Life on the ocean wave

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Life on the Ocean Wave, an exhibition of Cunard collectibles celebrating the shipping line’s 175th anniversary, will be a highlight of LJMU’s contributions to LightNight on May 15.

Also part of the seven-week One Magnificent City programme of arts commissions organised around the Cunard birthday landmark, Life on the Ocean Wave is the combination of two collections of cruise ship ephemera, one collated by Dr Clare Horrocks, Senior Lecturer at LJMU's School of Humanities and Social Science, and the other a donated private family collection.

Dr Horrocks explained: “I had been separately building my own collection of cruise ship ephemera to teach with, examining the evolution of Cunard as a brand, and a private family collection was also donated, probably to the Art School CF Mott Library, in the 1970s. The collection contained material from the 1950s and 1960s and many of the labels/invitations have the name R L Adam on them and so we believe they are the family who originally collected the material. Other than this, however, little is known, so we would appeal for anyone with information to contact us. 

"In the last couple of years, both collections have been brought together as Life on the Ocean Wave. Such collections of ephemera are generating increasing public interest. In a recent Antiques Roadshow filmed in Liverpool Cathedral, a similar collection of programmes, menus, deck plans and other ephemera was valued at £500.”

The collection is currently being used by Media, Culture and Communication students, as well as a number of final year students from the School of Art and Design. Other students have worked with LJMU Special Collections and Archives as part of a volunteering project to commemorate Cunard’s 175th anniversary and One Magnificent City.

Emily Parsons, LJMU Archivist and Special Collections Librarian, commented: “It has been a refreshing insight into the collection working with students and seeing their perspective on this unusual material. It is particularly nice to hear their family memories; a number of the volunteers had grandparents who worked for Cunard and could bring some added value to their choice of artefacts to include in the exhibition.”

BA Media, Culture and Communications student, Louise Maguire, commented: “I volunteered to help as I have family members who have worked aboard the Cunard ships and I also wanted to learn more about the company. As the cruise line is such an important part of Liverpool's history, creating an event such as this one may also introduce Cunard to a younger audience.'' 

This was echoed by Val Stevenson, Head of Academic Services, LJMU Library Services, who commented: “We are delighted that LJMU is a major sponsor of Light Night, participating in a range of wider events for One Magnificent City. We welcome every opportunity to open up our collections to a wider audience in Liverpool and the Light Night activities will be great fun as well as educational.”

The LightNight opening of the exhibition sees LJMU collaborating with the Everyman Theatre where a programme of cruise ship style events will be provided, including games, talks, music, cocktails and Cunard canapes.

It is also hoped the LJMU exhibition, which is now open to the public at LJMU’s Aldham Robarts Library until July 8, will attract visitors during the Three Queens, One Magnificent City event, which runs from 23 to 26 May. On 25 May, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria will all sail up the Mersey together.

Life on the Ocean Wave compliments the other popular culture archives already held by LJMU, including Keith Medley and Willy Russell collections.

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