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Student Reflections – IOE’s BA Education Studies

By Vicky A Price, on 21 May 2024

The Outreach team in UCL Special Collections recently hosted two students from the IOE BA Education Studies course.  Tasked with creating a pitch for a new after school club, Jiayi and Yunrui spent time getting to know the collections, learning about the Outreach programme and devising an original idea to present to staff at the end of their placement.  It was a pleasure to host them, and we hope to implement their project ideas in the next academic year.  This blog is written by Jiayi and Yunrui, and shares some of their reflections and learning at the end of their time with us.

Ella Zhang

After completing our Education Placement at UCL Special Collections, Yunrui and I are thrilled to reflect on the enriching experiences we had during our time here.

Throughout the placement, we developed a general understanding of UCL Special Collections. We had the privilege of engaging with key staff members, embarking on tours to Special Collection places on UCL Bloomsbury Campus. We were also introduced to key collection items and delved into stories behind them. Under the guidance of Daniel Dickins, we honed our skills in online collection search, catalogue navigation, and item viewing, equipping ourselves with invaluable tools for future studies.

We were introduced to the Outreach Programme in Special Collections under the supervision of Vicky Price, and the standout highlight in the placement for me was our participation in the after-school club Illustrate!, a part of the Outreach Programme at Special Collections. I visited Stratford School Academy, where I saw pupils enjoying perspective drawing in the workshop. Yunrui and I then visited UCL East with an authentic opportunity to observe collection items with pupils from Stratford School Academy. This firsthand experience in the after-school club, witnessing how children immersed themselves in the exploration of collection items, made me reflect on the learning process. As an education student, I was then led to the philosophical debate of the relationship between learning and fun – are the two elements separate or could they be mutual–facilitating? To me, real learning experiences are so closely intertwined with ‘fun’. The after-school club facilitated by Special Collections managed to achieve this – Illustrate! provides pupils with a well-balanced educational experience as it supports pupils’ learning with collection items while stimulating the intrinsic curiosity of pupils.

Inspired by our experiences, Yunrui and I seized the opportunity to design our own after-school club – Poetry Lab. Motivated by our fascination with the poetry store, we envisioned a space where Key Stage 3 pupils could discover poetry beyond its stereotypical image. This was inspired by Liz Lawes, when we were introduced to the small press collections. Through sessions focused on concrete, visual, object, and sound poetry, we wanted to encourage pupils to understand poetry as a way of creative expression. We also designed creative activities in each session. These activities would allow kids to construct different forms of poetry by themselves, aiming to help them develop a deeper appreciation of poetry and language. This experience gave us a real taste of programme development including collection use and resource preparation.

To sum up, Yunrui and I have both really enjoyed this placement in the lovely working environment in Special Collections. Our collaboration has been particularly rewarding, with our shared enthusiasm and teamwork spirit. Throughout our placement, we had the pleasure of meeting great people and developing new skills. We sincerely hope there will be future opportunities for us to work with Special Collections again!

A white box with an image of paper scultures on it - this is the front cover of Heinz Gappmayr – 5 Papierskulpturen (1962).

The front cover of UCL Special Collections’ edition of Heinz Gappmayr – 5 Papierskulpturen (1962).

Some paper sculptures in various 3D shapes.

The sculptures assembled.

Yunrui Zhang

This term, as a part of Education Placement Module, my course mate Ella and I have been assigned to have a 50-hour placement with UCL Special Collections and worked with the outreach team on the after-school workshop. The placement started at late January and mostly finished at late March. Before this placement, I knew nothing about UCL Special Collections. Through this placement, I gained some relevant knowledge. This includes what archives, rare books and manuscripts are, how to quickly search items in Special Collection’s catalogue and how to use these items in after-school workshops in the Outreach programme.

Our final task was to design an after-school workshop for the outreach programme, using collection items from UCL Special Collections. This required us to have clear knowledge and become relatively familiar with some of the collections. Initially, I thought it would be quite challenging to familiarise ourselves with the collections and develop a suitable workshop topic within the 50-hour placement. However, the supportive environment at UCL Special Collections and the guidance we received, including weekly explorations of different collections, have made the process more manageable. One particularly memorable experience was our visit to the poetry store with Liz Lawes. We were fascinated by the diverse ways in which poetry can be presented. With Liz’s guidance, we deepened our understanding of different forms of poetry and ultimately decided on the topic of our after-school workshop: “the poetry lab”.

