Loves of the Famous

In honour of Valentine’s Day, this month’s Biography Store display at Kensington Central Library is on the theme of Loves of the Famous.

Many couples have walked on the world stage as separate individuals in their own right – but what of the more intimate stories of the relationships between them?

How have the relationships between Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip, between Bill and Hilary Clinton or between Gilbert and George helped inform the work they do?

What was the experience of the partners inhabiting the shadows behind their more famous significant others – sometimes, as in the case of Alice B. Toklas, made the subject of the other’s art?

Then there are the private passions which became part of the mythology and iconography of some of the biggest Hollywood stars – Burton and Taylor, Bogart and Bacall, Hepburn and Tracy.

ElizabethRichard
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor

Amongst the biographies of the famous which focus on all aspects of their private and public lives are those which concentrate on marriages, affairs and liaisons, sometimes official, sometimes clandestine, and show that the same passions and problems recur in all human love stories.

Kenedy
Jackie and John F Kennedy

Some of the most intimate records of relationships are love letters by the famous – though sometimes famous for very different things than their romantic passions (who knew Ramsay Macdonald, the first Labour Prime Minister, was such a one for sweet nothings?

RamsayMcDonald

Or that Albert Einstein called his first love “my little everything” and worried constantly that he might have upset her?)

Einstein

Henry the VIII could be pretty risqué and was not backwards in coming forwards in his letters to Anne Boleyn.

HenryVIII
Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII

Some of the love letters included are intensely private, and the writers would never have imagined they would be read by anyone other than the addressee.  Some have become famous as works of literature and historical testaments in their own right, like Oscar Wilde’s “De Profundis”, his letter written to his former lover Lord Alfred Douglas from Reading Gaol, which shows that the intimate minutiae of feelings come before the retrospective resonance of socially significant moments.

OscarWilde
Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas

Some – like the correspondence between Abelard and Heloise in the 12th century – are classics of world literature, and prove that whatever the forms of expression used, human emotions are still very recognisable across the centuries.

EdwardSimpson
Wallis Simpson and Duke of Windsor (King Edward VIII)

One of my favourites is one of those many books in the Biography Store Collection which give an intriguing insight into previous times – it’s Royal Love Letters, a collection from 1911.  The publisher is none other than Mills and Boon, and it seems not only the content of their books but their presentation has definitely been spiced up in the last 108 years.  This is a decorous volume – although maybe the deep purple binding hints at the passionate content – and the illustrations are of various royal personages looking very correct, not a steamy clinch in sight.  A list of other available titles doesn’t quite set the pulse racing, and apparently Mills and Boon didn’t only produce romantic titles in the Edwardian era: “Rambles in the Black Forest” and “Nerves and the Nervous” were amongst its non-fiction offerings.

MichelleBarack
Barack and Michelle Obama

We hope you enjoy our Valentine’s selection of the romances of some of our most celebrated figures.

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All about us

A post from our Service Development Manager, Angela Goreham – about what RBKC Libraries have to offer.

R Research for a project that interests you
B Booking a PC, a place at an event
K Knowledge as we all need this
C Connect (to others in the community and the wide world)

L Lending items for your pleasure or information
I Information that will help you with your day to day or forward planning
B Baby activities and information to help new parents
R Reading – a core skill and past time in any format
A Access us at any time and from anywhere
R Resources – varied and plentiful, in different formats to suit different needs
Y Young and old – we’re here for everyone

Are you 1 in 840,344? Or maybe you are 1 in 515,004? They’re odd numbers you might say, but the first one is the number of times the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s libraries were visited between April 2017 and March 2018 and the second is how many items were borrowed during the same period – how many did you account for?

104 people from our local communities supported the Library Service by volunteering with us and over 40,000 people came to one of the events that we held.

They are huge numbers but we always want to beat our previous year’s figures so please come along to one of our libraries, find out what we can do for you and you can help us pass last year’s numbers.

There are six libraries within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – find out more about them and what we offer by either visiting us in person or our website or you can call us on 020 7361 3010.

Credo(itble) online resource

Credo – Online Resource

Credo is one of my favourite online resources available with Kensington Library membership.   Within the Credo Search ‘field’ you can select ‘Basic Search’, ‘Find a Book’ or ‘Image search’.

Credo has a wide selection of over 600 titles.  Many of these books can be found in reference libraries in hard copy.  Titles include Whitaker’s Almanack 2015, People of Today, Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage, Annual Register of World Events, Collins Language Dictionaries (including French, Spanish and German) and Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.  Categories of books include business, careers, education, history, biology and sciences, philosophy and a wide spectrum of arts and literature.  Credo titles are from respected authors and renowned publishers like Dorling Kindersley.

