JFK : Life and Death in the Media Spotlight

Fifty years ago the world was rocked on its axis by the news that the President of the United States of America, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, had been assassinated during a visit to Dallas. That the most powerful leader in the western world had been killed seemed beyond belief. Click on the image below to hear an ITV News report from the scene a few days later.

Dallas Today

Wreaths are laid at the site of the assassination
ITV News: Dallas Today 27-11-1963

This event marked the end of a period of huge expectation and hope that Kennedy had brought with him when he came to power. His assassination sent a wave of despair and fear across America and the rest of the world when tensions over the Cold War were at their height.

In the clip below you can hear some reaction to the news from Americans and further on in the clip there are broadcasts from the Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home and the Leader of the Opposition, Harold Wilson.

Reaction to the news of the assassination of President Kennedy
Kennedy Assassination: ITN Specials 23-11-1963

A few years earlier it had seemed extremely unlikely that Kennedy could be successfully voted into office. However at 43 years of age Kennedy beat Richard Nixon by the slimmest of margins (0.2%) to become the youngest ever elected President of the United States and the first Roman Catholic.

The Kennedy Campaign
Kennedy Obituary: ITV News 22-11-1963

To many this unexpected victory was all the more surprising due to his lack of experience in government. Nixon had served under the previous Republican President, Eisenhower and had been considered the favourite candidate. In the following clip you can hear reaction to the news from Londoners interviewed on Waterloo Bridge, as well as a disappointed American Republican voter.

Londoners on Waterloo Bridge give their opinions on Kennedy’s election
US Election Reactions in Britain : ITV News 9-11-1960

Kennedy came from a privileged East coast background but his undeniable charisma and charm won him lots of support from ordinary people during his grassroots campaigning. While running in the Democrat Primaries he targeted West Virginia where unemployment was at around 30% due to the decline in the coal industry. The following ‘Roving Report’  looks at the real deprivation which was prevalent in the area at the time.

The Hungry Hills: Report on Poverty and Unemployment
Roving Report 22-02-1961

Kennedy’s commendable war record gained him many votes among the large number of veterans who lived in the State and winning West Virginia became a turning point in his successful campaign.

Kennedy wins the Nomination for Democrat Candidate
ITV News: Kennedy Obit 22-11-1963

JFK represented a break with the past and the staid post war years. He projected an image of youth and vigour which was in  tune with the birth of the Sixties. It was the first Presidential election to be televised and this played to Kennedy’s strengths. Having worked as a journalist in the past he had a good understanding of the media and how to use it to his best advantage, particularly during the televised debates with Nixon. However despite his easy going manner  he suffered from several serious health conditions and was often in chronic pain, although details of this were suppressed until many years after his death.

Kennedy delivers his inaugural address as President
ITV News: Kennedy Obit 22-11-63

 Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country

Kennedy’s inauguration speech, delivered on 20th January 1961, is regarded as one of the greatest of the 20th Century. It served as a rallying cry for a new generation to defend freedom and liberty and work towards world peace at a time when the possibility of nuclear war was very real.

With Kennedy as President it must have seemed anything was possible so it was all the more humiliating for him to have been involved in the ‘Bay of Pigs’ fiasco a few months later. The following year he was able to redeem his reputation through  the leadership skills he showed during the Cuban Missile Crisis. At a time when nuclear war was a hair’s breadth away his level headed negotiations with Kruschev defused a potential Armageddon.

Kennedy stands with Harold Macmillan outside the US Embassy in London
ITV News: Kennedy in London 05-06-1961

This was a time when the ‘special relationship’ really was special.  Britain was valued as America’s staunchest ally in the fight against communism and the Kennedys had strong ties with the UK.  JFK had lived in London for several years during the time his father was U.S. Ambassador and his family roots all lay in Ireland.

Kennedy in London

Jacqueline Kennedy: The most potent weapon in JFK’s charm offensive
ITV News: Kennedy in London 05-06-1961

There was great public excitement about the Presidential visit in June 1961 when the Kennedys were received as a celebrity couple. In this ITV News clip you can watch them arrive in London to cheering crowds but also some CND protests. Click here to see further coverage of their fever-pitch welcome.

U.S.A. Mr Harold Wilson meets President Kennedy

Harold Wilson meets Kennedy at the White House
Visnews: U.S.A. Mr Harold Wilson meets President Kennedy

In  April 1963 Harold Wilson, the Leader of the British Labour Party who was soon to become Prime Minister, spent a short time with Kennedy during a visit to Washington. In this clip from Visnews he is asked about his personal reactions to the President and whether the world belongs to ‘young’ men such as him. Wilson gives his forthright views on the topic – however the fact he is only 15 months older than Kennedy is never referred to. For more on this interesting visit watch the following ‘Roving Report’  Mr Wilson’s Washington.

Kennedy’s success lay in his ability to allow the American people to believe the world could become a better place and they could lead the way in bringing this about. He also had many enemies, possibly including the CIA, the FBI and the Mafia, who were plotting to bring him down. Kennedy was living in dangerous times and was killed before he had chance to start campaigning for a second term.

ITV News: Oswald Lawyer Interview 15-04-1964

Interview with the Lawyer defending Lee Harvey Oswald
ITV News: Oswald Lawyer Interview 15-04-1964

In the panic and confusion immediately following Kennedy’s assassination, the authorities moved rapidly to arrest Lee Harvey Oswald as the prime suspect. No records were made of his interrogation and he was shot dead by Jack Ruby two days later on live television as he was about to be moved to another Police Station. In the meantime  Lyndon B. Johnson set up the Warren Commission who reported the following year that Oswald had killed Kennedy alone and unaided. The report was soon discovered to be full of inconsistencies and mistakes and many believe it was a cover-up for a conspiracy. In the following ITV Newsclip you can hear Mark Lane, Oswald’s defence lawyer discuss why he believed Oswald to be innocent of the crime.