Beyond visiting and exploring various collections, we also had the opportunity to observe after-school workshops in person. These experiences taught us a lot about the ideal format for such workshops. Unlike traditional school classes, after-school workshops should integrate fun and interactive activities into the learning process to ensure an enjoyable experience.

These insights have also inspired the design of our own after-school workshop. We’ve structured it into 5 sessions, each focusing on a different form of poetry. This allows students to learn and understand the different forms of poetic expression during the workshop. We have designed different activities for each session to encourage active participation and deeper understanding. For example, one of our sessions is focusing on object poetry. The activity we designed for this session involves students making their own object poetry and sharing their thinking with the class. This hands-on approach can facilitate their understanding on how object works as a metaphor to help people better visualize and understand the poem.

In fact, my learning journey has already begun when I started learning about the Outreach programme. Over the two months of the placement, as I gradually deepened my understanding of the Outreach programme, I gained some new insights about the role of universities in society. I realized that universities could have profound impact beyond their traditional academic roles to foster a more interconnected and supportive society. UCL Special Collections can be a good example that extends the university’s reach beyond its immediate academic community by providing assistance and resources to schools and individuals, actively contributing to broader societal well-being.

Throughout the whole placement, I also learned a lot from my course mate Ella, including her outstanding communication skills and her ability to learn new things. It was a great pleasure to work with her on our after-school workshop proposal. At the same time, I am also very grateful to Vicky Price and Daniel Dickins and everyone else in UCL Special Collections for their help and support during the placement. This experience will be a treasure for my future, and I am very lucky to be able to spend these two months with UCL Special Collections.

A small cardboard box containing a seemingly incomplete puzzle that features a landscape image.

Moschatel Press’ Pastoral Fragments, held at UCL Special Collections.

Kelmscott School historians research natural history with UCL Special Collections

By Anna R Fineman, on 20 February 2024

Photo of Kelmscott School pupils sitting in the Culture Lab at UCL East. Rare Books they are about to explore are displayed on a table in the foreground.

Photo of Kelmscott School pupils sitting in the Culture Lab at UCL East. Rare books they are about to explore are displayed on a table in the foreground.

Last term the Outreach team of UCL Special Collections were delighted to collaborate with Year 9 History enthusiasts at Kelmscott School in Waltham Forest. The club, called Becoming an Historian, took place over six weekly after-school sessions at Kelmscott School. The 18 students defined the skills and qualities which make a good historian, learnt how to undertake historical research of primary resources, and each explored an item from UCL Special Collections in-depth. They chose Natural History as their theme and enjoyed investigating historical beekeeping, beautiful marine watercolours and whether plants have feelings. The students learnt to communicate their research in different ways for different audiences. Here they have produced informative and engaging museum labels to create a digital exhibition. You can also read their personal responses to the collection items on X (previously Twitter).

The students concluded their project by coming to visit UCL East and really enjoyed seeing the original Special Collections items they had been researching, in the Culture Lab:

It was great to see the book that I’ve been working on, it was really rewarding

It was interesting to see the source in person. There were a lot of things you do not catch when using an online version.

It felt really cool looking at something created almost 100 years ago!

UCL Special Collections say a huge thank you to the students for undertaking this research and for helping to tell the stories of these extraordinary rare books and archives in our care.

Every Man His Own Doctor (1673) by John Archer

A title page for the rare book Every Man His Own Doctor, a herbal, by John Archer, 1673

The title page for part two of John Archer’s 1673 herbal Every Man His Own Doctor.

This rare book was written in 1673 by a man named John Archer (1660 – 1684), a King’s chemical physician who believed that every person should know about what they put into their bodies and the effects this might have. The book includes home remedies and cures to treat and prevent pox, gout, dropsy and scurvy. It also includes ways of calming your mind, exercising, sleep and the uses of tobacco.
Lukas

‘Every Man His Own Doctor’ by John Archer is a book that focuses on herbal medicine. It provides information on various plants and their benefits. The book is implying that people should take serious care of their health. It’s great for those who are interested in exploring different treatments and is useful for those who want to learn more about healthcare.

