MediaHub Service Changes Update: MediaPlus and the future of this blog

Following on from previous notification please note that from today, 1 September 2016, the MediaHub subscription service is no longer available. However, all the multimedia content that Jisc has licensed for use by higher and further education institutions, which is currently accessed via the MediaHub subscription, is available through a new service, MediaPlus, at

This blog is currently being retained as an archive, so that the blog posts and resources around using multimedia content in teaching and learning remain available to the Higher and Further Education community. The blog will not be actively updated and if you have any questions about the content, please email:


Exploring Jisc MediaHub – October 2015 Most Popular

So many connections can be made between this October’s most popular items, searches and subjects. This makes for a particularly fascinating journey, and one in which you can totally immerse yourself. It’s like playing a computer game, only better as you can choose which path to take, gaining insights and knowledge along the way. Take a look at last month’s most popular page and start you own amazing journey! You never know where MediaHub will take you!

A screenshot of Jisc MediaHub's "Most Popular" webpage, captured on Tuesday 27th October 2015

Jisc MediaHub’s “Most Popular� page, captured on Tuesday 27th October 2015

Hip Hop!

Arts, culture and entertainment is always a popular subject, with specific searches and items within this theme also appearing in the most popular lists. One example is hip hop, which was the second most popular search in October. There are some fantastic images showing hip hop style, music, dance and culture from the PYMCA Collection. Below is an image showing 90’s hip hop fashion in full effect; Timberland boots baggy jeans puffa waistcoat London c. 1990. This photograph is one of many taken by Normski, who himself is a British rapper, DJ, photographer and businessman, known for his work as a BBC television presenter.

An image of a group of young men wearing 90's hip hop fashion, including Timberland boots, baggy jeans, and puffa waistcoats. Photograph taken in London 1992.

90’s Hip Hop Fashion. PYMCA, 1992.

Normski has taken photographs of other hip hop artists, including De La Soul, Public Enemy and Run DMC and these can also be found in MediaHub. The second most popular item is an image of UK grime artists Terra Danja Crew , created by another photographer Fraser Waller. It is well worth remembering that you can easily find items from the same contributors, creators and collections by just clicking on the links in the description part of the record, found on the left-hand side of the screen. If you would like an idea of what hip hop dancing looks like watch this short report on France’s Hip Hop Revival.

There are a few reasons why hip hop may have proved so popular last month. Let us know what you think the most likely reason for its popularity is!

  • A new film called NG83: When We Were B-boys documenting Nottingham as the unlikely centre of break dancing in 1980’s Britain, as reported by the BBC and the Nottingham Post.
  • The recent film Straight Outta Compton, a biographical drama directed by F. Gary Gray about the rise and fall of the Compton, California hip hop group N.W.A.
  • Numerous hip hop/rap artists playing upcoming gigs, including Public Enemy and Grandmaster Flash.

One item many themes

Some items can come under numerous themes. This is especially the case with the Gaumont British News Reports (“Presenting the world to the world”), which are always fascinating. Of course, we can never tell which particular short item within the news report is of most interest. Last month the seventh most popular item is the 1937 news report entitled King and Queen Drive to St Paul’s for Empire Day. Of particular poignancy in this news report is the item ‘Child Refugees Come to Britain’ about Basque children arriving in England from Spain to escape the Spanish Civil War.


King and Queen Drive to St Paul’s for Empire Day. Gaumont British News, 1937.

What the reporter says during this item applies just as much now as it did back then, with there being “a constant stream of refugeesâ€� which is “the price of war paid by those who should know nothing of its horrorsâ€� and is “a grim reflection of our civilisation.â€� Maybe now it can be said that fortunately the focus of attention is more concentrated upon refugees rather than upon “the fighting men, field warfare and bombing raids.”

Another item in this news report is on the visit by Prince and Princess Chichibu to a Japanese garden party and sports meeting at Hurlingham Gardens, London. This links in perfectly to October’s third most popular search ‘Japan’.

Japan Past, Present and Future

Japan is a country of contrast – of old and new, tradition and technology. It is a truly fascinating place, which of course is reflected in the wide variety of items you find when searching for ‘Japan’ in MediaHub.

Today’s Japan

Recent Japanese culture is represented by, amongst other items, images from the PYMCA Collection, such as a photograph of two girls in sunglasses and of a view of a Tokyo street with neon shop and advertising signs.

However, today’s Japan has also kept it’s traditions. There are some wonderful Getty images of Shinto Shrines, including one of the Yasaka Shinto Shrine, Kyoto and the one below showing a procession of Shinto Priests. The images are so full of detail. What makes them even better is the MediaHub zoom functionality. Try it out for yourself and go ‘Wow’!!

An image showing a procession of Shinto Priests wearing the white costume of Kanda-Matsuri, walking towards a Shinto temple.

Procession of Shinto Priests wearing white costume of Kanda-Matsuri. Getty Images, 2007.

There are also great images from Wellcome Images of the Kanpo Pharmacy, Toyama, Japan, which sells Chinese traditional medicine (or Kanpo), exquisitely wrapped in the Japanese tradition.

Japan and history
Interested in Japanese history? Then take a look at a range of Japanese artefacts found in MediaHub, such as this Japanese coin CM.1681-1918 from the Fitzwilliam Museum Collection, Cambridge and this early 18th Century Japanese fan, from the Fitzwilliam Museum Open Data Services Collection.

The highly intricate level of detail is so characteristic of Japanese workmanship, and there are no better example of this than the many images of okimono (small decorative objects) and netsuke (tiny decorative vessels and sliding bead fastenings) found in MediaHub. They are such a joy to behold! Below is an example of a stained ivory okimono of a barefoot artisan holding a bottle vase from the Meiji period (1868 to 1912).

An image of a stained ivory okimono of a barefoot artisan holding a bottle vase from the Meiji period.

Okimono. Black Country History (via Culture Grid).

Japan and technology

Since the second half of the 20th Century, Japan has been known for technology and innovation. (Notice too that ‘science and technology’ is October’s most popular subject.) There are numerous reasons for this, including Japan’s status as an island nation with limited natural resources (according to the ever-fascinating CIA World Factbook, some 73% of Japan is not suitable for habitation, agriculture or industry), and the country’s large population (it is the 10th largest country in the world by population) with several very densely populated cities.

In both the areas of transport and housing (see below) Japan has led the way in developing energy-efficient, green technology. This may come, in part from Japan’sa culture of respect towards tradition and nature with many of the values and traditional festivals of Japan grounded in the Shinto and Buddist faiths. Shinto regards many natural phenomena, such as rocks, trees, rivers, as sacred, whilst Buddhism also focusing on respect and the sacredness of nature and animals. That cultural background gives the importance of preserving the natural world a different type of priority.

Image of a mini household plumbing system used as a demonstrator of heat exchange technologies.

Innovative household technology being demonstrated in Japan (Japan pioneers new generation of ‘green’ houses. Getty (Moving Images), 2009.)


Japan is also more directly impacted by extreme weather and natural phenomena than many nations – the country is in a volcanic region and frequently experiences seismic activities, whether significant tremors or substantial earth quakes. The impact of such natural disasters, the legacy and long term effects of Hiroshima, and incidents like the recent Fukushima disaster may all also have intensified Japan’s ecological focus. In MediaHub there is a very interesting presentation discussing the accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant, following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011, from a safety-critical systems viewpoint.

With Japanese manufacturers particularly aware of the importance of more green technologies, there is a real focus on innovative designs and products. This interesting report from 2008, entitled Japan races to build a zero-emission car. Have a watch and find out if the predictions about ‘green’ cars have been proven correct.

A news report from 2008 on how in the race to build to develop an affordable, high-performing and emission-free car, Japan is way ahead of the pack.

Japan races to build a zero emission car. Getty (Moving Images), 2008.

Of course, we can’t talk about transport in Japan without mentioning its world-renowned bullet trains! Watch this bullet train crossing a river. There is also a great image of Rumi Yamashita, Japan’s first female bullet train driver.

With regards to housing, watch this short report Japan pioneers new generation of ‘green’ houses. Here the aim is “to use as little energy as possible and to save natural resources, such as water.â€�
Japan has a lack of natural resources at its disposal, so many of its companies are devising a new range of cutting-edge, eco-friendly products.

Mobile technology

Mobile technology is the eighth most popular search. Japan is again the centre of innovation when it comes to mobile phones, both in the realms of technology and design. Look at this wonderful image showing how mobile phones are becoming fashion accessories.

An image showing a campaign girl of mobile phone giant Sony Eriksson at a display of colorful interchangeable jackets for the company's mobile phones during the Wireless Japan exhibition in Tokyo 20 July 2007.

Mobile phones become fashion accessory. Getty (Still Images), 2007.

It is absolutely fascinating to see how mobile phones have evolved over the years. Below is a photograph of a Vodafone transportable mobile phone with accessories from 1985!

An image of a transportable mobile telephone, complete with accessories and instruction manual, by Vodafone, 1985.

Vodaphone transportable mobile phone with accessories, 1985. Science Museum (via Culture Grid), 1985.

The decreasing size of mobile phones is only one area of change within the portable telecommunications industry. In the beginning it was seen as technology for business people, but it was not long before it’s appeal widened to the mass market, even though there were limitations, as reported here in Mobile phones grow up by getting smaller. With the advent of 3G and now 4G technology, the communications industry is moving fast. In MediaHub you can find excellent presentations on mobile technology  provided by IET.TV, including one on 3G: The Real Issues and Exploitation of smart mobile technology.

Scientific Exploration

As well as science and technology, scientific exploration was a popular subject this month. If you search for this subject you will get back many items from the Royal Geographical Society with IBG, including this amazing example of Lake Yamanaka from the summit of Mt. Fuji.

A landscape photograph of Lake Yamanaka from the Summit of Mt Fuji, showing mountains and lake with two people in foreground.

Lake Yamanaka from the Summit of Mt Fuji. Royal Geographical Society with IBG, 1907.

Another closely-related popular theme is nature (the seventh most popular subject). Here is a fantastic short film taken in 1922 showing Vesuvius in eruption. It shows just how destructive nature can be – and how brave the camera man is!


Cats was the tenth most popular search last month, which may well be because on the 29th October it was National Cat Day. Carrying on with the Japanese theme, here is a Japanese painting A Sleeping Cat.

An image of a Japanese guache painting entitled A Sleeping Cat.

A Sleeping Cat. Wellcome Images, early 19th Century.


Nerve cell communication was the ninth most popular search. There are some wonderful illustrations and animations of nerve networks from Wellcome Images and Getty Images, which really bring to life medical and biomedical science. Below is an animation of a nerve impulse travelling from the cell body to the synapse via the axon.