Dorling_Kingsley

You can also use the ‘Find a Book’ search to find the titles of thousands of books and to search inside the book.  One search for a book surprised me – when I typed ‘National Gallery’ in the Find a Book search field, I got two results: The National Gallery Collection (with over 2,000 images) and the National Gallery Companion Guide (introducing you to European Western art).  The bonus was to find the National Portrait Gallery Collection and all the images. It is wonderful to have something so carefully indexed within Credo and yet instantly available to anyone who might have a passion for art. In fact anyone with a Kensington Library card can access all this information from wherever they might be.

All the more for appreciating your local Reference Library’s resources and accessing these in hard copy and then being able to access them on Credo and other Kensington and Chelsea online resources when not at the library!

Credo Tools include:

A tool for crossword solvers, which help to find quotations and word definitions.

The Image Tool contains the Bridgeman Art Gallery with 22,000 images, very useful for finding famous works of art at the click of a mouse.

Bridgeman

 

Below is an example.  I searched for Van Gogh which yielded 317 results in the Image tool.

Image Search

Credo Search

Using Credo to find information is very similar to using search engines like Google and Bing to search the Internet. In this example, a search for information on 19th Century Britain in the Basic Search field, yielded over 2,000 results of varying levels, useful for both adults and children. Your choice of research article can be saved to your Saved Results and then either sent to your email or downloaded as a .PDF file on your computer or portable device.

19thCentBritain

BooksSearch

Recently, I was asked about a book on bird migration, specifically on Brent Geese.  There were many books on this subject in the reference library; however, as the reader did not have time to look though the books, a quick search on Credo using the image search tool produced the following useful results with images of the geese and their migration route.

Brent Geese 

MigrantGeese

Another useful enquiry was for a copy of the King James Bible, for a reader who wanted to look at it at home.  A simple entry in the Search field found one result by Cambridge University Press, which the reader could then use to study at home.  http://search.credoreference.com/content/browse/book#!?subject=138&filter=king%20james%20bible

HolyBible

Credo is also very useful for Medical related enquiries.  Recently I was asked to find a book showing how the ear drum works, to gain an understanding of a medical problem. I showed the reader how to search on Credo using the Subjects listed on the Credo Home page and clicking on the Health Medicine link. Once you are in the results of the Health & Medicine search page, you can select any book to read, save or print an article.

 

Health_Medicinie
AllergyFree_CookBook 

The reader was interested in the Animated Dictionary of Health and Medicine.  Within this book, we typed ear drum in the search box and clicked on the video tab.

Animated_Dictionary
Animated dictionary

 

From here we were able to get very useful and well produced video on the ear drum.

Ear_Drum

 

Another great feature of Credo is that it consolidates results with other available online resources. Credo search yielded articles on Alloy within Credo and also showed results for other resources which are accessible to all RBKC Library members, such as Britannia Online, NewsUK, Times Digital Archive and also Google books and Wikipedia.   You simply cannot be lost for books or articles on Credo.

 

Topic_Pages
Topic Page – Alloy
Topic_Page_Alloys
Topic Page – Alloys
Credo_Entries_Alloy
Credo Entries – Alloy

People Search

Searching for people on Credo is very useful as well as simple.  Here is an example of a politican very well known person, Joanna Lumley.   There are numerous books to look in, from People of Today, Debretts Peerage and Baronage and People of Today 2015, Great Lives: A Century in Obituaries and countless biographical collections specialising in different subjects.

Joanna_Lumley
Person Search – Joanna Lumley

Credo Homework

There is an amazing selection of books and articles which young students can make use of for their homework and general interest.  A good example from my experience of answering enquiries from children and adults are books by the publisher Dorling Kindersley. Their books are informative and beautifully illustrated.  Just by typing DK Eyewitness, 13,032 results were found on Credo.

Gold_of_the_Asante

Gold_of_the_Asante_dagger

 

There is a great deal of information on Credo.  Take a browse.

Calling all science buffs!

Did you know this week is science week?

And in honour of Science Week Britannica Online have created a special microsite to celebrate some of the scientists who have made remarkable inventions and discoveries, leading to major advances in the field of science.

science_week

You will find links to articles about a variety of people who have made contributions to the scientific community. These articles will help you complete the quiz, word search and crossword.

Britannica Online have also created a diagram that shows well known scientific fields and their notable scientists; many scientists fall into more than one field!

Take a look and try the quiz! You’ll also find lesson plans, activities, biographies and other media to entertain and inform.

 

 

 

Searching the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Francis Serjeant, librarian, writes:

Warning! Searching the online resource the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) can be addictive as “all human life is here”. Most people use this dictionary to search for a specific individual. However you may not be aware that using the advanced search options and selecting other search criteria will create lists of names of the great and the good… and also, it must be said, the not so good.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - home page
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

To use the advanced search facility, click on one of the “More Search Options” displayed beneath the main search box.

