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Nenna Orie Chuku, DIS Dean’s Strategic Fund Awardee

Ian G Evans17 June 2019

My application to the DIS Dean’s Strategic Fund 2018/19 was for support to attend two events. The first was the Anticipating Black Futures symposium on Friday 31 May held at the University of Birmingham. The second was a two-day conference, Digital Diasporas, organised by the University of London and held at the University of Westminster on Thursday 6 and Friday 7 June.

The Anticipating Black Futures aimed to consider and explore the futures of Black people in Britain. As the interdisciplinary symposium sought to respond to the current lived experiences of Black people in Britain, the day was a great chance to hear from a range of researchers and practitioners exploring Black studies. The symposium was also an opportunity to gain advice and tips from Black PhD students and early career researchers on their experiences navigating academia. As a Digital Humanities postgraduate who is exploring information systems designs, data visualisations and constructs of space and place within the African diaspora, Florence Okoye’s (AfroFutures_UK,) “Re configuring Community Led Smart City Design Through the Black Quantum Futurist Framework”, Julian Thompson’s (Rooted By Design) “Designing Equitable Futures for UK Black Communities”, were really insightful and interesting entries into conceptualising decolonised design and ways of thinking about current practices in constructing space and built environments. As my research produces and uses oral histories, I found Aleema Gray (University of Warwick) presentation on “Bun Babylon: An Oral History of the Rastafari movement in Britain 1936-2018” a stimulating critique and approach to insider researcher methodologies, in particular the ‘I & I Approach’, which established a research framework and encopasses an on-going feedback cycle.

The Digital Diaspora conference aimed to explore the relationships between digital technologies and diasporic communities. As I have been exploring information systems and data used in humanitarian projects, Mirca Madianou (Goldsmiths) keynote titled “Technocolonialism: Digital Humanitarianism as Extraction” provided a wider perspective and critique of digital humanitarian and technocolonialism. From reading a number of articles and critiques on Black studies in Digital Humanities, the chance to attend Roopika Risam (Salem State University) public keynote titled “Mobilizing New Digital Worlds: The Stakes of Postcolonial Digital Humanities” was a brilliant opportunity to hear about the practicalities and barriers in conducting Digital Humanities scholarship with a decolonised, postcolonial or/and feminist lens in academia. From the numerous panels on offer at the conference, Iris Lim’s (SOAS, University of London) “Digital Ethnography vs. User Experience Research: Comparing approaches to studying ‘users’ in the digital government of immigration” provided an interesting insightful methodological reflection and entry to the differences and similarities found within digital ethnography and user design in the area of e-governance in immigration. The closing plenary panel on Mapping Migration consisted of three presentations that explored data visualisations (Dana Diminescu, Télécom ParisTech/DiasporasLab, with “e-Diasporas Atlas: Exploration and Cartography of Diasporas in Digital Networks”), ethical implications of collection personal data (Funda Ustek-Spilda, London School of Economics, with “Ethics of Refugee Statistics and Social Imaginaries of Migration”), and the problems with apps used in humanitarian initiatives (Tobias Blanke, King’s College London, with “Migration, data, humanitarian apps and platform economies”).

Many thanks for award!

Nenna Orie Chuku

Digital Humanities postgraduate student

Dean’s Strategic Fund Report by Abigail Chapman

Ian G Evans7 June 2019

Thanks to this year’s Dean’s Strategic Fund, I was able to attend the West Dean College short course on Preventing Pests by Integrated Pest Management (IPM), held in the British Library Centre for Conservation on 6 June, 2019. Over the course of the day, entomologist David Pinniger introduced us to the key points of IPM strategy: Identification, Trapping, and Environment.

Identification – We learned about the harbourage and feeding habits of pests common in the museum and heritage sectors, including death watch, furniture, spider, and biscuit beetles; carpet beetle larvae or woolly bear larvae; webbing clothes and case-bearing clothes moths; and booklice and silverfish. We briefly covered their life cycles, as well as common signs of infestation, and saw many, many colourful photographs of the kinds of damage pests can do. This was certainly not a course for those with weak stomachs—a highlight of the day was viewing Mr Pinniger’s specimens of common pests through a magnifier!

Trapping—Regardless of the type of trap used, the importance of placing traps strategically and checking them frequently—a minimum of every three months—was highlighted. However, we covered a variety of traps, as well as treatments to be used once an infestation was discovered. These included treatment through exposure to both high and low temperatures, to carbon dioxide, and to nitrogen anoxia.