Madeeha

‘Every Man His Own Doctor’ was written by John Archer. He published the book in 1673, written in English. The book is about diet, herbs and medicine in the 1600s. The book provides detailed information on the properties and uses of numerous herbs. It also includes advice on maintaining a healthy life. The book aims for people to take control of their lifestyle and to benefit from natural remedies.

Noor

Original hand painted artwork by Marian Ray for her filmstrip Seeds (1940s – 1980s) 

Artwork by Marian Ray c.1940s - 1980s, for her educational film Seeds. Detailed paintings of different seeds, such as those within a peach or a date are labelled with text, on a vibrant green background.

Artwork by Marian Ray c.1940s – 1980s, for her educational film Seeds

Marian Ray was a successful business owner who began work in the 1940s producing filmstrips for schools. She worked at the BBC during World War Two as an animation artist. She would study seed growing as a source of material, and produced film artwork and a booklet covering: the evolution of seeds and how they grow and live; the nutrients they need; different types and shapes of seed; the animals that love to eat the seeds.

Ayub

The archive of Marian Ray contains artwork and a booklet on seeds. It contains in-depth information about seeds, how they work and different types. It is also about the evolution of seeds, how they grown and live. There are numerous diagrams that show different seeds and parts of seeds.

Raqeeb

Remarks on Rural Scenery by John Thomas Smith (1797)

An illustration of Hackney looking extremely peaceful and idyllic from John Thomas Smith's 1797 book Remarks on Rural Scenery.

An illustration of Hackney looking extremely peaceful from John Thomas Smith’s 1797 book Remarks on Rural Scenery.

Remarks on Rural Scenery was published by John Thomas Smith, a painter and engraver, in 1797. It shows engravings of rural areas of London in the 18th century; however, these areas are not so rural today. Westminster is depicted as a vast, green area, Hackney a quiet village, Deptford a woodland area with a large cottage. This book is a good way to see what life was like during the 1700s, and to see just how much the world we live in has changed since then. It can help us to discover more about human life and geography through images before the invention of the photograph.

Anton

Marine Sketches from Nature by Edward Duncan (c.1840s – 1880s)

A page from Edward Duncan's sketchbook Marine Sketches from Nature, featuring a drawing of seagulls swooping in the air and a watercolour landscape of the sea with distant land mass and a golden sky (1840s - 1880s).

A page from Edward Duncan’s sketchbook Marine Sketches from Nature, featuring a drawing of seagulls swooping in the air and a watercolour landscape of the sea with distant land mass and a golden sky (1840s – 1880s)

In the Victorian era Edward Duncan, a famous British artist, published his sketchbook of marine paintings. The sketchbook, dating from 1840s – 1880s contains watercolour paintings of the sea, boats and landscapes. Duncan was born on 21 October 1803 and died on 11 April 1882 aged 78. He made two sketchbooks – Marine Scraps and Marine Sketches – filled with beautiful watercolour sunsets and oceans. Some of his paintings were called The Shipwreck, The Lifeboat and Oysters.

The sketchbooks are part of Egon Sharpe’s Collection and were donated to UCL Special Collections. Now everyone can benefit from his beautiful sketches.

Amelie

During the Victorian era a series of sketchbooks dating from 1840 – 1880s were made by a British Man called Edward Duncan. He lived from 21 October 1803 to 11 April 1882. These sketchbooks are called Marine Sketches from Nature and Marine Scraps. They contain various sketches and watercolour paintings of marine harbours, animals, landscapes and nature.

Edward Duncan married a woman called Bethia Higgins. The auction of some of his stunning works three years after his passing, took just three days, which showed how sought after his work was.

Kitty

The Feminine Monarchie or The Historie of Bees by Charles Butler (1623)

The title page double spread of Charles Butler's The Feminine Monarchie or The Historie of Bees (1623). The left hand page features a diagrammatic drawing of a bee hive with bees inhabiting it.