Curiosity led me to check how many people there were with Kensington and Chelsea links by using these terms in the ‘place search’ category option. The result was over 3000! However this figure is misleading, as a casual check of a few entries revealed that the connection was often limited either to their unfortunate death in one of the borough’s hospitals or attendance at one of the borough’s schools.

I whittled down the 1975 Kensington entries to 122 by selecting the “Law and Crime” category from the drop down list of occupations (found in the “Fields of Interest” search category). Amongst the list of lawyers and judges I found John Christie, the Notting Hill mass murderer.

You may wonder why he is included. The DNB does not only include the great and the good. To quote the website “the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the national record of men and women who have shaped British history and culture, worldwide, from the Romans to the 21st century”. In the case of Christie, the miscarriage of justice leading to the hanging of the innocent Timothy Evans, to quote Christie’s DNB entry, “played a significant part to the subsequent abolition of the death penalty in Britain”.

For further details of the case and posthumous pardon of Evans read the Ludovic Kennedy book 10 Rillington Place which can be found at Kensington Central Library, or borrow the DVD feature film version of the book, staring Richard Attenborough as John Christie.

10 Rillington Place, by Ludovic Kennedy
10 Rillington Place, by Ludovic Kennedy

Finally it is also worth investigating the “Themes” tab to display the large number of collective biographies brought together under such topics as climbers of Everest, British monarchs, First World War poets and significant military and political leaders involved in that conflict. Other lists include a number of founder members of institutions and other significant groups.

Online Resource of the month: Oxford English Dictionary Blog

OK so how can a dictionary be exciting? you may ask. I thought the same thing as I was about to explain to two youngsters doing their work experience here in Kensington Central Library.

Well, it is easier than you think. The Oxford English Dictionary shows you just how diverse our language is. It isn’t just a language derived from a single origin but a number of origins – Greek, Latin, French, Arabic, German, Japanese, and more… It shows each word’s history by telling of the origins of words, their first use, their reasons for meaning what they do as well as just what they mean now and other words which can be used in their stead.

I also enjoy the fact that, when you are told that you have spelt a word wrong- perhaps spelling it as it sounds-  it is  perhaps we ourselves who are a bit silly trying to enforce spelling, as words have developed their spelling over a great many years. Indeed, a word’s spelling is simply a way of making it understood verbally, not as the modern age suggests, which is a rule which we must follow to the letter!

You can visit and search through the Oxford English Dictionary online and look at…

  • The word of the day
  • History of words and when they were first used
  • Weekdays named after ancient gods
  • Months meaning (inaccurate) numbers and Roman emperors
  • The sheer number of words – 600,000
Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary

In the library you will be signed in automatically and from outside you will just need to type in your Kensington and Chelsea library card number. Please ask a member of staff if you need any help, and we will be happy to give you a hand!

Fashion for the People: a history of clothing at Marks & Spencer

Reference librarians Karen and Gillian write:

Recently, Rachel Worth, Professor of Dress and Fashion at Arts University Bournemouth, delivered a presentation on the history of Marks & Spencer at Chelsea Library. This post is based on what we learnt about the high street giant from Rachel’s fascinating and insightful lecture.

From very humble beginnings in a Penny Bazaar stall at Leeds Kirkgate Market in 1884, Michael Marks and – from  a partnership that began in 1894 – Thomas Spencer together built a company that would become Britain’ s biggest clothing retailer.

From the archives
From the archives

Today, Marks & Spencer is a company synonymous with quality, reliability and customer care, but do we associate it with fashion?

Well – yes! Marks & Spencer was at the forefront of bringing accessible and fashionable clothing to the masses, at the same time being a pioneer in using new textiles, displays techniques and marketing methods – including the use of “supermodels” before the word was ever invented.

In the 1890s most working class people made their own clothes, and initially the market stall sold haberdashery (dressmaking materials). The sales slogan of “Don’t Ask The Price, It’s A Penny” summed up the business model. By the outbreak of World War One the company had expanded considerably and had diversified into homewares, but clothing remained at the heart of the business.

Marks & Spencer revolutionised how we bought clothes and also how clothes were sold, focusing on ready-to-wear affordable goods; high quality, well designed and fashionable clothing. In the 1920s M&S was ahead of most other retailers in its marketing and retailing methods setting an upper price limit on clothes. It also accepted the return of unwanted items, giving a full cash refund if the receipt was shown, no matter how long ago the product was purchased, which was unusual for the time.

 

Picture from M&S Magazine, Christmas 1932 Womenswear advert with three women and two young girls
M&S Magazine, Christmas 1932 Womenswear advert © M&S Company Archive
M&S Fashion advertorial with a series of women in M&S clothes
M&S colour supplement in ‘Woman’ magazine, May 1958

It entered into long term relationships with British manufacturers, and sold clothes of the “St Michael” brand, introduced in 1928.  As the company dealt directly with manufacturers it was able to keep prices low and to maintain input in the design and quality of clothes sold in its stores. It was one of the first companies to introduce standardisation in sizing.  It also aimed to cater for all members of the family; children’s clothing and ready-to-wear suits being particularly popular.