Environment—The importance of good housekeeping was repeatedly emphasised, particularly keeping areas free from dirt and debris, including frequently overlooked spaces such as vents, chimneys, and other voids in the fabric of the building. As pests often thrive on a certain level of moisture, maintaining relative humidity at appropriate levels was also deemed essential.

In the second half of the day, Karen Bradford, a preventative conservator, talked about her experience implementing an IPM Policy at the British Library since 2015. She reviewed her strategy for reducing the number of pest traps throughout the premises to accommodate staff reductions, while maintaining the quality of data gathered. We learned about the concept of Risk Zones, identifying areas historically affected by pests and implementing practical strategies to reduce the risks to the collection and building. Ms Bradford also kindly provided us with her IPM Policy, a very useful tool and template for developing such policies for our own organisations.

Of equal interest were the perspectives of the eighteen attendees, whose backgrounds included conservation, heritage, and library and museum collections management. Hearing of their encounters with pests was a valuable addition to the day.

My greatest takeaway from the course was that integrated pest management is not a single course of action by an individual, but rather a continuous behaviour to be encouraged throughout an organisation.

Abigail Chapman

Dean Strategic Fund 2017-18 | Recipient Report – Nenna Orie Chuku

Ian G Evans29 January 2019

My application to the UCL DIS Strategic Fund 2017-18 was due to my research interests in oral history, community archives and migration studies, and my aspiration to work in digital humanities projects documenting the lives and histories of the African diaspora. With the success of my funding application, I was able to take two external oral history related training workshops delivered by the Oral History Society. The first training, ‘Introduction to Oral History’ (held in June 2018), provided a general overview and practical tips in conducting and documenting oral history. The second training session, ‘Lives in Focus: Recording: oral history interviews on video’ (held October 2018), equipped me with an understanding and skills to conduct oral histories and interviews on camera.

After the training, I felt more confident to develop a small project exploring the history of the current Sierra Leonean commmunity in London. Working with Hannah Isalem (DIS PhD candidate), and with encouragement from Dr Andrew Flinn, Hannah and I submitted an application to the UCL Beacon Bursary in 2018. This application requested funds to deliver a public engagement, co-production and reflective project on the techniques in community archiving, and an opportunity to record personal accounts of Sierra Leoneans who have made London their home. This application was successful and as a result we are currently delivering the ‘Creating and Finding Voices: the role of oral histories and community-led archives in the African diaspora’ project.

The ‘Creating and Finding Voices’ project has two primary aims:

(1) to increase the awareness and uses of oral histories in historical research and studies, and

(2) increase the number of personal accounts based on the contemporary history of Sierra Leone and its diaspora.

Further information on the project will be available from UCL Culture. You can also follow the project’s activities by following Salone Abroad on Twitter and Instagram.

Following on from this project, the next stage is to widen the project’s remit to include working with Sierra Leonean communities outside of London, so to document the accounts of Sierra Leoneans living there.

Many thanks for the support!

Nenna Orie Chuku

2nd year Digital Humanities postgraduate student

January 2019

Entry to the University of London Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize 2018 by Lucy Vinten Mattich

Ian G Evans24 January 2019

This blog post is about my entry to the University of London Anthony Davies Book Collecting Prize 2018, and about my experiences having won the prize.  Hopefully it might inspire others to  think about their books in a different way, and to enter the prize themselves.

As part of my MA in Archives and Records Management, I took Anne Welsh’s course in Historical Bibliography — the only ARM student who did, the other students were all from LIS.  It was a great course, and because of it I received an email from Anne advertising the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize run by the Senate House Library.  I decided to submit an entry of books which I had been accumulating over many years.  These books were loosely based round the theme of Household and Domestic management, and ranged in date from the mid eighteenth century to the mid twentieth.

The details about the Prize were a little sketchy, but the deadline for the entry was fast approaching, so I listed 12 books from my shelves and wrote a short essay and submitted them to the Library.  I was very pleased to hear a couple of weeks later that I had been shortlisted and that I was invited to make a presentation to the judging panel.  I was assured that the judging would not be an intimidating experience. Despite this, when I arrived rather nervously at the Senate House on the appointed day, clutching a box containing some of my books, I was ushered into the Durning Lawrence Library, a beautiful and imposing room. Ranged along one side of a long wooden table were five august judges.

