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Doing Outreach: ‘Telling Tales of Independence’ at the Bloomsbury Festival

SallyPerry23 January 2018

Photography: Christian Fisher, Bloomsbury Festival 2017

To some ‘Doing Outreach’ might sound more like a points-winner in Strictly Come Dancing than a legitimate pursuit for an academic institution, yet it is not only legitimate but essential to what we do. Outreach is the means by which we share with our community and the wider world what we teach, what we research and, of particular relevance to us in UCL Library Services, the treasures we care for.  It is relevant to everyone, regardless of their role in the university, as it not only demonstrates our value but also gives us the opportunity to bring together people who previously shared nothing but curiosity, but might go on to solve problems and create new knowledge.

So for anyone who has ever considered putting a toe in the Outreach water but has yet to go further, here is a brief insider view of a recent event.

The Bloomsbury Festival is an annual enterprise:

“a five-day celebration of the area’s pioneering creativity. Presenting an inspiring programme of arts, science, literature, performance, discussion and reflection, each October the Festival shines a light on the radical imaginations, institutions, and 11,000 residents that shape contemporary Bloomsbury.”

UCL has supported the Festival since it began in 2006, and for the second time was the Saturday Hub, bringing together most of the festival events for that day on the main UCL campus. The stalls were a mixture of UCL research-focused presentations and outside businesses, with street food, music and dance provided by the Festival organisers. Traditionally the Festival has a theme – a broad concept such as ‘Light’ or ‘Language’ or (for this year) ‘Independence’. This gives a useful focus for planning an event, but is sufficiently flexible to encompass many interpretations.

Like many outreach projects, our event (Telling Tales of Independence) developed somewhat organically and we finally focused on aspects of the personal independence made possible through reading, creativity and performance. Sam Duncan, IOE Senior Lecturer in Adult Education and Literacies, discussed her Reading Aloud in Britain Today research with visitors, and invited them to contribute to her data collection by completing surveys or signing up for interviews. Theo Bryer, (Lecturer in IOE’s Culture, Communication and Media Department) and Rebecca Wilson (IOE ICT Teaching Support Analyst), both recently returned from introducing ‘agile film making’ with iPads in a variety of schools in India, presented some of the films and a poster explaining the project.  For younger visitors, performer Laura Mitchison (of community interest company On the Record) read aloud from story books from the IOE Curriculum Resources Collection, and children (and in more than a few cases grownups) were able to explore their creativity by making puppets and designing for them superpowers or award-winning talents.

The weather, a crucial factor in outreach endeavours such as the Bloomsbury Festival, was not kind and led to last minute changes in the positioning of stalls and performances. Even so 3790 visitors came through the Gower Street gates of the UCL campus, and another 1242 came to the Institute of Making. There were 30 stalls set up in and around the North and South Cloisters, and 26 performances took place during the day.

So what did we learn about Doing Outreach from our Telling Tales of Independence experience? Here are a few of the many lessons:

  1. Prepare to be flexible. One of the excitements (and challenges) of one-off outreach events such as Telling Tales of Independence is the unknown. You have to be prepared to throw your best-laid plans to the wind, and do what works when circumstances dictate. Our planned story times, for example became ‘stories on demand’ when we realized that arrangement was more suited to the flow of visitors.
  2. Being part of a large mixed event rather than an individual one might take you out of your comfort zone if you like familiar surroundings and control over arrangements, but it will bring in more visitors, have wider reach, and enable you to meet fellow ‘outreachers’.
  3. 11am to 5pm feels a lot more than 6 hours when you are presenting an outreach event. Arrange for reinforcements for the later part of the day if possible.

And what did we feel we achieved? Well based on the conversations held, the surveys completed, the puppets created and the stories enjoyed, it seemed visitors appreciated and engaged. We hope they left with a better understanding of what UCL is about and enthusiasm for the possibilities presented. Introductions were made – with UCL colleagues, with visitors, with perhaps potential students – that might one day lead to something that would not have happened if we had not ‘outreached’. So on reflection, a worthwhile day’s work.

Helen Mirren, Katya Galitzine and other guests at the joint UCL SSEES Library and British Library panel discussion

Wojciech AJanik9 June 2017

On Monday 5th June a panel discussion “Émigrés from Revolution” took place at the British Library. It was a joint event between UCL SSEES Library and the British Library and was inspired by our collections.