Evidence offered by the famous Zapruder film has suggested that more than one gunman was involved and this tallies with many eye witness accounts. Mark Lane went on to develop the ‘magic bullet’ theory which discredits the Warren Commission’s report on how Kennedy was shot. Click on the image below to hear him explain his ideas.


Mark Lane explains the ‘Magic Bullet’ theory
ITV News: JFK Assassination 26-09-1975

What would we think of Kennedy if he were alive today? During the Sixties his carefully managed media profile combined with his untimely death gained him an almost god-like status. In recent years this gilded image has tarnished following revelations about his lifestyle and infidelities. Whatever our opinion of him may be (American hero or amoral socialite?) the West has remained forever grateful to him for preventing the outbreak of nuclear war. His style and personality changed the look of modern politics forever and in that sense he has influenced all our lives.

If you have any comments to make about the life or death of President Kennedy we would love to hear from you. Just leave a reply below at the end of this post.

Further Links:

Our 20th Century Industrial Heritage

Manufacturing Pasts

If you have an interest in the social history of 20th Century industrial Britain you will want to know about a  new set of resources recently released by the University of Leicester. Manufacturing Pasts is a collection of digitised material documenting the changing lives of  those working in factories after World War II. It contains an array of primary sources including photos, maps, factory plans, newspaper articles and audio interviews with the workers themselves.

Christmas celebrations, ‘J’ Department, N. Corah & Sons Ltd., 1960s
Manufacturing Pasts: University of Leicester

A set of learning materials has been created around these resources on themes encompassing de-industrialisation and urban regeneration.

Indian Visitors to the Corah Factory 1939
Manufacturing Pasts: University of Leicester

All the Manufacturing Pasts resources and the accompanying learning materials can be retrieved and browsed via Jisc MediaHub and are part of  My Leicestershire History, which can be viewed via our Explore by Collection page . Why not extend your search and explore other Jisc MediaHub collections which contain industrial heritage material?

Amber Films

Amber Films was set up in the North East of England in 1968 and has been producing documentaries and feature films since that time, many of which cover the effect of declining industries upon working-class communities.

Newcastle’s Quayside before redevelopment
Quayside: Amber Films 1979

‘Quayside was made in 1979 as an elegy to Tyneside  and was part of Amber’s campaign to preserve the industrial heritage of this area. It captures the mood and atmosphere of Newcastle’s Quayside and a way of  life now gone through combining oral accounts with a visual portrait of the old industrial architecture.

Films of Scotland

This wonderful collection contains a range of  films documenting life, industry and social change in Scotland from the 1930s until 1982.

‘Wealth of a Nation’ is one of seven films made for the 1938 Empire Exhibition. It looks at how the decline in heavy industry in Scotland after WWI resulted in the birth of new manufacturing industries and  how the ensuing social change  offered workers a different way of life, including time for leisure activities. This new golden age brought problems of its own as machinery replaced manual labour and jobs were cut.

Working men discuss the impact of new machinery on their jobs
Wealth of a Nation: Films of Scotland 1938

A few decades later a brand new factory was purpose built at Linwood, in the West of Scotland, for the manufacture of the Rootes Group’s Hillman Imp. ‘Rootes Group’  is a documentary film which tells the story of how this innovative car was created in the early 1960s  to rival the new Mini.

Manufacture of the Hillman Imp
Rootes Group: Films of Scotland 1963

New estates were built near the car plant to attract workers from nearby Glasgow, where unemployment was high. By 1966, however, the future looked bleak for many of those who had relocated to Linwood as 450 workers were to be made redundant. You can follow more stories like this in the Newsfilm collections:

The Newsfilm Collections

Explore our extensive Newsfilm Collection to research the history of different industries across the 20th C and into the 21st C.

The dying art of pottery making in Stoke-on-Trent
Pottery : ITV News 28-08-1978

This 1978 ITV newsclip shows how  the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke-on-Trent organised a display of pottery manufacturing to demonstrate rare skills which were disappearing in the area. Modernisation of the pottery industry, combined with global competition, led to a major decline in  the workforce. Although many potteries have been closed or bought out by foreign companies, there are still potteries which are thriving around Stoke-on-Trent.

Men searching for coal on spoil tips at Grimethorpe Colliery
Grimethorpe One Year On: Miners Strike Anniversary: Story 2: Channel 4 News 04-03-1986

The mining  industry  underwent radical change during the last half of the 20th C as coal stocks declined and foreign imports became cheaper. This culminated in the Miners’ Strike of 1984 which is arguably the bitterest UK labour dispute in living memory and has had not only a huge political impact but blighted communities permanently. In this clip  mining families from Grimethorpe Colliery reflect on the changes which have taken place as a result of the dispute.

The University of Brighton Design Archives

This special design archive contains images of artefacts which were products of British design between 1945-85. The collection contains material from the major post-war exhibitions as well as posters, product design images and photographs of British retail spaces. Part of the collection relates to manufacturing processes such as furniture, glass and printed textiles.

Whitefriars Stained Glass
University of Brighton Design Archives 1946

Whitefriars Glass was one of the most successful glasshouses in England, rising to prominence during the 19th C as the Gothic revival created a demand for stained glass. Some of the designs were created by William Morris and  other celebrated artists. The image above shows how design rolls were stacked on shelves for storage.

S. Clarkes and Sons, leather goods manufacture
University of Brighton Design Archives : 1947

This photograph, taken at the factory of S.Clarke and Sons in 1947, shows women machining and tying off trunk handles. There are many more images of leather luggage manufacture at this factory, with a proportion of tasks still done by hand.

 Royal Mail Film Classics

The GPO Film Unit were responsible for making many groundbreaking documentaries about British industries around the time of WWII. As well as  celebrated classics such as ‘Nightmail’ there are many other films portraying social change stemming from technological advancements which took place during 1930s  Britain.