An animation of a nerve impulse traveling from the cell body to the synapse via the axon.

Nerve impulse. Getty (Moving Images), 2008.

The popularity of this search may be due to the new research findings that bacteria can communicate in a similar way to nerve cells in the human brain.  The original paper was published June this year in the journal Nature. An earlier, related study was carried out at the University of Edinburgh. These research findings represent a major breakthrough as insights into how bacteria “talk” to each other may help experts halt their growing resistance to antibiotics.

And finally!!

Here we come full circle – from Japan back to hip hop, with two teenagers looking mean, or rather looking like they have hip hop attitude!

An image of two Japanese teenagers wearing hats and looking mean.

Teenagers looking mean. PYMCA, 2003.

We hope you have enjoyed this journey and that it has inspired you to discover other items in MediaHub. The possibilities really are endless. If there are any comments you would like to make you can leaving your comments below or share your tweets with the hashtag #MediaHubTop10. Remember as well that you can add your comments or responses on the items themselves! See the May 2015 Most Popular blog post for details on how to do this.

Exploring Jisc MediaHub – August 2015 Most Popular

Take a look at MediaHub’s Most Popular page this August and you will see a very varied and interesting range of items, searches and subjects. It seems to have been a very much people-oriented month. History (people and places), politics, art and health are other themes which run through the most popular lists. Here we delve a little deeper into what people have wanted to find in MediaHub.

Screenshot of Jisc MediaHub's Most Popular page, captured on Thursday 27th August 2015

Jisc MediaHub’s “Most Popular� page, captured on Thursday 27th August 2015


People, both past and present, feature heavily this month in the most popular searches and items lists. Here is a selection.

Brian Hope-Taylor

The second most popular search is on Dr Brian Hope-Taylor, an artist, archaeologist, broadcaster and university lecturer, who made a significant contribution to the understanding of early British history. He was a fascinating character, who didn’t go to university until starting a PhD at the age of 35 and helped to promote the use of aerial photography in archaeology, having been in the RAF during WWII. In MediaHub there are several Anglia Television programmes in which Dr Hope-Taylor appears or presents. These include The Devil’s Ditches which is about his 1973 excavation of a section of the Devil’s Dyke, due to be removed to accommodate a new motorway, near Newmarket in Cambridgeshire; The Fight for York Minster which is an appeal film for the York Minster restoration fund, and several episodes from the ‘Who Were The British?’ series.

Johann Sebastian Bach

A particularly great resource is the Culverhouse Classical Music Collection, which comprises over 50 hours of copyright-free classical music and associated scores, covering much of the core repertoire plus rarer pieces from the 17th to the 20th centuries. Those searching for Johann Sebastian Bach (the third most popular search) can enjoy a selection of eight of his concertos, perfect to listen to for study, pleasure or both! Examples include  Bach. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, and Bach. Brandenburg Concerto No 3. Bach’s popularity in MediaHub last month may be due to some of his work being performed in recent and upcoming concerts as part of the BBC Proms 2015.

Vladimir Putin

President Vladimir Putin is another very popular search. Search results show how Russia’s role in world politics has changed in the years since the Cold War, and tracks Putin’s engagement on the world stage from his early shift from the KGB to politics in the 90s, into his presidential terms. News footage and images show Putin meeting many World Leaders, indicating some of the ways that Russia has been presented and steered by him, especially with regards to economic and military policy.

A photograph of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin shaking the hand of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich at a meeting in Kiev on April 27, 2010.n 2010.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich. Getty (still images), 2010.

Harold Nicolson

Another person in the political sphere who appears in MediaHub’s most popular items list is Sir Harold George Nicolson (1886-1968) who was was an English diplomat, author, diarist and politician. In this short film from British Paramount News, Harold Nicolson MP, Vice-Chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, speaks in 1938 about the Sudeten crisis, with Germans living in the border areas of Czechoslovakia (the Sudetenland) demanding a union with Hitler’s Germany, the Czechs refusing and Hitler threatening war. This is a really interesting report as Nicolson first tells viewers “what Great Britain has said to Germany is this”, and goes on to directly address Germany, saying that “we have a very great interest, and will always have an interest, in preventing violence triumphing over law… If you resort to force we will meet you by force.” It’s hard to imagine a politician today delivering a speech in such an eccentric and direct manner, but somehow it makes the message much more powerful.

Another interesting item on the theme of war is that from Gaumont British News, which includes reports on HM The King Inspects Raid Damage at Coventry, Armoured Might For Desert War and Italian Submarine at Tangiers. In watching news reels from the Gaumont British News collection you can really tell the difference between news reporting then and now, from the kind of language used and how it is delivered to the music that accompanies it. A lot of this may be down to the fact that these reports were produced to show in cinemas, being shown twice-weekly between 1934-59.

A screenshot from a news report on HM the King inspecting German bombing raid damage on Coventry Cathedral in 1940.

HM the King Inspects Raid Damage. Gaumont British News, 1940.


Politics in general has been a very popular subject last month. Both the current Labour party leadership contest has triggered a much higher interest in politics than usual over the summer parliamentary recess. There are many news reports and images covering political events both home and abroad ready for you to access through MediaHub. It is certainly the place to come and find out about Italian politics in particular. There are many images of Italian politicians and political rallys as part of the GovEd Communications collection. It comprises of over 15,000 images by photographer Francesco Troina covering architecture, design, engineering, media and travel & tourism. Below is an image taken at a political rally held on No Berlusconi Day (or Nobday) in Rome in December 2009. The Nobday was the first political rally, against the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, to call for the premier’s resignation that was organised exclusively by word of mouth and via Facebook, blogs and tweets, with no political party’s involvement.

An image taken from the protest, No Berlusconi Day (or Nobday), held in Rome in December 2009. The Nobday is the first political rally against the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to call for the premier's resignation.

Political rally Nobday _02. GovEd Communications (Francesco Troina), 2009.


Place is another theme which has been very popular in the top ten searches and items of August. The second most popular item is A Coastal View on the east side of the Island of Raasay. This photograph was taken in 1917, looking northwards from Rubha na’ Leac, Inverness-shire. It is part of the BGS GeoScenic collection, an archive containing images from the vast collections of geological photographs held by the British Geological Survey, and whose images you will find in MediaHub by searching for the sixth most popular subject ‘geological’.

An image taken in 1917 of a coastal view on the east side of the Island of Raasay, looking northwards from Rubha na' Leac, Inverness-shire.

A Coastal View on the east side of the Island of Raasay. BGS GeoScenic, 1917.

Below is a fascinating image taken in around 1935 of The Trinkie, which is a cold-water swimming pool on the southern outskirts of Wick in Caithness, Scotland. Notice the people in the pool with barrels! The natural North Sea water pool does still seem to be in existence, and gets scrubbed and painted yearly, thanks to the “Friends of the Trinkie“.

An image taken c. 1935 of The Trinkie, an outdoor swimming pool just off the North Sea and located just south of Wick, Scotland.

The Trinkie, generations will recall sunlit hours spent in this place where the young and not so young enjoyed themselves, oblivious to the temperature of the cold North Sea. The North Highland College (Johnston Collection), c. 1935.

Another place which is featured in the most popular items list is the Quayside of Newcastle. This 16 and a half minute film looks at the city and the decline of it’s shipping industry. The film was produced as part of the Newcastle Quayside Exhibition, organised by Amber Associates and the Side Gallery in 1979. It would be great to find out why this item was popular in August. If you know or have any ideas do let us know by leaving your comments below or share your tweets with the hashtag #MediaHubTop10. Indeed, we welcome any comments or theories on our most popular items. Remember also that you can choose to add your comments or responses on the items themselves! See the May 2015 Most Popular blog post for details on how to do this.


It is always wonderful to see art work as part of the most popular items in MediaHub. The Death of Hector is a particularly spectacular example. It is one of two tempura panels painted by Biagio d’Antonio c.1490–1495 and shows a scene from Homer’s Iliad relating to the Seige of Troy.

An image of a tempura panel called 'The Death of Hector' by Biagio d'Antonio c. 1490–1495, which depicts a scene from Homer's Iliad showing the Seige of Troy.

The Death of Hector. The Fitzwilliam Museum, 2008.

The MediaHub zoom feature really does improve the viewing experience, especially when there is a lot of detail. You can see the results below, with a close-up of the foreground of the painting. Try this brilliant feature for yourself!

A close-up of a tempura panel called 'The Death of Hector' by Biagio d'Antonio c. 1490–1495, which depicts a scene from Homer's Iliad showing the Seige of Troy.

The Death of Hector. The Fitzwilliam Museum, 2008.

Another very different kind of art found on MediaHub’s Most Popular page is that of pop art. The tenth most popular item is a News at Ten report from an American Pop Art Exhibition which was held at the Tate Gallery in London in 1968. Some very interesting views are expressed on whether Roy Lichenstein‘s work should be considered art, a debate which still goes on today!

An image taken from an ITV News at Ten report on an American pop art exhibition being held at the Tate London in 1968.

Pop Art Exhibition. ITV Late Evening News, 1968.

This news item coincides with BBC Four Goes Pop, a week-long celebration of Pop Art across BBC Four, Radio and Online from the 21st August to the 30th August 2015. It also coincides with the ARTIST ROOMS: Roy Lichenstein exhibition running until the 10th January at Edinburgh’s Modern One (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art), just down the road from EDINA.


One particular health issue of interest last month is the superbug MRSA (meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). In MediaHub you can find images of the bacteria, as well as reports on the MRSA crisis in hospitals and measures to tackle it.

A screenshot taken from an animation showing the structure of multiple-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

MRSA. Getty (Moving Images), 2008.

Another popular item related to health is that of a very short film of Marie Curie at Work, shot back in 1924. Marie Curie was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity and was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She was, in fact, the first person and only woman to win two Nobel Prizes (for Physics in 1903 and later for Chemistry in 1911) and is still the only person to win Noble Prizes across multiple sciences. It is also the case that there are 5 Nobel Prizes in the Curie family! It is wonderful to be able to see her in action, which somehow makes you realise even more what a great scientist she was.

Last but not least!

The most popular item is a short moving image of a futuristic dashboard of a Ford Explorer complete with GPS system, as shown at the Detroit Auto Show back in 2008. It’s popularity is likely due to it being used in our MediaHub iOS webinar presentations. The new MediaHub iOS App is free to download and enables you to use MediaHub on the move through your iPhone or iPod Touch. The webinar shows you some of the features of the app and how you might use it in your own teaching, learning or research.

A screenshot of a futuristic dashboard of a Ford Explorer shown at the Detroit Auto Show in 2008.

