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Enlightenment architectures: The reconstruction of Sir Hans Sloane’s cabinets of ‘Miscellanies’

Ian G Evans8 December 2020

An open access article by Dr. Julianne Nyhan and Dr. Kim Sloan in Oxford University Press’, Journal of the History of Collections

Abstract: Focusing on Sir Hans Sloane’s catalogue of ‘Miscellanies’, now in the British Museum, this paper asks firstly how Sloane described objects and secondly whether the original contents of the cabinets can be reconstructed from his catalogue. Drawing on a sustained, digitally augmented analysis – the first of its kind – of Sloane’s catalogues, we respond to these questions and offer an initial analysis of the contents of the cabinets that held the miscellaneous objects at Sloane’s manor house in Chelsea. Knowledge of how and why Sloane catalogued this part of his collection has hitherto remained underdeveloped. We argue that his focus on preservation and documentation in his cataloguing did not preclude a research role, but rather was founded on immersive participation. Our work was undertaken as part of a Leverhulme Trust funded research project, Enlightenment Architectures: Sir Hans Sloane’s Catalogues of his Collections (2016–19), a collaboration between the British Museum and University College London.

Permalink (free access).

Global Media and information Literacy Week and a new DIS research group: Forum of Information Literacy (FOIL) by Dr. Alison Hicks

Ian G Evans20 October 2020

UCL Staff and Students will be celebrating Global Media and Information Literacy week this year by co-hosting two free online events designed to explore and celebrate the contributions of the Department of Information Studies to information literacy research and practice. Running from 24th-31st October, Global Media and Information Literacy Week is an opportunity to think more closely about the role that information plays within human social interactions, and more particularly, within academic, workplace and everyday contexts. Events will be held online on the 28th and 29th October and are free.

These events are carried out under the auspices of FOIL, the Forum on Information Literacy, which is a new information literacy research group that has been cofounded at UCL, Department of Information Studies. FOIL represents a space for academic researchers who are active in the field of information literacy research in the UK, to discuss and challenge ideas, and to engage in critical reflection on theory, practice and praxis-oriented research. Its goals include establishing and nurturing a research environment in which information literacy researchers in UK Universities will discuss theoretical and methodological issues related to information literacy, and advancing a research agenda and programme of works that addresses the theoretical and methodological issues of information literacy in academic and applied contexts. Other members of FOIL include academics at the University of Sheffield, the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University.

On the 28th October, DIS staff members Professor Annemaree Lloyd, Dr Charlie Inskip and Dr Alison Hicks will be participating in an event entitled “Information Literacy in the United Kingdom: past and future” alongside colleagues from the University of Sheffield, Strathclyde University, University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University. This event will address the questions: (1) What has been the UK narrative about information literacy? and (2) What will be the UK narrative about information literacy?

Registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/124218423649/

On the 29th September, recent DIS graduate Tsveta Rafaylova will be presenting on her recently completed MA research on workplace information literacy within a professional tax services firm. Tsveta’s dissertation was supervised by Dr Alison Hicks and focused on exploring the role that information literacy played in helping a professional services firm pivot to home working during the COVID-19 lockdown. Tsveta will be joining MA graduates from the University of Sheffield and the University of Manchester in this panel designed to showcase MA research.
Registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/foil-masters-emerging-voices-in-media-information-literacy-research-tickets-124536394709

Risk and Resilience in rapidly redefined information environments. ( Lloyd and Hicks)

Ian G Evans16 July 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to radically refine people’s information experiences. The study, Risk and Resilience in Redefined Information Environments, which is being carried out by Professor Annemaree Lloyd and Dr Alison Hicks at UCL’s Department of Information Science, investigates how information literacy practices and literacies of information help people to mitigate risk and develop resilience during a time of upheaval.

The ongoing health crisis has produced complex and multi-layered information environments that span a range of new information sources including scientific, medical, mental health and government advice. This information is further tailored, repackaged and communicated by multiple actors across multiple information channels, including social media, peer review and governmental websites. New ways of interacting with others (in work, education or everyday situations), which are being encouraged as a result of government social distancing policies, further impact how information is shared and disseminated within a community.