A worker wears basic protective clothing while spraying cars with paint
Men In Danger : Royal Mail Film Classics 1939

‘Men in Danger’ resulted from a growing awareness that accidents occurred more readily among those carrying out repetitive tasks with potentially dangerous machinery. Until now there had been little regard for health and safety issues and working people were often exposed to risk. This beautifully crafted film shows the measures which could be taken to make the workplace safer.

A Steel Workers’ Brass Band
Spare Time : Royal Mail Film Classics 1939

‘Spare Time’ is a black and white film, made in 1939, which shows how people enjoyed their leisure hours. It looks at three communities from the steel, cotton and coal industries and observes how their different shift systems have had an influence on their activities.

North Highland College (Johnston Collection)

The Johnston Collection offers a unique glimpse into the lives of those around Wick before the Second World War. Many thousands of  archive photographs reflect the work and leisure activities of the community and show us fascinating details of industries which have long since gone.

Gutting the Herring
North Highland College (Johnston Collection) c1925

At one time the small town of Wick was the biggest herring port in Britain  but the industry began to decline in the 1930s as herring shoals became less common and faster transport links removed the need for salting and curing. The photo above shows James More’s herring curing station around 1925. The fish were gutted as soon as they were landed by girls who worked in “crews” of three; two gutters and one packer. If the fishing was heavy they worked on into the night in all weathers and open to the elements.

Miss Christine Gunn, Herring Queen in 1953 and her attendants
North Highland College (Johnston Collection) c1955

The herring industry was of such importance that for many years the community of Wick celebrated the summer ‘Herring Queen’ festival. This eventually stopped during the 1950s when the industry declined.

There are many more industries which can be researched through Jisc MediaHub, so why not take some time to explore our collections for material which interests you.

Further Links:









Performance Shakespeare withdrawn

JISC Collections writes:

The Performance Shakespeare collection of films has been removed from JISC MediaHub.

The licence term ended on 20 June 2013 and, to extend it, Espresso Education requested further payment. The usage of the collection does not justify the costs requested by Espresso to renew this collection for a further year.

Under the terms of the current licence, any authorised users at subscribing institutions who have downloaded films from the collection may continue to use them for teaching, learning and research as long as no further copies are created. In addition, if any teaching or learning materials have been created using parts of the collection, they can be deposited into Jorum in perpetuity or into your VLE.

If you have any questions about this, please do contact us:
JISC Collections helpdesk: help@jisc-collections.ac.uk or tel, +44 (0)20 3006 6088
EDINA helpdesk: edina@ed.ac.uk or tel, +44 (0)131 650 3302

Legacy of the Genetic Codebreakers

The Wellcome Library has launched a major new digital resource which tells the story of genetics. ‘Codebreakers: Making of Modern Genetics’  contains the digitised archives of the most prominent individuals in this field, together with lots of supporting material.

To celebrate the launch of ‘Codebreakers’ we would like to show you a special selection of MediaHub resources which help illustrate the huge impact the work of these geneticists has had on society and how it has already changed our lives.

It is sixty years since’ Nature’ published  Watson and Crick’s  paper on the structure of DNA. This breakthrough is considered to be one of the greatest achievements of the 20th Century. Since that time enormous progress has been made in the field of genetics and molecular biology.

Francis Crick : Nobel Prize-Winning Scientist
Getty (still images) : 23-04-1993

Legendary Geneticist : James Dewey Watson
Getty (still images) 23-04-1993

Genetic Fingerprinting

Alec Jeffreys discovered the technique of DNA fingerprinting by chance while carrying out research at the University of Leicester in 1984. It revolutionised the field of forensic science and police were now able to use DNA evidence to link  a suspect to the scene of a crime. A few years later the technique had been developed sufficiently to make it commercially available. Click on the following ITV news clip to hear how DNA fingerprinting is carried out and the impact it was to have on criminal investigation procedures.

Genetic Fingerprint Techniques
ITV News 13-11-1987

Jeffreys went on to refine the process further and developed DNA profiling, a technique which made it possible for DNA databases to be established. This has led to ethical questions about whose DNA should be stored and for how long.

However, the use of DNA evidence in court is not without its issues. In 2007 attempts to convict an individual for the Omagh bombings failed due to problems with ‘Low Copy’ DNA that ‘did not stand up to scrutiny’. Watch the ITN news clip below to find out more about the implications this has had for the Crown Prosecution Service.

DNA evidence to be reviewed after Omagh bomb trial verdict
ITN 21-12-2007

Sequencing and Mapping of the Human Genome

The Human Genome Project, established in 1989,  allowed geneticists to work collaboratively on sequencing  the entire human genome. This involved identifying every chemical  base pair within every gene of each human chromosome (around 3 billion base pairs).

Base pairs which make up the structure of a DNA double helix
Book of Life : Wellcome Film 2001

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, based in Cambridge, carried out nearly a third of the work; the rest was sequenced by institutions  in the USA .  The ‘Book of Life‘ was made by the Wellcome Trust and is a fascinating account of how the sequencing work was done and the immense potential this has released to understand how genes contribute to human disease. We now have the information to discover the genetic basis of  cancer, diabetes and heart disease, as well as many other illnesses such as Alzheimer’s. Find out more about how the work was done by clicking on the image below:

Publication of the entire human genome
Book of Life : Wellcome Film 2001

This immense task was completed to a high degree of accuracy by 2003;  timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the discovery of  the DNA double helix.

Frederick Sanger, the researcher after whom the Sanger Institute was named,  pioneered methods of  sequencing  DNA which would form the basis of the high-speed technologies in use today. In the interview below you can hear this modest man discuss his work and how the life of a research scientist is usually strewn with failures from which occasional breakthroughs are made.

Frederick Sanger
Sanger. Sequences [Dr F. Sanger Interviewed by Mr H. Judson, 13 November 1987] Biochemical Society

The process of DNA sequencing is constantly advancing and becoming cheaper. In 2007 it cost $10 million to sequence a human genome whereas in 2012 it could be done in one day for around $1,000. This is having a revolutionary effect on  scientists’ abilities  to defeat diseases which mutate quickly, such as HIV and malaria, as well as for a multitude of other applications.

