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The Norris Photography Project

Rebecca JWebster9 April 2018

This is a guest post by Euan Guckian, UCL Special Collections volunteer.

Over terms one and two this year I have had the opportunity to sort and catalogue the photograph collection of Arthur Norris for the Special Collections team. Norris was a railway engineer who, at the beginning of the twentieth century, spent several years (roughly 1909-1916) working in Latin America. He captured scenes from across the continent, annotating some of them for his mother back home in Britain.

Already gathered into region specific files, alongside a separate one for a soccer game played at one of the highest points in the Andes, my first responsibility was to sort them into a more coherent order. I was at first helped by the extensive notes provided by Norris on the back on the photos, but as the years went on I was fortunate to have a date and location. A sense of lethargy that anyone who has committed to keeping at diary will be familiar with. Having sorted each file, my next job was to list them digitally, this comprised either paraphrasing Norris’ notes or, in their absence, describing concisely what would be considered each one’s important features.

UCL Special Collections, NORRIS/9

Having previously studied the modernisation of Latin America during this period, it was interesting to see the region enter the 20th century from such a visual perspective. This was most obviously represented by the numerous photographs of the laying of tracks, carving of tunnels, building of railway bridges, and constructing of train stations taken by Norris from Buenos Aires to Lima. Amongst my favourite photographs, was a shot taken from 13,000ft above sea level of an Argentine mountain range. It came with instructions from Norris to place it next to another to create a carefully framed panorama. Unfortunately, after weeks of searching I never found it. There is plenty however, that would be appeal to those with an interest in Latin America. These include, depictions of rural village life, as well as that of the region’s capitals, all alongside photographs of ceremonies both native to South America, and those, such as bullfights, brought over from Spain.

UCL Special Collections, NORRIS/1

You can see the full catalogue for the Norris photographic archive here. To arrange a visit to consult the collection please email us at spec.coll@ucl.ac.uk

 

Slade Small Press Project, 9-11 March

TabithaTuckett8 March 2018

This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Slade Small Press Project is opening its work to the public, alongside an exhibition on Friday afternoon from UCL Library Special Collections’ Small Press Collections. Events will take place at the Slade Research Centre, top floor, 16 Woburn Square, WC1H 0AB.

Staff and students from the Slade School of Fine Art, alongside invited artists, have created works on the theme of sound inspired by the material from Special Collections, as part of a term-long research project supporting UCL’s Connected Curriculum.

Participants in the project have seen and heard material from UCL’s collections by experimental and avant-garde writers, poets, artists, photographers, dancers and composers. These include graphic musical scores (to learn more about these, see for example this blogpost), and works by John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, Henri Chopin and performance poets. On Friday you might even pick up a specially-pressed vinyl record of the students’ work made in response to our collections.

Recordings from the avant-garde poet and musician, Henri Chopin UCL SMALL PRESS COLLECTIONS

Friday 9 March, 2-4.30pm, includes not only the library exhibition and listening booths, but talks from an artist, a poet, a film-maker and an art critic, discussing lullabies, the connection or not between grime music and concrete poetry, Daphne Oram (co-founder of the pioneering BBC Radiophonic Workshop), and dance notations by Jennifer Pike (held in Special Collections). 4.30pm till late will see the launch of an exhibition of work created during the Project, the launch of the students’ specially pressed vinyl record, and a specially editioned print in honour of the late Mark E Smith and his inspiration, Blast (copies of which are held in Special Collections). The evening programme also includes a series of live performances by Slade staff and students and invited artists. The Project exhibition and listening booths continue on Saturday 10 March, 1-5pm and Sunday 11 March, 1-4pm, with a further programme of live performances on the Saturday.

Events are free and open to the public. Full details in the Project brochure below or here.

Read more about the Subject Liaison Librarian Liz Lawes’ experience of running the project in Tabitha Tuckett and Elizabeth Lawes, ‘Object literacy at University College London Library Services’ in Art Libraries Journal vol.42 issue 2 (April 2017) pp.99-106.

UCL SMALL PRESS COLLECTIONS

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The Small Press Project 2018
Slade Research Centre, Woburn Square
Friday 9th March

The Small Press Collections held by UCL Library Services Special Collections are a globally significant collection of Little Magazines, literary pamphlets, and counter-cultural newspapers produced as a result of the independent publishing scene of the mid 20th century to the present.

From the late 1950s experimental poets and visual artists took advantage of newly accessible printing techniques to self-publish, and distribute their work outside of mainstream literary journals or established gallery spaces. The collections focus on experimental text and image, visual and concrete poetry, the documentation of performance and sound poetry, and text works by artists.

The theme of Sound is in evidence throughout the collections in various manifestations: actual sound recordings, the visual scores of experimental composers, sound and performance poets, poetry and other texts to be read aloud. This year’s Small Press Project seeks to illuminate all these aspects.