Dashboard of Ford Explorer. Getty (moving images), 2008.

We hope you have enjoyed taking a closer look at Jisc MediaHub’s most popular for August 2015 and look forward to finding out what other items, searches and subjects become popular in the coming months. Thank you for continuing to use MediaHub and bringing to people’s attention the wonderfully diverse resources it provides access to.

Exploring Jisc MediaHub – May 2015 Most Popular

It is great to have the opportunity to look more closely at what has been most popular in Jisc MediaHub over the past month. There are always fascinating themes running through the top 10 searches, items and subjects. In May 2015 the most active theme was ‘unrest, conflicts and war’, with the Rwandan Genocide, Spanish Civil War and Bloody Sunday being specific examples. Other notable themes are health, the environment and places. The month of May also brings with it several timely areas of interest, including May Day and VE Day. There was also a particular interest in the North Highland College’s Johnston Collection, as shown by the popularity of the subject ‘human interest’.

A screenshot of Jisc MediaHub’s “Most Popular� page, captured on Wednesday 27th May 2015.

Jisc MediaHub’s “Most Popular� page, captured on Wednesday 27th May 2015.

So, we begin our exploration of the May 2015 themes with our second most popular subject, after ‘environmental education’.

Unrest, Conflicts and War

This is a consistently active theme in MediaHub. Last month’s most popular lists all include searches, subjects and items on the Rwandan Genocide, a mass slaughter of Tutsi  and moderate Hutu in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority from April 7 to mid-July 1994, resulting in an estimated 500,000–1,000,000 Rwandans being killed.  This interview from Channel 4 Early Evening News with Alvaro de Soto,  Adviser to the UN Secretary General at the time, talks about the Rwandan Civil War, genocide and the displacement of the Tutsi in Rwanda. Another popular item is this News At Ten report from the city of Goma in Zaire (now part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) which appeared to have been completely abandoned and was only a few miles away from the refugee camps where a million displaced Rwandans had fled to.

Image of Rwandan refugees in a refugee camp near Goma, Zaire.

Rwanda: Civil War. ITV News, 1996.

Bloody Sunday has been another popular search, likely because of ongoing interest in judicial process around the original event, as well as continued debate of the associated inquiry.

Bloody Sunday was an incident which took place on 30th January 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland. British soldiers shot 26 unarmed civilians during a protest march against internment (imprisonment without trial). Interest this month may well reflect press attention in the run up to June 15th, which marked the fifth anniversary of the publication of the report of that Inquiry into what happened that day. The Inquiry was chaired by Lord Saville and ran from 1998 to 2010 at an estimated cost of over £2 million, making both it’s findings and the process of undertaking the Inquiry the subject of debate and controversy.

In Jisc MediaHub there are a lot of resources – particularly news coverage – including footage from Bloody Sunday, reports on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry and anniversary events. Below is one example of these, a photograph of a march in Londonderry on 3rd February 2002, where thousands gathered to retrace the steps of the Bloody Sunday marchers thirty years before.

A photograph of some of the thousands gathered in Londonderry 03 February 2002, to retrace the steps of the Bloody Sunday marchers of thirty years ago.

Thousands gather in Londonderry 03 February 2002, to retrace the steps of the Bloody Sunday marchers of thirty years ago. Getty (Still Images), 2002.

The sixth most popular search is ‘Spanish Civil War‘ (which took place from July 1936 to April 1939), with some very interesting search results, including posters from the Imperial War Museum Spanish Civil War Poster Collection found in the VADS/CultureGrid collection, news reports on the conflict such as Spanish Civil War 7th Edition (Gaumont British News collection), interviews with people who were there, and even commemorative plaques and sculptures! The sculpture below is of ‘La Pasionaria‘, Dolores Ibarruri (1895-1989), who was a Spanish communist who came to symbolise Republican resistance against fascism during the Spanish Civil War. It can be found in the City of Glasgow. On its pedestal it says it

pays tribute to the courage of those men and women who went to Spain to fight fascism / 1936-1939 / 2,100 volunteers went from Britain; 534 were killed, 65 of whom came from Glasgow.

Photoograph of the sculpture called 'La Pasionaria', a stylised female figure, representing Dolores Ibarruri, in a long dress, standing with legs apart and arms raised.

La Pasionaria VADS Collection: Public Monuments and Sculpture Association. Culture Grid.

This image is part of the National Recording Project (NRP) of the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association,  providing images and textual information giving core data on over 9,000 public sculptures and monuments in a geographical area covering 75% of Britain. This collection is part of VADS: the online resource for visual arts.


The environment – and environmental education – was a very popular subject area in May. A very wide range of environmental issues are covered in MediaHub, from pollution and climate change through to wildlife, natural phenomena and landscapes. In particular the images in our collections show how amazing the natural world is, for example the 2007 photograph of Antarctic icebergs shown below. There are also items in MediaHub directly covering the negative effects people are having on the planet, such as the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill off the Alaskan Coast in 1989.

A photograph of icebergs stranded in a shallow bay and an emerald pool of water in the Antarctic Peninsula.

Icebergs on the Antarctic Peninsula. Getty (Still Images), 2007.

‘Cheetah’ was the eighth most popular search last month. Here is a wonderful still image taken from a short film of a mother Cheetah standing guard over five young cubs in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. If you take a look at the record for this item you will notice the MediaHub location feature. This enables you to easily see where the Serengeti is located and click through to other items in MediaHub which have the same location.

An image of a mother cheetah on a mound in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, standing guard over five cubs

Mother Cheetah and Cubs. Getty (Moving Images), 2007.


Italy, London and the more specific King of Prussia Hotel in Heanor are all popular places people have searched for in Jisc MediaHub. Heanor is a town in Derbyshire, where The Market Hotel on the Market Place was, until the outbreak of World War 1, called the King of Prussia when its name was changed for obvious reasons. In October 2009, the hotel had another revamp and is now just called The Market. As always with such specific and individual items it would be great if to find out why this particular image below was so popular last month! Just let us know in the comments below or share your theories on Twitter with the hashtag #MediaHubTop10.

A photograph of The King of Prussia PH, Market Street, Heanor, c 1890s.

The King of Prussia PH, Market Street, Heanor, c 1890s. Picture the Past (via Culture Grid).

Many people in May searched for items on Italy, probably as a result of the current migration crisis across the Mediterranean, particularly triggered by instability and conflict in Syria, Lybia, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan and surrounding areas. Try selecting “Newsfilm” when you search MediaHub for footage around those countries to get a sense of historical context to the current spike in migration. Looking further at MediaHub’s substantial resources on the history and politics of migration and the UK , I was surprised to discover that women were only able to apply for visas to bring in their husbands or fiances in 1983 (under the British Nationality Act), before then only men could bring over their spouse from another country. Of course the law, processes, tests and costs of citizenship have, of course changed a great deal since then and continue to be the subject of animated public debate.

But for some people searching for this month maybe, like me, Italy has a special place in their hearts and they were planning to go on holiday there. Below is a still image taken from the wonderful short film showing a ceremony and football match which took place in Italy in 1931. I recognise the place where the football was being played as the Piazza Vecchio in Florence, as I have just visited there!  What a wonderful backdrop and just look at those stripy shorts!!

A still image taken from a short film showing a football match being played in the Piazza Vecchio in Florence, Italy in 1931.

Football in Costumes – Ceremony in Italy. Gaumont Graphic, 1931.

“May Specific” Items

There are always popular searches, subjects and items very specific to the time of year, and May is a particularly busy month for these. Victory in Europe (VE) Day was the Public Holiday celebrated on the 8th May 1945 to mark the end of World War II. Below is an image of a triptych, showing civilians gathered under the trees outside Buckingham Palace celebrating VE-Day. According to correspondence held by the Imperial War Museum this painting was one of several offered by the artist, Leila Faithfull, to the War Artists Advisory Committee, they purchased it for £45.

An image of a painted triptych showing civilians gathered under the trees outside Buckingham Palace to celebrate VE Day

VE-Day Celebrations Outside Buckingham Palace. Imperial War Museum, 1945.

There are another couple of May-related popular items. One is a short film called All Around the May Poll, showing people going to vote in the General Election of 1929 and the masses of people in London awaiting the results – the title is a clever play on words! The other item is a short piece of film reporting May Day in Havana, back in 2007, which shows thousands of Cubans taking part in the traditional May Day festivities in Revolution Square.

A image of Cubans in a May Day rally in Revolution Square, Havana.

May Day in Havana. Getty (Moving Images), 2007.


‘Health’ was another popular subject last month, especially the programme called Outbreak! Case Studies in Clinical Infection: Commensals and Pathogens which provides visual, written and spoken descriptions of the many organisms which may be present in and on the body. The film, which is one of our restricted access medical materials, is part of the University of Sheffield Learning Media Unit collection which covers a wide range of subjects and programmes, and is useful across the academic subject range, including medicine, bio-medical science, chemistry, life sciences, biology, sociology, environmental and earth sciences, archaeology, music, law, geology, civil engineering, English language and the performing arts.

And finally…

You may have noticed that the eighth most popular subject is ‘human interest’ and wondered what results this would return. If you try searching for this you find, amongst other items, a large and fascinating collection of photographs from the North Highland College Johnston Collection. This collection represents the work of three generations of Caithness photographers who captured images of life in and around the area between 1863 and 1975, and so provides a unique record of this part of the far north of Scotland, its industries and people. Many of the photographs are studio portraits, including the one below of three children taken in around 1905.

A photograph of three children - one girl in white suit and hat, and her two brothers in black sailor suits with white collars, taken circa 1905.

Three children – one girl in white suit and hat, and her two brothers in black sailor suits with white collars. North Highland College, 1905.

It is really interesting to look at old photographs to see what people used to wear and what different locations used to look like, especially considering that at that time not many had cameras.  It certainly makes you realise how we take for granted the ability to take photographs, and not just using cameras but also our mobile phones! If you have any interesting photographs, old or new, why not  share them via the Jisc MediaHub community?

Did you know that you can also leave your own comments on interesting images, videos, or sound items? To view or add your own comments to an item just view the full record page – for example the photo above – and click on the “Comments” tab. From there you can either read what others have commented, or you can add your own comments to an item. If you are already logged in you just add your own comment and click “Submit”, otherwise you’ll be taken to the login box before seeing the comment form. You can choose to make your comments private, or you can share them with the whole MediaHub community.

As always, we would love to hear your thoughts on why some of the items above are popular, as well as in what ways you are using what you have found in MediaHub – leave your comments below or share your tweets with the hashtag #MediaHubTop10, alternatively you could choose to add your comments or responses on the items themselves!

