Shortlist symbol Add to shortlist button.

New gallery shows off University treasures to all

A rich collection of rare manuscripts and books will form a special public display of treasures when the University of Leeds opens a new £1.9m gallery today.

The Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, situated beneath the iconic Parkinson tower, will take visitors on a journey through the University’s renowned Special Collections.

Artefacts include a 4,500-year-old Babylonian clay tablet, William Shakespeare’s 1623 first folio, a draft manuscript in the hand of a 14-year-old Felix Mendelssohn and a map and compass used by Bertie Ratcliffe, the first prisoner to escape back to Britain from Germany during the First World War.

Vice-Chancellor Sir Alan Langlands said:

“It gives us great pleasure to open up these wonderful treasures to new audiences. We hope that residents of the City of Leeds and far beyond will join us on campus to explore centuries of history represented across an amazing range of objects.

“We greatly appreciate the strong support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the generosity of the Brotherton-Ratcliffe family in making this possible.”

The new gallery is bringing dozens of these historic items to the front doorstep of the University for the public to enjoy and appreciate, having previously been housed deep within the Brotherton Library.

The gallery has been made possible thanks to National Lottery players – a grant of almost £1.4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a generous private donation from the Brotherton-Ratcliffe family have supported the University in showcasing the treasures.

Dr Stella Butler, University Librarian and Keeper of the Brotherton Collection, said: “If your interests are in travel, our Special Collections have some amazing maps. If cooking is your passion, we have Tudor cookery books, while for book lovers, we have examples of the very first books ever printed in England alongside exquisite contemporary bindings.

Gallery assistant Alice Clayden admires Russian writer Ivan Bunin’s intricately illustrated 1933 Nob
Gallery assistant Alice Clayden admires Russian writer Ivan Bunin’s intricately illustrated 1933 Nobel Prize for Literature certificate at the University

“There really is something for everyone in this exciting new gallery and we’re very proud to share these treasures with our visitors. We believe that, whatever their background and interests, they will find something to enjoy in this stunning setting.”

The new gallery, which mirrors The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at the opposite end of the Parkinson Building, also includes a temporary exhibition space that will enable the University to uncover the rich stories locked up in its collections, helping bring to life important anniversaries and events.

The first such exhibition will mark the centenary of the introduction of conscription in Britain, exploring what happened when able-bodied men refused to fight for their country.

The John Brotherton-Ratcliffe Room in the University of Leeds’ new Treasures of the Brotherton Galle
The John Brotherton-Ratcliffe Room in the University of Leeds’ new Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery

Leeds University Library is one of the finest in the world and the only one in the UK to have five collections awarded Designated Status – recognised as having outstanding national and international importance – by Arts Council England.

The collections began with Leeds industrialist Lord Brotherton, who funded the building of the Brotherton Library 80 years ago and bequeathed his library of rare books and manuscripts to the University. From this, successive librarians have been able to build a collections of artefacts, manuscripts and rare books of enormous cultural significance over many decades.

Dr Butler added: “We’ve had the difficult pleasure of selecting 100 or so items from more than 200,000 rare books and hundreds of thousands of manuscripts and objects. Our delightful challenge will continue because even the ‘permanent’ display will be changing regularly, to make sure we conserve these precious objects, giving us the opportunity to show the depth and breadth of the collections.”

Fiona Spiers, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “This is an extraordinary collection and one with great significance nationally and internationally. We are delighted to be able to fund this fantastic new gallery, which will allow people to explore the incredible range of artefacts for the first time.”


• Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery is open 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday and 1-5pm on Monday. Admission is free. It is closed on Sundays and University holidays (see library.leeds.ac.uk/treasures for full details). Parkinson Building, Woodhouse Lane, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT. Telephone 0113 343 9803 or email gallery@leeds.ac.uk.

 

One building, two galleries

The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, a few steps from the new Treasures gallery and also housed in the Parkinson Building, showcases some of the University's exceptional collection of European and British painting, drawings and prints, dating from the 17th century to the present day, as well as small collections of sculpture, ceramics, miniatures and photographs. library.leeds.ac.uk/art-gallery

 

Public events

A varied programme of public events will complement the treasures on display and bring the archives alive, from “show-and-tell” sessions to bookbinding demonstrations. Full details can be found at library.leeds.ac.uk/treasures, or pick up a What’s On leaflet.

 

Temporary exhibitions

The new gallery also includes a temporary exhibition space that will showcase additional treasures from Special Collections, usually to coincide with important anniversaries and events.
The first such exhibition will mark the centenary of the introduction of conscription in Britain, exploring what happened when able-bodied men refused to fight for their country. On Conscientious Grounds: Objection and Resistance in the First World War, organised by members of the University’s Legacies of War centenary project, features original letters and personal items belonging to some of the men who asked to be excused from military service.


Volunteers

There will be many exciting volunteering opportunities at the new gallery, covering all aspects of its work, from conservation to digital projects and public engagement. Further details of these opportunities will appear on the treasures website.

 

Also on campus...

The University of Leeds is a creative community with a rich cultural life, offering many opportunities for visitors to get involved or immerse themselves in the arts. Other museums and galleries on campus include the Marks in Time exhibition at the M&S Company Archive; ULITA – an Archive of International Textiles and the Museum of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.