The multiplicity, complexity and range of information environments created in response to the pandemic is problematic and has the potential to create social, economic, health and educational risks. New challenges also emerge, including confusion about where to find information when traditional methods and strategies, or established information landscapes are disrupted, or when there is a need to become informed about an unfamiliar topic. Risk may also be created when people are forced to develop rapid new ways of determining the veracity and trustworthiness of rumours and hearsay that they find through websites, social media channels and amongst friends and family. These information problems may further cause people to cut themselves off from or avoid information as a way to manage overload or mediate stress, anxiety and mental health issues. In effect, these ongoing uncertainties can have implications in terms of people’s capacity to understand crisis information environments and build information practices that scaffold informed decision making and broader questions of resilience.

The Risk and Resilience study is a two-phase study that is being carried at UCL’s Department of Information Studies. The study is currently being conducted with participants across the UK and aims to develop a detailed understanding of the risks that people face during the pandemic, including in everyday, workplace and caring contexts; the information sources and information literacy practices that are used to mitigate risk; and the barriers and challenges that enable or constrain the development of resilient information practices.

The findings of this study will enable information researchers to develop clearer insight and understanding of how people develop knowledge of and mitigate risk, construct information landscapes and develop resilience strategies during times of crisis and upheaval. It will establish foundational knowledge about people’s information practices from which to develop future responses for information, civil contingency, emergency services, welfare and public health professions.

If you are interested in participating in this study or would like further information about the study, please contact Professor Annemaree Lloyd annemareelloyd@ucl.ac.uk or Dr Alison Hicks a.hicks@ucl.ac.uk

Socially Responsible i-Conferencing by Cindy Fu, Alison Hicks and Elizabeth Lomas

Ian G Evans6 April 2020

iConference 2020, which took place in March 23-27 2020, had been planned as a standard international conference to be hosted in Sweden. However, due to the coronavirus, rather than delegates flying into Sweden or alternatively cancelling, it was successfully moved online. The coronavirus pandemic brings challenges but also innovative ways of communicating and reconsidering academic discourse and practices. The iConference organizers responded quickly to this situation and the Conference was transitioned to an all-virtual form in less than two weeks.

Our PhD student, Cindy Fu, engaged in the programme, as a speaker with her supervisor Dr Elizabeth Lomas (Associate Professor in Information Governance), in a session for interaction and engagement, which was held by Zoom. A conference organiser was online at all times to ensure the technology was working. Cindy and Elizabeth’s session focused on, “putting information behaviour on the cognitive map: exploring information seeking behaviours of academic researchers”. It was aimed at engaging participants with a mapping technique called cognitive mapping, and exploring their information seeking behaviour in the research context, Cindy has used cognitive mapping within her PhD research to consider UCL student information seeking behaviours. She has supplemented the mapping with log analysis and interviews. This particular iConference session was set up as a workshop with activities, which did require some additional thinking and planning with the move online. 25 people logged on. Cindy took the lead in the session, presenting on the development of cognitive mapping in terms of its origin, development, approaches and examples of how it has been applied in research. In this workshop, participants were then set a mapping exercise, which gave them a chance to interact and actively think about this approach. They were required to provide a map, which could include, text or drawings of their information seeking behaviour as an academic researcher. Every two minutes, Cindy called out to change the colour of the pen being used. This enabled the progression of a participant’s thoughts to be visualized. Participants then uploaded and discussed their maps and the value and limitations of this approach. Below is an example of Cindy’s own map (figure 1).

Figure 1: An example of Cindy’s map of her information seeking behavior for research.

Having shared maps, participants could put up a virtual hand up to speak or type comments into the chat function which Elizabeth then monitored and read out. A number of the participants discussed how they might apply this approach within their own research. The workshop format proved to be just as viable online as a normal face-to-face session. The distinction was that participants could choose to be less visible in their participation if they wished. There have been follow up questions since the session and for those that are interested Cindy (yaming.fu.17@ucl.ac.uk) is happy to be emailed and to share her slides.