The title page double spread of Charles Butler’s The Feminine Monarchie or The Historie of Bees (1623).

The Feminine Monarchy or the History of Bees is a beekeeping guide that was made by Charles Butler. This guide was used for over 250 years, before people developed moveable comb hives. Charles’ book has ten chapters from swarm catching to the benefits of bees to fruit (pollination). This 1609 science treatise is considered the first book on the science of beekeeping and was translated into Latin in 1678.

Iris

The Feminine Monarchy was made by Charles Butler. He was born in 1571 and passed in 1647. He observed that bees produce wax. He also learned that wax is produced from their own body. He was among the first to assert that the leader was a ‘woman’ aka the queen bee. The Feminine Monarchy was originally published by Joseph Barnes, Oxford in 1609. The book was later translated into Latin.

Diana

The Feminine Monarchy is a guide ‘written out of experience’ by Charles Butler. It is a 1609 science treatise and is considered the first work on the science of beekeeping. Its 10 chapters on bees, which have been used for 250+ years, detail the following: bee gardens; hive-making materials; swarm catching; enemies of bees; feeding bees; and the benefits of bees to fruit (pollination). It has been translated into Latin.

Mariam

Plant Autographs and their Revelations by Jagadish Chandra Bose (1927)

The title pages of Jagadish Chandra Bose's Plant Autographs and Their Revelations (1927). The left hand page features a black and white portrait photograph of Bose

The title pages of Jagadish Chandra Bose’s Plant Autographs and Their Revelations (1927)

This book is about a series of studies on whether plants have feelings and thoughts. One particular tree in Faridpur, Bangladesh, was struck by lighting and now bends at a 60 degree angle. Until it doesn’t… During the morning the ‘neck’ of this tree (Phoenix sylvestris) points upwards. However, during the evening, the tree bows downwards to look like it was praying, which is how this tree earns its name The Praying Palm. ‘Pilgrims were attracted in large numbers. Offerings were made to the tree which had been ‘the means of effecting marvellous cures.’

James

Plant Autographs and Their Revelations is a book about a series of studies that indicate whether plants have feelings or not. There is one tree in the book called the Praying Palm of Faridpur. This tree was a date palm (Phoenix sylvestris). They call it the Praying Palm because in the morning the tree points upwards and in the afternoon it bows downwards. This looked as if it was praying. Pilgrims were attracted in large numbers. Offerings were made for the tree for alleged faith cures. These trees can be found in Bangladesh or Bengal.

Kristian

The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms: with observations on their habits, by Charles Darwin (1881)

The title page of Charles Darwin's 1881 book The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Actions of Worms, with Observations on Their Habits.

The title page of Charles Darwin’s 1881 book The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Actions of Worms: with observations on their habits

This is an 1881 book by Charles Darwin on earthworms. It was his last scientific book and was published shortly before he passed away. The first edition went to press on 1st May, and it was remarkably successful , selling 6000 copies within a year, and 13,000 before the end of the century.

Gabriel

Booklet to accompany Marian Ray’s handmade  filmstrip Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection (1940s – 1980s) 

A booklet titled Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection by Marian Ray, to accompany her hand illustrated educational film (c.1940s - 1980s).

A booklet titled Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection by Marian Ray, to accompany her hand illustrated educational film (c.1940s – 1980s)

We learnt about Marian Ray, a successful businesswoman who was born in 1923 and died in 1999. She created educational film strips for schools, mostly homemade. She translated and sold them to more than 70 countries. She worked in the audio-visual era in World War Two. Her earliest film strips were in black and white and called ‘Cotton’ and ‘Evolution of the Horse.’ One film she made was about Charles Darwin.

Amir

Marian Ray was born in 1923 and died in 1999. She was a successful businesswoman and she made educational film strips for schools. They were homemade and were translated for more than 70 countries. In World War Two she worked in the audio-visual era. Her earliest film strip, black and white, was named ‘Evolution of the Horse.’ She made depictions of Charles Darwin’s observations of horses.

