Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies


Jacqui Grainger - Librarian

Jacqui Grainger, has been the Librarian at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) since 2017. Although a relatively unknown archive, Jacqui hopes that by digitizing the collection it will make it more accessible to both Members and the general public.

RUSI receives many inquiries about heritage assets that formed part of the RUSI museum, closed in 1962, and this interest has led Jacqui to work on a part-time PHD collaborating with the AHRC and the University of Westminster, exploring the history of this 'Lost Museum'.



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hello and welcome to the max communications 2021 podcast a series of podcasts where we explore various archives and collections my name is faith williams and i'm joined today by jackie granger librarian for the royal united services institute for defence and security studies otherwise known as rusi hi jacqui would you like to introduce yourself and talk about what rusi actually does yes i'm jackie i've been the librarian at rusi now for nearly four years and the library itself is primarily um a library of military history um the institute itself was founded as a library museum known as the united um no i'm going to get this wrong now the naval and military library and museum so it's founded under that title in 1831 inspired by the duke of wellington's aim to professionalized professionalise the armed services um after the supposed well the victory of the napoleonic wars but also the perceived failures of the armed services during the napoleonic wars uh wellington himself was too busy being prime minister at the time to actually found such a an institution so the baton was taken over by some um prominent uh military figures of the period which included um howard douglas who was also um he was the british british resid um representative in new brunswick which became part of canada and he was also at one point liverpool mp um so i think it was lieutenant governor of new brunswick it wasn't governor general it was lieutenant governor um and um admiral william henry smith or smythe has y in it and i'm never really sure how to pronounce it um and they undertook an exchange of letters in the united service magazine which led to the founding of rusi in the upstairs room of the tavern in st james's street so which is quite so which i think was the founding place of many learned societies and associations and by 1833 they moved into their first premises in vanbra house which was the house that the architect diplomat soldier um van bruh built for himself in the 18th century and was in what was whitehall yard the nearest way just to to identify where the house stood now is where the statue of the gurkha stands outside the mod near embankment um so roosie was in in that building then until 1895 when it moved into its current building 61 whitehall when um queen victoria gave rusi a grayson favor lease on banqueting house for the museum and lot of land on which the current rusi building is now so how do you spend an average day as your role of librarian i don't think i don't have an average day because i'm a solo curator collections manager and i do everything curatorial um it it varies so differently so differently from day to day the library is used a lot for events but it can mean that i i'm answering inquiries by email or by telephone but a lot of the work i do is by email but i'm also um doing things having to put together an asset register of all the heritage assets that rufzi has some of which were are remnants of the museum because the museum itself closed in 1962 and that includes a lot of the artworks so even though i'm working part-time it's been you know the job of running the library by with appointment for visitors but also making sure we have a proper full understanding and documentation of the heritage assets the collection so it could be furniture painting sculpture the archive there's a lot of the archive hasn't been cataloged yet either um so it's just it so it's very very varied and then if there's a members event that i don't do anything other than issue books to members and deal with returns so it can vary hugely you mentioned inquiries i imagine you get a lot of sort of military historians but do you get any more unusual um people who want to find out information from the library yes we get in we get in email inquiries from all over the world and probably the bulk of the inquiry work i do is by email so some can be quite lengthy and time consuming um some a lot of them are actually about things that might have once been in the museum so for instance christie's in paris got in touch about a um sassy island a mowing maui carver carver that was up for salem christie's a couple of years ago which had been one of the anthropological objects in the museum at one time but we could identify it up until the 1920s in the various iterations of the museum catalogue and not be beyond them but then it makes sense because the provenance that christie's had um identified it being owned by the british anthropological museum curator um tom hooper in in his museum in the 1930s which closed with his death then it went into a private collection and had come up for sale again at christie's and it was interesting because it was the single most valuable item that or expensive item that christie's actually had up for sale at that time in that particular sale but in fact it meant i could pro provide a much better history and account of that particular object than i had previously been aware of what kind of material do you have do you still have lingering artifacts from the museum or is it largely paper-based i would say it's largely paper-based but we do still have things that remain from the museum primarily painting some sculpture that are now used around the working building but when the museum closed substantial parts of its collection went to the obvious places in a way the national army museum the imperial war museum the national maritime museum but a substantial collection of militaria was also published by the canadian philanthropist eric harvey who used it as part of the founding or part of the collections for what became the glenbaum museum in calgary so there is an interesting history but things turn up in all sorts of places so i might get an email from a regimental museum asking about the history of an item that they have so say one particular medal that they had a record of coming from the rusi museum and i i'm able to track that yes when the museum closed it was given to that regimental museum so it was a gift it was a donation and then i subsequently see that lord ashcroft bought it from them so which now means it will go to the iwm but that's fine you know it will have a natural home do you continue to have links with the museums you mentioned kind of obvious the imperial war museum the national maritime museum do you do projects with them do you communicate a lot i'm building links over time and i think i've been in touch with library staff at the imperial war museum curatorial staff um i've got a curatorial staff contact with the national army museum because a lot of our research has been overlapping and also because of the large anthropological collection that the russian museum had until 1851 it had a huge anthropological collection it's about 1851 and the interesting story there is when they sold it off um uh pit rivers bought a vast quantity of it rather you know quite a large amount of it and he stood down from being on the museum committee at russia at that time and set up obviously began to set up the first pit rivers museum so that collection is now part of the oxford pit rivers museum collection so i'm in touch with the curatorial staff members there as well so i've got a growing network of um different connections at different museums that um that now have parts of what was in the russia collection so that includes the horny man museum as well oh that's interesting links you might not necessarily think of yeah what particular challenges do you have with managing this collection i would say that one of the the difficulties is actually that it's not very well known that it's a bit of a secret collection so a lot of what i'm trying to do and and obviously this is why i'm making the early steps into digitizing