Our collections

We preserve and provide access to over 100 collections of rare books and unique primary sources available for research, study and general interest.

About our collections

Our collections include costumes from early twentieth century dance productions, original drawings by the illustrator E H Shepard, first editions of Charles Darwin’s seminal works and the oral histories of our early alumni. We also continue to grow our collections through donations relevant to our Collection Development Policy.

Our key collecting strands are:

  • The institutional collections of the University of Surrey and its predecessor Battersea Polytechnic
  • The archives of the National Resource Centre for Dance which includes the personal archives of the prominent movement theorist Rudolf Laban as well as collections from companies, choreographers, dancers, teachers and other artists
  • Collections related to illustrator E H Shephard containing some of his original drawings for Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wind in the Willows as well as other works from his extensive career and personal artefacts
  • A number of special collections including a Victorian gentleman’s library and subject-specific collections which support areas of teaching and research within the University.

Discover our collections

Find out more about our collections via the list below, or by searching our online catalogue.

University archives

The University of Surrey Archive is the institutional archive of the University. It includes records on the planning and development of the University from its foundation in 1966, as well as more contemporary records on the expansion of the original site.

Information on faculties, departments and courses is also documented, with subjects taught, facilities available and exams undertaken recorded.

There is also a large and varied collection of photographs which help visually document the University’s history, as well as staff and student publications revealing personal experiences, and organisational documents charting the decision-making of the University.

The Battersea Polytechnic Archive is the institutional archive of the University of Surrey’s predecessor Battersea Polytechnic which was founded in 1891. Situated in Battersea Park Road, the Institute was the second of three proposed polytechnics for south London and was formally opened in 1894 with six main departments:

  • Mechanical Engineering and Building Trades
  • Electrical Engineering and Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Women's Subjects
  • Art and Music.

During the years 1927 to 1939 the Polytechnic consolidated with a growing emphasis on science and engineering and the addition of metallurgy and the closure of the Art Department. In 1956 the Polytechnic was designated a College of Advanced Technology and the name was changed the following year to Battersea College of Technology.

The archive includes papers relating to the Polytechnic’s governance and administration, departments and student activities.

This archive comprises recordings of interviews with former students who attended the University of Surrey’s predecessor bodies, Battersea Polytechnic and Battersea College of Technology. The recordings cover Battersea Polytechnic in the 1940s through to the 1950s when it became a College of Advanced Technology and then the change to a University into the 1960s and the building of the campus in Guildford.

In the interviews the former students respond to questions covering a range of student experiences including:

  • Social events
  • Social life
  • Student accommodation
  • Sports competitions
  • Student societies
  • The Students’ Union
  • World War Two
  • Political changes
  • Course content
  • Work placements and memorable lectures.

National Resource Centre for Dance Archives

The Resource Centre aims to provide support for dance education and research, firstly through archive collections like the below list and secondly, through training courses and resources which you can find more about on the National Resource Centre for Dance site.

The Association of Dance and Mime Artists (ADMA) (1976-1985) sought to educate key people within major funding bodies about British New Dance. It pressed for funding of experimental dance companies and for grants for choreographers’ exploratory work. ADMA held two festivals, in 1977 and 1978, and a Day of Dance in July 1981. The 1977 festival was one of the first major dance festivals in the UK. Both years, the festival was open to anyone, resulting in widely varying standards of performance, leading to mixed reviews and commentary.  

The archive is a collection of papers about ADMA's activities gathered by their administrator Irene Fawkes. The papers record what the group was campaigning for and who its members were. Key people associated with ADMA were Fergus Early, Julie Eaglen, Irene Fawkes, Michael Huxley, Jenny Mann, Richard Mansfield, Virginia Taylor, Chris Thompson, and Sue Davies.

The Ballet Independents’ Group (BIG) was founded in 1996. Their aim was to stimulate independent thought and action in ballet and influence its culture by situating ballet practice in a contemporary context, nurturing creativity and composition, and facilitating communication and debate. BIG was run by ballet dancers and teachers Susan Crow and Jennifer Jackson.

BIG's primary activities were discussion forums and choreographic courses, and the archive records their work.

Betty Meredith-Jones (1908-1996) was a key exponent of Laban-based movement education and therapy. After studying for a diploma at Chelsea College of Physical Education, she went on to teach movement workshops in schools, through the social services and for various recreational organisations. In 1941 she was taught by Rudolf Laban and Lisa Ullmann, and the following year she began teaching at Homerton Training College for Teachers in Cambridge.

