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Temptation in the archives

George Wigmore18 January 2013

‘Constantijn Huygens and his Clerk’,
painted by Thomas de Keyser in 1627.

I knew before even I turned up at the wood-panelled Gustav Tuck lecture theatre that it was going to be packed. People were anxiously waiting outside the doors to see if there was any available space, with those queuing up the steps politely told that they could watch the lecture live downstairs in the Garden Room.

The truth is that Professor Lisa Jardine is a big draw, whether through her work as a historian, on BBC Radio 4’s A Point of View, or the countless other things that she either chairs or directs, and it’s clear that not only is she incredibly well known, but also highly respected.

Professor Jardine’s lecture itself concerned a story about a paper chase that eventually yielded a 17th century letter. It was also a cautionary tale about the trust that historians place on evidence, illustrating the essential uncertainly that comes with archival research in the humanities.

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Drawing over the colour line

news editor22 October 2012

Florence Mills by Alexander Stuart-Hill, 1927.

Written by Henry Green, intern with UCL Communications

For the uneducated, and I would very much plonk myself in that sprawling mass, awareness of the story of black and Asian people in the UK is patchy at best: jumping from slavery to post war immigration without too much in between.

As such, it was a real treat to attend this lecture, in which Dr Caroline Bressey (UCL Geography) ably used photographs, artwork and letters to illuminate the role that Black and Asian people played in the changing social, cultural and political scenes emerging in interwar London.

Her research has made full use of UCL’s gargantuan collection of paintings, collages and sketches, and some of these works featured on beautifully printed postcards distributed outside the lecture theatre. These were a welcome change from the usual bundle of black and white lecture notes and set the tone for a fascinating and visually stimulating hour.

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The Body in Pieces

David R Shanks24 October 2011

‘The Body in Pieces’ selectively displays fragments from the UCL Great Ormond Street Hospital archive. Occupying a gatehouse building and part of the North Cloisters, this exhibition renders visible a curious collection of artefacts as they become objects of broad academic significance, after a former life at the Hospital’s research facilities, the UCL Institute of Child Health.

Most striking are the plaster casts that fill the windows of the ‘North Lodge’, visible to passers-by on Gower Street. This assortment of disembodied limbs and torsos document a variety of bone conditions found in young patients. Beautifully executed around 1870, all troubled from within and sparsely labelled, they leave huge scope for fresh interpretation.

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