Martin Sixsmith provided the introduction

P1040514

Martin Sixsmith, Katya Galitzine and Helen Mirren taking questions from the audience

The year 2017 marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution. One of the main events “in the library world”, to focus on the centenary is a major exhibition at the British Library: “Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths”. The exhibition is accompanied by various events, panels and seminars. That provided a great opportunity for UCL Library Services to co-organise, with the British Library, a public event, which would highlight our collections. To make it more lively and interesting we wanted it to be presented by the descendants of emigrants from the Russian Revolution, so that they could reflect, after one hundred years, on how the history of their grandparents has influenced and still influences them and their families. It provided us with the opportunity to showcase some of our archival holdings, especially as many of the descendants had very successful careers. We are lucky enough to have in our archives documents that were donated by world famous actress, Dame Helen Mirren. Her grandfather, Colonel Pyotr Vasilievich Mironov, initially came to the UK with the aim of buying arms for the Russian Army during World War One. Another example is the memoir of Prince Paul Ivan Lieven, that belonged to the grandfather of well-known historian, Professor Dominic Lieven. We were very lucky once again as both Dame Helen Mirren and Professor Dominic Lieven accepted invitations to the event. Princess Katya Galitzine, whose grandparents escaped via Yalta on a British warship sent to rescue Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna also accepted the invitation. However, there is also another “library link” as Katya is a co-Founder of The Prince George Galitzine Memorial Library.

P1040515

Nicolas Pasternak Slater [L] and Dominic Lieven [R]

Our fourth guest was successful translator Nicolas Pasternak Slater, the son of Boris Pasternak’s sister Lydia, and the grandson of painter Leonid Pasternak and Rosa Isidorovna Kaufman, an accomplished pianist. Martin Sixsmith, former BBC foreign correspondent based in Moscow at the end of the Soviet Union, moderated the discussion, while Professor Simon Dixon from UCL SSEES provided an introduction to the event and highlighted UCL SSEES Library’s archive collections.

P1040509

From left to right: Nicolas Pasternak Slater, Dominic Lieven, Martin Sixsmith, Katya Galitzine, Helen Mirren

The event was a success. The panel was excellent and the attendance was very good. It was a very good way to promote our collections. It also enabled us to foster good working relationships with colleagues from the British Library, especially Jon Fawcett, Head of Events, and Katya Rogatchevskaya, Lead Curator of East European Collections. The cooperation was very successful so it may also lead to another joint event in the future. Of course for us it is not the end. UCL SSEES will hold a major conference later this year to commemorate the centenary of the Revolution and we need to focus on that and build on the success of the event. We would like to digitise selected items from our collection, so that they can accompany the main UCL SSEES Conference. During the panel I had a chance to talk to Helen Mirren and her sister Kate and managed to obtain permission to digitise the documents of Colonel Pyotr Mironov. Professor Lieven has also given permission for the memoir of Prince Paul Ivan Lieven to be digitised. Together with colleagues from Digital Curation, Mat Mahon and Amy Howe, we are working on digitising some other collections from our archives.

Pyotr Vasilievich Mironov Collection [MRN]

Pyotr Vasilievich Mironov Collection [MRN] held at UCL SSEES Library

Our aim is that by the time of the conference we can create a high-quality, professional and academic resource. During 2017 there will be many events dedicated to the Revolution. However it is noteworthy to say that UCL SSEES is one of the best well-known and recognised institutions in the world for its expert knowledge on Russia. Therefore, December’s conference organised by UCL SSEES will attract a lot of attention. This provides UCL SSEES Library with the momentum we need to maximize to our benefit, so that we can effectively publicize our work and our unique collections to the world audience.

April to June titles from UCL Press

AlisonFox7 June 2017

We are delighted to announce the publication of 9 new open access books and 5 open access journal issues from UCL Press. Additionally, we are also delighted to provide information about a brand new student journal, Interscript, hosted on UCL’s student publishing platform.

New Books (April-June)

New Journals (April-June)

Student Journals Hosted by UCL Press (April-June)

  • Interscript: UCL Journal of Publishing (vol 1, issue 1). This journal is run by students of the MA publishing course, and hosted on UCL’s OJS platform. The students have also published an online magazine.

Please don’t hesitate to contact the UCL Press team with any questions or queries about UCL press or any of our titles.

Screening of The White Helmets & panel discussion

Kieron LJones24 May 2017

WhiteHelmetsYou are hereby cordially invited to the following event, organised by Library Services and UCL’s Refuge in a Moving World Network:

Thursday 1st June 2017, 17:00-18:15
Archaeology G6 Lecture Theatre

Synopsis: A Netflix original short documentary, set in Aleppo, Syria and Turkey in early 2016. As the violence intensifies, The White Helmets follows three volunteer rescue workers as they put everything on the line to save civilians affected by the war, all the while wracked with worry about the safety of their own loved ones. Moving and inspiring, The White Helmets (winner of the 2017 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short) is both a snapshot of the harrowing realities of life for ordinary Syrians who remain in the country, and a humbling portrait of the power of the human spirit.

