#ColorOurCollections’: Images from the Archives

When my colleague Elaine Harrington proposed UCC Library’s Special Collections & Archives contribute to the #ColourOurCollections colouring festival I wondered what would work from the archival collections. When you hear “archives” do you automatically think “old stuff…like letters”. These are not exactly something you can colour in, unless you are a doodler. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact doodling can give great insight into the person’s thoughts, but that is a story for another blog post. 

What to use?

So back to colouring. The short creative leap from letters is to a decorative letterhead from the 19th century. I checked through several items across our business collections. Again these did not really seem ‘the right tool for the job’. 

Decorative invoice letterhead of a sail ship on the sea with the company name of James Daly & Co. within a belt surrounding the image from the Buckley Collection, UCC Library Archives.

They were either too greyed in or shadowed over already, with little room for colouring in, and not much variety in the design. Putting away these images of transport and ships, I sat back and re-considered my options. 

Collection: BL/SC/B, Buckley Collection, UCC Library Archives

Sketchbooks, of course!

And then the most obvious material of them all dawned on me, sketchbooks! We are fortunate in UCC Library in having the Bantry Estate Collection. It has a selection of sketchbooks by several family members. This collection was donated by the Shelswell-White family who are still living in Bantry House, Bantry, Co. Cork.

Why this collection?

It was the first Earl of Bantry’s eldest son, Richard White, who in the 1830s-1840s while still Viscount Berehaven, laid the plans for the magnificent house and gardens extant today. Prior to and after his marriage he extensively toured the Continent, travelling as far as Russia and Poland. He sketched landscapes, vistas, houses and furnishing which he later used as inspiration in expanding and refurbishing Bantry House, Bantry, Co. Cork. These sketches can be regarded today as similar to the family sharing their holiday ‘photos’ or marking certain designs and colour inspiration for ideas on home improvements on Instagram.  

Images selected

The image ‘wall decoration’ is one of 134 images in a large hardback sketchbook with “Napoli 1843” embossed in gold on the spine. It contains pencil, ink and coloured drawings of landscapes, buildings, individuals, and ships. I chose this image because it gives you an insight into the style of that time. It obviously caught the eye of Richard and his wife, Mary for possible reproduction in their house. They took inspiration from their trips overseas and brought back ideas as well as artworks, furnishing, colour schemes and planting. These can still be seen to this day in Bantry House. The popularity in home décor doesn’t change with time, as evidenced today by long-running televison shows, glossy magazines and Insta’ posts on this subject.  

Elaborative design for a wall decoration with two mermen-like figures sitting astride a sea creature each at both ends of the design, and a face of a bearded figure in the middle. This is from a sketchbook (item number 10) in the Bantry Estate Collection: Ancillary.
Collection: BL/EP/B/A/10_wall decoration, Bantry Estate Collection: Ancillary, UCC Library Archives

The ‘Orchard’ image is one of 94 sketches in large hardback scrapbook. It contains images of country scenes from Ireland and Europe, and individuals in native costumes from around Europe. I liked this image of a simple and rewarding pursuit of gathering a home-grown harvest. Of course, it’s also a hard physical activity that many labourers did as part of their daily life. This image conveys, to me, an industry to their work. Regard their attire – All three figures are ‘sun-smart’ wearing wide-brimmed hats, conveying the long time they spent in the outdoors at this work. 

Three figures in a orchard. One figure is at the top of a ladder picking from the tree, another is at ground level nearby standing next to a barrel or container. A third figure, presumably a woman from her attire, is at ground level reaching to the foliage of a different tree, with another ladder leaning up against this tree. All three figures are wearing labourers clothing, and wide-brimmed hats. The paper is yellowed in colouration. This is from the Bantry Estate Collection. UCC Library Archives.
Collection: BL/EP/B/3303_orchard, Bantry Estate Collection, UCC Library Archives
Conversion to black & white and cropped closer image of an original sketch of three figures in a orchard. One figure is at the top of a ladder picking from the tree, another is at ground level nearby standing next to a barrel or container. A third figure, presumably a woman from her attire, is at ground level reaching to the foliage of a different tree, with another ladder leaning up against this tree. All three figures are wearing labourers clothing, and wide-brimmed hats. This is from the Bantry Estate Collection, UCC Library Archives.

As you can see the colour of the paper of the original is a dull yellow. I wasn’t sure it would work, but the conversion to a black & white image improves it for colouring. 

The last image is from the same sketchbook as the ‘orchard’ image. It is one of several of Glengarriff, an area in West Cork, near Bantry. This would have been close enough as a daytrip for the White family to visit relatives, friends and other families. This area is renowned for its beauty. The sketch offers sea, sky, and land colouring, which can be in whatever season you would like it to be. It’s up to your imagination.

Pencil sketch of a viewpoint from high of Glengarriff looking across at sky, rolling hills, coastline sea. There is small house in the distance on the coastline. This is from the Bantry Estate Collection.
Collection: BL/EP/B/3303_Glengarriff, Bantry Estate Collection, UCC Library Archives

This landscape has not changed much over the centuries. Anyone living near Glengarriff or planning to holiday in the area, take some of your time there to match that scene to today’s view. See what changes have taken place. Perhaps it does not match precisely, and we are seeing ‘artistic licence’ at work.  

Now start colouring!

I hope you have enjoyed our blog series on what and why we chose these images from our collections. Happy colouring! UCC Library’s colouring book (2022) is free to download here

Elaine, John, Emma and Emer 

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