The Small Press Project Event, also includes an exhibition of works and recordings made by the staff and students at the Slade School of Fine Art.

Schedule

2.10        Hannah Dargavel-Leafe

Introductions and welcome

2.15      Aura Satz

Aura Satz’ practice encompasses film, sound, performance and sculpture. She has made a body of works that look at key female figures largely excluded from mainstream historical discourse, in an ongoing engagement with the question of women’s contributions to labour, technology, scientific knowledge and electronic music. In her presentation she will give an overview of 3 projects made about women composers, including ‘Oramics’, an artist’s film made in homage to Daphne Oram.

2.45       Holly Pester

Holly Pester will present ‘A short talk on the process of recording lullabies and composing lines from an archive of efforts.’ As well as the talk (and possibly short reading of one of the poems), she will play extracts from her record Common Rest.

3.15 – 3.30     Tea & Coffee

3.30      Holly Antrum

For her presentation, Holly Antrum will introduce an artistic interest in the original items and materials that went into Computer Dances by artist Jennifer Pike (1919 – 2016), as a subsequent tool for inter-generational collaboration and intervention. Jennifer Pike produced the ‘Computer Dances’ and other works within and around a productive, shared domestic studio, printing and publishing space wherein she was the oft-collaborator, and also marriage partner of Bob Cobbing (1920-2002). Computer Dances compiles Pike’s abstract notations for dance and performance: they were made in her 70’s, and she created them stepping into digital working, through scans and digital drawing using a simple early Sketch-Up programme. Holly will explore how arriving at these drawings occurred through being in Pike’s home and studio and how this sonically entered her 16mm/HD film, titled Catalogue (2012-14). Excerpts will screened from the film (19 minutes).

4.00    Jonathan P Watts

Jonathan P Watts will present ‘g, g, g, grime & kon kon kon konkrete poetry’

There is no actual relation between concrete poetry and grime, but the mix and blend might open up affinities. For example, by concentrating on the physical substance of language, concrete poetry can, to echo Bob Cobbing, help us consider how the microphone and the tape recorder extends the human voice, teaching the human new tricks of rhythm and tone, power and subtlety’. Grime, the Lewisham MC Novelist recently explained, is ‘an unorthodox, rebellious sound that represents madness from the hood, the streets’. Concrete poetry is now mostly in the academies, but it was unorthodox in its time. As grime has formalised into a mainstream genre so, arguably, its unorthodox, experimental beginnings have been forgotten. Wiley, writing in his recent autobiography, Eskiboy, reminds us: ‘I’ve got a lot of songs that I’ve never released which are just trying different things with the mic, very experimental kind of stuff. I’ve had ideas for whole songs just using the mic, my voice and nothing else.’ From Flirta D’s ‘splatterisms’ to Flow Dan’s New Age Synchronised Avengers, D Double E’s ‘blukuuus’ to God’s Gift’s rhyming gunshots, this talk will not place grime in the service of concrete poetry.

4.30 – 8.00     Private View for the Small Press Project Exhibition

The evening will feature live performances, curated by Hannah Dargavel-Leafe, Honorary Research Associate, by invited artists and students and staff from Slade School of Fine Art. We will also launch a special edition and a 10” vinyl publication produced by students as part of the project.

Biographies

Holly Antrum (b. London 1983) is an artist filmmaker based in London, and a current participant of the Acme Fire Station Work-Live residency in Bow. She works with 16mm, paper and digital mediums, and often in collaborative processes and study of practice with other artists and writers. She is interested in the moment of our accustomisation to celluloid-as-digital-material, and in a material moment of being at once archived and removed from the original and native aesthetic. Through her films she utilises the poetics of layered film processes, presence, communication and templates of speech, memory and in-situ sound. Recent projects include EIDOLON(2017) a film commissioned by International Literature Showcase with poetry by Sandeep Parmar. The new work was screened alongside artist-selected archival works within the Cinenova collection at The Showroom (February 2018). Solo gallery installations include Catalogue at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Edinburgh (2016) and A Diffuse Citizen at Grand Union, Birmingham (2014). Her work has also been screened in galleries internationally. Holly Antrum earned her Masters in Printmaking at the Royal College of Art, London (2011), and her BA Fine Art Painting at Wimbledon School of Art, London (2005). A copy of Computer Dances (first published by Writer’s Forum in 1995) is also held in the UCL Special Collections.

Jonathan P. Watts is a contemporary art critic and occasional curator. He is a visiting lecturer in Critical and Historical Studies at the Royal College of Art, London. Writing by Jonathan has appeared in frieze, Art Monthly and Artforum. His review of Wiley’s recent autobiography Eskiboy appeared in the Times Literary Supplement this week. As ‘helter helter’, he makes performances that respond to aspects of instrumental grime music.

