Emails and telephone calls are often from people who want a cartoon valued. We do not purchase cartoons and therefore cannot give valuations but we do try to advise and if the pieces sounds interesting encourage them to donate it!

Nick Hiley, the Head of the BCA, has been working on the artists’ biographies on the website and is regularly adding new ones and revising the existing ones. These are very popular and cartoonists, in particular, engage with us at this level.

I (Jane Newton, Assistant Head) spend my time working on the catalogue, with over 150,000 records there are always corrections, updates, further cataloguing, new collections to work on. Since we moved the data from the old system to the new website more detail is being added to the records. In particular the copyright holders’ contact details so researchers who wish to publish the cartoons can get permissions directly from them.

I shall try to update the blog more frequently so give me feedback and let me know if there are things about the BCA that you want to know and can’t find on the website!


So here we are, at the end of the two year project to digitise and catalogue the collection of Carl Giles held at the British Cartoon Archive, University of Kent.

Most of the project staff have gone on their way – although some for only a few yards as they have got jobs elsewhere in the university. I’ve travelled a bit further as I’m writing this blog from my home in the West Midlands, and the permanent cartoon archive staff are now rattling about in the office wondering who else to talk to, apart from themselves.

So was it worth it? From a project point of view the answer is a resounding yes. Most of the aims have been achieved and it has led to other similar projects within the university. The funders (JISC) appear to be happy and once the new website (www.cartoons.ac.uk) is firing on all cylinders the users will hopefully see the benefits.

From a personal point of view it has been a very rewarding experience, despite having to commute from Rugby to Kent and stay in the county during the week (thanks mum). You leave some projects without too many backward glances, but I will remember this one because most of the time we got on well with each other, enjoyed the work and picked up new skills – despite the inevitable periods of stress encountered in such  projects.

Regrets? Not enough blogs, and I still don’t find the Giles captions funny.

Future blogs will hopefully continue to keep you up to date with what is going in the British Cartoon Archive world, but I’d like to say farewell to all the team, anyone else who was in some way involved, and you dear readers (all three of you).


I think I’ve noted before that I don’t find the Giles captions that accompany his cartoons very funny. I even mentioned this in my interview for the post of Project Archivist – which was perhaps not a good idea, but despite this I was still offered the job.

I have made it clear however that the actual contents of the cartoon are usually very funny as there is so much going on, with lots of visual jokes revealing themselves if you take a very close look. These were often put in by Giles to  try and catch out the legal team at the Express, who had to scrutinise the cartoon very carefully for anything ‘libellous’ or ‘offensive’ before allowing it to appear.

At the moment I’m cataloguing a volume of newspaper cuttings which refer to Giles and reader’s letters frequently appear praising the cartoonist for his latest background joke or his eye for detail. They were also quick to point out any errors, which were rare as Giles kept an extensive run of reference files to consult. Any mistakes that crept in were usually the result of trying to get the cartoon finished in Giles’ Ipswich studio and put on the London train for delivery to the Express in time for the printing deadlines.

One letter which appeared in the Daily Express on 9 September 1952 was an example of how closely the readers looked at the cartoons and saw ‘hidden’ details. Have a look below to see what it was that was spotted by the reader, and keep in mind that the cartoon was about cyclists.


People who get drawn in a cartoon often want the original artwork and this was the case with Carl Giles, who usually gave originals away if asked for them. Some went to charities to auction off and raise funds, but he didn’t like ‘the raucous cry of the market’ – a phrase he often used and which was borrowed from Allen Hutt, a former colleague on Reynolds News. He was flattered if people asked for the original, and because he got his inspiration for the cartoons from stories in the media, those people were often well-known. This explains why the majority of his originals went to celebrities, personalities and people in the public eye.

Records were kept on who was given material and one page from the lists gives an indication of the cross-section of people who received originals. The page, which covers 1982-1984, also indicates what was in the news at the time (and provided ideas for Giles’ cartoons).  For example broadcaster and journalist Selena Scott was given originals in 1982 and 1983, and she was in the news as one of the presenters of the recently launched ‘breakfast television’ news programmes. Actor Richard Briers was given an original which referred to the BBC television comedy series ‘The Good Life’ in which he starred. The Savoy Hotel received an original inspired by a speech given by actress Pamela Stephenson at a ‘Woman Of The Year’ lunch at the hotel.

Others went to members of the Royal Family and the aristocracy and although the majority of recipients were well-known, some originals went to friends, locals, and colleagues on the Express.

It would be an interesting exercise if the time was available to contact the owners of Giles originals to see where they have gone and go into more detail about the stories behind the requests.


Going back through some of the correspondence received by Carl Giles in order to bring loose items together, I came across a name which made me stop and take a closer look. When I first saw this material in 2007 the name didn’t mean anything and the letter would not have been highlighted as part of the cataloguing – but now?

The 1988 letter comes from a director of Madoff Holdings Ltd, which was in effect the London office of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. The writer (who was keen to point out that the firm was a member of the Stock Exchange) notes that Madoff is celebrating his 50th birthday soon and as he is a keen horseman the members of the firm wanted to give him a birthday present related to this interest.  The writer asks whether Giles could draw an equestrian cartoon of Madoff if they supplied him with a photograph or if the firm could acquire one of his horse riding cartoons.

Giles replied a month later and apologised for not wanting to provide a cartoon of Madoff because drawings of people from photographs were never satisfactory. He also declined to provide original artwork but did give a signed reproduction of the cartoon which appeared on the Daily Express on 14 June 1978.

A follow up letter thanked Giles for the reproduction wishing Madoff a happy birthday and the writer was sure that Madoff will be delighted with it.  He also wanted to thank Giles for sending the image and asked the cartoonist to nominate a charity so the firm could make a donation. As there is no further correspondence we do not know if this happened.

As we push towards a more semantic web overall, we are somewhat limited with XHTML in trying to describe what our information means to machines as well as humans.

With Microformats, we are given an approach to better describe our data through the use of standard XHTML markup.  With the following HTML: “<p>Joe Bloggs is a web developer at the University of Kent.</p>”, in a browser this can be easily interpretted by humans, but to a machine it is just a string with no particular meaning.
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The British Cartoon Archive Digitisation Project (BCAD) as well as Uportal was shared with colleagues across the pond at Spring 2009 Ja-Sig conference in Dallas in March. 

BCAD Digitisation Poster
Bonnie Ferguson gave a talk Community Source Management/Governance Giving your goldfish a bigger bowl: the growth and sustainability of small Open Source projects within a University. 

Beyond excellent! Very impressed. Sets a new bar for presenter confidence, preparation, quality of presentation materials. A+…..Jasig should feature and disseminate this presentation.

Rather than the traditional powerpoint, a new highly-visual presentation tool called Prezi was used which can:”create a map of your ideas, images, videos, then show overview, zoom to details, amaze, convinve, and take the day”. (Have a look at how it works via the goldfish link above.)

In the evening, Lydia Weller and Bonnie Ferguson then hosted a poster session highlighting the BCAD project and the Carl Giles Archive.
BCAD Poster session at the Spring 2009 Ja-Sig conference

BCAD Poster session at the Spring 2009 Ja-Sig conference

Special thanks to Anthony Seminara who provided some great advance help with graphics for the poster session and the presentation. He’s also responsible for designing the new BCA website.