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UCL Special Collections


Updates from one of the foremost university collections of manuscripts, archives and rare books in the UK


Liberating the Curriculum – A New Remote Volunteering Project

By Vicky A Price, on 24 November 2020

We are excited to announce a new remote volunteer project, starting in January 2021 at UCL Special Collections!

The project is part of our team’s work towards Liberating the Curriculum and is our first foray into digital, remote volunteer work. If you are interested in being a part of a project that widens all of our knowledge of, and access to, voices that might otherwise be under represented or under highlighted in our collections, please read on (and register here to attend an induction event)!

The Challenge

Four visitors and a member of staff stand over a table in UCL Special Collections' South Junction Reading Room, looking at collection items from our Poetry Store collection. The items are colourful and vary in format, some folded and with bold print, others non-standard sizes.

Staff and visitors inspecting items from our Poetry Store collection.

The Special Collections team are always working towards enabling access to the collection. This usually involves the acquisition, preservation, conservation, digitisation and cataloguing of rare books, archives and manuscripts. We also use the collection in teaching and outreach, deliver a reader and an enquiry service and provide as much digital access to the collection as possible.

Despite this work, we are aware that there are still many barriers (both physical and ‘invisible’) that prevent some users from accessing the collection and that prevent lesser heard voices in the collections coming to the fore: Historically, society’s most privileged have been most able to write and publish work, to collect rare materials and to create archives. The result is that stories from less privileged people – those of non-white ethnicity, women, those living with a disability or people who are LGBTQ+, for example – can be obscured or lost in the narratives mined from the special collections at UCL.

We know that we could do better, and want to make a start in this effort. A more focussed approach to researching the collection, and on communicating this research to collection users, could result in more diverse representation and in these lesser heard voices being more visible to collection users. However, our challenge is routed in the sheer size of the collection at UCL – we need your help to make this happen!

How to get involved

If you have an interest in historical research, librarianship, archives, representation in historic collections, or are simply curious about the project, please consider registering for one of our induction events.

Following one of these induction events, volunteers will be invited to sign up to a specific area of research – some examples could be searching for representations of non-European people and cultures in the Jewish & Hebrew rare books and pamphlets, Small Press collections and Folklore Society, or searching for early modern female book owners that are connected to our rare books.  Volunteers will be trained and supported throughout the project by a UCL Special Collections team member.

How much time do volunteers need to give, and what equipment will they need?
We are very flexible with regards to how much time volunteers can offer, and as this is a remote project, the required equipment amounts to a computer and internet access. If you would like to be a part of this project, but don’t have access to this equipment, or have further questions, please let us know by emailing library.spec.coll.ed@ucl.ac.uk, as we can offer further support for those who need it.

Register to attend an induction event here!

3 Responses to “Liberating the Curriculum – A New Remote Volunteering Project”

  • 1
    Jane McChrystal wrote on 12 January 2021:

    I just came across your Liberating the Curriculum Induction events the day after the last one!

    Is there any way I could still get involved? As an older woman I believe I’m a member of an under represented group. I have a background in research and worked as a librarian in the 1980’s, so I think I’d have something to contribute.

    Any way I’d love to hear from if there any further opportunities to become a volunteer.

    Kind regards

    Jane McChrystal

  • 2
    ucylppr wrote on 13 January 2021:

    Dear Jane,

    Thanks so much for getting in touch and offering your time and skills to this project. Unfortunately the roles are oversubscribed and we already have too many applicants to manage, so we’re having to turn people away. I’m sorry we can’t accommodate you at this stage. If you think you might still be interested later in the year though, perhaps I could put you on our waiting list? Those on the list will be told about new volunteer roles first and given first refusal. Would that work for you?

    All the best,

    Vicky Price

  • 3
    Jane McChrystal wrote on 25 July 2021:

    Dear Vicky,

    Sorry for this ridiculously late reply, but I didn’t actually see your response to my message, which never reached my inbox, until I was idly searching the net today and came across your reply.

    I’d still love to get involved, if there are any opportunities to do so, though I understand everything might have moved on by now.

    Best wishes


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