I chose to do my placement at John Rylands Library, Deansgate in Manchester because I am interested in going into archiving and research after the course has finished. The John Rylands Library was founded by Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her husband John Rylands. In 1889 the architect Basil Champneys designed the striking gothic building, which took ten years to build and was opened to public readers on 1 January 1900. The library became part of The University of Manchester in 1972 and currently holds the Special Collections of The University of Manchester Library.

The front of the John Rylands Library
The John Rylands Library (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)


The brief given for the placement was to catalogue new acquisitions for the Michael Kennedy Papers collection held by the library and place them into new boxes for storage. Between January and April 2019, I worked alongside another placement student and the creative art archivist Jessica Smith. The collection I was cataloguing had been donated by Michael Kennedy’s widow, Joyce Kennedy, building on what had already been donated by Michael himself.  Michael Kennedy was a Manchester based journalist, biographer and writer on classical music, being particularly interested in Ralph Vaughan Williams , Edward ElgarBenjamin BrittenGustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. The collection holds a variety of documents ranging from biographical notes, articles, programmes, music sheets, radio and lecture scripts and questions designed by Kennedy for Mastermind Australia.

I had to create a box list whilst looking through the documents which would then be added to the library’s catalogue, the idea being that staff and users of the special collections would be able to search through the catalogue for the Michael Kennedy papers and then be able to find what they need from the collection whilst researching. I did this by first making notes on what was in each of the boxes. This helped me to find a particular theme and made it easier for me to condense this information for the box list.There was a lot of material to sift through and detail to add to the catalogue. Seeing just how much material I had to work with made me extremely glad that there was another placement student who could share the workload and to confer with, emphasising the importance of teamwork within any institution to make it run more efficiently.


Katie Gill is a Master’s Student in the Art Galleries and Museum Studies programmeat the Institute for Cultural Practices.