M&S Fashion 4
A Marks and Spencer’s window display of St Michael Terylene skirts, Swansea store, 1957, taken from Fashion for the People, by Rachel Worth

Pioneering methods included having its own textile laboratory to enable the testing of fabrics and dyes before mass production, and the use of rainmaking machines to test water repellent fabrics. New synthetic textiles were particularly popular between the 1950s and 1970s. These included Tricell which was first used in 1957. Another synthetic fibre called Courtelle was first launched, nationally, by Marks & Spencer during  the 60s as was Crimplene and Terylene.

These fabrics were easy to wash, often drip dry, easy iron and held their colour or shape. Terylene, for instance, meant the fashionable 50’s woman could have a permanently pleated non-iron skirt. The introduction of Lycra in  the 1980s revolutionised hosiery,  swimwear and underwear because of its elastic properties.

M&S hosiery advert
Lycra hosiery, The M&S Magazine, Autumn/Winter 1988, taken from Fashion for the People by Rachel Worth

 

M&S Fashion 6
St Michael News, July 1953 taken from Fashion for the People by Rachel Worth

Marks and Spencer has always been design conscious, and no more so than in the 1950s when designs were Paris-inspired with an interpretation of the New Look being all the rage. Colour coordinated clothing and jersey knitwear enabled the fashionable women on a budget to change her look , updating key pieces when on a tight budget.

Picture of a large window display unit with knitwear suspended from the top
Window display of St Michael Orlon knitwear, 1950s

Display and marketing was always a key element of the presentation of M&S fashion ranges.  Before the days of mass advertising it was the window display that dominated; these were eye catching and innovative (see above). Early advertising concentrated on the opening of new stores, but post-war the company began to employ models in print media using the well know faces of the day, including Twiggy in the 1960s:

Ambassador Magazine, 1967 taken from Fashion for the People by Rachel Worth
Ambassador Magazine, 1967 taken from Fashion for the People by Rachel Worth

The heyday of this form of mass marketing was the 1990s when M&S began to use supermodels such as Linda Evangelista and Claudia Schiffer.  Here is Vogue’s front cover of July 1996 with Amber Valletta wearing a Marks & Spencer shirt, which we found in our archives at Chelsea Library:

Vogue, July 1996
Vogue, July 1996


If fashion  is a concept based around our attitudes to  clothing then Marks and Spencer is part of its fabric: with its  high  quality/ good value ethos,  innovative and strong relationships with customers,  and its technological innovations  it  led the way in fashion for the masses.  Our thanks to Rachel for  revealing some of the secrets to the success of  the company over the last hundred years.

Rachel’s book, Fashion for the People: a history of clothing at Marks & Spencer is available to read at Chelsea Reference library.

Kensington and Chelsea’s Great War: Online Guided Tour

Lucy Yates, WW1 Centenary Project Support Officer, writes….

Do you know where shrapnel fell on Kensington during the First World War? That the Suffragettes started a nursery for WWI orphans near Notting Hill, or why Rodin gave eighteen of his sculptures to the V&A during the war?

You can find out all this and more by downloading the interactive scavenger hunt/ tour guide app ‘Huntzz’ on your smart device.

Designed in conjunction with local cadets, this interactive online walk (with ten clues for you to solve along the way) showcases the World War One history of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Picture of local cadets visiting the sites they researched for mapping
Local cadets mapping the sites they researched

The 236 cadets, pictured above with their leader, braved the late evening darkness to help map the World War One sites they’d researched so as to turn this information into a guided online walk of World War One heritage around the borough.

A screen shot from the app, describing the tour, duration and distance.
A screenshot from the Huntzz App

The walk starts at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Huntzz App can be downloaded for free via the Apple Store/ Google Play store on your smartphone. Look for K&C WW1.

The first clue from the K&C WWI Huntzz App
A sneak peek at the first clue…

http://www.huntzz.com/

Happy hunting!

Feeling Clever? Quiz Yourself at Encyclopaedia Britannica

This month we laughed at politicians getting names wrong or being scared to do their times tables on air. What about us? How do we stack up? One fun way of testing ourselves is by taking on one of these Encyclopaedia Britannica quizzes

Quizzes at Encyclopaedia Britannica
Quizzes at Encyclopaedia Britannica

 

How did you do? Will we vote for you at the next election?

You can always learn a little more and do even better next time by consulting the Encyclopaedia Britannica online. Find out about the things you are interested in (or feel you ought to know!).

[Owen]