Inside of Kent's Templeman Library
Special Collections and Archives
Karen Brayshaw is a MEMS graduate who now manages Kent’s Special Collections and Archives. Here she outlines the works held there and explains why she encourages all students to come and use these outstanding resources.

Tell us about the holdings in the Special Collections of Kent’s Templeman Library.

The collections occupy almost two miles of shelving. We hold a range of material dating from the 15th century through to the present day, including the British Cartoon Archive, which is a collection of national significance.

Students from the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) will be most interested in our pre-1700 printed collection, which includes first editions of works by Ben Jonson and Beaumont and Fletcher, as well as covering topics such as Shakespeare, science and local history. We also have a good collection of facsimile editions of manuscripts and early printed texts.

Have you been working in the Collections for long?

After completing my postgraduate degree with MEMS I undertook a professional qualification as a distance learner and became the Canterbury Cathedral Librarian, a post I held for almost nine years. Through my role at the Cathedral I developed a close working relationship with Special Collections and Archives and MEMS, which made coming to work at Kent in 2017 feel like I was coming home.

What does your role entail? 

As Special Collections and Archives Manager I want as many people as possible to engage with our collections. In order to do this I work across the teams in the Library to ensure that everyone can engage with our collections through our online catalogue, via our blogposts and social media. We also deliver workshops and seminars of the highest quality.

This is something I have been passionate about since I studied on the MEMS taught programme in 2004. One of the best things about my job is seeing students have that light bulb moment when the mysteries of Special Collections and Archives are revealed and they take their first steps into the exciting world of research.

How do MEMS students benefit from our close relationship with the Special Collections and Archive?

Our close working relationship with MEMS means that we can ensure our workshops and seminars are tailored to meet the needs of the participating students. It also means that alongside the teaching staff we can offer ongoing support to students throughout their programme.

What do you enjoy about working with the students?

Working with students is so refreshing and we learn a lot from each cohort, as they bring a fresh perspective. As a team, we also have the pleasure of sharing not just the materials in our collections, but also what we know about them with interested and engaged people.

What benefits do the students bring to the Special Collections and Archives?   

The collections are so varied and as a team we often find we know a little bit about a lot of things. When staff and students visit, they help us to build on our knowledge and keep the collections alive.

Any advice to offer students about working with these materials?

I would recommend to all students that they take up all opportunities to work with the resources in our Special Collections – there is always something new to learn or see. And don’t be afraid of archives and special collections – as long as you follow some simple guidelines and treat material carefully and with respect, these unique and distinctive materials will continue to be available for generations to come.

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