Exploring Jisc MediaHub – March 2015 Most Popular

It’s time to take a closer look at the most popular searches, subjects and items in March. Thank you very much for your interest in being in the front row of our fashion show which was the last post on the Jisc MediaHub blog, as shown by ‘fashion’ being the fourth most popular search term this month!

As always, there are a number of interesting themes running through last month’s most popular lists.

Screenshot of Jisc MediaHub's Most Popular page, captured on Friday 27th March 2015.

Jisc MediaHub’s “Most Popular” page, captured on Friday 27th March 2015.

Unrest, conflicts and war

By far the most popular search terms and subjects are centred around the First World War. From 2014 to 2018 the First World War Centenary  is being commemorated globally through a series of events and projects. IWM First World War Collection is proving to be a very popular resource, judging by its place as the third most popular search term. The subjects of the British Army and the Western Front during this time are a particular focus of MediaHub users searches at the moment. For instance, below is a photograph taken by Lieutenant John Warwick Brooke on the 29th May 2018 of the French infantry coming back through Passy-sur-Marne and passing a British regimental band resting by the roadside, at the Third Battle of the Aisne.

An image showing French infantry marching through Passy-sur-Marne and passing British infantry resting by the roadside. Taken on 29 May 1918 during the Battle of the Aisne.

The German ‘Blucher-York’ offensive 27 May – 4 June. IWM First World War (via Culture Grid), 1918.

A great collection which can be accessed through Jisc MediaHub is the First World War Poetry Digital Archive, an online repository of over 7000 items of text, images, audio, and video for teaching, learning, and research. Launched on 11th November 2008, the First World War Poetry Digital Archive (based at the University of Oxford) makes available to the general public a wide array of archival resources relating to literature of the First World War, including material from the Imperial War Museum Photographic Archive. There are many items showing war efforts on the home front (the seventh most popular subject), an example being this image of women painters working on the exterior of the District Railway at Hammersmith, London.


Eight female painters at work on various sections of the exterior of the District Railway, Hammersmith. First World War Poetry Digital Archive.

There are also some short films including Every little helps, a British propaganda film on food saving and producing activities in Ilford, Essex, 1918, which stresses the need for part-time work to win the war. The film collection holds an array of moving image items relating to the last three years of the war, and includes items from the Imperial War Museum Film and Video Archive.

Other popular subject terms relating to World War I are ‘destruction’ (a keyword used in the IWM First World War Collection to describe the devastation caused by the bombings) and ‘land warfare’. Air and water warfare are also covered in MediaHub, with one particular example also our seventh most popular item this month: a short film from 1918 showing German submarines and bi-planes in action.


Another clear theme in March’s most popular lists is that of ‘disaster’. The second (and sixth!) most popular search is the R101 Airship, which was one of a pair of British rigid airships completed in 1929 as part of a British government programme to develop civil airships capable of service on long-distance routes within the British Empire. Below is a short film showing the R. 101 flying over London before landing in Cardington, where it started its 200-mile maiden voyage in October 1929.

Screenshot of the R 110 Airship in the air, taken from a short film showing the airship's maiden voyage in 1929..

Britain’s million-pound monster comes to London. Gaumont Graphic Newsreel, 1929.

On the 4th October 1930 the airship departed from Cardington destined for Karachi which was at that time part of British India. This proved to be its last ever flight, as the airship nosedived and crashed southwest of Beauvais in France, killing 48 of the 54 passengers and crew. This disaster signalled the end of the British initiative to develop lighter-than-air aircraft.

Another kind of tragedy were the Notting Hill Riots of 1958, with an ITN report on the riots entitled ‘Notting Hill Riots Special‘ being the most popular item and the third most popular search. The short report looks at the grievances  which had caused the recent disturbances in West London.

Image of a man interviewing a shop owner following race riots in Notting Hill in 1958.

Notting Hill Riots Special. ITN, 1958.

Unfortunately, it is not only in 1958 when there were riots in Notting Hill. MediaHub has other short audio and visual news reports on disturbances in 1981, 1987, and 2008. One example is a radio interview with Alex Pascall, carnival organiser, on the aftermath of the Notting Hill Carnival in August 1987 where one person died (stallholder Michael Galvin) and one-hundred were injured following disturbances involving policeman and rioters.

‘Fire’ is the seventh most popular search, which brings back some very interesting items! There are many still images of fires, as well as of the equipment to put them out. Below is a fascinating article from 1910 showing a picture of a new fire engine and information on the fire stations in Sheffield. The Sheffield Fire Brigade’s Motor Escape Reg. No. W 1000, was purchased in 1907 for West Bar Green Fire Station.

Image of an article from 1910 about the Sheffield Fire Service, with an image of a newly-purchased fire engine and fire crew.Sheffield_Fire_Brigade_1910

Sheffield Fire Brigade’s Motor Escape Reg. No. W 1000, purchased 1907 at West Bar Green Fire Station. Sheffield Images, 1910.

There are also a number of videos and short news reports about fires in MediaHub, such as a Forestry Commission film (Forestry Commission Fire Exercise. ITN News, 1956) which brings to mind the very recent arson attacks on forest and grass land in South Wales. A 2011 Forestry Commission report, Wildfires in Wales specifically looked into some of the social factors that can lead to deliberate starting of wildfires like these. And thankfully fire and rescue equipment has moved on since 1910, with modern day fire fighters working with technologies far beyond Motor Escape Reg No. W 1000 in order to keep these fires under control.


Science is another hot topic this month, with both ‘forensic’ and ‘DNA’ being popular search terms. There is a huge variety of items available in these subject areas, ranging from computer-generated 3D animations through to talks and presentations. The digital images from the Wellcome Images collection are particularly impressive, including these beautiful and vastly magnified crystals of DNA repair protein.

Image of crystals of a DNA repair protein bound to DNA.

Crystals of a DNA repair protein bound to DNA. Bernard O’Hara and Renos Savva, Wellcome Images. Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc-nd 4.0 (


There are two very popular items from March with a political theme. The second most popular item is a news report from 1990  (‘World Has Been Swept by Change‘) from AP Television News on the changes which had taken place since Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in Russia five years previously.  The era of “perestroika” and “glasnost” had far reaching effects both nationally and globally.

Screenshot of Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan sitting side by side signing declarartions. 1990.

World has been swept by change. AP Archive, 1990.

One popular item, the ITN report on the Selma March, has been of particular interest this month due to March 7-25th marking the fiftieth anniversary of this landmark civil rights event, also highlighted in the recent Oscar nominated film ‘Selma’. This was a peaceful protest march between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama in 1965 for civil rights in America. It is hard to believe that the Selma to Montgomery marches highlighting racial injustice happened only 50 years ago given the progress that has been made, although recent events over police conduct in the USA show that tensions still remain around race and equality of treatment.

Image showing Martin Luther King at the head of the Selma March, 1965.

Selma march: takes place. ITN Reports, 1965.

Much closer to home, but also popular this month, is the question of Welsh devolution. The tenth most popular item is a report, made back in 1976 and looking at the future of the Welsh Assembly. The National Assembly for Wales was actually established quite a few years down the line with the creation of the Government of Wales Act 1998, which followed a referendum in 1997.

Arts, culture and entertainment

This theme is always very popular, in fact it is the fourth most popular subject searched. This month popular arts, culture and entertainment MediaHub content includes war art (the tenth most popular search term), music (ninth most popular subject), and a painting by Rossetti (fifth most popular item).

Music features heavily in MediaHub, with audio files as well as images of sheet music, instruments and scenes where music is played or listened to. Many traditional Scottish tunes are available to hear through the School of Scottish Studies Collection (University of Edinburgh), via Tobar an Dulchais. This website contains over 34,000 oral recordings such as folklore, songs, music, history, poetry, traditions, stories and other information. The material has been collected from all over Scotland and beyond from the 1930s onwards. One particular example is a tune called Lochaber no More,  played on the Highland bagpipes.

A particularly lovely popular item is an image of the painting entitled Girl at a Lattice by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, painted in 1862. This is part of the Fitzwilliam Museum Collection, in Cambridge (UK). Images from the collection cover a wide range of pictorial content drawn from the rich, diverse and internationally significant collections of The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, including major artists such as Canaletto, J.M.W. Turner, George Stubbs and John Constable. Every image is tagged by geographical location and a date or period, and many of the images are linked to contemporary social and political events.

Image of the painting 'Girl at a Lattice' by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1862.

Girl at a Lattice. The Fitzwilliam Museum, 2009.

The search term ‘war art’ brings back a lot of interesting results. Drawing and painting scenes in times of war was both necessary before the use of photography and filming was prevalent and, in some cases, therapeutic. There has now also been a move to use the negative effects of war for more positive ends, by making de-commissioned weapons into objects of art. Below is a short film on how the Mozambican Civil War, which  raged between 1977 and 1992, still remains present in the lives and thoughts of many – including artists who are converting weapons used in the conflict into creative works.


Making art from Mozambique’s relics of war. Getty (Moving Images), 2009.

And finally…

Here is a nice, happy item to finish this post on! The eighth most popular item is this short newsreel (one of our featured items last month) entitled ‘A Yorkshire Romance‘ about Sir William Sutherland M.P. marrying Miss Annie Fountain at Darton church, Barnsley. Mr. Lloyd George was present at the wedding and was afterwards made a freeman of the borough.


A Yorkshire romance. Gaumont Graphic, 1921.

This leads me on to wonder if there are particular items in Jisc MediaHub which make you feel happy? Do let us know and we can share them! Also, as always, we would love to hear your thoughts on why some of the items above are popular – just let us know in the comments below or share your theories on Twitter with the hashtag #MediaHubTop10.

Be in the front row of MediaHub’s Fashion Show!

You may be aware that recently there have been a number of Fashion Weeks for Autumn/Winter 2015, with 4th to 11th March the last major fashion week of this season in Paris. For anyone interested in fashion and indeed how culture affects style and trends (and vice versa) Jisc MediaHub has a really wide and fascinating range of items, from still to moving images, and even some audio clips.

Fashion Week

The major fashion weeks are held in New York, London, Milan and Paris and there are two major seasons per year – Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer. For womenswear, the Autumn/Winter shows always start in New York in February and end in Paris in March. There are a number of short video clips of actual fashion shows in MediaHub, many of which also giving you a peek into what goes on behind the scenes. One example is this short film of Matthew Williamson’s Autumn/Winter collection at London Fashion Week 2010.

An image of models back-stage of a fashion show getting their make-up done.

London Fashion Week 2010. Getty Images, 2010.

