Toulmin, Vanessa 1967- (Vanessa Elizabeth Toulmin)

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Toulmin, Vanessa 1967- (Vanessa Elizabeth Toulmin)


Born October 4, 1967, in Lancashire, England. Education: University of Sheffield, England, B.A. (with honors), 1988, Ph.D., 1997.


Home—England. Office—School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, University of Sheffield, Sir William Empson House, Shearwood Rd., Sheffield S10 2TD, England. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer, researcher. Former archaeologist, 1988-1990; assistant manager of antiquarian bookshop, 1990-92; University of Sheffield, Sheffield, England, National Fairground Archive, assistant director, 1995-99, research director, 2000-05, director, 2005—. Visiting lecturer at Yale University, University of Chicago, and Utrecht University; freelance consultant on charitable trusts.


Magic Circle, Magic Lantern Society, Domitor (an international association for early cinema historians; board member).


Chancellor's Medal, for outstanding achievement, University of Sheffield, 1997; recipient of research grants from the Prince of Wales Trust, Scouloudi Foundations, Education Services, and the Wingate Foundation.


Randall Williams: King of Showmen, Projection Box (London, England), 1998.

(Editor, with Simon Popple) Visual Delights: The Popular and Projected Image in the Nineteenth Century, Flicks Books (Trowbridge, England), 2000.

Pleasurelands, Projection Box (Hastings, England), 2003.

(With Simon Popple and Patrick Russell) The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon: Edwardian Britain on Film, British Film Institute (London, England), 2004.

(Editor, with Simon Popple) Visual Delights Two: Exhibition and Reception, John Libbey (Bloomington, IN), 2005.

Electric Edwardians: The Story of the Mitchell & Kenyon Collection, British Film Institute (London, England), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including Early Popular Visual Culture, International Journal of Sport in History, Film History, The Moving Image: Journal of Moving Image Archivist, The Local Historian, Journal of Australian Folklore, and North East Labour History. Coeditor and founder of the Journal of Early Popular Visual Culture.


Vanessa Toulmin was born in Lancashire and educated at the University of Sheffield in England, where she earned her doctorate in 1997, having researched the lives of traveling show people. She then went on to serve on the faculty there, within the School of English Literature, Language, and Linguistics, as the director for the National Fairground Archive. The archive is a research facility, the purpose of which is to record and analyze the nation's folklore, language, and distinctive customs. Toulmin's academic interests were sparked by her own background, growing up as part of a fairground family. She is also the author of The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon: Edwardian Britain on Film, which she wrote with Simon Popple and Patrick Russell, and of Visual Delights Two: Exhibition and Reception, on which she again collaborated with Simon Popple, this time as editor.

In The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon, Toulmin investigates the collection of early-twentieth-century reels of camera negatives that were donated to the British Film Institute in 2000. The films were produced by Mitchell & Kenyon, one of the country's first production companies, which was started by Sagar Mitchell, who manufactured photographic equipment, and James Kenyon, who sold furniture. The team produced a wide range of films, from fiction to documentary to reenactments of major events in history, working out of their base in Blackburn, but also traveling through most of Britain to work on various locations. The book includes information on the technology of the day, as well as the film collection itself, focusing not only on the context of the subjects during the time they were filmed, but also stressing how they alter modern-day impressions of the early twentieth century. Robert Williamson, in a review for the Kamera Web site, concluded that "the book will be best enjoyed alongside the BBC documentary series about the films … but has much to recommend it in itself."

Visual Delights Two is a collection of essays that analyzes the various types of visual entertainment that were available during Victorian and Edwardian times in England. The majority of the essays look at photography and/or early efforts at cinema, and discuss the works of artists who were well known at the time. Reviewer Michael Pickering, writing for Victorian Studies, noted that "for a long time historians treated photographic images in a highly naive way, assuming them to provide transparent windows into past events. … Work on the realist visual image in film and media studies has begun to help historians move beyond both of these earlier approaches." He concluded that the volume "provides clear evidence of this shift of understanding."



Victorian Studies, spring, 2007, Michael Pickering, review of Visual Delights Two: Exhibition and Reception, p. 532.


Kamera Web site, (February 5, 2008), Robert Williamson, review of The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon: Edwardian Britain on Film.

National Fairground Archive Web site, (February 5, 2008), faculty profile of author.