Many more genomes of other species are now being unravelled, expanding our knowledge of genetics further. Accompanying these advances will be a host of new ethical issues surrounding the use to which this information is being put and whether it is being used for commercial gain.

Greenpeace activists protest against genetically modified maize crops grown by US company, Monsanto.
Getty (images) 03-05-2005

Giant biotechnology companies such as Monsanto have been accused of introducing genetically modified organisms to the detriment of indigenous species and the environmental health of the planet.

The Genome of Neanderthal Man

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology are trying to sequence the Neanderthal genome following the discovery of ancient DNA within well preserved Neanderthal bones . It will allow scientists to compare human and Neanderthal genomes and identify the changes which are unique to modern man. It is hoped this will give clues to how man evolved and why Neanderthals disappeared.  Watch this Channel 4 Newsclip below to find out why scientists think this work could also contribute to our understanding of human speech disorders.

Neanderthal Skull
Technology: Scientists close to mapping genetic code for Neanderthal man: Channel 4 News 15-11-2006

We now stand on the threshold of a new age in which biomedical technologies will be used diagnose and treat disease, design new drugs and provide us with solutions to help make vital resources more plentiful. This promises to improve all our lives but, as with the advent of all new technologies, we will have to confront previously unknown ethical dilemmas along the way.

Further Links:

Interface Upgrade; New Collection – Easter 2013 release

We are pleased to be able to offer some preview screenshots of the new JISC MediaHub interface which is due to go into service on Friday April 5th. We have made a series of changes in line with the Roadmap of forthcoming features. The main new areas are:

  • Simpler classification of collection types
  • Advanced Search: time/date, people/organisations
  • My MediaHub: bookmarking and tagging, commenting.

We have taken the opportunity to update the homepage by enlarging the showcase panel which now includes both content highlights and interface features. It is dynamic and refreshes during a user session as well as being regularly updated with new images.

Screenshot of our new homepage.

Screenshot of our new homepage.

We have also added a social media panel to highlight tweets and blogposts we have written about the service.

The links which appeared on the right hand side of the page are now all available elsewhere, either as links in the menu bar (Explore, My MediaHub) or under other headings (Most Popular under Explore; Useful links now under Help).

Simpler classification of collection types

There are now four Access icons describing content from the different collections.

Items covered by the JISC eCollections licence.
You can view and download the video, image or audio if your college or university subscribes to the JISC eCollections service.

Items requiring a login
These resources have restricted access. Some information will be freely available, but a log in may be required to access and download the video, image, or audio files.

Items held at JISC MediaHub
These resources are held at JISC MediaHub. You can view and download these resources directly from the website provided you have logged in (if required).

Items held on other websites
These resources are held on external websites. You can search for these and access some information within JISC MediaHub, but to view or download the resource you must follow a link to another web site. You may or may not be required to login.

Many resources will be labelled with more than one icon. In the image below, for example, we have a video with 3 icons at the top right; it is covered by the JISC eCollections licence, you have to login for access, and it is held at JISC MediaHub.

Full record with new icons

Full record with new icons

We have also added accompanying icons for the various Explore options:

explore icons

Advanced Search: date, duration, people/organisations

The new advanced search page is accessible either as an Explore option or via the More options link in the Search area at the top of most pages.

The additional options are to search by people/organisations (where records contain such information), duration (of video clip) and by date range.

Bookmarking and Tagging

Bookmark adds a record to My MediaHub permanently. You must be logged in with your college or university login to use the facility and Bookmarks will remain available as long as your login is active. The Bookmark option is available on the full record screen e.g. by clicking on the star under the image, as shown in the image below:

bookmark links screenshot

bookmark links screenshot

As part of the bookmarking process users are able to add tags. This makes it easier to find bookmarks later, in My MediaHub. You can click on any of the suggested tags to add them, or add your own tags. There is also a Private box if you do not wish your bookmarks to appear on any public lists.


You can now view comments and add your own via the full record page. You must be logged in with your individual login to add or edit comments. The process is simply to Click the Comments tab under the large image. Click Add comment, as shown in the image below.

comments page screenshot

comments page screenshot

Comments can be marked private via a check box. You can view and delete comments that you have added via the My MediaHub comments screen.

We have updated the various help & support guides and these will be available as part of the new release. These fully document all aspects of the new interface, including more detail on the features shown above. We look forward to receiving feedback from users once it is live.

New collection: Bioscience ImageBank

Bioscience ImageBank is an online collection of over 6,000 bioscience images which are freely available and licensed for use in learning and teaching. The content of ImageBank covers a wide range of subjects from Agriculture to Zoology and includes images from all the major taxonomic groups. Many images are accompanied by a short description and the species name and common name where appropriate, and all images and accompanying information have been checked for accuracy by those with substantial knowledge of the subject matter, which gives ImageBank a considerable advantage over other online collections.

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Bioscience ImageBank



The 16th February 2013 marked the 90th anniversary of Howard Carter’s historic unsealing of the royal burial chamber of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings. He had been searching for the tomb for many years, with the financial backing of Lord Carnarvon, and its discovery was not only the greatest achievement of his career but also the greatest archaeological find of modern times.

Crowds gather around the entrance to the tomb of Tutankhamun
Lord Carnarvon: Gaumont Graphic Newsreel 05-03-1923

Howard Carter’s personal diary and journal (now held at the Griffith Institute, Oxford)  provide a fascinating account of how the tomb was finally discovered in November 1922.  On Sunday the 5th November, he sent the following telegram to Lord Carnarvon

At last have made wonderful discovery in Valley a magnificent tomb with seals intact recovered same for your arrival congratulations

It took several months to record the hundreds of wonderful objects stored in the antechamber before the team could proceed to investigate the sealed burial chamber. Lord Carnarvon  travelled from England to witness the event on 16th Feb 1923 and the world press descended.