Meredith-Jones moved to the United States in 1952 where she took up a post at the University of California, Berkeley and worked on movement with a wide variety of 'client groups' including autistic children and schizophrenic women. From 1956 to 1958 she did a BA in Psychology and an MA in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Meredith-Jones spent her remaining working life in New York. Here she became involved with the philosophies of Jungian analysis and ran movement sessions for patients with Parkinson's disease.

The archive includes notes for teaching sessions, notes on Laban, papers on the Berkeley Project, and articles on ageing and movement. Photographs include Meredith-Jones teaching movement sessions with young children and the elderly, and audio-visual material includes Meredith-Jones's teaching sessions with Parkinson's patients and the over-60s.

Bice (Beatrice) Bellairs (1910-1991) set up the Grant Bellairs School of Dance and Drama in London in 1935 with fellow dancer Pauline Grant. The school relocated to Guildford during the Second World War and subsequently became Guildford School of Acting. 

This is a collection of scrapbooks given to Bellairs by her teacher, Ruby Ginner (1886-1978). The scrapbooks and related material cover Ginner’s career, featuring Revived Greek Dance, a dance method which drew on athletics, drama and dance and was devised by Ginner, She also ran the Ginner-Mawer School of Dance and Drama with the mime artist Irene Mawer. Some of the scrapbooks also relate to Ginner's friend, the ballerina Anna Pavlova.

Classical Greek Dance, once known as Revived Greek Dance, was devised by the dancer and teacher Ruby Ginner (1886-1978) and drew on athletics, drama and dance. This collection is of materials relating to Classical Greek Dance donated by pupils of Ginner, who ran the Ginner-Mawer School of Dance and Drama with dancer Irene Mawer from 1916 until her retirement in 1954. The School was originally located in London, before moving to Devon during the Second World War, and Cheltenham in 1947 due to their London premises being damaged in the Blitz.

The collection includes books, photographs, costumes, props and audio-visual material.

EMMA Professional Dance Company of the East Midlands was a small contemporary dance company set up in 1976 as a pioneer in regional dance development. Alongside touring and performances, EMMA carried out extensive education work in the Midlands, including classes, workshops and residencies.

The archive records the activities of the company, including their work with choreographers such as Christopher Bruce and Royston Maldoom.

This archive dates from 1959-1968 and comprises the records of a small scale touring company run by John and Barbara Gregory, who trained with the Russian ballet dancers Nicholai and Nadine Legat. In addition to administrative papers for the company and the British School of Russian Ballet, the archive contains programmes, press cuttings, books, photographs, costume designs, and periodicals.

Freda Steel was the first administrator for Northern Dance Theatre (now Northern Ballet). Northern Dance Theatre was established in 1969, beginning with 11 dancers and a focus on small-scale classical and modern works. This collection was donated by Steel in 1997 and is made up of papers, programmes, photographs, posters and scrapbooks covering the early life of the company.

Geraldine Stephenson (1925-2017) was one of a core group of artists and apprentices who trained with pioneer movement theorist Rudolf Laban at the Art of Movement Studio in Manchester in its early years in the 1940s and who then worked with and developed his theories through their work.  She was a dancer, teacher and producer but became best known for her role as a choreographer and movement director in theatre, TV and film; she is believed to be the first person credited as a movement director.

Significant material in the archive includes notes from her studies at the Art of Movement Studio; handwritten dance sequences and stage directions; material reflecting long working relationships with companies and individuals; scrapbooks; teaching notes; solo dance recital photographs and working papers for large-scale pageants and community events.

Comprising 40 items collected by Henry Jameson Mein (1920-2001), the Henry Mein Collection is a ballet enthusiast’s set of books and scrapbooks containing cuttings, articles and images on dance, theatre and entertainment collected from newspapers, predominantly during World War Two.

Joan Mercedes Russell MBE (1921-1989) was a prominent dance teacher, choreographer and author on dance in primary and secondary education. During 1948-1950, she studied at the Laban Art of Movement Studio under Rudolf Laban and Lisa Ullmann, whose ideas greatly influenced her.

Russell established the dance department at Worcester Training College (later Worcester College of Higher Education) and taught there from 1948-1982. She also taught both children and teachers on numerous short dance courses and lectured in schools, colleges and universities in Britain and abroad. She chaired Worcester Dance Group, the Laban Art of Movement Guild, Dance and the Child International (daCi), and the Modern Educational Dance Section of the Association of Teachers in Colleges and Departments of Education. As a practising Christian, she instigated many ventures involving dance with religious worship.