After the screening, a multidisciplinary panel discussion will reflect upon the issues raised, future of the region and human rights abuses within countries following the onset of civil war.

The event is free but you do have to book a seat.

 

OPERAS survey on usage of open scholarly communication in Europe

AlisonFox9 May 2017

The OPERAS consortium is launching a survey on the usage of open scholarly communication in Europe, in particular in the field of Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH). The purpose of the survey is to identify current practices and services that should be developed or invented. It will serve as a basis for defining the future infrastructure of OPERAS.
The survey is aimed at  5 different audiences, all of whom are impacted by open access: publishers, researchers, libraries, funders and the general public. It will primarily collect information and suggestions  about common standards, good practices, new features and new integrated services.

Your participation would be welcomed- the links below are open until the 31 May 2017.

publishers : https://survey.openedition.org/index.php/468227
libraries : https://survey.openedition.org/index.php/212534
researchers : https://survey.openedition.org/index.php/831687
funders: https://survey.openedition.org/index.php/578782
general public : https://survey.openedition.org/index.php/214336

Rare editions of Dante from UCL Special Collections on display

Helen FBiggs20 March 2017

Rare editions of Dante from UCL Special Collections

Monday 27 March 5.30pm

The Warburg Institute, Woburn Square, WC1H 0AB

Admission free.

dante

Image from an 1869 edition of La Divina Commedia with illustrations by Gustavo Dore [DANTE FOLIOS DD119 (1869) vol. 1]

There will be an opportunity to see some of UCL’s rare editions of Dante’s works, and hear the Rare-Books Librarian talk about the history of the poet’s work in print, on Monday 27 March, 5.30-6.30pm, in the Common Room of the Warburg Institute in Woburn Square (immediately south of Gordon Square). The event will continue 6.30-7.45pm in the Institute’s Lecture Room with readings from the text and discussions from UCL’s Professor John Took and the Warburg’s Dr. Alessandro Scafi.

Want to know more about who Dante was and why his writings are important for us today? Try the weekly Dante readings on Monday evenings at the Warburg Institute or fortnightly talks on Tuesday evenings at the Italian Cultural Institute. The readings on Monday 27th will feature the moving passage in which Dante and Virgil emerge from the abyss of Hell on the shore of Mount Purgatory, leaving you, we hope, in an improved mood for the holidays, albeit on a cliff-hanger until readings recommence next term. The Tuesday talk on the 28th will be on the relation between Dante, Classical mythology and Islam.

Best wishes from the UCL Special Collections Team, UCL Italian and The Warburg Institute.

Text courtesy Tabitha Tuckett.

UCL Press wins UCL Brand Ambassador award

AlisonFox16 February 2017

 

UCL Press was thrilled to win the UCL Brand Ambassador award at the UCL professional services awards yesterday. The award was made for the global reach UCL Press’s books and journals have achieved, with download figures now close to 200,000 in over 200 countries since its launch in June 2015.

When UCL Press launched, it was the first university press to set up from scratch with an Open Access model. As such, it was a brave step, and since such a venture had never been attempted before in the UK, it was hard to predict the outcome. The idea for the Press was that of Dr Paul Ayris, Pro Vice Provost, UCL Library Services, a leader in OA advocacy for many years, and the Press was the flagship addition to strong OA services and policies already established at UCL.

From the outset, the reaction at UCL to the Press has been unfailingly positive: authors have submitted proposals in the hundreds, many of them already committed Open Access advocates with few other OA options for publishing their monographs. For those early adopters, and for the Senior Management team at UCL who supported the setting up of the Press, their belief is now paying dividends, as research published by UCL Press reaches a huge global audience. Many of those reading UCL Press’s books would not be able to access a print version, either because they would be unaffordable to individuals or to local universities, or simply because print book distribution to many countries around the world is severely limited or indeed non-existent.

UCL is committed to being a force for good and enlightenment in the world, and ensuring that the products of its research are made as widely available as possible helps to support that commitment. UCL Press is excited to be contributing to the institution’s global presence, and proud that its books and authors are acting as UCL Brand Ambassadors worldwide.

I would personally like to thank the whole UCL Press team, our wonderful authors, David Price, Paul Ayris and Martin Moyle for their unfailing support and encouragement, our colleagues in Library Services, and our colleagues around UCL who support us – all of them make this happen.