Holly Pester is a poet and Lecturer in Poetry and Performance at University of Essex. Her work has been situated as recordings, print, sound installation and live readings at international venues and esoteric spaces. Her most recent work, Common Rest was an album of collaborative Sound Poetry and accompanying poetry pamphlet. More info can be found at hollypester.com 

Aura Satz has performed, exhibited and screened her work nationally and internationally, including Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the Hayward Gallery, Barbican Art Gallery, ICA, the Wellcome Collection, BFI Southbank, Whitechapel Gallery, (London); Oberhausen Short Film Festival (Oberhausen); the Rotterdam Film Festival (Rotterdam); the New York Film Festival (NY); Anthology Film Archives (NY); Gertrude Contemporary (Melbourne); De Appel Art Centre (Amsterdam); AV festival (Newcastle); Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (Gateshead); Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin); InterCommunication Centre (Tokyo); Lentos Museum (Linz); and The Sydney Biennale (Sydney). Recent solo shows include John Hansard Gallery (Southampton); Dallas Contemporary (Texas); Gallery 44 (Toronto); Tyneside Cinema Gallery (Newcastle); George Eastman House (Rochester NY); Fridman Gallery (NY). In 2012, she was shortlisted for the Samsung Art+ Award and the Jarman Award. She is a Reader and Tutor at the Royal College of Art, London. www.iamanagram.com

Hannah Dargavel-Leafe (born 1987, London) graduated with an MA from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2016 and Manchester School of Art with a BA in 2010. She has exhibited at The International 3 in Manchester, Bluecoat in Liverpool, and at ICA London. In 2016 she was in residence at the East Tower at Television Centre, White City and worked collaboratively with the artist Jack West. She was a featured artist in Ambit Magazine.
Dargavel-Leafe runs The Loop, an ongoing research project through symposiums, exhibitions and publishing. She is an associate artist with The International 3.

Small Press Project is organised by:

Liz Lawes, Subject Liaison Librarian for Fine Art, UCL Library Services

Lesley Sharpe, Holding Page & Teaching Fellow, Slade School of Fine Art;

Hannah Dargavel-Leafe, Honorary Research Associate, Slade School of Fine Art;

Sarah Pickering, artist & Teaching Fellow, Slade School of Fine Art

The Small Press Project is generously supported by the Teaching Initiatve Fund, IAS and the Dean’s Strategic Award.

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International Women’s Day: the women on our shelves

HelenBiggs8 March 2018

Women are by no means absent from UCL Special Collections’ archives, records, manuscripts and rare books, but it is not unfair or exaggerated to say that overall our collections are heavily dominated by men – by and large they were first collected by men, containing works created by men, that were quite often produced for men, too.

For International Women’s Day this year, we’ve been tweeting about some of the women featured in our collections. A complete guide to all the women who sit on our shelves is a pipe dream for the moment, but we can at least celebrate some of the women whose lives and works have captured our attention!

Today’s highlights were:

  • Crystallographer Kathleen Lonsdale, the first woman tenured professor at UCL.
  • The behind the scenes influence women have had on our collections, such as Helga Sharpe Hacker, whose donations to UCL included an important Byron manuscript.
  • The National Union of Women Teacher‘s (NUWT) archive, a rich source of information on equality in teaching and a host of political campaigns in the first half of the 20th Century.
  • Virginia Woolf, who with other women of the Bloomsbury group, makes a few brief but valuable appearances among our collections.

  • Agnes Kate Foxwell, a UCL graduate whose book Munition Lasses describes some of the dangerous but vital factory work undertaken by women during the First World War.

Our work promoting the women on our shelves, and celebrating women’s suffrage, doesn’t stop at a few social media posts. Next term, we’re excited to be welcoming a visit from the Girls’ Network, and hope to be once again working with Newham Libraries to create a touring exhibition for the centenary of the Representation of the People Act. There’s our own ongoing exhibition, Dangers and Delusions, just one of the many Vote 100 events happening around UCL. We’re also more than a little curious to explore the many exhibitions and activities created and hosted by our colleagues at other organisations – like the National Trust’s Suffragette City, which just opened today.

Managing Photos In The Archive

Robert JWinckworth16 February 2018

On Friday 9th February, I attended a day course ‘Managing Photographs in the Archive’, run by The Archive-Skills Consultancy Ltd (http://www.archive-skills.com/) presented by Margaret Crockett, Janet Foster and Dr. Jessamy Harvey.

Attendees from as far afield as Singapore and the Western Isles were present, and the day started by defining what archives are, and when photographs might be considered archives.

UCL Special Collections holds a wide range of photographs, including those donated to us from other UCL departments (Estates, Development Office, as well others that no longer exist). Whilst we have begun to survey them, a great deal more work is necessary to better streamline and catalogue what photographs we have and in what format.

