We would like to wish all the readers of this blog a very happy Christmas and to say that we will be back with our regular updates in the New Year. We hope that you are all as excited about 2016 as we are – it’s the year that Cohen Quadrangle opens its doors to students, academics, staff and visitors!
Exeter’s Special Collections Centre at Cohen Quadrangle will be unlike anything the College has ever had before.
The College owns around 30,000 rare books and some 80 medieval manuscripts, as well as 700 years’ worth of archive material (referred to all together as the Special Collections). These are currently stored in the basement of the College library and underneath staircase 9 in cramped and dusty conditions, inaccessible for scholars who may wish to consult them.
In February 2015 the College announced that Cohen Quad’s basement area will be developed expressly to house its rare books and manuscripts in a Special Collections Centre. This in turn frees up an entire wing in the library on Turl Street, enabling the College to provide additional and much-needed study space for students.
The large archive storage area at Cohen Quad will have brand new rolling stacks for easy access. A smaller side room will act as a high-security storage area for the College’s most precious collections, including the 14th century Bohun Psalter (owned by Katherine of Aragon herself), the Soncino Bible (see image above) and a manuscript copy of Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars with marginal notes by Petrarch himself.
The rooms will have inbuilt temperature and humidity regulators to ensure optimum conditions for all these precious pages. They will be protected from fire and flooding with thick walls and metal doors, giving an extra four hours’ protection. They will also be fitted with a gas suppression system which forces oxygen out of the atmosphere, thus extinguishing fire without the need for sprinklers.
The rooms will also be highly secure, with alarmed entrances and CCTV footage throughout.
This is the first time that Exeter’s rare books and archive materials will be kept in one place and under climate-controlled conditions. Not only this, but an adjacent reading room will open up access to the collections in an unprecedented way.
The reading room will boast a large table to be shared by anyone wishing to study these materials. The walls will be panelled in glulam and cherry veneer, echoing the materials used across the rest of the site. It will be cleverly and sensitively lit, mostly thanks to a large ceiling light that draws in natural light from the North Quadrangle.
Joanna Bowring, the College Librarian, said:
“The new Special Collections Centre at Cohen Quad will be nothing short of transformational for Exeter’s archives, manuscripts and rare printed books. For the first time, all of these historic collections can be kept together, in the correct environmental conditions. Exeter has extraordinary special collections and it’s so exciting that we can make them accessible and bring Exeter’s history to life in this way.”
To read more about Exeter’s special collections, please click here.
Exeter is looking forward to welcoming students, Fellows and visiting academics to the Special Collections Centre at Cohen Quadrangle, and is grateful to all the supporters who have made this project possible.
Amanda McDonald came up to Exeter in 1991 to read English. She has many happy memories of her time at the College and has remained in touch with many of her Exeter friends.
Sadly, Amanda is now very ill and her friends have decided to come together to commemorate her time at Exeter by naming a student bedroom in her honour at Cohen Quad. Together, they will donate £10,000 to make the dream a reality.
Charlotte Morgan (1991, English) said: “Amanda has been my dearest friend since College days. We love to imagine future students gossiping, drinking bad coffee and generally having the time of their lives in ‘her’ room, just as we did all those years ago.”
Amanda returned to Exeter this week with her husband Dean, her father Alan and three of her greatest College friends. After lunch, she and Dean renewed their wedding vows in the Chapel, where they were married in July 2010. At the end of their visit, they drove to Walton Street to take a look at Cohen Quad as it goes up.
Amanda said: “Exeter College is a very special place for me and I’m thrilled with the idea of the Amanda McDonald Room. It means so much to me and my family that I will be remembered in this way.”
After leaving university Amanda went on to a build a successful career in marketing and advertising, becoming MD of a marketing agency in the Midlands. Her insights into community marketing have proved invaluable for us at Exeter and we’d like to thank her for sharing her inspiring ideas about building vibrant alumni communities, many of which shaped this very blogsite.
If you would like to make a donation towards the Amanda McDonald Bedroom, please contact us.
On 4th December Deputy Bursar Gez Wells conducted a tour of Cohen Quad for a small group of current students. Before entering the building site itself, the visitors were given an overview of the vision behind the new quadrangle by Hannah Constantine of Alison Brooks Architects.
During the tour, the students were shown every space at Cohen Quad, from the Fellows’ and Junior Dean’s sets high up on the fourth floor down to the archive and reading room in the basement, as well as all the bedrooms, teaching rooms, and study and relaxation spaces in between.
Laura Cheftel (2014, Philosophy & Modern Languages and JCR President-elect) said:
“I am so glad to have had the opportunity to see Cohen Quad. What struck me the most was the sheer size of it! It was really great to be able to walk around and understand how all the different spaces flow on from one another. I found it so impressive that the goal of effortless functionality justifies every detail. The design is an absolute feat, and yet I couldn’t imagine it any other way; it’s truly seamless.
“I love imagining the ways students will live there. Despite what might be said about its lack of history compared to other university buildings, the fact Cohen Quad is new makes it exciting and inspiring; through being such an innovative piece of architecture, it is a work of art that in itself will be intellectually stimulating. The concept of the Learning Commons is a brilliant one; study, comfort, coffee and company finally come together in such a beautiful space! I can see the amphitheatre steps as a casual lunch-spot, as well as a place for pieces of student drama in the evenings.”
Tobias Tan (2014, Theology DPhil) was particularly struck by the deceptive size of the building, saying:
“Although the original facade of the Ruskin building is relatively modest (in size), the building opens up into a vast complex. A substantial amount has been squeezed into a fairly small site (which seems appropriate and hardly surprising, given the scarcity of land in inner-city Oxford).”
He admitted that it was “difficult to judge the final aesthetic appeal from the mere concrete skeleton” but confirmed that “One could, however, gain an appreciation for how the spaces flowed into one another, which did seem quite pleasing. The abundance of natural light in most spaces will no doubt be highly appreciated.”
On a practical note, Tobias added that “The concrete separators between rooms may seem unremarkable, but I think it’s probably one of the most important features to limit noise in a semi-communal living environment. The noise associated with the doorways (how loudly the doors bang shut, and whether the doorways will be insulated against noise) will, I suspect, be crucial! I am looking forward to seeing [the building] finished in wood and stone.”
Jake Donald (2014, Modern Languages) was able to join the tour briefly before a tutorial back at Turl Street. He commented:
“It’s a beautiful construction, and everyone should be incredibly excited to live in it. The Quad itself looks set to be absolutely stunning, and I think that the facilities on the ground and basement floors – the archive room, the theatre and the cafe – will all be incredible spaces.”
The College intends to carry out several more hard-hat tours during Hilary and Trinity terms 2016, offering many more students, staff and Fellows the opportunity to explore Cohen Quad ahead of its completion in late summer 2016.