The Papers of Margaret Gardiner (1904-2005)

Scope and Content

Posters, photographs, press advertisements and leaflets for the Nottingham Test Campaign from design to final product. Press cuttings about the campaign. Reports and market research questionnaire from the campaign [Cwl MGA/1-10].

Correspondence with Philip Noel-Baker MP about the campaign and about a series of full-page letters to The Times, signed by well-known individuals, organised by Margaret Gardiner [Cwl MGA/11-12].

Press advertisements, leaflets and press cuttings about anti-Vietnam War protests [Cwl MGA/13].

Administrative / Biographical History

Margaret Gardiner was a writer, political campaigner and arts patron. Partner of scientist John Desmond Bernal (with whom she had a son, Martin), she was a friend to many artists, including Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. During her life she was involved in many political and peace campaigns, beginning with the anti-fascist movement in the 1930s. Born in Berlin, she moved to Britain with her family at the outbreak of World War I. After studying at Cambridge, and an initial attempt to teach, she turned her attentions to philanthropy, campaigning and building a remarkable art collection, housed at the Pier Arts Centre set up by Margaret in Stromness in the Orkneys in 1978.

This archive covers one particular campaign, which linked her appreciation of visual media with her concern about nuclear war: the Nottingham Test Campaign, which ran during autumn 1962 as a pilot study to investigate whether mass media techniques could awaken the public to the danger and imminence of nuclear war. The campaign included press advertisements, billboard posters and leaflets. Market research into public opinion on nuclear disarmament was undertaken in Nottingham and Bradford, before and after the campaign, and the results are summarised in the campaign report. During 1963, she attempted to gather support and funds for mounting the campaign on a wider scale in the run-up to the forthcoming general election. Philip Noel-Baker MP canvassed sympathetic public figures and business leaders but the campaign was not taken any further.

During the Vietnam War, Margaret organised several anti-war protests and there is some documentation of this in the collection. These included press advertisements signed by European artists, and demonstrations outside the United States Embassy in Grosvenor Square to protest against the bombing of Hanoi at Christmas 1971.


The collection has been arranged chronologically to reflect how the campaign developed.

Access Information

Available to researchers, by appointment. Access to archive material is subject to preservation requirements and must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act and any other appropriate legislation.

Acquisition Information

Donated to Commonweal by Margaret Gardiner c.1992

Archivist's Note

Described by Alison Cullingford and revised by Helen Roberts, December 2009.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be supplied or produced at the discretion of Special Collections staff, subject to copyright law and the condition of the originals. Applications for permission to make published use of any material should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian in the first instance. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

A small amount of duplicate material has been weeded.


None expected.

Related Material

Letters to Margaret Gardiner from AB Deacon (Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts, GB 0012 MS Add. 9715)


Margaret Gardiner, Barbara Hepworth: a memoir (Edinburgh: Salamander Press, 1982)

Margaret Gardiner, Footprints on Malekula: a memoir of Bernard Deacon (Edinburgh: Salamander Press, 1984)

Margaret Gardiner, A scatter of memories (London: Free Association, 1988)

Gill Hedley, ‘Gardiner, Margaret Emilia (1904–2005)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn, Oxford University Press, Jan 2009 [, accessed 4 Dec 2009]

Obituary by Janet Morgan in The Guardian, 5 January 2005

Obituary by Alan Bowness and Neil Firth in The Independent, 21 January 2005