The following clip from Gaumont Graphic Newsreel includes Howard Carter showing  Lord Carnarvon and others around the site in early March 1923. A month later, Lord Carnarvon died suddenly from blood poisoning which originated from a mosquito bite and rumours began to circulate about the curse of  Tutankhamun.

Howard Carter talks to Lord Carnarvon at the tomb of Tutankhamun
Lord Carnarvon: Gaumont Graphic Newsreel 05-03-1923

Tutankhamun ruled Egypt between 1336 and 1327 BC and was a Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Although his tomb was relatively small for an Egyptian Pharaoh it was of enormous significance because very little looting had occurred and the burial chamber was still sealed. HV Morton, the only journalist allowed into the tomb, wrote vividly of astonishing sights which included not only magnificent treasures but also stores of food, perfumed face creams and withered garlands of flowers. The King had been buried with everything he could conceivably need to sustain him in the afterlife.

Carter was famous for his systematic approach to recording archaeological artefacts, ensuring the context of an object was recorded in addition to information about the object itself. His team used Carter’s own card system to record the contents of Tutankhamun’s tomb and he employed Harry Burton to photograph the excavation as it progressed, providing an invaluable visual record of the tomb in situ.

Contents of the tomb are removed in wooden crates after they have been carefully recorded
Lord Carnarvon: Gaumont Graphic Newsreel 05-03-1923

The discovery of Tutankhamun captured the imagination of the public at a time when such exciting events could be watched on early newsreels as well as being reported in print. This was to have a big impact on archaeology and the way in which it was communicated to a new audience.  Brian Hope-Taylor talks about this in the following  film called ‘The Investigators’ and discusses how archaeologists are equally concerned with finding out about the lives of ordinary people as well as royal ones.

A statue of Anubis guards the tomb of Tutankhamun
Who were the British?: The Investigators: Anglia Television Library 1965

Egypt’s tourist industry boomed as the media fuelled public interest in Egyptology. Take your own tour of  Aswan, Luxor and the Valley of the Kings by watching this 1959 Roving Report presented by the famously combative George Ffitch.

George Ffitch is driven to the Valley of the Kings
The Grandeur of Egypt: Roving Report 29-04-1959

Until the 1960′s all artifacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb were housed in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. As a result of political change it was made possible for the major items to be exhibited throughout the world and they still continue to travel the globe .

The Treasures of Tutankhamun‘  came to the British Museum in 1972 and was their most successful ever exhibition attracting over 1.6 million people. Click on the image below to watch an ITV news clip broadcast on the eve of its opening.

Scarab Beetle from the ‘Necklace of the Sun in the Eastern Horizon’
Tutankhamun Exhibition Opened: ITV News 29-03-1972

Tutankhamun has drawn people to Egypt for decades. Click on the image below to watch ITN footage of the Princess of Wales visiting Cairo and the Valley of the Kings in 1992. She was lucky and did not have to queue in the heat to see all his splendours.

Princess of Wales looks at the Golden Mask of King Tutankhamun
Princess of Wales Egypt Visit: ITN 14-05-1992

We now know much information about the boy king as a result of modern technology. There have been many theories about  Tutankhamun’s early death at around 19 years of age and many believed he had been murdered (evidenced by a skull injury). In 2005 the king’s mummified remains were scanned and results indicate  it is much less likely that he was deliberately killed. DNA testing  in 2010 shows he probably suffered from malaria which would have resulted in a weakened constitution. Death most likely occurred as the result of a leg injury which failed to heal properly. You can follow this story and find out more about his parentage and physical condition by clicking on the image below:

The real face of Tutankhamun
DNA reveals some mystery on King Tut: Getty (moving images) 2010

Recent work on the analysis of mummies has given us valuable information about our own health. This Lancet article shows that evidence of atherosclerosis existed in a third of the mummies which were examined, suggesting that modern lifestyle factors are not completely to blame for an individual’s predisposition to heart attack and strokes. Instead it’s possible atherosclerosis  may be linked more directly to the human ageing process.

The public face of the King – the Golden Mask of Tutankhamun
DNA reveals some mystery on King Tut: Getty (moving images) 18-02-2010

Controversies continue to follow Tutankhamun. There are problems concerning the deterioration of the King’s remains following their removal from the protective atmosphere of his sealed burial chamber, as well as the condition of the tomb itself. In addition there are the ethics of displaying a dead body, stripped of all the objects with which it had been buried. Many will argue  this is preferable to the looting which would have taken place once the location of the tomb was known, though some believe mummies should not be disturbed.

The legend of Tutankhamun, who died over 3,000 years ago and was sent into the afterlife with treasures beyond imagining, continues to fascinate us and even now he still  holds on to many of  his secrets.

Further Links:


Robert Burns – Man of the People

The life of Robert Burns is celebrated every year on the 25th January; the date of his birth. Why did the Burns Night tradition start and how did this obscure Ayrshire farm lad, born in 1759,  turn into a literary phenomenon and national hero?

The Birth Certificate of Robert Burns held at the General Register Office for Scotland, Edinburgh: Getty (still images) 24-01-2007

The first Burns Night was held on the wrong date (29th January 1802) due to a mistake in a  newly written biography by Dr James Currie (one of many inaccuracies written about Burns’  life).  The poet had been dead less than  six years yet, such was the impact he had made on the Scottish people, there was a great wish to preserve his memory. And what better way than to celebrate in the manner he would have appreciated most: with good company, haggis, Scotch whisky and of course, poetry. If you are thinking of hosting your own Burn’s Night Supper it’s advisable to consult some reliable information on the running order of the event. Click on the image below to watch a newsclip about Burns’ 250th anniversary in 1996.

Delivering the Address to the Haggis
Scotland: Robert Burns: Channel 4 News 23-01-1996


Robert Burns was born into a poor Ayrshire farming family in 1759. It was a constant struggle to make a living off the land and Robert endured hard manual labour during much of his early life. Despite this, his father made sure Robert was given the basis of a classical education, although he spent little time attending school. Find out more about the area where Burns grew up by watching ‘ Ayr from the Auld Brig‘ made by Films of Scotland.