The archive includes teaching notes, lesson plans and syllabi; lecture manuscripts; Russell’s choreographic work; and book drafts.

Kickstart was a small-scale touring dance company formed in 1977 and active until 1982. The company toured small scale arts centres and secondary schools with performances, workshops and classes. The archive is made up of photographs, posters and papers recording their activities. 

This is a collection of movement scores notated in Kinetography Laban originally held by Nonington College of Physical Education.

This archive dates from 1984-2000 and contains a variety of material covering the development of Britain’s first Afro-Caribbean dance theatre company from a small-scale company operating on a voluntary basis, to a large-scale company with a strong focus on education. The archive includes audio-visual and publicity material, as well as books, papers and photographs.

Leslie Burrowes (1908-1985) was a dancer and teacher whose career bridged the typically British styles of Hellenic-influenced dance and the predominantly German modern dance (Ausdruckstanz), imported into Britain in the 1930s. After training in Margaret Morris Movement, Burrowes taught at Dartington Hall in Devon and in 1931 became the first British dancer to receive the full diploma from Mary Wigman’s dance school in Dresden. Burrowes’ opened her own dance studio in 1933 and also The Dance Centre with dancer Louise Soelberg in 1938.

The collection contains material created and collected by Burrowes relating to her dance training and career including performing and teaching, as well letters from Mary Wigman, photographs, scrapbooks and artwork.

Lilla Seiber, née Bauer, (1912-2011) was a principal dancer in Ballets Jooss and an acquaintance of the pioneering movement theorist Rudolf Laban. This archive consists of correspondence, papers, photographs, scrapbooks and press cuttings relating to Bauer’s life and career, including letters from Laban.

Ludmilla Mlada (1918-2003) was a dancer, choreographer and teacher. She studied at Marie Rambert's school in the late 1930s and performed with Ballet Rambert on tours to Europe (1946) and America (1947). She also danced with Ballets Jooss in the 1940s and trained with Sigurd Leeder (1947-1950).

The collection relates to Mlada's training and performance work and consists of photographs, letters, theatre programmes, music scores, and gramophone records. There are also newspaper cuttings of reviews of her performances and dances scored in Labanotation by Mlada.

The Natural Movement Archive dates from the early 1900s to 1990 and focuses on a method of barefoot dance founded by Madge Atkinson (1885-1970) called natural movement.

The archive consists of:

  • Music scores, many of them annotated by Atkinson herself
  • Dance notes in both written text and Atkinson’s own system of notation
  • Photographs; scrapbooks of newspaper clippings
  • Programmes and playbills (the oldest relating to ballerina Marie Taglioni, 1848)
  • Various manuscripts giving insight into Atkinson’s training methods
  • Posters and leaflets
  • Periodicals
  • Original costume from the 1920s and 30s representing over 25 different dances.

Rudolf Laban (1879-1958) was a pioneering movement theorist and choreographer. He was a key exponent of a new dance form, now known as German Expressionist Dance or Ausdruckstanz, which was the dominant dance style of central Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. He also created a written means of recording movement, Labanotation or Kinetography Laban, which is used world-wide today.

At the heart of his theoretical work is a complex system of analysing the characteristics of movement, particularly its pathways through space, and its ‘effort’ and ‘shape’.

The archive contains writings on choreutics, choreology, eukinetics, and observation and substantial material on Laban-Lawrence Industrial Rhythm, which analysed factory workers’ movements and also managers’ decision-making styles. The archive also includes drawings of human figures in various geometric forms and photographs and film documenting his life and work.

This archive reflects the Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company from 1988 to the present, with the company still making additional deposits periodically.

The company’s choreography style reflects Shobana Jeyasingh’s training in the classical Indian dance form bharathanatyam through the prism of contemporary British choreographic methods. The archive comprises administrative papers, production files, videos and publicity materials.

This is a collection of books, periodicals, programmes and publicity material relating to South Asian Dance, originally owned and amassed by the ballet critic Fernau Hall and the dancer Marianne Balchin.

Stephen Chambers is a British artist and Royal Academician. This collection contains preparatory works by Chambers for the set and back cloth designs for Ashley Page's ballet This House Will Burn, as well as press reviews. Danced by four women and five men, This House Will Burn premiered on 7 March 2001 at the Royal Opera House in London and was performed seven times in March 2001.

