Jane Bown 1925-2014

Jane Bown was best known for her work as a portrait photographer for the Observer. Her signature style was black and white, using natural light to striking effect.

In 1992, Nuffield College commissioned her to take portraits of all its Fellows – these can be seen in the library tower and in the basement. The subject interests of the Fellows are matched with the subjects of the books on each floor so that sociologists can be found on the 4th floor, political scientists on the 5th & 6th floors and economists in the basement. Many of these Fellows are still at Nuffield.

There is a temporary exhibition of alternative portraits in the Current Affairs Room (1st floor of the Library) capturing our Fellows in more candid moments.

Jane Bown display in the Current Affairs Room

The Library has recently purchased a copy of “Exposures: Jane Bown”, a volume of some of her (non-Nuffield) work, see the book on SOLO.

It can be found in the Art Collection in the Current Affairs Room at the shelfmark Art.Bown.

Further reading:

Guardian obituary

A life in photography

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National Libraries Day 2015: Nancy Bermeo’s thoughts on Nuffield College Library

Our second blog post for National Libraries Day sees Politics and International Relations Fellow, Nancy Bermeo, provide her thoughts on Nuffield College Library:

Nuffield College Library is a magical place where the push of a (lift) button takes you to a nuffield_15514 75world of countless texts both old and new. It’s a world that offers us all a chance to get wiser every day. The library’s treasures, however, are not only on its shelves. The extraordinarily helpful staff are its greatest asset. The real magic of our library lies with Liz Martin and her very able colleagues who grant us all our wishes and make our work their mission.

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National Libraries Day 2015: Alexander Gard-Murray’s thoughts on Nuffield College Library

National Libraries Day

Nuffield College Library is celebrating National Libraries Day, an event where libraries across the UK are celebrated. This year we have contributions from our library users. We asked them what it is that they like about the library and to nominate their favourite book/an influential book. We’ll be posting throughout the week with our readers’ thoughts leading up to National Libraries Day itself on Saturday 7th February. First up is student Alexander Gard-Murray:

Nuffield’s library is one of the College’s best features.  It has all the traits you would think to ask for in a great library: a wide selection, generous borrowing terms, an accommodating policy on acquisitions, and the longest possible opening hours.  But it also has some fine traits you might not think to ask for, but which are very nice once you have them.  One such trait is that due to its unorthodox layout, patrons can choose exactly how much contact they want to have with their fellow scholars.  You can labour side-by-side on the first floor, have your own semi-private desk on the second in case you still want a little oversight, or you can have a whole floor to yourself in the tower.  A floor for every mood.

Book Nominations:

Jonathan Strange & Mr NorrellJonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Oxford alumna Susanna Clarke.  Clarke has accomplished the rare, and possibly unique, feat of combining an engrossing story with an academic literature review (albeit of a masterfully fabricated discipline).

Golden ruleGolden Rule, by Thomas Ferguson (shelf mark JK 467.F).  The book presents a needed counterweight to standard accounts of voter-driven policymaking.

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REF2014 – read all about it!

The Research Excellence Framework is the successor to the Research Assessment Exercise, a method of assessing the research of British higher education institutions.  The results of REF 2014 have been released today and there has already been much written on their significance and speculation about any future for the REF in its current form.  As a starting point, here are some links to various sources for the results and this analysis.


1) REF2014 homepage for the results and a news article announcing the results from HEFCE.  There are also specific results available for each institution and Oxford University’s is here.

2) The Conversation UK has run several articles today:

The impact of impact on the REF by Anthony Kelly, Professor of Education and Head of Southampton Education School at University of Southampton.

Q&A: what is the REF and how is the quality of university research measured? by Rama Thirunamachandran, Vice-Chancellor and Principal at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Important research is being left behind – here’s how a change to the funding system could help by Peter Strike, Vice Chancellor at University of Cumbria

3) The LSE Impact of Social Sciences carried a blog by the Head of Research Policy at the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Steven Hill, Time for REFlection: HEFCE look ahead to provide rounded evaluation of the REF

4) The Times Higher Education website has all the results listed as well, see also the printed copy which will be in the Library shortly.

5) There is also a report on Oxford’s placings in the tables on the University website, while many universities have also published articles on their results.


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Christmas vacation opening hours 2014

We’re getting ready for Christmas here at Nuffield College Library!

Blog post Christmas 2014Our Christmas vacation opening hours are as follows*:

  • 8 – 22 December                  9.30-5.30
  • 23 December                         9.30-12.15
  • 24 December – 4 January  CLOSED
  • From 5 January                    9.30-5.30

Vacation loans start from Monday 15th December and will be due back on Monday 12th January.

*This does not apply to Nuffield College members, who will have normal access throughout.

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From the archives – Nuffield College’s architecture

This post continues our series on the library’s archives and is accompanied by a display on the college’s architecture, which is currently available to view in the library.

In 1937, Lord Nuffield gave £900,000 and the site that Nuffield College now sits on to the University of Oxford so that a new college could be created. In 1938, distinguished architect Austen Harrison was appointed and began to draw up plans.

The library holds in its archive, Nuffield College Papers, details on the appointment of Harrison to design Nuffield College, original plans, information on compromises and changes that had to be made, as well as an interview with the architect conducted by former warden Norman Chester.

Detailed plan of planting in  beer garden

Detailed plan of planting in beer garden (click to enlarge)

Interesting finds include a detailed plan for the layout of plants in the college beer garden and photographs of lightning damage to the roof in 1992.

Harrison’s original plans for the college were very Middle Eastern in their appearance but disliked by Lord Nuffield who is reported to have wanted something more in keeping with Oxford with “domes and pinnacles and things” (interview with Harrison, box A8, track 2 below). A more Cotswold-like plan was created after Harrison and his co-workers, Piers Hubbard and Thomas Barnes, took a cycle through the Cotswolds for inspiration. Work continued once the second World War ended, although material had since become more expensive and the project had to become more economical. Plans for a college building across the road where Worcester Street car park is now were abandoned, for example.

Nuffield model with short tower

Earlier model with octagonal tower and buildings on, what is now, Worcester Street car park

Nuffield model with tall tower

Later model with tall tower and buildings on Worcester Street abandoned

Nuffield College Library was never originally supposed to be housed in the tower as it is now but in the additional building in Worcester Street car park that was never constructed. However, financial constraints called a halt to construction and led to the decision that the library be housed in the tower. Indeed, the tower was originally designed to be octagonal in shape rather than square. It was thought that the shorter octagonal tower would be too low in relation to the castle mound opposite and a taller tower, that we see today, would “lift the College out of its sunken site on to the skyline of Oxford” (box A8/1/7).

The interview between Norman Chester and Austen Harrison conducted in 1970 is available below via SoundCloud, split into four tracks because of the original recording technique.

If you are interested in this material, contact the library at library-archives@nuffield.ox.ac.uk. More information about the archives is available on the library website.


Recording of Norman Chester interviewing Austen Harrison

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