And don’t forget men’s fashion! The Zoolander antics in Paris earlier this week were a great reminder that men’s fashion and tailoring are an essential part of any fashion week. Here is a great example of a menswear collection catwalk show from Alexander McQueen as part of the Milan Fashion Week 2009.

An image of a male model from the Alexander McQueen Men's Fashion Collection, shown in Milan Fashion Week 2009

Milan Men’s Fashion 2009. Getty Images, 2009.

It is very fitting to include Alexander McQueen in this post as the exhibition Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty starts at the V&A, London on Friday 14th March and runs until 2nd August 2015. Below is another one of his dramatic creations, from the Alexander McQueen fashion show at Paris Fashion Week, Autumn 2006. The short film of Alexander McQueen: Paris Fashion Week 2009 also demonstrates how wonderful his designs are.

An image of a female model wearing a creation from Alexander McQueen at Paris Fashion Week 2006.

Alexander McQueen – Paris Fashion Week Autumn 2006. Getty Images, 2006.

Fashion Designers and their muses

A well as Alexander McQueen, MediaHub contains resources on other fashion designers, examples being Paul Smith, Karl Lagerfeld, Gorgio Armani and Vivienne Westwood. In many cases, there are particularly strong partnerships between designers and models, celebrities and muses. One very famous partnership was between Madonna and Jean-Paul Gaultier. Below is a picture of the singer wearing a pointed-bust corset by the fashion designer.

A photograph of singer Madonna wearing a pointed-bust corset by fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, taken on stage during her Blonde Ambition concert, Nassau 1990.

Singer Madonna wearing a pointed-bust corset by fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier. Time Life Pictures/Getty Images, 1990.

Fashion comes to the High Street

Of course, fashion is not just about Fashion Week and catwalks! Fashion pervades everywhere – from the catwalks to the High Street to the streets themselves. One clear instance of this is when fashion designers and models launch their own clothing ranges in high street stores, such as the Top Shop Kate Moss clothing range and the capsule collection designed by Luella Bartley for New Look, which included two ensembles. However, equally fashion can originate in the streets and go on to influence the catwalk. This is apparent when you look at fashion and youth culture and “street style” in particular, more on that a little later in this post…

Fashion re-lived and re-imagined

Trends come back around! At the moment denim and Seventies fashion, including tan, suede and kick flares, have re-appeared. If you want inspiration, or just wonder what people used to wear in years gone by, take a look in Jisc MediaHub – indeed you may remember that 1930s fashion was a very popular search term back in January this year! Here are a just a few examples of fashions from the twentieth century:

1920s fashion

A photograph of a pyjama suit worn by the actress Hilda Moore in the 1927 play Interference at the St James's Theatre

Jacket and trousers; pyjamas suit. Exploring Twentieth Century London (via VADS), 1927.

Swinging sixties

An image of the front of a Simplicity 'Designer Fashion' Dress Pattern No.7803 from the 1960s.

Simplicity – Designer Fashion Dress Pattern. VADS Collection: Arts Institute at Bournemouth Design Collection, 1960s.


Photograph of a model wearing a blue tulle-swathed turban with a cascade of ostrich feather pom-poms from the Kaleidoscope fashiobn show 1970.

Kaleidoscope fashion show 1970: “Blue tulle-swathed turban with a cascade of ostrich feather pom-poms”. VADS Collection: London College of Fashion – College Archive, 1970.

Eighties fashion

Photograph of a young woman in eighties fashion wear on the King's Road in 1984.

Girl in eighties fashion. PYMCA, 1984.

Fashion and contemporary youth culture

MediaHub gives you access to items from the PYMCA Image and Research Library, a collection of images sourced from all over the world documenting post-war lifestyles, fashions, hairstyles, music and subcultures of young people. These images provide powerful documentation of changing fashions and lifestyles of young people, depicted at their finest (and worst). Looking at these images, it becomes very apparent that music plays a big part in fashion and culture. Breakdancing, punk, mods and clubbing cultures, among others, are all represented.

A photograph of rapper Kool Mo Dee, taken in London in 1986

Kool Mo Dee. PYMCA, 1986.

Journey deeper into fashion

There are so many great fashion resources in Jisc MediaHub that it is impossible to cover it all in this blog post. In addition to PYMCA, here are some of the other wonderful collections you can access through MediaHub on the subject of fashion, style and culture:

There are a great array of fashion collections from VADS (the online resource for visual arts):

We also recommend the Gaumont Graphic Newsreel (Silent cinema newsreels from 1910 – 1934) for early twentieth century fashions and millinery, often including experimental and hugely glamorous ensembles.

As mentioned earlier, there are a number of fascinating audio clips of people talking about fashion. Some examples you may want to start with are a woman’s view of beauty, the reopening of Biba fashion shop, home-made and locally-made clothing in Shetland; local shops…, and the Hartnell fashion house.

We hope that by looking at some of the many fashion resources in MediaHub we have awakened your curiosity and creativity in clothing design, styles and trends. It is a fascinating area to explore, and one which will continue to evolve and leave its mark on culture and society as a whole. Do let us know if any of these items have inspired you – for instance do you have a favourite fashion image which you have found in MediaHub? Share your fashion highlighhts in the comments below or via Twitter using the hashtag #MediaHubFashion.

Jisc Digifest 2015 – Day One LiveBlog

Today and tomorrow I am in busy Birmingham for Jisc Digifest 2015. As I am speaking in two sessions this year I decided not to offer my tweeting services to the fabulous Jisc live coverage team, but I will be live blogging as the opportunity arises. Do keep an eye on those tweets though – all sessions will be covered on the #digifest15 hashtag. There is also some live streaming here. For those attending the event you can find me presenting in the following slots (both in Hall 3):

When not presenting I’ll be updating this blog with notes from keynotes and break out sessions. As usual this comes with the caveats that I welcome corrections and additions since this is genuinely live updating and that can mean occasional errors etc.

And we are off! Tim Kidd, Executive Director of Jisc Technologies is introducing us to the second Jisc Digifest: This year’s theme is “connect more” so please do, with each other, on Twitter, via the event app, etc. Now to formally open the proceedings I will hand over to Martyn Harrow.

Professor Martyn Harrow, Jisc Chief Executive

Welcome all, both in the room and online, to Jisc Digifest 15. But why are we all here? Well we have serious work to do together. Unprecedented challenges face UK Higher Education, Further Education and Skills, and digital technologies are some of the best tools to enhance human efficiency. And we are here to explore the potential for digital tools for higher, further education and skills.

Jisc is funded by higher and further education, overseen by the Jisc board. We are of the sectors, by the sectors, for the sectors. Jisc is dedicated to playing our part to help you achieve your success, including better exploiting existing Jisc services and support – already saving over £1/4 billion per year, but also on ground breaking innnovation. You told us you wanted more chance to do this and that is part of the reason for this event, and also why we have a new “architecture” for customer engagement. We also have a new account manager systems – for the first time every higher and further education organisation will have a dedicated account manager, there to support you, ensure you get the best out of Jisc services and activities, but also to ensure you have a voice in shaping what we do, in new activities.

We have many partners, including many strategic partners. I would like to acknowledge these relationships which are so important in what we are trying to achieve. In particular I would like to thank today’s sponsors (AM, CrossRef, Talis), supporters (Epson, Rapid Education, ?) and our media partner the THES.

Connected is the theme of our conference, we have the power to do much more for our sector, for our universities and colleges… And what we want to achieve over the next few days. That’s what we want to achieve over the next few days: a new level of ambition.

Welcome and keynote speech – Simon Nelson, Futurelearn


College Development Network: Getting Best Value from College Licences – LiveBlog

Today I am at the College Development Network’s Getting Best Value from College Licences event, taking place at CDN’s offices in Stirling. I will be presenting on Jisc MediaHub (which I am, as of the beginning of this month, the service manager for – blog post on that to follow!) later this afternoon, along with my colleague Anne Robertson of the new Digimap for Colleges service, as part of the Jisc session. In the meantime I’ll be blogging the other talks as they take place. 

As always this is a LiveBlog so please do be forgiving of spelling/typos or other errors – comments and corrections welcome!

Coming up later on…

Welcome and Introductions – Jennifer Louden, Chair Librarians’ Development Network and Alan Rae, CS and CDN Copyright Adviser

Alan Rae is opening up the day by discussing the ongoing pressure on colleges to reduce costs, and asking those here if they feel they are getting value for money from CLA. And are we making best use of the materials out there, and I’m delighted we have representatives from Jisc here today, talking about Jisc MediaHub. Are we paying for things more than once? And are the creators of resources being appropriately reimbursed for what they do? And are the licences transparent enough? That’s what I do but even I find a few of them impenetrable.

Are you aware of the new exceptions? I’m not sure that all were aware of the previous exceptions, but the new exceptions seem to give us significantly more leeway than we had before… And if we don’t use them, we’ll lose them…

And with that I turn to our first speakers.

Creating Inclusive Experiences for Students Accessing Library Services – Margaret McKay, Subject Matter Expert – Inclusion, Jisc Scotland; Andy McMahon, Alternatives Formats Manager/IT Disability Support Specialist, University of Dundee

Margaret: I think that talking about how we can be inclusive, and accessible formats in digital media. I am from Jisc Scotland and there have been a lot of changes in Jisc recently. We now have account managers, some of whom are here today, as well as specialists – I’m the specialist in inclusion. But what do we mean by inclusion? Well it’s about ensuring that the systems we use are accessible, that the resources we produce, the formats we use and the activities we undertake is accessible. That is also about us as organisations being accessible and inclusive.

So, what else can we do? What are the quick things to do… Thinking about how we create headings and structures in documents, help texts etc. makes resources inherantly more accessible… And we have to be aware of the Equalities act, being sensitive to our practice and avoiding unreasonable practice. We have to think about images too – ensuring we use Alt text for images, a small thing that makes a really huge difference.

Within Microsoft Office there are automatic accessibility checks that can be used, these are worthwhile making use of. And you can also make use of “MS Office Speak” – which allows anyone reading a document to listen to what that document says… That’s great if you use it with the Scottish Voices – those are free voices from Coll Scotland, that can be used with this and other softwares.

All the main browsers have accessibility plugins – Safari Reader, Chrome Readability, Firefox Reader – these are great for struggling readers, there are text to speech tools we can use with learners too. And you can still access the enabling technology Jisc Tech Dis toolbox.

You might also want to provide information in Alternative Formats. Tools like Read and Write Gold, a software that assists dyslexic learners. There are free options too, like Balabolka. These allow you to turn text into MP3, to present that text differently. That’s software you can run from a memory stick. Libraries are also creating audio guides with tools like Audacity. And you can use tools like Xerte, which we’ll come back to. And if you do use multiformat learning materials you also need to think about, say, subtitles to help ensure that content is accessibility. You can also explicitly ask the learner if they need to access something in an alternative format – by adding a mechanism for them to request that alternative format.