Dr Alison Hicks, Lecturer in the Department of Information Science, also contributed to the 2020 virtual iconference programme. Together with a colleague from the University of Copenhagen, she successfully led a workshop, Transition in user-centred information studies – the what, why and how?, which focused on exploring the concept of transition and its potential impact on human-centred information research. Lively discussion followed on from short presentations that explored the ways in which transition has been examined within Library and Information Science research, as over 30 people logged in to collaborate and interact with participants from around the globe. Alison also presented a paper that was co-authored with UCL colleague, Professor Annemaree Lloyd. Their short paper, Peeling back the layers: Deconstructing information literacy discourse in higher education, employed a discourse analysis method to explore the outward and inward-facing narratives of information literacy that are present within key professional texts. This paper forms part of a larger research programme that aims to critically interrogate the epistemological premises and discourses of information literacy within higher education. Overall, Alison found that the online presentation format was very successful; she enjoyed seeing who was present at her session as well as the

opportunity to ask questions orally and through the chat text box. While the time zone restrictions meant that she was not able to attend all the sessions that she wanted to, overall, she found that thanks to the impressive efforts of the hosts, the programme was stimulating, accessible and well-thought through.

This was a unique experience and one that may be considered for conference formats post-coronavirus.

Congratulations to recently graduated LIS Students! By Alison Hicks

Ian G Evans25 March 2020

Congratulations to recently graduated LIS Students!

Two recently graduated Library and Information Studies students received good news this week!

Verity Attwell (MA 2018) has had an article based on her MA dissertation accepted for publication in School Libraries Worldwide, “In all areas, I cater to the majority”: An investigation of LGBT+ provision in school libraries from the librarian’s perspective.” Verity is a school librarian at Fettes College, Edinburgh and her dissertation focused on LGBTQ+ representation in school library collections and activities.

Ellen Haggar (MA 2018) has had an article based on her MA dissertation accepted for publication in the Journal of Documentation,  “Fighting Fake News: Exploring George Orwell’s Relationship to Information Literacy.” Ellen is a Research and Outreach Librarian at Institution of Mechanical Engineers and her dissertation focused on analysing Orwell’s wartime diaries through the lens of information literacy.

Congratulations to Verity and Ellen.


A note on the ‘institution of a School for the training of Librarians’ at University College London by Professor Elizabeth Shepherd

Ian G Evans24 September 2019

In November 1917, the President of the Library Association, Sir John MacAlister, wrote to the Provost of UCL ‘to enquire whether it would be possible to institute at University College a School of Librarianship…to be established in co-operation with the Library Association’. The London School of Economics had offered a course in librarianship in co-operation with the Library Association (LA) between 1902 and 1915, but that had lapsed during the War. The arrangement had been that the LA paid the fees of the lecturers whom they also recommended, while the LSE provided teaching space and other expenses, however, initial healthy numbers dwindled to 3 or 6 students by 1915. After some further discussions, a proposal was sent to the Professorial Board, which set up a Committee to confer with the Library Association. The Committee reported positively on the proposal on 22 March 2018, having reassured itself that the LSE did not propose to resume its earlier course. The Director of the LSE concluded that ‘the number of new recruits to librarianship…was so small as to preclude any hope of making an institution of the kind successful’.

Recommendations went to the College Committee, ‘that it is desirable to institute a School for Librarianship at University College, provided that the necessary Endowment Fund is forthcoming’. The Library Association had been in communication with the Carnegie Trustees seeking an annual grant to support the School which was ‘receiving their sympathetic consideration’. A Joint Sub-Committee between UCL and the LA was invited to prepare a scheme for submission to the UCL Committee. The ambition was to have ‘something founded upon the lines that will enable it to develop into a University School of librarianship comparable with the great Schools of Librarianship in the United States’.

The proposal was to establish a staff comprising a Director, a Secretary, and Teaching Staff in four core areas of study, ie Bibliography, Classification, Cataloguing, Library History, Organisation and Routine. Special courses would also be provided in Literary History, Palaeography and the Study of Archives, and Indexing. The LA proposed to transfer its extensive library of ‘Technical Library Literature’ to UCL. The Carnegie Trust agreed to fund the School for five years initially at the rate of £1500 per annum. The scheme was approved by the University of London Senate and the plan was to start teaching in October 1919.

In June 1919, UCL College Committee approved a statement of the duties and terms of appointment of the Director of the School of Librarianship and agreed to appoint Dr E A Baker, Secretary to the Education Committee of the LA and on the Joint Committee. A row then erupted between the University Senate and the LA, after the LA Council passed a resolution disapproving of Baker’s appointment and insisting that the Directorship be advertised. It seems that some members of the LA had hoped to start a school at a northern university and were seeking to derail the UCL proposal. However, after reconsideration and lawyers’ letters, the University and UCL prevailed and Dr Baker’s appointment was confirmed in August 1919. Sir Frederick Kenyon was invited to deliver the address at the opening of the School of Librarianship in October 1919.

