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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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On the Hunt for Volunteers

Vicky APrice13 October 2017

UCL Special Collections has been busy getting the new academic year off to a good start.  While many of the team are immersed in teaching and collections management, the Outreach team have been focussing on new projects, new partnerships and volunteer recruitment.

Helen welcoming the new volunteers!

Helen welcomes the student crowds to our stall at the Big Volunteer Fair.

The VSU’s volunteer recruitment fairs are an extremely valuable opportunity for us to meet new and returning students and to tell them about what we do.  It’s always interesting to find out what people are studying and whether they’ve ever been tempted to use the Special Collections reader service – or whether they’ve already done so.  It’s also a key point in the year for us to recruit volunteers.

Almost every stage of our department’s work is supported by volunteers; from conservation, sorting, catalogue enhancement and collection research to digitisation, transcription and outreach projects.  We would not be able to function anywhere like the way we do without their help – and we’re confident that we provide valuable experiences for volunteers too.

This year already looks to be an interesting one for volunteer roles and opportunities. Our projects include collecting oral histories as part of the Newham touring exhibition project (blog post to follow soon – watch this space); using OCR (text recognition) software to transcribe our digitised collection of Jewish pamphlets; helping to conserve and clean collection items with our Senior Conservator Angela Warren-Thomas; and using our cataloguing system to improve accessibility to our archives, Little Magazines and Poetry Store collections.  All of our volunteers receive a thorough induction into what we do and what we offer, and all the training that they’ll need to work on the project of their choice.

If you’re reading this and would like to volunteer with us, get in touch: v.price@ucl.ac.uk

We are looking forward to the Museums and Heritage Volunteer Recruitment fair  on 24th October – if you’re nearby, come and say hello!

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

 

Volunteers’ Week – A Reflection

Vicky APrice7 June 2017

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Today is the final day of Volunteers’ Week, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to write the final blog post of the series.  All week we’ve been saying an emphatic THANK YOU to every single person who has offered their time and expertise over the past year to UCL’s SCAR department, and asking them to write a guest blog post to showcase some of the incredible skills and expertise they’ve offered to a range of different projects.

I’m not a volunteer with SCAR myself of course, so I can’t write my own ‘Day in the Life’ style post, but I can bring you some highlights from the week:

Volunteers making visitors welcome at our Treasures Day

As part of UCL’s Festival of Culture SCAR put on an annual event; Treasures of the Written Word.  UCL staff, students and members of the public were invited to view some of the department’s most intriguing and precious items and learn about them from the department’s experts.  Volunteers helped to welcome guests, keep record of numbers, explain details about some of our collection items (especially if they had been volunteering on projects with which the items related) and generally make the event run smoothly.

The Records department share stories from UCL's past.

UCL Records department share stories from UCL’s past.

We were a well oiled team and despite the abysmal weather the mood was upbeat and the event went without a single hitch.  Thank you so much to all that gave their time to help out, it was hugely appreciated.

Potential new volunteer recruits making contact with us

The Volunteers’ Week blogs were meant to be a way of saying thank you to volunteers rather than a way of finding new volunteers – but it looks like we might have found some new recruits from our readers as well!  This is wonderful and is a real testament to the power of volunteers’ enthusiasm for the roles they carry out at SCAR.

Looking to the Summer and the projects it brings

As the academic year comes to a close we will be saying goodbye to many of our student volunteers, who will be travelling home to families or simply taking a well earned break.  We hope as many as possible return to us in the Autumn to continue as volunteers, but for those who are moving on to new places of study or work (or new volunteer placements elsewhere) we’d like to say thank you.  It’s been a real pleasure having you spend time with the department and you can rest assured that the projects you’ve helped us with have benefited immeasurably from your involvement.

We will also be developing some new volunteer roles that will start over the Summer holidays, as this is also the season when some people have more time to offer.  UCL Records department, for example (pictured at the Treasures of the Written Word event above) will be looking for people to help with a project to better store and keep historic student records and there might be new opportunities to volunteer with our Poetry Store and Little Magazines collections (these are still in the pipeline!).

So watch this space for updates from new volunteers and projects – we can’t wait to see what the future holds!