This year the GW4 Treasures team participated in 'Colour our Collections' week (5th-9th February 2018) for the first time. Comprised of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter Universities' Special Collections departments and the University of Bristol's Theatre Collection, the GW4 Treasures team decided that they would celebrate the week by producing a colouring book consisting of images that would not only reflect their collections, but would also (and just as importantly!) be 'colour-in-able'.
Now in its third year, 'Colour our Collections' is organised by the New York Academy of Medicine and the purpose of the week is to get libraries, museums and cultural institutions to make available online, images from their holdings and for members of the public to colour them in. Using the hashtag #colorourcollections the public then upload their masterpieces on to social media to widespread acclaim or otherwise. In short, it's a very simple and fun way to get people to engage with our collections in a week-long celebration of historical images and, of course, colouring in.
The reason we decided to produce a colouring book, as opposed to uploading a few images (which is another option), is because we felt the medium would offer us the best platform to showcase the images from our collections and to demonstrate the diversity of visual content across the four institutions. The slogan of the GW4 Treasures group is 'Discoveries Waiting to Happen' and we wanted to give the public and researchers a small taster of what they could expect to find if they took a trip to one of the Collections. Each institution provided two images and depending on the quality of the image it was then cleaned up in Photoshop before being collated into a PDF document and uploaded to both the GW4 and the New York Academy of Medicine websites. The images are presented in no particular order: the only rule we had was that an image from one institution could not be followed by another image from the same one. Actually, that is not quite accurate: as I also work on Shakespeare I made sure that the first image in the colouring book was of 'Mr G. Bennet as King Hamlet' taken from the University of Bristol Theatre Collection. Potential colourers could then decide whether to use a 2B (or not 2B).
From our perspective, the week was a great success. The education website Open Culture published a small piece about the week which has generated more than 70K shares indicating that there is a real desire to engage with this sort of material. One of the enjoyable if unexpected upsides of this project has been the opportunity to research the history of colouring books and, remarkably, I've probably got enough material to give a lecture on the subject. But that is for the future, for now why not be inspired by the splendid colouring work of Charlotte (aged 2) and Myrna (aged 79) and get colouring?!