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Outreach Touring Exhibition Makes its Way to Stratford

Vicky APrice19 October 2017

First Stop; Stratford Library

UCL Special Collections have been busy putting together an exhibition that combines items from the Main Library exhibition East Side Stories and Newham Borough’s own archival items.

The exhibition in Stratford Library

The exhibition in Stratford Library

This ‘pop-up’ exhibition features historic photographs, archival documents, maps and rare publications that tell of East London’s rich and fascinating past.  As the banners tour all of Newham’s 10 public libraries, we’ll be running a range of different workshops to deepen engagement and to create opportunities to record local people’s oral histories.  Many of these activities will take place in Newham Heritage Week.

Posters for the exhibition in pride of place at Stratford Library

Posters for the exhibition in pride of place at Stratford Library

Poetry from the Archive
We’ve kicked things off with three poetry workshops in Stratford and East Ham libraries.  These groups are already well established and participants enjoy writing poetry in an inclusive and positive environment. They were keen to engage with the forthcoming exhibition and the archival items we brought to them.  Poems ranged from sombre, thoughtful pieces about racial tensions and migration, to playful tales of the quintessential cup of tea at a Newham street party in the 1920s.

The Saturday morning group in full swing

The Saturday morning group in full swing

London Memory Archive and UCL East

The oral histories we record will be the beginning of a new initiative, the London Memory Archive, which will be part of UCL East’s Culture Lab.  It’s a timely opportunity to start developing a collection that reflects the memories and perspectives of a local community that UCL will soon be neighbour to.

Successful Funding Bids

To support the project, and to help lay the foundations for a longer term relationship with Newham and its library and archive services, we’ve sought external funding.  We are pleased to announce that we have been successful in a UCL Culture Beacon Bursary grant and a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.  This means that we are able to buy the equipment needed to make archival quality recordings, receive specialist oral history training, pay for the printing of the exhibition and promotional material and all workshop resources, as well as support volunteers’ involvement throughout.

We hope that we will be able to collaborate with Newham in further touring exhibitions that make use of the research and digitisation that takes place for the Main Library exhibition and also gives us a chance to bring a different edge to the narrative told.  Newham has an incredible collection of historic photographs, for example, which often bring the content of an item from UCL’s collection to life.

Be sure to check back for further updates and photographs of Special Collection’s outreach work!

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Love poems, strange tales, and microscopes: creative writing with First Story

HelenBiggs29 March 2017

One of the annual highlights of SCAR’s outreach work is our participation in First Story’s Creative Writing Day, which this year saw almost 100 pupils from six London schools descend upon UCL’s museums and library collections to attend workshops run by professional writers.

In late February, poet Miriam Nash ran a session for 17 students from St Mary’s and St John’s CE School, exploring how books interact with our five senses, and inspiring participants to create new pieces of writing based on their interactions with rare books and manuscripts from Special Collections.

Miriam Nash discussing the poem "Books" by Erica Jong

Miriam Nash discussing the poem “Books” by Erica Jong

While the books on offer included Hooke’s Micrographia and an emblem book formerly owned by Ben Jonson, it was the 1493 Liber chronicarum which really caught the visitors’ attention. Better known as the Nuremberg Chronicle, the encyclopaedia-like book mingles legend, religion and fact to present a historical narrative which is very different from any that we’re familiar with today. This led students to pose the philosophical question: was the writer of the Nuremberg Chronicle lying, if he really believed the myths he wrote about were true?

Learning about the strange creatures described in the Nuremberg Chronicles

Learning about the strange creatures described in the Nuremberg Chronicles

Attitudes on the day ranged from quietly interested to loudly enthused, with students enjoying both the chance to see these rare items up close and to write and share their own work. Or, as one attendee put it,

It was very entertaining and areas of my brain I never knew existed before were unlocked today! I loved it!”

It was easy to be impressed with what the pupils produced: stories about strange creatures with feet for heads, poetry offering soberingly mature love advice, and writing that went into microscopic details.  While the day may have aimed to motivate young people with objects they had never seen before, the talent and intelligence of these young authors was in itself inspiring to the library staff in attendance.

First Story works to nurture the creative writing skills of young people by linking schools in low-income areas with professional writers, to help pupils discover and foster their talents.