Quickly, however, they put me at my ease and I talked to them about my books.  I didn’t have a slick presentation, I just talked about my favourite things about my books, what it is that makes me love them.  Many of the things I like about my books are not the sort of things that most book collectors like, particularly signs of use such as grease-spatters or smoke-stains, or annotations made by previous users.  Some of my books are not published works but are handwritten account books, including one of my favourites which was written by Mrs Eliza Blackmore, housekeeper, for the year starting 16 July 1767.  Most of them were written by women, and were aimed at women, and I like the social insights they afford us into women’s lives over the last 250 years.

The judging panel asked a lot of questions, especially about my collection parameters, and buying strategies, which I answered as best I could, although it did bring home to me that I didn’t really have much of a strategy, I just buy books I like which are not too expensive.

The interview passed very quickly, and I left having enjoyed myself but convinced that I would not have won because of my very non-theoretically based approach to collecting books.  I was delighted to receive an email a couple of weeks later telling me that I had co-won the prize, together with Musa Igrek from Goldsmiths College.

For the prize, as well as money (£300) I was given the opportunity to put on an exhibition in the Senate House Library, which was on display in October and November 2018, and Musa and I had a display case each.  I enjoyed the experience of picking which books to include, writing the labels and liaising with the curators about making the stands for the books to display them.  The publicity was a little slow to come out, but finally it did.

Another part of the prize was to choose an addition to the Senate House library within the scope of my collection.  Together with Dr Karen Attar, Rare Books Librarian at the Senate House Library, I decided on a manuscript book, because I am an archivist, and my collection includes manuscripts, and Karen found an 1802 Account Book from a London based household, which was purchased for the Library.

I was asked to give a seminar as part of an Institute of English Studies Seminar Series, and also to take part in a Panel Discussion run by the University of London Society of Bibliophiles.  I found the experience of both of these very enjoyable, and it was especially good to hear my co-winner, Musa, talking about his collection, and to meet finalist from the Cambridge University Rose Book Collecting Prize, Julie Blake.  Her exhibition at the Cambridge University Library runs until 2 February.

The best benefit of the Prize has been the way it has caused me to re-think my collection.  Indeed, to think of my books as a collection at all instead of just the result of a slightly random book-buying habit.  I have thought carefully about the parameters of the collection and about the areas I might expand it in the future, (mainly 20th century ephemera, but also more manuscript books, both of which are strangely affordable) and have also dipped my toe into buying from booksellers catalogues rather than just from actual physical bookshops.  Furthermore I have met some fascinating people and learned a lot about books.

If you are a member of the University of London and have books, think about whether a selection of them may actually be a collection.  Like me, you may be book collector without knowing it.  The details of the 2019 Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize will be announced soon — consider entering!

Qatar Doha Visit by Lara Salha

Ian G Evans16 October 2018

As part of my dissertation for my MA in Archives and Records management, I decided to research and write my thesis on language in the archive profession with a specific focus on Arabic. My aims were to highlight the ways in which language, a system of signs, impacts how we perceive ourselves as archivists, how we ‘dress’ ourselves with these signs, and how in turn this may mean others perceive us too.

Upon discovering the UCL branch in Doha, Qatar, with a department related to archive studies, I took the chance to apply to the Dean’s Fund in hopes of potentially covering my travel expenses and this leap of faith definitely worked in my favour! I was able to travel to Doha and meet various professionals in a variety of settings.






My first stop was at the Qatar National Library (QNL), which has recently opened a heritage section. Various professionals have been working towards setting up an archive that will hopefully set a precedent for a high standard of archiving in the country. The library itself is magnificent, utterly brand new, and the tools and equipment being used for the growing archive is of excellent quality. The current exhibition of Qatar’s history is definitely an amazing site to see – especially the records and documents relating to pearl hunting, one of main forms of income of the Qatari economy in the first half of the twentieth century (See: left, a thesaurus of the different types of pearls). My visit to QNL meant I was able to meet all those on the archive team and see how their roles fit into the expansion of the archive and its progress. This trip to the QNL helped me understand the struggles that the institution is still facing and how the team at QNL are working hard to overcome them.