One of the things aout the Equalities Act 2010 is that it is about making reasonable adjustments. Technologies are helpful. Students are aware that they have the right to use other formats etc. In England and Wales students there are changes to the disabled students allowance that helps them choose the tools to learn, and more of a focus on making the institution as a whole more accesisble.

Tech Dis also created some accessibility tools, including the “How accessible is your library?” Xerte tool. It enables you to go through, to answer questions that help you access the accessibility of your lirary… And within Adobe Reader you can do lots of things, fantastic accessibility features, that lets you work with Xerte, focus on particular content etc… There is also “The e-book platform checklist” available to help you assess e-books, including a check list for vendors during procurement – about colour changes, formatting, navigation, etc. – really useful questions for suppliers during the procurement process.

The changes in the Copyright law have big impact for learners with additional needs and disabilities, allowing resources to be adapted, changed, amended to make them accessible.

Load2Learn is a great resource, used mainly by schools but increasingly by Colleges and Universities and they are up for that… This repository allows the crowd to submit accessible versions of e-books, with Dyslexia and RNIB the organisations heavily involved in this resource.

Andy: I am talking about accessible books. The costs associated with making formats accessible can be high, it is hard to have like for like access to reading list materials. Until recently we received about £20k/year per student for making materials accessible. So what we do has to be very cost effective. For our students we have found that it is more important to have a wide variety of texts, so 95% of text is accessible rather than a small range of materials being more accurately converted/adapted.

So, if the source is a UoD owned ebook with a high level of accessible platform, it’s free to make accessible. Commercial ebooks like Kindle, iBooks, DRM free PDF it’s a same day service of £10-£50 per book. For an e-copy from the publisher to be readable it can take anywhere from 1 day to 3 months. The good ones can be fast and reasonable (e.g. Sage) but some are terrible. And the cost is around £50 per book. If we have a physical copy we can duplex automated copy (so you remove the spin and it is duplexed) – the cost is around £70/book but of course images are not described/made more accessible. If we had to do individual page by page scan to be readable it’s £300 per book. Individual page by page scan to be accessible it’s £800. If you outsource page by page scan to be accessible it’s more like £8000. Now we have 12 students we are supporting, and we deliver our whole service for £45k but that’s still a lot…

So, making the right decisions over procurement is crucial… You need to compare the market. I am not aware of libraries suing a publisher for their works not being accessible. Even our licence agreements from 8 years ago stated ebooks would be compliant with screenreader software JAWS. But they are not always. So we are strongly pushing our academics to switch providers towards the accessible providers. For us, in obtaining our materials, we look to an accessible library e-book platform, we look at Load2Learn which is a good site, we look then towards measures like scanning.

We have a webpage specifically to help in the procurement of e-books. We have providers with high levels of accessibility for disabled readers (Palgrave, Springer, Safari, Sage, Science-Direct, Pro-Quest – Literature online), some have some barriers (MyiLibrary, Wiley), some have significant barriers (EBL, NetLibrary, DawsonEra). Scottish HE Basically anything with downloadable PDFs tend to be more accessible, those where you have to use their own package/software to read tends to be less accessible.

So, we have iPad minis that are loaned to students from the service. They are pre configured for book and learning accss only. Books are availabe on our VLE (restricted access enabled). And using the iPads have broader use, it feels inclusive, the students don’t feel different from their peers.

We recommend with suppliers that tou don’t trust the supplier but actually go and check some sample texts… So you want to check reading flow, you want to try changing the background colour in adobe reader; try PDF reading on screen; And if you do use Read&Write Gold TextHelp there is a tool called “ScreenShot” (there is a good tour of this on YouTube) which lets you read anything on screen if it is clear, bypass all known protection technology, and enables students to copy and paste text into word as needed – for dyslexic students that copy typing is really tricky and not what they need to learn.

So, I just wanted to give you some practical help in procurement. One thing: We had a publisher who did not have a digital copy, but there was a perfectly formatted version on a Russian site online… It could cost us £10k to digitise a complex mathematical text… legally… Well legally we have a duty to provide access to equal information. We pay £60-£100 for a site licence for the book… The cost to make it accessible is many thousands… Well we can switch supplier for a better accessible copy for maybe £40 more than our original licence but there is also good potential in the new Copyright exemptions – if we make an alternative copy of a text we can now (explictly) share this with other institutions. And we can now subtitle someone’s video from YouTube without their permission. But we still have to notify publishers that we have made our alternative format copy. But to date we have had very little sharing of accessible copies.

Margaret: We do need to do more of this. My colleague used to work with publisher resources on accessibility, which will now move to Load2Learn. Structured PDF wasn’t seen as alternative enough by some publishers… Structured Word docs was seen as alternative enough.

Andy: I always say that PDFs are not one thing, many many different formats. I try to describe this to our medics as PDFs being like Cancer – one term but many many different things. So whenever you get a PDF you need to actually look into how accessible that is, it can mean so much.

Alan: I’m really pleased to hear that you raised the issue of exceptions there, some of those are really important for accessibility. And those slides will be circulated, also on the CDN website.

ERA and ERA Licences – Kathleen Roberts, Field Liaison Officer, ERA

I am the liaison officer for the whole of the UK for ERA, I am involved in outreach so going out and speaking to people in schools, universities and colleges.

A few years back we used to have something called the ERA service for off-air recording – what happened was that a sample of educational establishments was identified by the National Foundation for Educational Research – schools, colleges, language centres etc. They told us what they recorded from TV and Radio. We asked schools to report monthly. With colleges and Universities we asked the once per term. I would visit 80-100 educational establishments per year on using the licence, and what they were recording. But it fast became clear that our data was totally inaccurate!

The crunch came when a school of journalism told us that they were recording nothing. Our contact there was in the library. I just wasn’t sure I believed them so I contacted the School of Journalism directly… I started with staff in broadcast journalism – they recorded all news, Today programme, NewsNight, all of that stuff! So, I went back to the contact, showed her the material… she said “why aren’t they telling me about that”. And that once a term sheet was too much work to complete, so the staff weren’t bothering.

So, the system wasn’t working. We switched to a snapshot survey… In theory that should have been easier, but it was the same issue. So we have abandoned that too… We now rely on data from BOB, ClickView, custom schools services etc. From the electronic data we can see an enormous amount of usage going on, it’s very well utilised. People may pay a lot for this resource, but it is incredibly well used. A few years back I was at a large university and staff there complained, but before I could respond the people from the commercial IT and training section said they would give their right arm for the ERA licence – commercial licencing for a fraction of that material would have been much higher. I don’t make the policy but the service is high quality… where you can make the resources you need, that’s great. But where you want a professional, well produced repository of content ERA gives you access to that.

So, we now have a strategy of adding value to the basic ERA licence. We are trynig to give people extra. We have a strategy to do this… And I’m hoping some people here have seen the website, blog and case studies… I would like to get into some dialogue now or later on, or after the session, to get involved with ERA; to help us support licence users better… One of the sad things about losing the survey was that it did give us a chance to go out and talk to people. So, starting from September we want to meet with a small group of people to find out what you do, what you need. Individual visits are something we are happy to do. Let us know how we can improve the offer, how we can improve the support, we welcome that opportunity.

On our website we now have a series of resources to support ERA. We have a blog with some resources… Been doing this for about five months. We try to anticipate useful programmes that may be coming up, we’ve tried to put them in context in terms of the curriculum… So if there is a topic of curriculum level… if we spot something coming up as a broadcast we’ve tried to highlight it. We are just dipping our toe in the water… It may be that we aren’t doing it very well – but we’d love feedback either way… Could we do it better? How could we do it better? We wanted to use a blog to encourage people to subscribe… I wasn’t sure about that. We discussed putting in on the front page of the website… But in any case we wanted to add something beyond legalese on the website, to enrich the content. To provide material of use in teaching and learning…

As well as the blog we have some case studies, you will see that in the newsletters I’ve brought along today. We’ve tried to collect a series of these, and we’ve tagged them by level… I want some feedback on this. We have a massive problem curating our content… You are experts in content management, in curating material. We are trying to add more value, but we are very aware that the more we put on, the more difficult it is to access…

We also now have a Twitter feed. It’s not exactly riveting but it does let us tell you when we are, say, at BETT. But this should help to raise awareness of what is there. When I did my teacher training course it was hard to know about all of the resources that may be available. And it is also important to understand the role of licencing, and that there are appropriate ways to use licenced resources. We are not the copyright police, but we are here to enable appropriate use of licenced materials, to help organisations use material legally.

We want more people to know about the ERA licence. And we want to know more about what broadcast materials you want, and how we can help too. We are happy to write articles if that is helpful. And how do we reach out – are there networking meetings we should be attending? Is there material we should be producing to curate materials? We aren’t currently organising materials in terms of curriculum areas… All of the blog posts and case studies.. would they be better organised by subject areas? What works best? Perhaps we need a Pinterest board to organise them?

I am conscious that we need more examples of good practice. We’d really like good practice in using broadcast materials… People like trainee teachers would value a lot of guidance and support with using broadcast materials, also those in HE and FE. The use of less obvious materials or off the wall examples are particularly good. For instance the use of The Simpsons in teaching maths [see Simon Singh’s book on all the sneaky books on maths], and people have also used The Simpsons in business classes to talk about “pester power”. So, we want case studies, inventive and innovative uses… If you are doing interesting things, we’d love to hear about it. We don’t promise they will have a starring role, but we do want to give you credit for what’s being done well…

So, how many have had a look at the blog and case studies before today? It looks like mostly not but I’d love you to go away today, take a look, and do send some feedback… We are a small team and we’d like to work smarter – and that means your ideas, your input, your feedback would be so valued by us.

Comment: I’m one of the main recorders for ClickView in my college. ERA seems quite passive to me… I never thought to go to you for advice on what to record. The process is easy, but finding what is needed and talking to staff… That’s what’s time consuming. So the blog looks really good. I saw one of the posts featured Horrible Histories though, not really appropriate for FE… So something more suitable, or a calendar of what’s coming up…

KB: So if we made an FE blog that was separate would that be good? Or would subject areas be better?

Comment: I go back to the older licences… I’m looking at various services… We have multiple sites and staff in particular curriculum areas and that is what matters. Some people do this anyway, some subject experts are already great at tracking what is needed, but others do need those subject focuses for the people who we still need to engage… They want to know what’s there for business, for construction, etc… Stuff specific to their areas…

KB: We don’t want to replace ClickView of BOB, and their searchable databases, but we do want to support those who don’t use those services. One of big college consortiums in England have a huge shared database with learning resources and materials, but that’s their own in-house integrated system. So we are particularly keen to reach those without a system, those partially covered. And we’d love a case study for every curriculum area… But then there are levels within there… We are not doing too badly for the first 5 months.

