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Alumni in the Archives: Recording Your History for 153 Year

by Natalie Hayton on 2023-09-04T09:27:00+01:00 in Alumni, Archives, DMU Students, Visitors | 0 Comments

With huge congratulations to all those graduating this year, we thought what better way to celebrate than by highlighting how our holdings record the DMU student journey, past, present and future, and how we support visiting alumni. Are you in the archives?

Figure 1: Students in the Special Collections reading room, 2019. Image by Redpix.


Dating from 1870 when DMU’s predecessor the Leicester College of Art was founded, Special Collections holds many records relating to its students and their journey through higher education, from enrolment and registration to graduation.

Figure 2: A page from the Leicester College of Art Register, 1870-1901.

This first College register includes students who enrolled on courses between 1870-1901 and features hundreds of students as well as some famous names, such as Arts and Crafts furniture designer Ernest Gimson. The registers are particularly useful from a genealogical perspective as descendants are able to confirm a family member’s bygone attendance and sometimes glean their former occupation or address. 

At the other end of the student journey are the graduation brochures, and we are always pleased to share digital copies with alumni should they have lost their original programme. We even hold photographs and videos for a number of years so former students or family members tracing records can browse by year with the possibility of finding themselves, loved ones and peers.


                      Figure 3: Graduation Brochure Cover, 1991-92.                                                                       Figure 4:  De Montfort Hall, 1989.


                   Figure 5: De Montfort Hall 1975.                                                            Figure 6: Lincoln Cathedral, 1996.

From 1969 when Leicester Polytechnic and then DMU was able to confer its own awards, the graduation brochures list every graduating student for every course.

Figure 7: Graduation Ceremony, De Montfort Hall, c 1995.

As well as the fun of trying to find yourself, peers or relatives, the brochures are a great way to recall, or gain a sense of, a graduation event as they also record proceedings and often feature images of venues, ceremonial robes and artefacts, staff and honorary graduands. Did you graduate the same year South African President Nelson Mandela was awarded Companionship of DMU in 1996? Or this year when fashion designer Dame Zandra Rhodes was awarded Honorary Doctor of Arts?


Figure 8: President Mandela receives his Companion Award, 1996.                          Figure 9: Dame Zandra Rhodes in Ceremonial Robes. DMU News, 2023


Course programmes and graduations, however, are often only part of the story: the student experience typically encompasses a range of new activities, locations and people, especially when individuals get involved in societies, Varsity, campaigns and events. Again, we are on hand to assist alumni or relatives in locating any records relating to their, or a family member’s, extracurricular activities at DMU.


                  Figure 10: Cover of people Matters Magazine, 2001.                                                                   Figure 11: DMU Rowing Team c 1990.

Figure 12: Varsity Ticket, 2015.

With student magazines from a range of faculties we were able to help one reader find an image of her father, a student at the College of Technology in the 1930s.


                 Figure 13: Cover of The Prism Faculty Magazine, 1937.                                                              Figure 14: Page from The Prism Faculty Magazine, 1937.

Sometimes visiting alumni are more interested in recalling a sense of time and place, and we love sharing the many photographs, old prospectuses and ephemera in the collections which can help recall memories about a music gig, campus building or favourite spot in the surrounding area. Whatever it is you’re looking for, we want to make your visit to the archive a memorable one.


Figure 15: Curiosity Killed the Cat gig ticket, 1987. From                     Figure 16: Photograph of Leicester Town Hall Square c 1975.   the Papers of Sean Clarke, DMU alumnus.


Established in 2013, Special Collections has since been making every effort to gather materials that record the student experience, but sadly, there are many gaps in the holdings with a distinct lack of records relating to societies, clubs (including sports clubs) and international students. To be able to capture the essence and range of student life we are frequently reliant on donations from alumni, as with the above gig ticket. One of the ways many students continue their DMU journey with us is not just through visiting, but by becoming donors to Special Collections, whether it’s a ticket or jumper produced as part of a textiles class.

Figure 17: International Student welcome event held in The Venue, 2019.

Items donated form named collections which are then listed, packaged and shared in classes, exhibitions or with other alumni and readers, preserved to tell the story of DMU and its students in perpetuity. Having made the journey from student to alumni is the next step for you a trip to the archives as a reader or a donor? Here, we sincerely welcome you to visit the archive and appeal for your help in preserving the history of student experience at DMU.

If you would like to discuss any of the collections here or you would like to enquire about donating items (digital copies accepted so you don’t have to part with originals) please get in touch using our email:



As well as continuing your DMU journey with us, as a DMU alumni you will want to get in touch with DMU for Life. A global alumni community which includes graduates from De Montfort University and Leicester Polytechnic and spans over 180 countries. Through the DMU Alumni Hub, alumni can access a wide range of benefits tailored to support your professional development and lifelong learning. There's also a mixture of social opportunities including reunions, networking, ticket giveaways, discounts and events. Find out more on their website:


Special Collections webpage:

Special Collections catalogue home page:

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