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The Flaxman Manuscripts – a volunteer’s experience

Rebecca JWebster20 July 2018

Posted on behalf of Euan Guckian, a UCL student volunteer with Special Collections.

During the final term of this year I have had the opportunity to work with a couple of John Flaxman’s journals and notebooks for the UCL Special Collections team. Flaxman (who most reading this will recognise from his works in UCL’s main library) was a famous sculptor, and leading figure of the neoclassical movement, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The collection was split into two books. The first comprised Flaxman’s journal from his time spent in Naples in 1788 and was filled with sketches and watercolours, as well as brief descriptions, of the various sculptures he saw and ruins he explored while there. The second contained notes on lectures he gave on the role, features, principles and history of sculpture, and was also interspersed with quick yet still interesting pencil sketches. My main role centred on summarising each page so that a visitor to the collection could quickly find whatever topic most interested them, either paraphrasing Flaxman’s notes or lifting them straight from the page.

Never having studied sculpture, or even art more generally, it was fascinating to see the thoughts and considerations of a master of the craft. Of particular interest to me were his lecture notes on how art underpinned the entire “circle of Human Knowledge” which to Flaxman included everything from astronomy to philosophy and religion. Beyond this there is loads that would be appeal to those with an interest in art both classical and neoclassical, but also in the life and thought of an artist so central to UCL’s identity and history.

You can find out more about the collection on our online catalogue – search for MS FLAXMAN. For more information about using our collections, please see our webpages.

 

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.

Many days in the Life of Nicholas Hans – translating and cataloguing Russian magazines

KathrynHannan31 August 2017

It might be a repeat from my last post but I don’t think I can emphasise enough how much added value our volunteers bring to our archive collections and how much we enjoy having them working with us. We have been very lucky to have a volunteer, Sara Abou El Ella, working on a catalogue enhancement project with the Nicholas Hans Papers at UCL Institute of Education Archives. The Nicholas Hans Papers have been catalogued since 1999 but there were two boxes of additional papers that had been added at a later date.  These boxes included correspondence, photographs, postcards and some very special magazines written in Russian by Nicholas Hans.  I catalogued what I could and with some help from one of our researchers was able to write a brief overview for the Russian magazines but could not describe the content of them.   Luckily for us, and future researchers, Sara is fluent in Russian! Sara has written up her experience of translating and cataloguing these magazines.

 

Front page of the first issue, NH/10/8/1 ©UCL IOE Archives

Front page of the first issue, NH/10/8/1 ©UCL IOE Archives

Many days in the Life of Nicholas Hans

post written by Sara Abou El Ella

This title is very similar to a famous Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich. For me my Wednesdays were absorbed in the reading of Nicholas Hans magazines.
I started cataloguing a small part of the Nicholas Hans Collection in the Institute of Education at UCL. As a volunteer my task consisted in reading and then summarising the contents of five magazines written and hand drawn by Nicholas Hans ‘in 1920 while interned on the island of Principo in 1920 with other refugees leaving from Russia’ (quote from a note written by Grace Hans & included with the magazines).

NH/10/8/3 ©UCL IOE Archives

NH/10/8/3 ©UCL IOE Archives

All his magazines follow the same structure. Nicholas Hans rarely included articles or pieces from other authors. Hans hand-drew every single issue focusing on the front and back covers as well as adding decorations and other drawings inside the magazines. The issues would start with a letter from the editorial staff followed by a brief introduction of the issue’s topic. The main article would follow the topic of the introduction and discuss it in depth. In the final pages of the issue Hans would draw and write rebuses and charades. Moreover, in a couple of issues he also included fairy-tales or poems, for example: Cinderella.
Typically, I would start my work on the collection by reading the different articles and simultaneously translate and summarise them. Each section was divided according to its title. One of the biggest challenges was to decipher Nicholas Hans’ handwriting. Besides, the magazines required careful handling since they are very fragile. In some cases they were stained and the colours of the drawing faded, but it was still possible to discern both the words and the drawings.