Burns Birthplace at Alloway: Ayr from the Auld Brig: Films of Scotland 1961

As a young man he read widely and began to write poetry inspired by his passion for nature,  revelling and the local girls. To say he had a complicated love life would be an understatement and his many amours (plus resulting progeny) deserve a blog post all of their own.

The Brig O’Doon from Burns’ famous Tam O’Shanter
Ayr from the Auld Brig: Films of Scotland 1961

After his father’s death,  life on the farm continued to be precarious. In a bid to secure a reliable job and escape the embarrassing fallout of a recent romance, he came up with the unlikely idea of emigrating to Jamaica. Unfortunately he did not have money for the ship’s passage so decided to publish some of his poems (by subscription) to try and raise the funds. Astonishingly his volume, written in Scots dialect, was a runaway success. He changed his plans and set off for Edinburgh, where he knew no-one, to seek his fortune.

A Legend is Made
Scotland: Robert Burns: Channel 4 News 1996

In the course of arranging a second edition of his poems, he found himself in demand by the leading figures of Edinburgh society who were eager to meet the  ‘Heaven-taught Ploughman’ themselves. He charmed them all with his vivacity and wit and soon became a celebrity figure. Burns also had a strong interest in folk songs and he set many of his own poems to music. In 1787  he toured different parts of Scotland, in the course of which he collected many traditional songs which were in danger of disappearing. On his return he worked collaboratively with others to collect, publish and preserve this vital part of Scottish culture. Take your own Scottish tour  by watching Holiday Scotland which features most of the places Burns visited himself.


Burns travelled as far north as Inverness during his travels in 1787
Holiday Scotland: Films of Scotland 1966

Sadly,  Burns was never destined to make much money. He sold the copyright to his poetry early on and refused to take any payment for his work collecting folk songs, which he regarded as a patriotic service. He returned to Ayrshire to bring up his family and took up a post with the Excise in order to earn a regular income. Click the image below to find out more about how Burns is still remembered in the town of Ayr.

People of Ayr celebrate the June Rite of Burns by re-enacting the ride of Tam O’Shanter: A Town Called Ayr: Films of Scotland 1974

His outspoken radical views got him into a lot of trouble with the authorities and there were occasions when he nearly lost his job with the Excise as a result.  He desperately needed to support his growing family but hard times lay ahead and he became unwell. Many have said his illness was due to a dissolute lifestyle but we now know he was suffering from endocarditis which, in the days before antibiotics, would inevitably prove fatal. He died on 21st July 1796 at the age of 37. His wife, Jean Armour, gave birth to his 13th child on the day of his funeral. His popularity was so great that it was said  over 10,000 people watched his funeral procession.

Burns Celebrations: Gaumont Graphic Newsreel: 29-01-1920

What was Burn’s legacy to the Scottish nation? His works have been translated into 50 languages and songs such as ‘Auld Lang Syne’ are known globally. His poetry is remarkable for its simplicity and honesty,  expressing his zest for life and egalitarian ideals. He has become a conduit for spreading  Scottish culture throughout the world.

Burns’s poetry and ideas continue to be relevant to us today. When the new Scottish Parliament opened, one of  Burns’ most famous songs was chosen to mark the occasion.  ‘A Man’s a Man for A”That’  is a declaration of equality and liberty.

For A’ that and a”that

It’s coming yet for a’that

That Man to Man, the world o’er

Shall brothers be for a’that


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The Hobbit

Peter Jackson’s eagerly anticipated new film ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ opens in the UK today, so  we thought a special blog post about ‘The Hobbit’ would be an ideal way to mark the festive season. So put up your feet and help yourselves to second breakfast while we take you on a journey through JISC MediaHub.

J.R.R. Tolkien has entranced millions with his magical tales of Middle-earth. ‘The Hobbit’, originally written for the entertainment of his son Christopher, was published in 1937.  Professor Tolkien drew upon his vast knowledge of Norse and Old English to conjure a heroic world, where men live alongside dwarves, elves, goblins and other mythical beings. The Channel 4 clip below discusses the Anglo-Saxons and shows how their society and culture was far more sophisticated than we originally thought. It’s interesting to see how Tolkien incorporated elements from Anglo-Saxon life into his Middle-earth fable.

Sutton-Hoo Helmet
[Anglo-SaxonSettlement: New Evidence: Channel 4 News 01-09-1989]

When the tale begins, Bilbo Baggins, the reluctant and unlikely hero,  is living peaceably in the rural idyll of the Shire.

An romanticised view of English rural life was the model for the Shire. A similarly idealised representation can be seen in this propaganda film on the role of the countryside in war efforts.
[Spring Offensive: Royal Mail Film Classics 1939]


Before long his comfortable existence is rudely disturbed by the arrival of the wizard, Gandalf who, together with a band of dwarves, whisks him away on a quest for long-forgotten gold. The dwarves use an ancient map containing runes to guide them to the Lonely Mountain where their treasure is being held. It was thought the Norse sometimes used runes for the purposes of magic and divination. Below is an image of a huge runestone from Jelling  in Denmark which contains both pagan and Christian symbols.

Pagan Runes on a Jelling Stone
[Lost Centuries 7 : The Fury of the Northmen:segment 5: Anglia Television Library]

One of the high points of Bilbo’s unexpected journey is a visit to the secret valley of Rivendell , where he and his fellow adventurers rest at Elrond’s Last Homely House. This beautiful refuge is set in a deep ravine with steep hills on either side.

As beautiful as Rivendell? [Sonlerto in the Bavona Valley, Switzerland
Getty (still images)]

After they make their reluctant farewells to Elrond, Gandalf leads Bilbo and the dwarves across the forbidding Misty Mountains. It’s possible this dangerous mountain range was inspired by a summer holiday Tolkien spent in the Alps when he was 19. Take a look at some footage of the high Alpine peaks below to get into the ‘Misty Mountain mood’.

