New Hall Women's Art Collection

Scope and Content

In 2002 the Collection comprised about 250 works by over 200 artists. The related archive includes supporting paperwork and background information relating to individual artists for example: CVs, exhibition publicity and press cuttings.

Administrative / Biographical History

New Hall was founded in 1954 as the 'third foundation' for women students at Cambridge University at a time when Cambridge had the lowest proportion of women undergraduates of any university in the UK. Until then, there had been only two Cambridge colleges which could accept women, namely Girton and Newnham, both founded in the late nineteenth century. Hughes Hall (although not a college of the University) was also allowed to admit up to 70 women students in all.

The first 16 students admitted to New Hall in 1954 were housed in the College's first, temporary, home in Silver Street where Darwin College now stands. The growth in student numbers was slow, limited for the first ten years by the accommodation available, but the College was from the beginning seeking further endowments and gifts to enable it to become permanently established on its own site with its own buildings.

By 1962, thanks to the generosity of members of the Darwin family who gave their family home, the Orchard, the College had its site on Huntingdon Road, on the northern side of Cambridge. The architects, Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, had been chosen and funds were being collected. Building began in 1964 and the new college was completed, as far as funding and land would allow, in 1965. It could house up to 300 students and, with others living in houses off the site, the College total rose to about 215 undergraduates and 25 graduate students at the beginning of 1970. The College's position was now sufficiently stable to seek a Charter from the Privy Council in 1972 to allow a transition of governance from an Association, the Company of New Hall, (effectively a non-profit company structure for its first 18 or so years) to that of a college, 'The President and Fellows of New Hall in the University of Cambridge'.

In 1981 the Founder President, Dame Rosemary Murray, retired, after a tenure which had included two years (1975-77) as the first woman Vice-Chancellor in either Cambridge or Oxford, and was succeeded by Dr Valerie Pearl. Under Dr Pearl's presidency major building works were undertaken with the help of the Kaetsu Educational Foundation, Tokyo, to complete the original architectural plan of the College and to add 112 student rooms, a lecture hall and conference facilities. In addition, living quarters for the Kaetsu Educational and Cultural Centre, an independent body with no association with the University of Cambridge, were built on land leased from the College for 60 years.

In 1995 Dr Pearl retired and was succeeded first by Dr Zara Steiner as Acting President from October 1995 to January 1996, and then by Mrs Anne Lonsdale, third President of New Hall.

The collection was begun by the first President, Dame Rosemary Murray, who kept scrapbooks of press cuttings throughout her presidency and left behind twenty boxes of papers, which include minutes and papers of the Committee of the Third Foundation for Women dating from 1948 (see NHAR 1/1/1). Since her retirement three successive Librarians have acted as keepers of the archives, with input also from an Archivist and from the Alumnae Officer.

Publications by and relating to the College, including ephemeral notices, invitations, menus and so on, are preserved, and alumnae are encouraged to deposit ephemera from the past and their personal papers.

There are several important sets of photographs. 'The first year at New Hall', a series taken by E. G. Malindine, shows the first sixteen students in the setting of The Hermitage, Silver Street, Cambridge, the College's original home and now part of Darwin College. There are photographs of the innovative architecture on the Huntingdon Road site, completed in 1964, and photographic records of major events such as the opening of these buildings by the Queen Mother, the archaeological dig of 1994 and the opening of the Kaetsu Centre on New Hall land in 1996. Amateur photography is also represented and is valuable in illustrating the daily life of students and Fellows.

The first matriculation book and early volumes of Council papers are kept in the archives. There are papers relating to founders and benefactors, appeals, alumnae, past Fellows, student activities and the College's administration and finance. Site plans and building plans occupy a considerable amount of space, since New Hall has done much recent building.

The New Hall Women's Art Collection is complemented by a growing archive of catalogues, photographs, articles and newscuttings relating to the artwork and the artists. The video collection began with an amateur film of the construction of the Dome in the 1960s and continued with film of various celebrations. A recent acquisition has been a copy of the BBC Two Matter of Fact programme featuring New Hall. The College has an on-going audio-visual programme to interview some of the key figures in its history and a film was produced in 2004 to commemorate the first fifty years of the College.

Access Information

By appointment. More recent records may be closed.

Acquisition Information

Regular deposits from staff and students

Other Finding Aids

Handlists available. Some information is also available on Janus -

Archivist's Note

Description by Patricia Acres, New Hall Archive, May 2002 amended by Genesis Project Officer. Submitted to the Archives Hub as part of Genesis 2009 Project.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying regulations available on request.

Custodial History

Started in 1991 under Valerie Pearl, President of New Hall to create a permanent collection of 20th century art by distinguished women artists. In 2002 the Collection comprised about 250 works by over 200 artists, donated or lent to the College. The College does not purchase art work for the Collection. The paintings and sculptures are displayed in the College


'New Hall 1954-1972: the Making of a College' by Rosemary Murray, New Hall, 1980.

Geographical Names