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Library annual report

Engaging with communities beyond campus

Our galleries showcase some of our magnificent art and artefacts and open up our collections to the public with events and exhibitions.

"Gather them in": the musical treasures of W.T. Freemantle

The books, manuscripts and scores collected by the Sheffield-based organist and antiquarian William Thomas Freemantle (1849–1931) have been the focus of research by Dr Bryan White, Senior Lecturer in the School of Music. These include works by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, the Romantic composer who was a focus for Freemantle’s collecting.

Dr White supervised part of the FOAR2000 module, where undergraduate students work on a project directly related to ongoing research in the faculty. As they sorted through boxes of uncatalogued Freemantle correspondence, their investigations revealed a tenacious collector who would “endure martyrdom in Siberia” to acquire unique treasures for his library.

The exhibition "Gather them in" displayed in the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery from 1 March–31 July 2019. It capitalised on the musical knowledge and expertise in the Special Collections team. The public saw, for the first time, manuscript scores collected by Freemantle and purchased by Lord Brotherton in the 1920s.

We reached different audiences through Mendelssohn’s music, with a number of live performances by the Clothworkers Consort of Leeds, the University's chamber choir.

Rhiannon Lawrence-Francis, Collections & Engagement Manager (Rare Books and Maps)

50/50 exhibition: Fifty Works by Fifty British Women Artists 1900–1950

In spring 2019, we welcomed the touring exhibition “50/50” to The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, celebrating the centenary of the Representation of the People Act of 1918. It received an impressive 5,417 visitors.

Despite the inequality of opportunity for women artists to train, exhibit and sell their work in the early 20th century, many produced powerful work. This exhibition brought together a diverse collection of fifty works by fifty British women artists. Portraits and self-portraits, landscapes and cityscapes, alongside industrial scenes and images of war featured in this show.

910 visitors participated in events at the Gallery. This included the 7th Meeting of the British Women Artists 1750-1950 Group, which brought scholars interested in women artists together.

The exhibition was warmly received by the press. Articles appeared in World of Interiors (4 December 2018), Antiques Trade Gazette (15 December 2018), Country Life (20 February 2019) and Yorkshire Post Magazine (18 May 2019). Smaller mentions of the exhibition appeared in Living North magazine, the Yorkshire Post, Art UK, Culture Vulture, Leeds List and Museum Crush.

Light night hauntings a spooktacular success

The Library Galleries team staged two special evening events for the city’s annual arts and light festival in October 2018.

“The Remote Viewer”, by audio-visual artist Michael Coldwell, presented two contrasting views of Leeds. The video installation used images from Godfrey Bingley’s archive in Special Collections. Using re-photography techniques, the modern city was “re-haunted”, showing the scale of urban transformation in Leeds. It was the culmination of Coldwell’s practice-led research as a PhD student at the School of Media and Communication into hauntology.

“The Time-Travelling Circus: Electrolier Service 051018” by artist Katrina Palmer, was a site-specific audio installation in the Brotherton Library, exploring death and what comes after. Two pre-booked performances limited to 20 attendees were held; both sold out.

Katrina Palmer’s work derived from artistic research she conducted into the history of the Brotherton Library and St George’s Fields. The resulting Time Travelling Circus artist book and preparatory sketches were collected for the University Art Collection in 2019.