The Alps or the towering peaks of the Misty Mountains?
[Aerial over French Alps:Getty (moving images)]

In a dark cave, under the mountains,  Bilbo finds a golden ring and has his famous encounter with the creature, Gollum: events which are to have unforeseen consequences for the future fate of Middle-earth itself. Maybe it looked a little like the cave below?

This underground cave was a refuge for those escaping pirates and slave-hunters in the XVII century
[La Cueva de los Verdes – 2: GovEd Communications: Francesco Troina]

Great eagles play a key role in the story, rescuing the party from ravening wolves and appearing at the end of the final battle. Tolkien met his fellow ‘inklings’ at the ‘Eagle and Child’ pub in Oxford – could this legend have prompted him to imagine how eagles could carry Bilbo’s party away from danger? Click on the eagle below to watch this magnificent bird in flight.

A Magnificent Hovering Eagle
[Bald eagle hovering and landing on rock: Getty (moving images)]

Beorn the ‘skin-changer’ is one of the most mysterious characters in ‘The Hobbit’; a man who can take on the shape of a bear. Shape-shifters can be found throughout Norse mythology.  Bilbo and the dwarves are given shelter in Beorn’s  great hall which, as Tolkien’s own illustrations suggest, could have been based on a Viking longhouse. To find out more about this and viking culture in general take a look at “Lost Centuries -7: The fury of the Northmen”.

Beorn’s Hall? [A reconstructed viking longhouse at Trelleborg, Denmark: Lost Centuries 7: Segment 4: Anglia Television Library]

Bilbo’s confidence starts to grow as he saves the dwarves from being eaten by giant spiders in black Mirkwood forest. After more adventures they all arrive at the Lonely Mountain and start to plan how to get the treasure back.

A great spider from Mirkwood?
[Garden Spider: Wellcome Images 2009]

No great tale is complete without a monster to overcome and it is through Bilbo’s cleverness that the dragon, Smaug  meets his downfall, leading to the reclamation of the dwarves’ vast treasure hoard.

Smaug? – or another mighty dragon?
[The dragon bridge-3:GovEd Communications: Francesco Troina]

Tolkien was an expert on the Anglo-Saxon poem ‘Beowulf’ and drew upon it as one of his most valued sources.  He used elements from the poem within ‘The Hobbit’ and was very fond of performing it whilst teaching Old English to his students at Pembroke College, Oxford. The story of Beowulf includes a magical sword, a treasure hoard and a dragon. To hear more about this you can watch segment 3 from “The Lost Centuries – 5: A Golden Age” which contains some extracts from ‘Beowulf’.

The tale of how Beowulf defeated Grendel would have been told in Anglo-Saxon halls such as this.
[Lost Centuries – 5: A Golden Age: Segment 3: Anglia Television Library]

And so Bilbo’s great quest was concluded although there were many unexpected outcomes to face before he returned safely to Bag End.

In the words of JRR Tolkien:

There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after

A brief glimpse of Tolkien being interviewed about the Oxford Poetry Chair
[Oxford Poetry Chair: ITV News 25-05-1973]

May all your adventures come to a safe end – and don’t forget to let us know if you find your own hobbit-related material on JISC MediaHub!

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Great JISC MediaHub Bake Off

The third series of the Great British Bake Off draws to a close tonight leaving many viewers wondering what cakes, biscuits, breads, crispbreads and gingerbread artistry they can try their hand at. We decided to take a look through JISC MediaHub for inspiration and have found some fascinating bakes for you that not only reflect culinary but also cultural and social history.

Daily Bakes
Baking can be a thing of decadence and luxury but bread is the most fundamental of baked goods and an inexpensive essential staple of diets across the world. The logistics of baking can be tricky – even without Paul Holywood commenting on salt levels. So what happens when a lot of people need basic bread quickly in an unfamiliar environment? Well a little invention is required. This silent footage from 1916, shows British military baking facilities in Salonica, Greece, during the First World War. The bread itself may not win any prizes but the make shift ovens and baking arrangements make the Bake Off marquee look extremely luxurious.

British army personnel bake in make shift ovens in Salonica

British army personnel bake in make shift ovens in Salonica. (TOMMY’S NINEPENNY LOAF, Gaumont Graphic, 27-03-1916)

Pies are another staple not only of British home cooks and high streets but also celebrations. Two news clips from the Gaumont Graphic Collection, from 1923 and 1927, feature (then) newly revived ancient British pie customs. The first sees “Henry VIII and Queen Catherine” (presumably not the real ones) eating eel pie at Twickenham, the other features the Mayor of Mansfield tucking into a gargantuan gooseberry pie.

"Henry VIII and Queen Catherine" attack an eel pie

“Henry VIII and Queen Catherine” attack an eel pie. (ANCIENT CUSTOM RENEWED, Gaumont Graphic, 22-05-1923).

The size of these celebration bakes leads us to baking as business and the industrial processes of manufacturing baked goods.

Industrial Bakes
Some of the earliest cinematic footage captured industrial processes and scenes – sometimes real, sometimes reproduced – indeed the Lumière brothers’ first film “La Sortie de usines Lumière” (1894) shows workers leaving the Lumière factory. Film itself is a mechanised technological process so it is hardly surprising that filmmakers have remained entranced with industrial scenes, especially of repetitive processes and production lines, from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) through to Playschool (1964-1988) and Sesame Street (1969-) taking the viewer on factory adventures, to the fragile production line imagery of Koyaanisqatsi (1982) and Gung Ho (1986), and through to modern advertising campaigns imagining playful animated industrial processes for everything from dairy produce to Coca Cola. Food, particularly baking, is always a favourite topic, from production lines of all sorts of baked items from french bread to post-rationing hot cross buns to that baking essential ingrediant, chocolate!