the collections is to make it more accessible because the sort of day-to-day work of rusi is to influence policy making over various political or geopolitical and security issues the building is actively in use for when when we're not in a pandemic actively in use for events all the time and so that means i can make research appointments for people around the event schedule but it it but it adds it it means that you're sort of juggling space and access along with trying to make things more available through breaking down is a physical barrier of visiting the library which is is a challenge for something that's traditionally been a members institution as well because if you're seeking outside funding for digitization there's an open access kind of remit that comes with it so there's there's a balancing act there but increasingly the researchers that use it are external academic researchers rather than members and i and that that's also that's probably a nature of the membership constituency changing needs over time whereas when you've got what is primarily historic collection it's not necessary i'm not necessarily acquiring material that is it may be of timely importance to rusi members what the rusi members are using that for are roosters publications and research outputs how much do you get added to your collection per year is it a lot well i don't have an acquisitions budget but there are a lot of books get sent to the journal for review and they will find their way into the collection if they're relevant but i think i'm also going through that process of assessing significance for those areas that require developing and and also how how we support the research staff so there are two distinct needs for for the library and the collections and one is to to develop and exploit that historical material and develop awareness of it the other is to make sure that the russia research staff are being supported in their research needs so that for that now a large amount of material is through digital subscriptions say to ebsco rather than print material is that your main hope for the future to kind of increase accessibility for non-members or is there something else you have your eye on improving i see i see it's continuing to search for funding to increase the digitization projects so that what's significant and unique can actually be accessed online and i know i know that that has deflected i mean i've worked with digitizing collections for long enough to know that that can increase the need for physical visits as well but it does mean that things are available when physical access is difficult and i have always seemed to work with collections that are physically accessible for various reasons one was when i was at chalton house it's because in the middle of hampshire and it was relatively difficult to get to whereas at university of sydney obviously it was all right but even for other fellow australians you know getting to sydney if you're in perth isn't necessarily that quick and easy but also the fact that when you've got one of the largest rare book collections or if not the largest rare book collection in australia you want to be making it more accessible outside of australia as well and then at roosie where the physical limitations are to do the fact that it's a working building so to enable research access digitization then becomes a really valuable tool is that something you've been thinking for a while then or is that something that's really sort of come to the foreground over the past year i think from from when i started there in 2017 it's i think they'd already been thinking about it but they'd had a rather um because i took over after maternity leave i think that digitization had been identified as a way of increasing access to the collections but nobody really knew how to do it and because i've been involved in digitization projects in the past i then started to think about how do we do this and as a solo curator i also knew that i couldn't do it alone that i needed a working partner which is how i came to max communications well yeah what kind of material are you really earmarking that you want to share with people i started to think about the museum because i get so many inquiries about the museum and most of that information is in the archive and obviously that makes it unique that was where i began to think about how we can actually find ways of providing information about that even even if the early steps was using the three surviving print catalogues and making them accessible through a digital collection but also there was the low-hanging fruit because i'd already had the paintings digitized for art uk so there seemed an obvious collection waiting and another thing i can think about adding is a photograph album that's already been digitized but not publicly not available so it was about how to make that available and i've actually had quite a lot of fun with working with the ma and digital humanities at king's college london and dr kristen schuster where she's brought her students in and in a way we've been kind of mini crowd sourcing how to build data about that set of photographs and that it's a particular set that is about the museum exhibits and and obviously then to be able to put those into the digital collection with the metadata that students create and do it in such a way that over time if students continue to work on this set of photographs we can continue to add and improve the metadata that goes along with them okay so people find it easier to pinpoint exactly what they need from an object exactly what they need and then uh my interest in the museum because when i started as a librarian i didn't know about this history of the museum i didn't know there'd been one i didn't know it existed like like many many people um i've got so fascinated with it now that's the subject of a part-time phd i'm doing as well as working part-time at rootsy and that's been funded by the ahrc through a collaborative doctoral award with the university of westminster so the working title is the lost museum a history of empire and objects i think if a lot of the collection ended up in the pit rivers museum that's probably very appropriate what is your favorite object from your current collection what really um speaks to you what you personally like i think the one thing that i've that really kind of sings out for me is the laura knight portrait of the two waffs henderson and turner and they were painted i mean laura and i worked worked on this portrait at home using photographs so what she did was it was place henderson and turner within what had been the bunker at biggin hill where they they carried on keeping communication networks open until the very last minute when biggin hill was being bombed um and they they kind of left just before you know letting time to save their lives and they were subsequently both awarded the military medal along with their colleague um so that's henderson turner and i forget their colleague surname because obviously she's not in the title of the portrait but there are three of them but except laura knight apparently said she hadn't made enough to paint paul three portraits so she only did two that's really interesting so you've got female painters and female sort of defense people wrapped up in one sort of object yeah and and that sort of dovetails with another one of my projects i think early on and i saw a members meeting i looked down and i thought where are the women i looked down from the library gallery into the library and thought where are the women so i i've started over time to to pull together the books by and about women in a women's section of the library just so that there's an obvious place where you can find women and i think it's quite it's quite um appropriate too now that rusi has its first female director general dr karen von hippel who before working at rusi um worked for the us government and barack obama oh very impressive cb there i think she was she was chief of staff to general allen for the barack obama government oh fantastic and thank you so much for agreeing to speak to me today jackie it's been a delight hearing about the the as you say sort of unknown collection of russia i think it really needs a light shone on it for people to understand the history of defense in in the uk there's clearly a few gems in there thank you