X Close

Special Collections, Archives and Records

Home

Menu

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.

Advent Definitions: Archives, age, and the school nativity play

HelenBiggs14 December 2017

“Nativity”, in: R 221 DICTIONARIES DYC 1748: Dyche, A new general English dictionary (London, 1748)

A substantial amount of Special Collections’ work is in teaching and teaching support across a broad range of subjects: classics, law, library studies, architecture, history, maths – the list goes on. Sometimes this is a single class on using historical and primary materials, but this may also be a series of sessions, as with the Archival Research and Oral History in Education (AROHE) module, taught at UCL Institute of Education.

This year AROHE students have explored the topics of international education, special educational needs, progressive education and multi-racial education, using items from Newsam Archives, to focus on areas like visual sources, curriculum, biography and learners’ voices.

One of the visual sources picked out by students was this photo from the Amelia Fysh collection:

©UCL Institute of Education Archives [AF/1/3/A/25]

Although they weren’t given any contextual or identifying information about the photography, it was immediately recognised as a school nativity play. Mary, Joseph and chorus of angels were all correctly identified, and after some discussion, so were the Three Wise Men and the shepherds. (The shepherds are very well dressed; fortuitously, the Three Wise Men can be distinguished by their crowns.)

However, when it came to dating the photograph, the students came somewhat unstuck. The wearing of costumes make it impossible to use fashion to estimate when the photograph was taken, and likewise most of the children’s heads are covered, so nor can their hair styles be used as a guide. In the end, it was suggested that the photo was probably “old”, because it was black and white.

This gave me something of a shock. Not the assertion itself; it may have been a little misguided (black and white film is still in use today, not to mention the black and white or sepia filters of digital photography!) but learning how to draw on others’ research, context clues and our own personal knowledge to understand objects is at the very heart of using archive materials. No – what stunned me was the realisation that many of today’s students are too young to recognise the product of a 1990’s style black-and-white photocopier…

In case you’re wondering – the image is from a booklet from Beech Green Nursery School, featuring photos from 1956-1973 (the booklet itself was created in 2002). Whether you think this can be considered “old” or not is up to you – although colour photography was definitely around by the 1950’s!

Online exhibition on Isabel Fry

JessicaWomack25 July 2017

A few months ago a group of students from the MA Archives and Records Management course used the Isabel Fry collection at the IOE archives to create an online exhibition. The exhibition, which is a fantastic resource on Fry, can be found here.

Isabel Fry (1869-1958) was an educationist and social activist. She founded, and was headmistress of, two experimental schools: The Farmhouse School, Mayortorne Manor, Wendover, and later, Church Farm, Buckland, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. She came from a famous reforming Quaker background and was the daughter of Sir Edward Fry (1827-1918), jurist, and sister of (Sara) Margery Fry (1874-1958), penal reformer, and Roger Eliot Fry (1866-1934), artist and critic.

I hope this sensitive interpretation of Fry’s archive continues to be available so people can enjoy a snapshot of the collection.

 

ICHRE Summer Conference, 21-22 June 2017

HelenBiggs14 June 2017

images from the IOE student union archive

What: A free, two-day conference, held by the International Centre for Historical Research in Education, in association with the Friends of Newsam Library

Where: Cruciform Building, UCL

When: Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd June

This year’s ICHRE conference will cover a variety of themes and topics, including the social histories of universities and the history of education in China and East Asia.

Three members of UCL Libraries’ Special Collections, Archives and Records team will be taking part in the conference:

  • Colin Penman, Head of Records, will be delivering the conference’s keynote speech on Redundant women: UCL’s place in the history of women’s higher education
  • Jessica Womack, IOE Archivist, will be speaking on Socialising the IOE: the Student’s Union, and beyond the lecture theatre
  • Kathryn Hannan, IOE Archivist, is taking part in a panel discussion on Teaching history of education through primary sources.

To find out more about this event, and to register for your free place at the conference, click here.

A typical school? Introducing undergraduates to the archive

HelenBiggs26 January 2017

What was a typical school in 1914?

In a two-hour “Introduction to Archives” session earlier this term, first year students from the Education Studies BA at UCL Institute of Education studied a range of documents from the IOE Archives, to see what they could discover about schools in Britain before and after World War One.

Which archival materials best represent the education system during this time? Photographs from Regent’s Park Open Air School, showing students and teachers learning and teaching strictly outside the classroom? The Newcastle Upon Tyne Boys’ Industrial School dietary schedule, offering delectable meals like bread and dripping? Or a Girls Day School Trust admission register, carefully noting the occupations of pupils’ fathers – diplomats, doctors, and gentlemen?

These examples lead to just one inevitable deduction – that there was no such thing as a “typical” school – and that it’s very important to consult a range of archive resources before leaping to a conclusion!

The need for this “triangulation” of resources was again emphasised with in-depth look at the Baines Archive, which charts the work of George and Judith Baines at the very progressive Eynsham County Primary School from the 1960s to the 1980s. Students were asked not just to consider what is in the archive, but what isn’t there. Does the material that survives tell a particular story? Who decided that this was the story that should be told – and why?

The archivist-led “Introduction to Archives” tutorial runs annually as part of the Education Studies BA programme, and is integral to students learning how and why they should be using archival resources in their own work. Since the class’s inception in 2013, the number of IOE students using the IOE library’s archives and special collections has more than doubled, showing that these students do see real value in using original historical documents in their research and assignments.