In its first decade, 387 full time and 289 part time students completed courses, some sponsored by local education authorities such as London County Council which sponsored 50 places for London librarians. The School expanded to occupy most of the Henry Morley Building at UCL. The Carnegie Trust renewed its grant for a second five year period. In 1930, UCL started to fund raise for a capital investment of £50,000 to secure the School’s future.

Elizabeth Shepherd



UCL Special Collections, Records Office UCLCA/CC: UCL Minutes of College Committee, 17/10/1917 to 2/07/1918, Meeting 5/03/1918; Meeting 30/04/1918; Meeting 3/06/1919.

University of London Library: University Correspondence Central File, 1918-1919 CF 1/19/208, including letters from Carnegie Trust.

University of London Library: UL 3/7, miscellaneous papers on the School of Librarianship, 1901-1930.

Congratulations to Simons Cloudesley and Justine Humphreys,

Ian G Evans14 November 2018

Congratulations to Simons Cloudesley and Justine Humphreys, students on the MA in LIS programme, whose work with the Refugee Echo Library this summer has been recognised in the CILIP Information Professional Magazine. Simon and Justine’s travel was funded by the Dean’s Strategic Fund at UCL. To learn more about their work in Greece, please follow the link to the article:

Article:  https://www.ucl.ac.uk/information-studies/sites/information-studies/files/infopro_oct18_pp40-43.pdf

Cover:  https://www.ucl.ac.uk/information-studies/sites/information-studies/files/infopro_cover_oct18.pdf

What would the country look like under proportional representation?

Oliver W Duke-Williams11 May 2015

Image source:The 2015 UK General Election was most notable for producing a result – a Conservative majority – that few had predicted. Perhaps the second most discussed aspect has been the difference between the amount of votes gained by smaller parties, and the number of seats that they won. Between them Ukip and the Green Party won about 5million votes, but just 2 seats.

It’s possible to use published voting results to redraw the country as if proportional respresention was in play, with each party being awarded a number of seats based on the proportion of the overall vote that they gained.


Safeguarded flow data sets from the 2011 Census

Oliver W Duke-Williams3 December 2014

New flow data sets from the 2011 Census of Population are being made available by the Office for National Statistics for the first time today via the FlowData website and other sources. FlowData is part of the Census Support, a value-added part of the UK Data Service; the flowdata team are Oliver Duke-Williams and Vassilis Routsis, of the Department of Information Studies at UCL.

Flow data – also known as interaction data or origin-destination data – are a specialised form of data about flows of people between two locations. These include migration flows between an origin and a destination, and journey-to-work flows between a residence and a workplace.


Team Europe Research Project 03 (2013-14): UCL

Ian G Evans1 September 2014


The Role of the Records Manager in an Open Government Environment in the UK

Think of the potential social justices, innovations and developments in a world where there is greater government transparency, participation, accessibility and accountability. In April 2014 I was given the outstanding opportunity to contribute to research, which will help to lead to such developments. I am an InterPARES Trust researcher at the Department of Information Studies, UCL currently conducting a project, which is part of fundamental ongoing research into Open Data, Open Government and access to information. The central aim of the project is to consider the role of recordkeepers in the context of new obligations on UK government bodies towards open government, open data and enabling greater information access to citizens. We are particularly interested the proactive release of data and information by public sector organizations under the provisions of open government initiatives.The Open Government Data and access to public sector information environment in the UK and Europe in particular, is being transformed and therefore throws up questions about the roles and responsibilities of the professionals who are engaged in delivering services to citizens. Recordkeeping policy on access and the legislative and regulatory frameworks need to be clarified and the role of the recordkeeper within this framework needs to be examined.

The lead researchers for the project are Doctor Andrew Flinn and Professor Elizabeth Shepherd, who can be contacted with any further questions about the research project on the following email addresses: a.flinn@ucl.ac.uke.shepherd@ucl.ac.uk

For the complete version of this blog post, please refer to the following link: http://www.irms.org.uk/irms-blog/entry/open-government-data-research