My second visit was to the UCL branch of Doha and I was able to meet the head of the archives course, Dr Sumayya Ahmed, and discuss not only my own dissertation ideas but also the ways in which the region of the Middle East is coming to grips with archives and the various archive legacies that have existed in the region prior to the contemporary ‘version’ of the role of archivist. Dr Ahmed kindly advised me to visit a nearby mosque that was utterly breathtaking and definitely worth taking time out to walk around and experience myself, even in 45 degree weather! (See: left)







My third visit happened entirely by chance due to the friends I already knew in Doha and their connections with others – I was able to have my own personal tour of the Al Jazeera media network! Not only was I put in touch with the longstanding head archivist there, but I was also able to spend an entire morning with the news media archivist and was given the chance to see their bespoke Collection Management System that is accessible and used across the globe for all other Al Jazeera archivists working in the News department. In addition to this, I was also able to visit their onsite storage and see how a news channel works in tandem with archive material on an almost hourly basis. While not necessarily related to my dissertation, this trip meant I was able to see how much an archive is valued from a corporate and business continuity perspective, and utilised at a much faster rate and in a much more busy environment. It was an invaluable experience and I’m extremely grateful I was given the opportunity to walk around and see an archive support an entire organisation in order for it to function.

My trip to Doha, Qatar was an incredible and eye-opening experience. I’m eternally grateful that the fund was able to help support this goal of mine and I am extremely glad I took the opportunity to apply. Thanks to this visit I was able to reposition my perspective on the archives in the region of the Middle East, shift my academic lens that may have otherwise have been quite limited, and was able to meet a whole spectrum of people related to the archive profession.

By Simon Cloudsley, MA student on the LIS programme

Ian G Evans18 June 2018

In the next few days I will be travelling to Athens with fellow LIS student Justine Humphrey to volunteer with the ECHO Refugee Library. As Justine has eloquently written in a previous post, this wonderful mobile library project aims to ‘nurture a space of learning and creativity, a place to cultivate the mind – that one part of us that can never be held captive.’

Like Justine, my involvement in this project came about in an equally serendipitous way. In April last year, just before a volunteering trip to Thessaloniki for the charity Help Refugees, I was thinking about the need that refugees in Greece must have for books as a vital way of stimulating their minds and escaping their difficult circumstances. The next day I came across a blogpost by a volunteer who had worked with ECHO and luckily, on my final day in Greece, I was able to meet with Esther and Laura, the inspirational co-founders of the library, who had run the project full-time for several months. I went away determined to do what I could to support them in their work. In August I embarked on a 5-day fundraising walk from the Bodleian Library to the British Library, and in November was privileged to ‘host’ the mobile library outside the Bodleian as well as attend a talk by Esther and Laura at the Refugee Studies Centre in Oxford as part of their advocacy trip around the UK.

In the meantime I had started the MA in Library and Information Studies at UCL and met a like-minded individual in Justine, so it was only natural that we organised a volunteering trip ourselves to work with the project on the ground. I am grateful for the solidarity and support shown by our department in the generous funding that has been given. My desire to help with the ongoing refugee crisis, finding the ECHO Refugee Library, and starting my librarianship qualification, have all combined to steer me in the direction of studying the vital role that libraries can and do perform for society, marginalised groups, and for those who find themselves in crisis situations. Like Justine, I hope my experiences and studies will provide a foundation for a dissertation within this area.

Why a library for refugees? I am reminded by what Simon Schama said in the final episode of the BBC series Civilisations, that refugees are the “shipwrecked of civilisation”, who are “cast adrift on an infinite ocean of terror and despair.” I returned to this thought due to the recent story of the rescue ship Aquarius, laden with migrants but sailing aimlessly at sea when no country would open its ports. This perfectly captures the refugee’s state of wandering and waiting: sometimes they cannot even find dry land, let alone a permanent new home. Having read much literature over the past year and having talked to people on the ground, it has struck me that there is minimal provision given to help refugees, as a friend of mine succinctly put it, ‘build a life beyond mere survival.’ Basic humanitarian needs of shelter, food, water, and medical care, are the priority of the major aid operators—and quite rightly so, even though these are sometimes woefully inadequate themselves. But beyond this, essential services that help motivate, educate, entertain, and maintain a healthy mind, are often only found where grassroots volunteers have seen a need and independently acted—like Esther and Laura. And the longer refugees are forced to wait, the more vital these become. Boredom, anxiety, depression and, tragically, suicide are on the rise.  The recent insightful book Lost Connections by Johann Hari talks about the need to be connected to various things to maintain your mental health. I have realised that refugees are disconnected from so much: home, family, friends, work, and a secure and meanignful future.

Access to a library is not, of course, a panacea. But the service that the ECHO Refugee Library provides is one important way in which a refugee can reconnect to reading, education, interests, and community, and to mentally start to build a future even if the physical reality of that future is still a long way off.


