Like their paper equivalents, blogs are a digital form of life writing, which we also archive here at Churchill in our College archives. Although not open until 2040, we’ve preserved a series of blogs reflecting on students’ time at Churchill, collected as part of our ‘First Impressions’ series (CCRF/151). The bloggers shared their amusing first impressions of:

Cambridge: “Rattling, drafty windows. “Unique”, banging plumbing in the bath; scalding hot and freezing cold faucets not seen since childhood. A window in the shower that will not shut. Struggling with temperatures and wet unbecoming a Southerner; day and night horizontal rain of the kind that surely inhibits progress on foot, let alone on a bike. It suddenly becomes clear. With that draft, no wonder they built those bomber bases here.”

Porters: “Certainly not of suitcases, but rather suppliers of hearty teasing dished out mercilessly on a daily basis, along with large doses of first aid and sage advice. A haven for late night visits for tea and chat. Don’t forget the biscuits, please.”

Being forever young…: “Pubs, pints, Pimms, punts- all important vocabulary to express the latter half of the Cambridge motto: “play hard”. Summer nights populated with short dresses. Bared, blue colored midriffs in seemingly Arctic temperatures; strapless, sleeveless, high heeled, clacking frozen streets.”

Churchill Front of College

Source: Churchill Archives Centre, taken by Edward Leigh, CCPH 5/11.

Dame Athene Donald’s blog.

Alongside this series, we also archive the blog of our Master Dame Athene Donald. Writing back in August 2010, Donald wrote:

“I aim to use this site to post thoughts on work at the outer reaches of physics where it meets biology, and the challenges of working at that interface; some of my ideas and experiences as a senior woman physicist plus my reactions to discussions around this topic, and general initiatives in this area; and reactions to science policy, funding etc. So it will be a miscellaneous collection.”

Future researchers could use Donald’s blog to answer a range of questions – how do scientists navigate the tricky terrain of public engagement – and in Donald’s case – at the same time as being the Master of a Cambridge college? What comments are left on Donald’s blogs and what can they tell us about the ways in which readers interact with content shared through this platform? How are other academics using blogs and how do these sit alongside other forms of public engagement changing in this digital age?

Find out more about:

  • The history of blogs as a form of life writing in Elizabeth Adami’s ‘Blogs: Life Writing on the Net’, in A. Righetti (ed.) The Protean Forms of Life Writing: Auto/Biography in English, 1680-2000, (2008). Napoli, Liguori, 251-270. Read an open access version here.

If we’ve whetted your appetite, then do get in touch to explore our collections.

Want to catch up with earlier posts in our series? Check out our blogs on autobiographies and biographies, letters, diaries, scrapbooks, comics and poetry.

Looking for useful introductions for working with life writing? Here’s some of our favourites:

  • Dobson, Miriam, and Benjamin Ziemann, eds. Reading primary sources: the interpretation of texts from nineteenth and twentieth century history. Routledge, 2020.
  • Barber, Sarah, and Corinna Peniston-Bird, eds. History beyond the text: a student’s guide to approaching alternative sources. Routledge, 2013.
  • Summerfield, Penny. Histories of the self: Personal narratives and historical practice. Routledge, 2018.

By Cherish Watton, Archives Assistant.