These are dissertations by University of Surrey students submitted as part of the following postgraduate taught courses:

  • Master of Arts in Dance Studies
  • Master of Arts in Somatic Studies and Labananalysis,
  • Master of Arts in Physical Theatre

The dissertations date back to the establishment of the Dance degree programmes at the University of Surrey, with the completion of the first Master’s programme in 1984.

Established in 1930, the Women’s League of Health and Beauty was an organisation for women to exercise and socialise with an emphasis on exercise bringing energy and peace. Their motto ‘Movement is Life’ highlighted the importance of physical health for our overall well-being.

The archive contains magazines; publicity material; scrapbooks; photographs and administrative papers.

Yolande Snaith Theatredance Archive (1984-2002) records the work of this British choreographer who took a theatrical and design collaborative approach to her work.

She began choreographing professionally in 1984 and her work has encompassed solos created on herself, duets, small/medium-scale works for her own company and others and work for film and TV.

The archive includes papers documenting the company’s productions, tours and educational work, programmes, posters, photographs, and video.

E H Shepard archives

The E.H. Shepard Archive contains the personal papers of Ernest Howard Shepard, MC, OBE (1879-1976), illustrator of A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories and Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, and political cartoonist for the satirical magazine Punch.

Material includes drawings and sketchbooks, letters written whilst serving in World War One, notebooks created during his service in the Surrey Home Guard in World War Two, and business papers and correspondence.

This publisher’s collection contains original drawings for the colour editions of A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories and Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows.

In the early 1970s, E H Shepard hand coloured copies of the original black and white drawings for some of the titles and, later, artist Mark Burgess coloured for other titles and created new drawings.

This artwork forms the bulk of the collection but there is also correspondence, books and a number of items of artwork from the original publisher Methuen.

This collection comprises material relating to E.H. Shepard's early life and his military service, from his engagement to his return from Italy after the First World War.

The collection consists mostly of drawings created by Shepard, both commercially for magazines and personally during military service in the First World War. The collection also includes photographs depicting life before and during the War, and several of Shepard's belongings.

Special collections

This collection of published materials was gathered and curated by Maurice J Summerfield, a British guitarist, author and publisher who founded Classical Guitar magazine.

The collection focuses primarily on the guitar, its history and craftsmanship; guitarists and guitar playing; and lutes and mandolins. A variety of music genres are covered including classical, rock, flamenco, Latin, American and jazz.

The catalogued material comprises books, music scores, programmes, magazines and periodicals, many of these being obscure or rare titles.

This is a collection of books and related material on nursing ethics curated by ethicist Professor Marsha Fowler. Dating from the 1860s to the present, the collection includes:

  • Texts available to US student nurses written by women for women
  • Texts relating to bioethics
  • Biographical information about and oral histories with nursing ethicists
  • Broader ethics works.

The British Guild of Travel Writers is an organisation of authors who write on the subject of travel, including those who compose guide books, writers of travel literature, journalists and photographers.

The records include:

  • Papers relating to the Guild's constitution, rules and code of conduct
  • Correspondence and notes on the origin of the Guild including reminiscences of founder members
  • Minutes of meetings, annual reports and financial statements
  • Newsletters and correspondence
  • Membership lists and yearbooks
  • Members' published articles and photographs
  • Papers and photographs relating to Guild awards and social and educational events.

They also include the extensive papers and photographs of a former member, James Holloway (d. 1997).

This rare books collection was the personal library of Thomas Henry Farrer (1819-1899). Farrer, formerly of Abinger Hall in Surrey, was the 1st Baron Farrer and permanent secretary to the Board of Trade.

The collection is made up of over 2,000 volumes including a set of works by Charles Darwin (Darwin being a personal friend of Farrer), full sets of Voltaire and Rousseau, historically important first editions, and texts dating as far back as the 1600s.

Art, literature, history, travel, politics and science are all well-represented as was requisite in a well-rounded education of that era.

Donating and depositing to the archives

We welcome all offers of donations and deposits to help us continue to grow our collections. In considering whether our archives is the right place for your collection we will look at the connection to the University, whether the records are of historical or research value and whether we have the right facilities to care for the collection in the long term.

For members of staff, internal departments and alumni we actively collect items created by the University. If you are looking to transfer material to the archives to be preserved as part of our heritage please contact us.

We are also interested in recording the experiences of students and staff at the University and are actively trying to grow this area of the archive. If you have any memorabilia and papers from your time here then please do get in touch.

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University of Surrey