Posted on behalf of Lara Speicher, Publishing Manager, UCL Press

Weekly Dante readings begin today – Mondays 6pm

TabithaTuckett30 January 2017

Readings from Dante’s Divine Comedy in English and Italian

Mondays 6-7.30pm, The Warburg Institute, Woburn Square

(Admission free)

Is a passage from Dante’s Inferno just what you feel like after a day’s work on a Monday? Or have you always wanted to know what all the fuss was about? Today you can find out, for free, at 6pm at the Warburg Institute off Gordon Square/Woburn Square with an introduction to Dante’s life and works, followed by readings on subsequent Mondays.

The annual collaboration between UCL Special Collections, the UCL Italian Department, the Warburg Institute and the Italian Cultural Institute has proved popular enough to resume this year, with a slightly different selection of passages and the chance, later in the term, to view some of the treasures from UCL Special Collections’ outstanding early and rare editions of Dante.

If Mondays aren’t a good time for you, try the themed Dante sessions on alternate Tuesdays at the Italian Cultural Institute in Belgravia. The next is tomorrow, 7-8.30pm.

Passages will be read in both English and Italian and illustrated, together with talks from UCL’s Dante Professor, John Took, on what to look out for in the excerpts. You never know: you could feel inspired, as this former member of the audience was, to cook the entire poem in biscuit form:

Dante & Virgil with sins

Dante’s Divine Comedy in edible form, created by audience member Leon Conrad.

Photo copyright David Ward.

Outreach work in UCL Library Services

BernardScaife22 December 2016

We are currently reviewing the methodology by which we collect information on our outreach activities, but I wanted to give you an idea of the range of activities that took place during the 2015/16 academic year in order to demonstrate the diversity of work which goes on in this area.

At present, activities are categorised into one of four different groups:

a. Public (lectures, performances of music dance and the dramatic arts)
b. Exhibitions (permanent or temporary whether held within UCL library services, UCL museums and galleries or overseas)
c. Education (museum or library-based, including work in schools)
d. Other (online outreach, films/podcasts, publications and outreach work conducted by reader services)

We also sub-divide the above into whether events were free or paid-for.

In broad terms, there were 122 “outreach events” (covering all categories) in 2015/16 compared with 80 in 2014/15, a rise of 52% which is very impressive. The vast majority of these are free (92% in 2015/16) which helps us to demonstrate that we are being inclusive.

The following two pie-charts show the distribution of activity across the four categories for the respective academic years 2015/16 and 2014/15:

 

2015

 

2014
As you can see, exhibitions have increased somewhat year on year but all areas are broadly similar in proportion. An improved definition of “other” will help us be able to make more sense of this as we move forward. For example, one of the things we will be looking at in the Outreach Steering Group is how to measure online interactions. With social media, blog and website interactions, it can get quite complicated and it is quite possible we are underrecording at present. Watch this space!

In terms of numbers attending (or interacting with) outreach, these figures are in the millions which is fantastic. The largest category is films and podcasts and these massively boosted figures in 2014/15 with the several BBC programmes including  the BBC Horizon  ‘Anatomy of Melancholy’ documentary, which had  UCL presenters and used Special Collections’ early printed books.

Finally, I thought it would be useful to publish the list of work [download pdf] so that you can see the variety for yourself. If you spot anything obvious that has been missed, please let me know so that we can ensure it gets included in future.

We are now part way  through the 2016/17 session. Already this is shaping up to be another good one. For example, there was the Vic Reeves Gaga for Dada BBC programme in September which used material from Special Collections’ Little Magazines Collection; the opportunities presented by the Orwell prize moving to UCL; and of course the Shakespeare exhibition in Stratford library which has just closed.

 

UCL East Housewarming event

BernardScaife25 May 2016

Last week, I attended a workshop in West Ham hosted by UCL’s public engagement team. The aim was to bring together groups from a range of stakeholders to begin discussing what the museum and engagement space should look like at UCL East. There were lots of people from PACE (Public and Cultural Engagement) – especially from the UCL Museums. I was joined by colleagues Tabitha Tuckett and Peter Field in representing UCL Library Services. The first thing we learnt is that it is imperative that engagement with the local community begins well before the building space itself is constructed – and this demonstrated to me how UCL East is so much more than just a building.

A point of discussion which exercised us for quite some time was how to ensure we create a space which can accommodate a disparate range of users. It was felt that a range of suitable spaces for debate and dialog was important in enabling connections between researchers and residents in Newham Borough to be created. Also, that whilst many specific activities might be catered for on the site (e.g. swimming), people would also want a place to congregate, network, and socialise and find information. What better place than a UCL Library Hub for such a venue?

As the new KPA Outreach representative for UCL Library Services, this was a great opportunity to meet colleagues in PACE and learn more about what UCL is trying to achieve with this project. It was great to be able to contribute ideas which will help place the library at the centre of this.