Stiff on 01483 518740.

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Cataloguing Creativity – papers now available

Sophie Baldock, Fran Baker and Bill Stockting at Cataloguing CreativityThanks to everyone who made our symposium on cataloguing literary archives such a success last month. For those who weren’t able to make it, a number of the papers are now available (on the Minutes & Papers section of the website). We hope to add more of these to the site in the near future.

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To Journey’s End and Beyond

RC Sherriff in uniform after enlisting c 1916 2332_Box12 (2)

R C Sherriff in uniform after enlisting c 1916

Surrey History Centre has received £56,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a First World War commemoration project, To Journey’s End and Beyond: the Life and Legacy of R C Sherriff. The project will preserve the extensive archive and celebrate the cultural legacy of the Surrey playwright R C Sherriff, in particular his play ‘Journey’s End’, the action of which takes place in a British dugout on the eve of the great German offensive of March 1918. Find out more on the Exploring Surrey’s Past website.

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‘All things go free that have survived’: Seamus Heaney 1939-2013

SeamusSeamus Heaney, the most celebrated member of a remarkable generation of Irish poets, died on the 30th of August at the age of 74. His full-length books of verse were published in Britain by Faber and Faber, but he also co-operated with artists and printers in a number of smaller-scale private and fine-press productions of his poetry. A small exhibition has been mounted in the Entrance Hall of Cambridge University Library, drawing on the Library’s rich collections of such material, and on correspondence from Heaney forming part of the papers of his fellow poet Anne Stevenson. Keep reading ...

Two relatively early illustrated editions included are Bog poems, issued by Ted and Olwyn Hughes’s Rainbow Press in 1975, with illustrations by Barrie Cooke and in a Sangorski and Sutcliffe binding, and Hedge school: sonnets from Glanmore, printed by the Janus Press of Newark, Vermont, for Charles Seluzicki in 1979. Both books were published in the same year as Faber editions—North and Field work respectively—which incorporated their contents and brought them to a wider audience. There are two illustrated broadsheet publications, ‘The earth house’, one of four poems (the others were by Jenny Joseph, Laurie Lee and Lawrence Sail) printed by the Whittington Press with wood-engravings by John O’Connor and published in 1990 for the Friends of the Cheltenham Festival of Literature in a portfolio with the title The four elements; and Mint, the first of three broadsides featuring poems by Heaney published in the early 1990s by the educationist William B. Ewert of Concord, New Hampshire. Ewert was also the publisher of Keeping going, a more substantial production designed by Gino Lee and featuring etchings by Dimitri Hadzi, printed by the Bow & Arrow Press of Cambridge, Massachsetts, in 1993. This was intended as a salute to Robert and Jana Kiely, the longstanding Master and Associate Master of Adams House in Harvard University, to which Heaney was affiliated during his tenure of various posts at Harvard between 1981 and 2006.

From the papers of Anne Stevenson have been selected a corrected typescript of ‘The figures at Kilpeck’, a poem (published, with further amendments and with the title ‘Sheelagh na Gig’, in Station Island, 1984) written after a visit to the church of St Mary and St David at Kilpeck, a village south-west of Hereford, and sent to Stevenson in February 1981; and an autograph notelet of January 1996 replying to Stevenson’s congratulations on the award to Heaney of the Nobel Prize for Literature, in which he admits to a feeling of panic when contemplating his great forebears as Nobel Laureates, Yeats and Beckett, but takes comfort in the ‘known living’, Joseph Brodsky, Derek Walcott and Nadine Gordimer.

The display will be on show until Monday 30 September. Entrance Hall displays are open to the general public during the Library’s normal opening hours.

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Programme announced for Cataloguing Creativity at the British Library, 15 November 2013

The Cataloguing Working Party is pleased to annouce the programme for its symposium on cataloguing literary archives and manuscripts:

Cataloguing Creativity programme with abstracts [PDF]

Tickets (including lunch and refreshments) are a very reasonable £12 and are available from the British Library Box Office – book online, in person, or by telephone  (+44 (0)1937 546 546).






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Cataloguing Creativity: Symposium on Literary Archives

Friday 15 November 2013 at the British Library


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

 Creative Commons License Photo credit: Pedro Arellano

The Cataloguing Working Party of GLAM has today published its updated Guidelines for Cataloguing Literary Archives and Manuscripts, along with a related Thesaurus and Glossary.

To mark this event, GLAM will be holding a one-day Symposium focusing on issues related to cataloguing literary archives and manuscripts. We hope that this will provide a valuable forum for imparting information and sharing experiences through a mix of papers, case studies and discussion.

GLAM’s definition of ‘literary’ encompasses creative writing in all genres, whether or not intended for publication, including: poetry; the novel; other forms of fiction; other prose writing such as essays and letters by or relating to ‘literary’ figures; writing for drama, in the theatre, or for radio, television and film; life writing; the writing of criticism relating to creative writing; and the process of publishing or otherwise supporting the production and dissemination of literature.

We are approaching the topic of this Symposium very broadly, and are seeking contributions (of approx. 20 minutes) from potential participants which might address any of the following topics:

  •  Issues associated with cataloguing different types of literary archive, e.g. papers of individual writers, publishers, literary magazines, literary agencies, theatres. 
  • Cataloguing literary collections containing special formats, e.g. born-digital or hybrid archives, audio-visual archives. 
  • Researchers’ perspectives on, and requirements from, catalogues of literary papers. 
  • Cataloguing methodologies, e.g. MPLP, in relation to literary archives. 
  • The involvement of writers and other archive creators in the cataloguing of their own papers. 
  • Cataloguing and data protection in relation to literary papers. 
  • The use of authority records and other means of linking descriptions of related literary collections held in different institutions. 
  • Researcher participation in cataloguing literary archives, and interactive finding aids, e.g. tagging records; crowd-sourcing catalogue information. 
  • Collaborative partnerships between students and archival institutions focused on the documentation of literary collections.  
  • Using keywords and subject indexing in finding aids for literary archives. 
  • Cataloguing strategies in relation to literary collections.

Please submit brief abstracts (of 100-300 words) to The deadline for submissions is 5pm on Friday 28 June 2013.

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