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We’re pleased to announce a new addition to the Visual Collections here at the Rylands Library, in the shape of three boxes of medals, commemorative coins, ceremonial keys and one miniature portrait, all of which will sit within our collection of objects. Many of these items have arrived in pristine packaging, all different shapes and sizes, different weights, and some beautifully presented in velvet and silk lined boxes. They are all just waiting to reveal their stories and connections to the University.

The majority of the medals have clear links to historical figures within the University of Manchester community; many highlight illustrious academic and research achievements, providing tangible recognition and celebration of noteworthy careers. Many of these names still have resonance today and will be familiar to staff and students alike as buildings and rooms on campus are named after these bygone academics.

Samuel Alexander's Order of Merit

Samuel Alexander’s Order of Merit

One such is Samuel Alexander (1859-1935) and his medal is seen above. He was Professor of Philosophy at The University of Manchester between 1893 and 1925. Today the Humanities Building on the Main Campus is named after him. His Order of Merit, Civil, which is hidden in a small brown box, was presented to him in 1930. This medal consists of a golden crown with blue and maroon ribbon attached. It is given in recognition of distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature or promotion of culture.

Portrait of Leo. H. Grindon by Helen Entwistle

Portrait of Leo. H. Grindon by Helen Entwistle

Although clearly not a medal, the miniature pictured here was part of the medal collection so we felt we could get away with including it in the blog. The image is of Leopold Hartley Grindon (1818 – 1904), a self-taught botanist who lectured in botany at the Manchester Royal School of Medicine, later part of Owens College and subsequently The University of Manchester.  We particularly like the portrait because he is smiling and reminds us of a grandfather figure. His collection of plants, related botanical drawings and writings, form part of the botany collection in the Manchester Museum.

It’s always difficult for us to choose which items to include as they all seem worthy of a mention; however, our final choice is of particular relevance. Housed in a presentation box marked ‘C.B.E.’ are two medals, one full sized and the other much smaller, which were awarded to Dr. C. Chisholm in 1935. Catherine Chisholm (1878–1952) was the first female graduate of medicine from The University of Manchester, a paediatrician and founder of the Duchess of York Hospital for Babies. She was included in our recent exhibition ‘Women Who Shaped Manchester’, which ran from September 2018 to March 2019 and she was the subject of a blog post, (Link here), by our colleague Charlotte Hoare, who is responsible for cataloguing the University of Manchester medical collections as part of a project funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Written by Karen Jacques & Clare Baker

All images unless otherwise stated are copyright of the University of Manchester and can be used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike Licence. With thanks to the Imaging Team.