Two boys eat hot cross buns

Two boys eat hot cross buns in a still from a 1919 Gaumont Graphic film about production beginning again after the end of rationing following the First World War. (HOT CROSS BUNS, Gaumont Graphic, 14-04-1919)

A man looks at a conveyer belt in the Bournville Cadbury Factory.

A man inspects the chocolate on the production line at the Bournville Cadbury Factory (100 Years Of Manufacturing At Bournville Cadbury Factory, Getty (still images) 25-02-2005)

Decorative Bakes
Industrialised baking may be how many of our baked goods reach us but some traditional bakers continue to work by hand. In Toledo the famous Confiteria Santo Tomo, create sweet almond pastries that have been enjoyed for hundreds of years and are still made by hand. The Gov Ed collection includes a series of images of how these traditional treats, which can be hugely decorative, are made.

A marzipan eel, a traditional marzipan treat made by the Confiteria Santo Tome, Toledo, Spain.

A marzipan eel (anguila de marzapan), a traditional treat made by the Confiteria Santo Tome, Toledo, Spain. (Confiteria Santo Tome_14, Gov Ed, 2008)

Of course a beautiful bake requires an appreciative audience. Unfortunately Tiny, the 75 year old elephant from Manchester Zoo, didn’t seem quite as taken with her 1928 birthday cake as the baker might have hoped…

Tiny the elephant enjoys her elaborate 75th birthday cake.

Tiny the elephant enjoys her elaborate 75th birthday cake. (“OH, TRY THOSE TIERS!”, Gaumont Graphic, 04-04-1928)

Extreme Bakes
The idea of baking to excess is hardly new but breaking records is a more modern obsession. In 1964 Denby Dale, known for baking gigantic pies since 1788, decided to bake the mother of all pies, expected to weigh in at roughly 6 tonnes of meat, potato, gravy and pastry and feed up to a quarter of a million fans attending their Pie Festival. The 1964 pie, the eighth pie of 10 extreme pie bakes the village has so far attempted, was baked to celebrate four royal births. History does not seem to have recorded the cost of the bake but trying to recreate the bake today would come in at well over £10,000 at modern supermarket prices. That pie was, astonishingly, reported to have been doubled in 2000 when a 12 tonne pie welcomed in a new millennium!

A sign previews the Denby Dale pie bake of 5th September 1964.

A sign previews the Denby Dale pie bake of 5th September 1964. (DENBY DALE PIE, ITV Early Evening News, 04-05-1964)

Royal Wedding cakes, whilst too classy to go for out and out records, have been some of the most famously grand and outsize of all cakes. And Princess Anne’s wedding cake in 1973 was no exception. Requiring 128 eggs and doused with 2 full bottles of brandy (of which Mary Berry would surely approve) the cake was an incredible 68″ (nearly 6ft) or 172 cm tall towering safely above the height of many bakers. It was built with military precision and decorated with intricate sugar flowers and crests as described in this video from the ITN News collection.

Princess Anne's nearly 6ft tall wedding cake.

Princess Anne’s nearly 6ft tall wedding cake. (PRINCESS ANNE WEDDING CAKE, ITV Late Evening News, 09-11-1973)

There are thousands more baking images and films in JISC MediaHub and we’d love to know your favourite – just leave us a comment below!

And finally, if you are desperate to attempt one of the recipes featured in this year’s Great British Bake Off take a look at the Lothian Health Service Archives blog where you will find the recipe for the rather wonderfully odd (but apparently very tasty), Invalid Fruit Tart as featured in episode 3 of this year’s Bake Off.

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Pre-Raphaelites Invading London

Tate Britain will pay homage to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in a major exhibition running from 12 September 2012 to 13 January 2013.  This exhibition, called Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde, is launched nearly three decades after a previous Pre-Raphaelite exhibition, held when the museum was still known as the Tate Gallery.

Art historian talking about a Tate exhibit

A 1984 news story about the Pre-Raphaelites and the Tate's last major exhibition of their work (PRE-RAPHAELITES ART. Channel 4 Early Evening News. 07-03-1984)

This Brotherhood of young artists – painters, sculptors, poets, designers – bemoaned the stagnation in the works of their contemporaries and their obsession with meticulous copying of the classics that ignored art’s purpose: making a statement.

Detailed portrait of a woman with fantastical elements

Some Pre-Raphaelite paintings were illustrations of the poetry that also came from within the movement (Jealousy. Art Online, Culture Grid. Painted in 1890)

John Ruskin, a powerful critic and great ally of the Brotherhood, did much to cement their legacy in the world of art history.  He once declared that Pre-Raphaelite doctrine stood against art only for the sake of aesthetic pleasures – beauty, he said, could only ever be subordinate to the message within a work of art.

Portrait of John Ruskin as a young man

Ruskin was a friend of Pre-Raphaelite brother John Millais, but the pair were involved in a love triangle with Ruskin's then-wife Effie, who went on to marry Millais (Portrait of John Ruskin as a young man. By George Richmond, Wellcome Images. 1900)

And send a message they did.  Their use of photographic realism in Christian scenes enraged critics, including Charles Dickens.  And Pre-Raphaelite women, especially those painted by Rossetti, were often derided for their ‘fleshy’ nature.

It wasn’t all about grandiose stabs at orthodoxy.  Their youthful vigour and passion for playful details make Pre-Raphaelite works favourites with the public to this day.

Painting of a woman clutching a pot of basil

This painting has it all: love, tragedy, basil (Isabella and the Pot of Basil. Art Online, Culture Grid. Painted in 1867)

The original Brotherhood was a relatively small group who worked for a short time as “brethren”, but the movement they started, the ideals they championed and the artistic styles they advocated reached far and wide in Britain and beyond.  Indeed, fans of the Pre-Raphaelite movement can be found around the world.

Export of Art Review Committee investigating

One of the Tate's Pre-Raphaelite pieces came into their hands during a bit of a scandal… (Art Deal. Channel 4 Early Evening News. 13-08-1998)

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