Digital Gladstone | Gladstone's Library

Digital Gladstone

Gladstone’s Library is committed to improving international public access to all its collections and events. For several years now, the Library has hosted audio recordings of many events, maintained a blog, and improved the website and social media. Launched in 2018, Digital Gladstone is an umbrella term under which we can gather all the Library’s efforts to improve access to our online collections. As of 2021 there are two Digital Gladstone projects underway:

Digital Gladstone: Drawing Blood, Drawing Poison, Drawing Fire

Aura Leisure and Libraries are excited to announce their participation in a new digital project with Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, in 2021. Funded by the Arts Council and led by artist Simon Grennan, ‘Drawing Blood’ will create a new online exhibition of twenty new, original animated artworks. Hosted by Gladstone’s Library, the online exhibition will also be available at Contemporary Art Space Chester and at Aura libraries in North Wales, including Broughton, Buckley, Mold, Deeside, Holywell, Connah’s Quay and Flint.

The new artworks are inspired by a book Grennan found in the Gladstone’s Library collections. Dating from 1878, Gladstone from Judy’s Point of View collects cartoons satirising one of the hot topics of the period – liberal political opinion. As one of the major Liberal politicians, William Ewart Gladstone is often in the firing line of Judy’s cartoonists. In the tradition of political artists everywhere their pens puncture any political pomposity, drawing Gladstone (and others) not as respected statesman but as wobbly juggler, unstable acrobat, indecisive whirligig, pram-pushing lady, and many more.

An expert in nineteenth-century cartoons and art, who has published several books on the work of Judy cartoonist Marie Duval, Grennan knows well the quality and humour of the artworks. In his redrawing and reimagining the work of Judy’s Victorian cartoonists, Grennan will help us all to get to know the work of some of the most skilled, but not well known, artists of the period. Digital technology means that not only will more people experience the new artworks online, but the drawings themselves will be able to come alive in the way that the Victorian originals (already full of life!) never could.

The exhibition is supported by a series of online drawing workshops, inspired by the exhibition, where anyone can learn to start drawing cartoons. Anyone can have a go, whether they have lots of experience in drawing, or none at all. What can we learn about these Victorian cartoonists, and the way they used class, gender, sexuality, and colonialism to humorously critique their politicians? How can we bring this to our own drawing, and our own time?

Simon Grennan is part of the international visual arts studio Grennan & Sperandio, producer of over 40 comics and books and hundreds of public projects. He is Leading Research Fellow at the University of Chester. www.kartoonkings and https://chester.academia.edu/SimonGrennan 

Aura Leisure and Libraries Limited aims to improve the quality of life for customers through the provision of popular culture and leisure opportunities that improve mental health and physical well-being. https://aura.wales/about/aura-wales-homepage

Contemporary Art Space Chester is a range of pop-up and permanent exhibition spaces in and around the University of Chester and the city of Chester, including the Foyer Gallery at Creative Campus Kingsway and the Forum Shopping Centre Gallery in the heart of the city. https://www.cascgallery.co.uk

Digital Gladstone: Digitising Gladstone's correspondence with the Carnegie Corporation of New York

The first major project of Digital Gladstone is externally funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The three-year project began in January 2018 and will result in a fully-catalogued digital collection of 15,000 nineteenth-century manuscript letters and 5,390 annotated printed books. These will be partially transcribed and hosted online in a free-to-access CMS, making one of the world’s most significant Gladstonian collections available to all. The project builds on the work undertaken to create GladCat – part of our successful online catalogue – and ensure that the online presence of Gladstone’s Library is as unique and distinctive as the physical institution.

Project Background

Digital Gladstone is a digitisation project which will make a collection of international significance and relevance widely accessible for the first time and safeguard it for future generations of scholars, teachers and students.

Gladstone’s Library was founded in Hawarden, North Wales in 1894 by William Gladstone, one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers. Not only was he a great statesman, he was also a voracious reader - a true Victorian polymath – who built up a vast collection of books at his home in Hawarden Castle. He wanted these books to be used by others after his death and decided to set up a library in Hawarden to house them. Today, Gladstone’s original donation of some 20,000 volumes remains at the heart of a world-renowned collection of some 200,000 printed items focusing on theology, history, politics, culture and literature from the nineteenth century to the present day. This unique collection is housed in a Grade I listed building. It is Britain’s national memorial to Gladstone, its only Prime Ministerial library and its finest residential library.

Within the world-renowned collection held at Gladstone’s Library are two special collections of particular significance: the Manuscript Archive and the Gladstone Foundation Collection. Both are unique and irreplaceable in terms of their cultural and historical importance.

The Manuscript Archive comprises approximately 300,000 documents of which around 15,000 relate directly to William Gladstone i.e. letters written by or to him and papers that pertain to crucial events in his own life and that of the British nation. With the support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the US Friends of Gladstone’s Library, the Library is undertaking a three-year project to digitise Gladstone’s correspondence and, when all legal and copyright issues have been addressed, make them available online.

The Gladstone Foundation Collection comprises some 20,000 books which have been positively identified as belonging to William Gladstone because they bear his handwritten annotations and/or were listed by him in his diaries. Previous work undertaken on the Foundation Collection in 2006 in partnership with the University of Liverpool resulted in a dedicated catalogue, GladCat, an electronic research resource which provides extensive searchable details of Gladstone’s annotations and marginalia. Work will be undertaken to enrich and update GladCat, making use of the latest technology so that the Gladstone Foundation Collection can be made more widely accessible as part of a full digital repository.

Gladstone’s correspondence and the annotations in his books give the clearest possible insight into the mind of one of the greatest statesmen of the nineteenth century, a man whom Andrew Carnegie called ‘the world’s greatest citizen’. His forward-thinking on human rights, democracy and religious tolerance has much to teach us today. As well as being a leading politician on the world stage, William Gladstone was a devoted father and husband, who cherished the time he spent at home in Hawarden.

His letters reveal intriguing details about an extremely broad range of issues from the family’s domestic life to the political campaign trail while marginalia in his books leave today’s readers in no doubt as to Gladstone’s thoughts on other political figures or issues of the day. Both books and letters offer an enormous wealth of as yet untapped primary source material which deserves to be accessible to all but will be of inestimable value to anyone studying the social or political history of the nineteenth century in particular. 

Getting Involved with Digital Gladstone

Digital Gladstone has a volunteer team to help us realise the project’s aims and objectives. You can download the volunteer information pack here, and the specific Digital Gladstone volunteer details here

At the moment the volunteer team is physically based at Gladstone's Library. However, we expect there to be opportunities in the future for remote transcription volunteers. Please email enquiries@gladlib.org to register your interest.

You can keep up-to-date with all of our project news by following our blog or searching the #digitalgladstone hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.

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