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What does LGBTQ+ inclusivity mean to UCL Culture?

UCL Culture10 March 2022

UCL Culture is a multidisciplinary team committed to connecting the world with UCL. We use our collections, museums, theatre and most importantly our people and know-how to mobilise the UCL community, inspiring them to engage people with their research and their research with people.

We know that unless we are inclusive of everyone, including those in the LGBTQ+ community, then we are failing both the UCL community and the wider communities of which we are a part. We also know that “being inclusive” is an active not a passive state of being, and that we, as a department, need constantly to challenge our own thinking and actions, and those of others.

Fundamentally, we want to reaffirm UCL Culture’s commitment to challenging our own thinking and actions on inclusivity – and to ask others to challenge us. Below are some of the current projects we are involved with in support of our LGBTQ+ colleagues and communities. We are also launching an open call for future projects that continue and strengthen this support.

Current projects

  • Supporting an informative exhibition on trans lives, led by UCL’s Trans Network, to be displayed in the Cloisters and other locations at UCL around Trans Day of Visibility (TDOV) 31 March 2022. The display will use lived experience from members of UCL past and present to explain what being transgender does and doesn’t mean.
  • Writing Trans Lives, enabled by a UCL Culture Beacon Bursary, recently brought together aspiring and established trans and non-binary writers through workshops, a public reading and the published anthology ‘Transcribed’. The established writers provided practical advice and developed aspiring writers’ expertise and experience in writing their own narratives.
  • LGBTQ+-led non-profit organisation QUEERCIRCLE are partnering with UCL Engagement on the evaluation of their new LGBTQ+ health and wellbeing programme. QUEERCIRCLE will host a diverse programme supporting LGBTQ+ artists and offering community participation opportunities, and UCL Culture will provide evaluation expertise, including a new trainee role specifically for a person from the LGBTQ+ and Black/Asian/Minority Ethnic community.
  • Co-Production Collective recently published a response to UCL’s decision not to rejoin Stonewall’s diversity schemes, reaffirming their commitment to inclusivity at UCL and in their work with external co-production partners. This response also invited audiences to share thoughts on how Co-Production Collective can support the trans community and champion inclusion and challenge discrimination more widely.
  • UCL Culture EDI Committee acts to advance and embed equity and inclusion in UCL Culture ways of working across all areas of our activity.

Future projects

  • Do you have an idea for a UCL Culture exhibition, workshop, talk, live experience, or other public activity that supports, empowers or champions LGBTQ+ communities, at UCL and beyond?
  • Has one of the projects above inspired to you respond, or take an idea further?

Whatever stage your plans are at, we invite you to book onto an online Programming and Exhibitions Drop-in session where you can discuss a proposal with a member of our team.

Please book into one of our regular sessions here: https://calendly.com/chrisjwebb/programmes-exhibitions-drop-in

We look forward to hearing from you!

How can you care for museum collections during lockdown?

f.taylor7 August 2020

This blog was written by Conservator Graeme McArthur from the UCL Culture Collections Management Team.

The closure of UCL’s campus during lockdown has provided new challenges for UCL Culture’s Collections Management team. We are responsible for taking care of the world-class collections of artworks, ancient artefacts, zoological and pathological specimens, instruments and scientific equipment held by the university. We make sure that these objects and specimens are available for use, study and exhibition by ensuring they are properly stored, handled, displayed and documented. But carrying out this important role usually requires us to be on site!

Usually we carry out regular programmes of cleaning, auditing and conservation as well as environmental monitoring and pest control. We work closely with our curatorial colleagues to agree new acquisitions and prepare objects for loan for exhibition in the UK and abroad. Our lovely team includes Collections Managers, Conservators and four Curatorial and Collections Assistants.

So how have we cared for our collections during lockdown? Well the very first thing we did was produce a risk register to highlight areas of concern when nobody is physically present in our museums and collection spaces. Here are some of the things we’ve been keeping an eye on.

Pests!

Some of UCL’s collections are an excellent food source for the larvae of insects such as beetles and moths. This is especially true of the feathers and fur that are prevalent in the Grant Museum of Zoology. It is vital to know if there has been a pest outbreak as soon as possible, by the time someone notices moths flying around there could already have been significant damage.


Image: A drawer full of feathers and other organic material in the Grant Museum, many pests would consider this to be a drawer full of food!

To this end we have sticky pest traps throughout all of our collection spaces. These will not remove a pest threat but enough will blunder onto them to give us an indication that there is a problem. Traps are placed on the edges of rooms where pests tend to run around as well as near particularly vulnerable materials. Of course to tell us anything these need to be checked regularly which became a problem once the UCL campus closed.


Image: Pest traps and the all-important grabber to position them behind furniture.

Environment

Understanding the environment in museums and object stores is vital to the long-term preservation of our collections. Extremes in light, temperature and humidity as well as rapid changes can all cause permanent damage. We have all seen what can happen to book spines if left next to a sunny window, but this can be stopped with something as simple as closing the blinds!

High humidity can promote mould growth and corrosion whereas low humidity can cause organic materials such as wood to shrink and crack. Knowledge of the materials in the collection allows us to make an informed choice on how we want to the environment to be, though it is not always possible to keep it that way.

Thankfully even though we have not been able to work on campus during this period we are lucky enough to have a system where data is sent to us remotely. We have sensors in all of our collection spaces and we can look at this data even whilst working from home. Without people in spaces and with lights off and the blinds closed the environment has been very stable. It is easier to keep objects safe when they are not seen or used for research, but then there wouldn’t be much point in having them!


Image: A day of environmental data from the Petrie Museum.

Flooding and leaks

Many of the UCL buildings are prone to the occasional leak. Most of the collections are well protected inside cases or cupboards, but even so if left for too long a leak can potentially cause damage. It is important to check the environmental data to look for an increase in humidity that could be caused by there being standing water in the room.

To reduce these risks, we have set up socially distanced fortnightly checks of all of our collections with two members of staff who can drive in to campus. This allows us to check all of the pest traps so any outbreaks can be discovered as soon as possible. Sometimes traps become so crowded that they need replacing so we can see what new pests have become stuck.


Image: Spiders caught in our pest traps

Unfortunately, the pests caught on traps tend to attract spiders who are actually very helpful in reducing pest numbers.

During our fortnightly visits we checked all the spaces, cupboards and drawers where objects are not visible to ensure there were no other problems.


Image: Revealing a beautiful papyrus from the Petrie Museum storage

Adapting our ways of working

Working from home is an unusual situation for our team as we don’t normally spend most of our time in front of a screen! We have had to refocus to other areas, however this has allowed us to work on projects that there would not normally be time for. One of these is improving the collections database that is used as the base for our online catalogue. Over many years data has been entered in an inconsistent manner with fields being used differently by individuals and throughout different collections. We have now standardised how the fields should be used and begun to ‘clean’ the old data to remove inconsistencies. Once this is complete it will be more useful for us, the researchers and general public who use the online catalogue.

The campus has been eerily quiet during the checks but we are looking forward to welcoming back UCL students, staff and the general public in the near future!


Image: UCL campus