It was extremely fascinating to be able to handle and work on such a fine archival specimen. I believe I was particularly stricken by the profound longing that Hans had for his country. This feeling was partially suppressed by the awareness that it was impossible for him to go back to Russia. In my opinion the ability to transpose these feeling through satirical articles and aggravating drawings was very enriching and interesting to analyse.


 

The catalogue records for these magazines are now online and there is more information about the collection on our libguide.

Minute Books offer glimpses into the organisation of women teachers at the turn of the 20th Century

KathrynHannan21 August 2017

Volunteers’ week may be long over but that doesn’t mean we can’t say thank you to our volunteers throughout the rest of the year!  This time I would like to introduce some of the work done by one of our volunteers, Ashley Zuelke, who you may have come across before in one of the Volunteer Week posts. As well as volunteering in Special Collections we have been lucky enough to have Ashley volunteering with us in UCL IOE Archives.  Ashley has worked on catalogue enhancement of Minute Books of the London branch of the National Union of Women Teachers (NUWT).  The account which follows is a fascinating analysis of what she uncovered and gives an insight into the interesting stories that can be found in these unassuming looking volumes.

Minute Books Offer Glimpses into the Organisation of Women Teachers at the Turn of the 20th Century

By Ashley Zuelke
Summer Volunteer with Special Collections, Archives and Exhibitions studying for an MSc in Business Analytics and Management

In the early 1900s, British women teachers formed their own associations, branching out from the primary teaching organizations of the time to advocate for emerging issues including equal pay, pensions, and the management of “combined” boys and girls school departments. Reading the first minute books kept by the London Branch of the National Union of Women Teachers – then known as the National Federation of Women Teachers – is like sifting through snapshots of history taken every few months.

Entries from 1908 to 1922 reveal glimpses of the expansion of women’s rights and education in the U.K. before, during and after World War I. Discussions on proposed resolutions for national meetings reveal issues on which broad consensus prevailed, such as supporting aging women teachers, as well as points of disagreement, which included Parliament extending the vote to women. In history books, women’s suffrage seems like a natural course within a history punctuated with equal rights victories. The minute books, however, present a more nuanced picture with a spectrum of views and no certain results.

Demonstration by the London Unit against the allocation of the Fisher Grant, 1918

Demonstration by the London Unit against the allocation of the Fisher Grant, 1918

The year 1918 marked a watershed moment for the organisation: Parliament passed landmark education reform legislation and the group merged with the Women Teachers Franchise Union to create the London Unit of the National Federation of Women Teachers. The Franchise Union at the time was a politicised organisation, which prompted some members to urge that the group not advocate for political issues. The group did not accept those proposals, though the organisation unanimously postponed advocacy on political issues during the war. With the merger, the group codified its practices into a constitution and began to persistently advocate for equal rights and the implementation of the Education Act of 1918, which was designed to improve school conditions and to study the UK educational system – objectives for which public support increased dramatically after the war.

Within 10 years, the group grew from a handful of regular members to more than 50 subscribers in attendance at annual meetings representing nearly all parts of greater London. The organisation’s behaviour evolved as well. Initial notes that focused mostly on social gatherings and group administration became disciplined accounts of proposed resolutions and active correspondence. Early schisms dissolved as rules and procedures were finalised. By 1916, the group even published meeting minutes in newspapers as public record.  Members, some of whom participated in the group for more than a decade, built seniority. The group developed a clear, ringing voice on important issues. The women’s dedication is evident, with many lines commemorating achievements of group presidents and expressing condolences for members with illness or those who passed away.

The minute-book entries represent many hours of work for members outside the classroom, often on weekends. They offer readers a new perspective on events in the first two decades of the 20th Century. The books show how one organisation developed, enduring setbacks and victories on a path that many organisations today would likely recognise. And the books open windows into time as a group made changes and won rights for women and children that today many of us could not imagine doing without.

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Thanks so much Ashley for writing up such an interesting account of the early minute books of the NUWT and for all your work in expanding and enhancing the catalogue description for these.

For more information on the National Union of Women Teachers please refer to our libguide or our online catalogue.

 

All images ©UCL Institute of Education Archives