Comment: Can I embed video clips in my VLE?

KB: All our case studies are text based so far…

Comment: But that’s a good point, and resources on getting videos into VLEs etc. that would be very useful…

KB: We don’t have video material yet… but we may…

Comment: Would those case studies/examples be Creative Commons licenced?

KB: Might not be an issue if we have the examples… those case studies are the results of 3 years on the ground, following up THES articles, blogs etc. It’s really hard to tap into how teachers use materials in their learning and teaching materials. They don’t always want to be the focus of attention. But we are trying to help them see themselves as role models or exemplars. But one of ours commented that they didn’t think they were doing anything different/special… But the feedback we’ve had on that particular person has been very complimentary.

One example we have, on schools and weather forecasts… the teacher created a whole project out of that, measuring wind and rain… talking about precipitation… And when they came to using a whiteboard, choosing a style based on broadcast versions… The interesting thing was that the real learning outcome for that teacher was the confidence and the communication in the students, something that added to the science learning.

If anybody would like to get more involved, to chat to  me in your institutions, please do email me and then maybe we can work together to create something useful to yourselves.

Alan: Kathleen is very enthusiastic about the amount of recordings. We don’t have surveys… The ERA licence is good but I get reports that few of us are using those recordings – just how much use are you making of ERA Licences? I know YouTube is the elephant in the room.

Comment: I still don’t know what others in my college do!

KB: We do know when people sign up to BOB or ClickView…

Alan: But how many here sign up to those systems? [few shown] Those systems do, though, record exactly what is used and how often… So can’t we just pay for those? And those systems have subscription costs in addition to ERA Licences. And we have YouTube, and we have Jisc MediaHub available too of course… It is a benign licence. It’s always been there, I used it massively in a previous role. I also used TRILT to help me plan what I would use – a BUFVC service there.

KB: Those using ClickView or BOB – are you using it?

Comment: Yes, and we use it a lot!

Alan: That’s fine… If we get £1 million in value, that’s fine… Lets talk about add ons, development… But anecdotally I’m not sure that colleges feel they are getting value for money.

Comment: For a lot of staff people think of ERA as restricting and policing, rather than enabling. We try to educate them but there is so much to do to promote ERA as an enabling service, as a way to make resources available. It’s been seen as a thing for people who deal with copyright licencing only.

KB: We are trying to do that now…

Alan: We are producing the next generation of producers and users. Copyright will not go away. It is an essential part of your toolkit as teachers, and support staff…

KB: We used to have a separate Open University licence, that’s now part of ERA, so you are now getting more than you used to too!

And with that we come to our next speaker…

Overview of CLA/NLA Licences – Julie Murray, Education Licences Manager, CLA Gursh Sangha, Education Support Manager, CLA

British Universities Film and Video Council (BUFVC) – Helen Fitton, Marketing and Events Manager, BUFVC

Licensing Requirements for Public Use of Films – Robert Darling, Account Executive, Filmbank Distributors Ltd

Jisc Collections – Catherine John, FE Licensing Manager, Jisc Collections; Anne Robertson, Geodata Projects and Services Manager at EDINA; Nicola Osborne, Jisc Media Hub Service Manager and Digital Education Manager

It’s Good to Talk – Alan Rae 


Exploring Jisc MediaHub – January 2015 Most Popular

Welcome to the first Jisc MediaHub ‘Most Popular’ blog post of the year!  It’s great to see people taking a look at the ‘most popular’ items from last September. Some of the items which we picked out are still popular now! This month (January 2015) we take a look at the Most Popular page to find out what people are researching, learning or teaching about. As always it is fun to try and work out why these items may be popular and identify themes running through the most popular lists. If you have any theories of your own, can explain why something is popular or tell us why you searched for and used a particular popular item it would be fantastic to hear from you!

An image of the Jisc MediaHub’s “Most Popular� page, captured on Wednesday 21st January 2015.


A few of the most popular searches, subjects and items are to do with specific places. The second most popular search is Bexhill (Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex). In Jisc MediaHub, there are many images of various sights in Bexhill which are part of the English Heritage ViewFinder Collection (a selection of historic photographs from important collections of the National Monuments Record, the public archive of English Heritage). It is also interesting to note that by searching for ‘Collections Trust’  (the third most popular search term) you also get back items from the English Heritage ViewFinder Collection. Collections Trust is in fact an independent UK charity which delivers the online service Culture Grid.

Lancashire is another very popular place with specific relation to its cotton industry, as can be seen from the appearance of the search term “Lancashire” and “Cotton” and the subject ‘Cotton Mill’. An example of an item you get from searching “Lancashire” and “Cotton” is the photograph below of  Low Mill, Caton, Lancashire, a cotton mill established in 1784 and rebuilt in 1838 following a fire.

A photograph of Low Mill located in Caton, Lancashire, taken in 1956.

There are even more specific places of interest. A photograph of the exterior of the Canch Lido in Worksop, taken back in 1979, is the sixth most popular item.

A photograph of the exterior of the Canch Lido, taken in 1979.

The ninth most popular item is a photograph of “The Bunny Run” – Upper Bately Low Lane, Bately. It is a road which runs parallel with railway lines and was very popular with courting couples, hence the name! This item also links in to our next theme of …


The fourth most popular subject is ‘tram’, which may be topical due to Edinburgh trams having started running back in May 2014 and the Manchester tram network having just been extended. A particularly wonderful item is an image of a tinted postcard of an illuminated electric tram, which was specially commissioned to mark the occasion of the royal visit to Leeds of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on 7th July 1908. This tram, decorated with 3,000 electrical lights, was particularly fitting as the royal couple were there to open the new electrical engineering wing of Leeds University.

Image of a postcard showing an illuminated electric tram for the Royal Visit of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. At the bottom of the potscard "Illuminated electric car. King's Visit July 7th, 1908. There are 3000 electric lights and requires 150 horse power to run it."

Another transport-themed item is a silent newsreel shot in 1919 of a motor cycle trial run from London to Exeter, which was the ninth most popular item. It shows cars having trouble going up Trow Hill, and the results of a collision between two motorcycles, where “neither of the riders were much hurt”.

Still of a news report showing cars taking part in the motorcyle and car trail run between London and Exeter which took place in 1919.


Both ’1930 fashion’ and ‘hairdressing’ are popular search terms (seventh and eighth consecutively). It is always fascinating to see how people dressed in years gone by, and to see that trends do indeed return! There are a number of photographs from the London School of Art. The photograph below is of a 1930′s evening dress. It shows a closer body fit associated with the 1930s; the waistline is at its natural level, and the hemline is at ankle length. This item is an example of the London College of Fashion – College Archive, found in VADS via the Culture Grid.

A photograph of a woman wearing an evening dress, taken in front entrance hall of Barrett Street Trade School, circa 1930.

Examples of creative hairstyling can be found in this short silent news report for ITN on the Hairdressing Festival, held at Seymour Hall in 1956. I particularly like the use of glitter and other accoutrements!

Still image taken from a news report, showing a woman putting glitter on a model's hair.

Arts, Culture and Entertainment

This is always a very popular subject term in Jisc MediaHub. This month we have terms from opposite ends of the spectrum – ‘Othello’ as the ninth most popular search and The ‘Beatles’ as the tenth most popular. Below is an image of the painting Othello by the French orientalist painter, Edouard Frederic Wilhelm Richter (1844-1913), found in VADS, via the Culture Grid.

An image of the painting 'Othello' by Edouard Frederic Wilhelm Richter (1844-1913).

Not that unsurprisingly there are a lot of items about The Beatles in Jisc MediaHub. A really fascinating item is the USA: Beatles on Tour in the Bible Belt, a news report about the Beatles tour of the American South, which was marred by protests after John Lennon managed to inflame America’s Bible Belt by stating that the Beatles were ‘more popular than Jesus Christ’.

still image showing to young women holding up a hommade placard saying "Go Home Beatles".

Wellcome Images, Madeley -  and Arcimboldo!

When I first saw ‘Madeley’ (the fifth most popular search) I immediately thought of Richard Madeley the television presenter! However, it seems that the Madeley in question is in fact George E. Madeley, who is linked to IC (the ninth most popular subject). (N.B there are actually one or two items referring to Richard Madeley in Jisc MediaHub!) ‘IC’ as subject brings back items from Wellcome Images, a collection with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science. IC refers to its Iconographic Collections. There are some really fascinating images from this collection. An example below is an image of a coloured lithograph printed by G.E. Madeley and published by T. McLean in 1830 of an apothecary.

A coloured lithograph of an Arcimboldesque figure comprised of different objects relating to pharmacy.

There are numerous coloured lithographs by G.E. Madeley which are of Arcimboldesque figures, i.e. figures composed of the attributes/elements of their trade. The term ‘Arcimboldesque’ comes from the Italian painter , Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593), who used fruit, vegetables, fish, books and other objects to create imaginative portraits, e.g. for Allegory of Summer he used summer fruits and flowers. Other examples of Madeley lithographs are those for entomologist, mineralogist and physiognomist. Why not look in MediaHub for other examples?

 And finally…

The tenth most popular item is a photograph of an Antarctic Christmas, which was taken in around 1903  and which had the original caption ‘Antarctic Xmas No.s 1 and 3 messes. Starboard side decorated for the occasion. Flashlight.’ Looking at this photo I think about what life was like for the men in such an inhospitable environment. It is great to see that they had some normality, even though we learn that Antarctic Christmas for the crew actually took place on June 23rd! The photograph has an eerie feel to it when you look at the double exposure of the dog in the foreground. There are other images of the same 1901-1904 Antarctic Expedition in MediaHub, one showing The Antarctic Theatrical Company in costume!


When you start looking in Jisc MediaHub you never know where you will end up! This became very apparent to me when I started looking at the Wellcome Images Collection, especially those with George E. Madeley as one of the subjects. This then lead me to search for Giuseppe Arcimboldo. If there are any journeys you have made through Jisc MediaHub, where you have either been sidetracked (in a good way!) or made a discovery or connection  you would not have otherwise made do let us know. We would also love to hear your thoughts on why some of the items above are popular – just let us know in the comments below or share your theories on Twitter with the hashtag #MediaHubTop10.