Context is vital in determining when photographs are considered to have archival value, and we have a great number that do not have any accompanying documentation, annotations or dates. We also have multiple photographs of the same event or royal visit (just how many photographs of Princess Anne do you need?), and photographs of staff parties from 20 years ago that are not of archival value, no matter how interesting the clothes or hairstyles might be.

 

Aerial photo of UCL – Copyright of the Central Aerophoto Co. Ltd

 

The photograph above is not dated, but does however have information on the reverse relating to who took it. Looking more closely at the buildings and doing some research online, we may be able to determine when it was taken. Also, in this circumstance, we know that it is an aerial photograph showing the Wilkins Building, Gower Street frontage and what is now the Cruciform Building.

Other photographs we have are a little more difficult. We have several boxes of albums of various events (dinners, farewell parties, receptions) all donated from the Secretary’s Office. In some, but not all cases, the albums are labelled with the particular event. However, we do not know who took the photos and a lot of dedication will go into finding out who everyone is. This leads to further questions, such as is it really worth keeping photographs of staff leaving parties?

Photo albums donated by the Secretary’s Office for various events held in 1989.

 

One of the most interesting and challenging sessions during the day was Identifying Photographic Processes, including ambrotype, daguerreotype and tintype. Identifying the historical photographic process is essential for preservation, as each format has its own characteristics, and using appropriate packaging is vital. Furthermore, identifying the process can be extremely useful for dating the photograph when no other information is available.

We were fortunate to have the use of pocket microscopes (retailing at a very reasonable price so I was told) to identify the layers of photographs and see if paper fibres were visible on magnification. One could also look at any damage such as fading or abrasion.

Our final morning session looked at preservation, including the packaging, storing and handling of photographs, and I sensed that I could easily spend what is left of our budget on enclosures, four flap folders and more Melinex.

Slide from Copyright session, reproduced with permission of The Archive-Skills Consultancy Ltd.

The afternoon session on Managing Copyright in Photographs was of most interest. I find copyright a complex area at the best of times, but it seems more intricate relating to photographs. The session covered copyright ownership, copyright duration, photographs of known and unknown authorship and due diligence. The session outlined the main issues facing archivists with dealing with copyright, and highlighted a lot of further reading and case studies, which will be most useful. Copyright in general is something that I feel I need to learn more about, particularly with the enquiries we receive regarding the use of our images.

Overall, the day was most enlightening, with a lot of content to take on board. Managing our photographic collection is one of my priorities for the year ahead. This will include surveying what we hold, appraising and weeding the photographs held by UCL Records (an awful lot of weeding) and and ordering preservation material for photographs where necessary.

Main Library from 1965-66. Photo by Associated Graphic Arts, from an album donated from the Provost’s Office.

 

The Tiny Furniture Project

KathrynHannan3 January 2018

This is a guest blog post by one of our archive volunteers, Sara Abou El Ella, who was working in the IOE UCL Archive department with items from the collection of David and Mary Medd.

 

The Tiny Furniture Project

blog post by Sara Abou El Ella.

For a few weeks now, I have been busy cataloguing and sorting scale models of school furniture used by David and Mary Medd in 1976. They were at the forefront of public architecture and design and created an inextricable bond between architecture and social progress.

This archive project required particular attention and care since many of the furniture pieces were detaching from their main bodies. Despite this, I enjoyed unpacking all the objects and grouping them together, since many of them were spread in different boxes and they had never all been itemised. I would say that a particular challenge involving this project was comparing all objects to the furniture handbook. Some of them presented very similar characteristics and appearance making them hard to locate in the handbook and some of the objects were not listed therefore I had to catalogue them separately.

After this very rough introduction, I would like to give the readers a taste of a typical day volunteering at the UCL Archives. I arrive around 1.30pm and stay until 3.30pm or 4pm. This project required more attention and time to be dedicated to it. The first task is to gather the special conservation paper sheets to protect the objects. On my first day, I read a book written by Catherine Burke to become more acquainted with the project and with the architects. Secondly, I carefully read the index and catalogue in the handbook to compare the numbers, characteristics and type of every object which should be contained in the collection. The third task, the most crucial and important of the project, is to open all paper wrappings in the different boxes, group together all items of the same nature and write their number, short description and wrap them all individually for better conservation purposes. One of my favourite objects was the reproduction of a small piano and wardrobes which had little hangers attached to them. For this blog I tried to recreate a small classroom and include some of the most iconic pieces of furniture present in the collection.

Model school furniture

Because of the small damage and the rust which accumulated on the objects I hope to volunteer with the UCL Special Collections Senior Conservator to clean and conserve this collection. This is a very exciting opportunity to improve the access to this archival material and be able to present it to different researchers and for object handling sessions in schools.