Simon Cloudesley, Library Assistant

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Please show solidarity with us and the ECHO Refugee Library by going to:


Travels with a mobile library – Part 1

Ian G Evans16 May 2018

By Justine Humphrey, MA student on the Library and Information Science programme

At the end of May I will be finishing my library job for the summer, but just in case I miss the library environment I shall be working for ECHO Refugee Library http://echo-greece.org/projects/   in Athens, Greece. Together with, Education, Community, Hope and Opportunity (ECHO) the aim of the library is to nurture a space of learning and creativity, a place to cultivate the mind – that one part of us that can never be held captive. It is a place where goals and ambition can be worked towards, regardless of the grim reality of the present. The library space provides the following:

  • Books and a quiet reading space
  • Access to online learning and information on educational opportunities
  • Language learning resources and informal small group tutoring
  • Advice on university and job application processes
  • A space for community-led creative workshops

Back last September I discovered the project from a poster in the staff-room at work giving details about Simon, who was walking from the Bodleian to the British Library to raise awareness and funds for the project. It caught my eye and I immediately thought about volunteering, but as I had just returned to work for the new academic year and was about to embark on a Masters in ‘Library and Information Studies’ I decided now was not appropriate, so I put it to the back of my mind and decided to wait for the right time to make contact. I started my course at UCL in early October and within two weeks I discovered that my fellow student was the Simon in the poster at work. This brought the project to my full awareness again and I started to wonder if I might be able to focus my dissertation around it.

Soon after this I had a meeting with my supervisor where I discussed the possibility of working as a volunteer for ECHO Refugee Library and using the research to write my dissertation. I expressed my concern around the sensitive nature of the refugee situation and how I did not feel comfortable using interviews and questionnaires under such fraught circumstances. My supervisor suggested I approach it as an auto-ethnography; with a degree in anthropology this was music to my ears.

With the coincidence of meeting Simon and the support of my supervisor it was confirmation that I was meant to volunteer and work for the project. So, plans have been made and both myself and Simon have committed to spending initially three weeks in June as a volunteer team to operate and support the mobile library in Athens. The cherry on the cake was when we both bid for UCL’s Dean’s Funds of £200 and were offered the full £700 for travel costs and expenses, I was blown away. Apparently this is unprecedented and confirms the commitment from UCL and their support for this unique project.

So the plan is to travel to Greece, work with ECHO Refugee Library and write about the experience as an auto-ethnography for my Masers dissertation. Along the way I hope to support and raise awareness of both the refugee’s plight and the importance of a mobile library.  On my return and having lived the experience I will share more of my travels with a mobile library.

Justine Humphrey, Library Assistant

Oxford Brookes University

If you would like to support ECHO and help them keep ‘dreams and drive alive’ go to:  https://chuffed.org/project/echorefugeelibrary

We That Are Young – Preti Taneja

uczcrot28 April 2018

Announcing the Carnegie Medal Shortlist

uczcrot15 March 2018

The CILIP Carnegie Medal is the longest-running award for children and young adult literature in the United Kingdom, and yesterday, its shortlist for 2017 was released. The list highlights the importance of social commentary and diverse representation in children’s and young adult literature, and Patrick Ness’ inclusion sets him up to be the first author ever to receive the award three times. We are excited to see a shortlist of beloved authors and inclusive works, and we are eagerly awaiting the prize’s final announcement on June 8. Please see below for the full shortlist for the Carnegie Medal!

     Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean (Usborne Publishing)

     Rook by Anthony McGowan (Barrington Stoke)

     After the Fire by Will Hill (Usborne Publishing)

     Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans (David Fickling Books)

     Release by Patrick Ness (Walker Books)

     Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk (Corgi)

     The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker Books)

     Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick (Orion)

The shortlist for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal, awarded for outstanding achievement in children’s illustration, has also been announced and can be viewed here.

Publishing the Future Event

uczcmsm12 March 2018

Interscipt header

Interscript is hosting a panel event, ‘Publishing the Future,’ covering topics of diversity and inclusivity within the publishing industry as well as digitalisation and the future of academic publishing. With fantastic speakers, including guests from Knights Of, don’t miss your chance to ask the panel your questions and the opportunity to hear their thoughts on the future of the publishing industry. The event is this Thursday so make sure to reserve your seat here!


Thursday, 15 March 2018 from 16:30 to 19:00 (GMT)


G12, Torrington (1-19)

University College London

Torrington Place, London

London, WC1E 7HB, UK


Interscript is an academic student-led journal and magazine that publishes research and articles on publishing topics. We welcome submissions from professionals, academics, and postgraduate students.