The Troubled History of the Berlin Wall


A View of the Brandenburg Gate through barbed wire of the first Berlin Wall c.1961 Roving Report: The Gilded Cage 19-06-1963

A View of the Brandenburg Gate through barbed wire of the first Berlin Wall c.1961
Roving Report: The Gilded Cage 19-06-1963

Twenty five years ago one of the most extraordinary barriers ever constructed was torn down by the people it was designed to oppress. The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to prevent East Germans reaching West Berlin, but to understand why it was put up in the first place we have to reach back to events following the end of WWII.

In May 1945 much of the great city of Berlin lay in ruins following intense bombardment by the Allies as they closed in to destroy Hitler and the power of the Third Reich. The image below shows children playing in the bombed out city. This deceptively jolly newsclip gives a flavour of conditions at the time.

The British Army relocates 50,000 children to the Western Sector of Berlin Looking after the children of Berlin: Gaumont British News 08-11-1945

The British Army relocates 50,000 children to the Western Sector of Berlin
Looking after the children of Berlin: Gaumont British News 08-11-1945

In line with the Potsdam Agreement the city was divided into sectors; one for each of the four Allies (Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the USA). Over the next two years tensions grew as the Soviets showed little inclination to rebuild their part of the city. The Allies, however, wished for a thriving new German economy to help Europe recover from the huge cost of the war. In addition Berlin was located in the heart of East Germany, one hundred miles behind the Iron Curtain, in the midst of the Eastern Bloc which was inveterately opposed to Capitalism.

The Soviets disrupt train travel of  Allied forces and civilians to West Berlin: The Berlin Crisis: Gaumont British News:  08-04-1948

The Soviets disrupt train travel of Allied forces and civilians to West Berlin:
The Berlin Crisis: Gaumont British News: 08-04-1948

By April 1948 the Soviets had begun to make life difficult for those in West Berlin. This clip from Gaumont British News shows how they disrupted rail traffic for those travelling to the Western Sector across East Germany. Soon a blockade was in place preventing the delivery of food and other materials. The attempts of the Soviets to starve out the West Berliners were foiled by the Allied Forces who ensured regular air deliveries of essential supplies. Click on the image below to see a newsclip showing how this was done. The Cold War had now begun in earnest.

Allied Forces break the Soviet Blockade by flying in food supplies Food Planes Fly to Berlin: Gaumont British News: 05-07-1948

Allied Forces break the Soviet Blockade by flying in food supplies
Food Planes Fly to Berlin: Gaumont British News: 05-07-1948

Over a year later the blockade was lifted, but this was only the beginning of problems that grew from the troubled relationship between the Soviets and the Allies. The East Germans themselves were experiencing many difficulties living in a Communist state with a poor economy and a crumbling infrastructure. This dramatic 1953 newsclip tells how riots broke out in protest at government threats to reduce wages; they were quickly and cruelly repressed.

East Germans riot against demands for increased productivity  Riots In Berlin: Gaumont British News: 22-06-1953

East German workers riot against demands for increased productivity
Riots In Berlin: Gaumont British News: 22-06-1953

Throughout the 1950s the contrast between the economies of West and East Germany became increasingly pronounced. West Berlin was a thriving place to live with high wages and a good standard of living; despite being completely surrounded by the Iron Curtain. Those in East Berlin had little chance to improve their lives and faced restricted personal freedoms, so it was not surprising that by 1957 a million had crossed the border to the West through West Berlin.

Willy Brandt, the charismatic Mayor of West Berlin talks about hopes for the future Berlin Today: Roving Report   20-11-1957

Willy Brandt, the charismatic Mayor of West Berlin, talks about hopes for the future
Berlin Today: Roving Report 20-11-1957

As the years went by the situation became more extreme. East Germans left for West Berlin in their droves to live in transit camps and seek a better life. This interesting Roving Report (Berlin Today) was made on location in 1957 and documents how the people in both sectors were dealing with their problems. As one West Berliner put it : “If we’d spent the last ten years worrying we’d have gone mad by now”.

Map showing the postion of Berlin within Soviet occupied East Germany Roving Report: How Many Germanies? 13-05-1959

Map showing the postion of Berlin within Soviet occupied East Germany
Roving Report: How Many Germanies? 13-05-1959

Another Roving Report made in 1959 asks the question, ‘How Many Germanies?’. Prompted by the forthcoming Geneva Conference, the programme looks at what Germans want now. Students talk about how they can’t really remember when Germany was one country anymore and they would rather keep the status quo than risk any armed conflict arising from the reunification initiative then being promoted by Britain and the USA. The Geneva Conference did not succeed in its aims and by the summer of 1961 a crisis point was reached.

The Divided City

The Divided City: Roving Report: 07-06-1961

Click on the image above to watch the Roving Report documentary ‘The Divided City‘ which examines living conditions and political attitudes in East and West Berlin in June 1961. The documentary shows the huge divide in lifestyle between the East and West Germans. How could the thriving capitalist sector of West Berlin continue to exist within a Marxist-Leninist East Germany? It was an anomaly the Soviets wished to erase and by the 13th August the turning point had come. On that day 50,000 East German troops constructed the first barbed wire wall around West Berlin within a few hours.

Allied Troops face East German forces at Checkpoint Charlie as the first Berlin Wall goes up Roving Reports: The Gilded Cage  19-06-1963

Allied Troops face East German forces at Checkpoint Charlie as the first Berlin Wall goes up on 13-08-1961
Roving Reports: The Gilded Cage 19-06-1963

The original wall was eventually reinforced by a second one of brick and concrete which extended around the entire perimeter of the Western sector. The sole aim of the Berlin Wall was to stop East Germans reaching West Berlin and from there defecting to the West.

Crisis In Berlin 1

East German guards putting up a section of the first wire wall Roving Report: Crisis in Berlin: 23-08-1961

Click on the image above to watch another excellent Roving Report (Crisis in Berlin) which was broadcast on 23-08-1961. You will hear the reaction of West Berliners; many of whom criticised Britain, France and the USA for taking no actions over the Wall. The mayor, Willy Brandt, wrote to President Kennedy declaring:

Berlin expects more than words…

So why did the West not act more assertively ?  It was thought the Soviets would not go to all the trouble of building the Wall if they had serious plans to take over West Berlin, which had been a persistent fear for over a decade. Nevertheless the situation was balanced on a knife’s edge and it was recognised that any movement of aggression by one side could spark off another great conflict, which was to be avoided at all costs.

Hugh Gaitskell talks about the how the West should react to the Berlin Wall: ITV News: 12-09-1961

Hugh Gaitskell talks about the how the West should react to the Berlin Wall:
ITV News: 12-09-1961

Click on the image above to hear Hugh Gaitskell, the leader of the Labour Party, discuss the fears and dangers the newly constructed Wall now posed. In a further interview  on 6th Jan 1962 Hugh Gaitskell  declared the Berlin Wall was “an appalling advertisement for Communism”.

If I were a communist propagandist I would regard this as about the biggest embarrassment I had to face…..

Prosperous West Berliners visit one of their 18 theatres Roving Report: The Gilded Cage   19-06-1963

Prosperous West Berliners visit one of their 18 theatres
Roving Report: The Gilded Cage 19-06-1963

This 1963 Roving Report documentary likens life in West Berlin to being in a gilded cage. The difference in lifestyle between the two sectors was impossible to reconcile. The film is particularly interesting due to an interview with some British exchange students who also visited the Soviet sector. A few days later President Kennedy came to Berlin and made his famous speech ‘Ich bin ein Berliner‘ to demonstrate his continuing support for West Berliners.

A method used by East German spies for smuggling microfilm  Roving Report: The Spy Catchers 12-12-1963

A method used by East German spies for smuggling microfilm
Roving Report: The Spy Catchers 12-12-1963

At this time the Cold War was at its height. In West Germany alone it was estimated there were 16,000 communist spies, many of whom worked in the capital, Bonn. Another Roving Report (‘The Spycatchers’) looks at the extent to which the Civil Service had been infiltrated and contains a very interesting feature on the Spycatchers Museum which was a training ground for West German Intelligence. It’s no coincidence the James Bond franchise started in 1962 and John le Carre’s book ‘The Spy who came in from the Cold’ was first published in 1963.

The House of Checkpoint Charlie: A bubble car used in a successful escape attempt. Channel 4 Berlin Wall B'ground:  08-08-1986

The House of Checkpoint Charlie: A bubble car used in a successful escape attempt.
Channel 4 Berlin Wall B’ground: 08-08-1986

The Wall remained in force for over 28 years and became a symbol of great human suffering. Many East Germans continued to try and escape through or over the Wall; some were successful and others died in the attempt. Click on the image above to watch a fascinating clip about the House of Checkpoint Charlie which displays some of the methods used to escape to West Berlin.

A view of the notorious 'Death Strip' where many were gunned down as they tried to cross the Wall

A view of the notorious ‘Death Strip’ where many were gunned down as they tried to cross the Wall: Channel 4 News: Berlin Wall Opening: 1st Anniversary 08-11-1990

By the late 1980s Mikhail Gorbachev‘s policies of Perestroika and Glasnost were bringing about radical economic and social reform within the Soviet Union. He also ensured the Soviet Union no longer controlled the governments of other Eastern Bloc countries which resulted in the end of the Cold War. Along with many other Eastern Bloc states, East Germany experienced a peaceful revolution against Soviet Communism during 1989 which resulted in freedom of movement to the West. And so it was on 9th November 1989 the East Germans unexpectedly discovered they were allowed to cross the Berlin Wall……..

Ecstatic East Berliners start to tear holes in the Berlin Wall Channel 4 News: Programme as Broadcast  09-11-1989

Ecstatic East Berliners start to tear holes in the Berlin Wall
Channel 4 News: Programme as Broadcast 09-11-1989

This Channel 4 News programme shows the excitement and joy of the East Berliners as they struggled to understand the Wall was no longer a barrier to their freedom. Most young people under the age of 30 would never have crossed the Wall until this moment.

West Berliners pull down a section of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate: East/West Germany: The Berlin Wall : ITV News 11-11-1989

A couple of days later ITV’s News at Ten showed West and East Berliners celebrating together after 28 years of separation. There had not been scenes like this since the end of WWII in 1945. The work of reunifying East and West Germany began immediately and was achieved in less than a year; however many worried the process was too rapid, as this Channel 4 News clip demonstrates. It would be many more years before Germany felt like one people again and some would argue the scars are still healing.


Further Links:

The Berlin Wall Memorial : The Berlin Wall (The City of Berlin’s official webportal)

Wikipedia: The Berlin Wall

BBC Radio 4:  Germany: Memories of a Nation  (major series)

Khan Academy: The Cold War

Guardposts and Gardens: Walking the Berlin Wall Trail

Berlin Wall app