Ismael

UCL’s Student Magazines

By Colin Penman, on 14 February 2024

On a recent (well, November) trip to the USA to see family, I managed to visit ‘All That’s Fit for Student Print’, a fascinating exhibition of student publications at Binghamton University Special Collections, and meet University Archivist Maggie McNeely and her colleagues – should you happen to find yourself in the Southern Tier of New York State, pop in!  So, for this ‘UCL birthday’ post, I thought I might highlight our own student publications.

Our student magazines are part of College Collection. This is an unwieldy agglomeration of over 5,000 items related to the history of UCL, and includes monographs, periodicals, ephemera (tickets, programmes, invitations and more), and official publications, such as Calendars and Annual Reports, dating from before UCL’s foundation on 11 February 1826 up to the present day. There are also published lectures, examination papers, prospectuses, and works on the Bloomsbury area of London, as well as the other institutions which form part of the wider University of London.

Magazines in general, and student-focused ones in particular, tend to have a short active life, and are little regarded. You read it, you bin it, you move on – ephemeral indeed. But it’s their transitory quality that gives them such a fascinating afterlife, even in the gaps and silences (there’s usually a reason why we don’t have something), because you get a real snapshot of student life and preoccupations at a specific point in time.  And let’s not forget the aesthetic aspect. I love the jaggy design on the cover of Savage (2015 – the only issue we have so far), which fairly hurts the eye:

Savage, UCL student magazine

And you don’t need to be told the dates of these numbers of Pollardian and Torque – everything about them says: it’s the 70s, and nothing but the 70s.

Pollardian, UCL student magazine

Torques, UCL student magazine

The earliest student magazine that we have is the London University Chronicle, from 1830 – before UCL was UCL – but the main student organ remains Pi, founded in February 1946, and named for the Provost of the time, David Pye. There was a strong feeling that, following the trauma of the war, an effort needed to be made to bring together what was now a highly disparate group of 2,100 individuals (‘the largest single college in the British Empire’) who had been scattered abroad in the armed forces or evacuated with their departments to various parts of England and Wales. There are some echoes there of the shock of Covid – a large body of students with little or no experience of a real, in-person Bloomsbury community.

Pi was always a campaigning paper, or at least offered a platform to student campaigners, as we can see in these examples from the 1970s and 1980s. In November 1979, the front cover shows a man climbing over security gates, which had just been installed following a series of robberies and sexual assaults – and some fierce student campaigning:

Cover of UCL Pi magazine, November 1979, showing a photo of a man climbing over security gates

Pi 382, 2 Nov 1979

And wider politics make their presence felt in arguments over student unions as a closed shop, and the relevance of the Miners’ Strike to student life (October 1984):

Page 7 of UCL Pi magazine, 1 October 1984, discussing the Miners' Strike and the Conservztive Party

Pi 453, 1 Oct 1984

"The Forgotten Closed shop", UCL Pi magazine 1982, discussing student unions

Pi 404, 4 Oct 1982, p. 4

As a semi-official voice of the Union, Pi has always reflected student politics and local concerns, such as direct action to get pedestrian crossings installed around campus, and our old favourite, refectory food (price and quality!), but also student involvement in the politics of the wider world, for example the fate of students caught up in the unrest of Eastern Europe, and campaigning on apartheid.

Of course Pi has its more frivolous side, with its fair share of ‘Miss Fresher’ contests or burning questions such as ‘Should College dances have chaperones?’ (yes, really), pop star interviews, and Rag shenanigans (you can find a couple of dedicated rag mags elsewhere in College Collection).

There were other ‘mainstream’ publications before Pi, such as the Union Magazine (1904-1919), University College Magazine (1919-1939), and New Phineas (1939-1956). But for the unexpected, and to get a picture of sometimes niche preoccupations and interests, it’s the smaller-scale efforts that shine. Sportophyte, a magazine of ‘botanical `humour’, was founded in 1910 by none other than Marie Stopes. (College Collection also contains copies of Stopes’s Married Love and, unfortunately, her poetry.) Crosswords and Maranatha are Christian publications, and we have one copy of Not the Pakistan Society Magazine:

Front cover of Not the Pakistan Society Magazine, UCL student magazine, October 1986

There are of course party-political publications, most of them fairly short lived, for example Red Dwarf (Labour Club), Blue Dwarf and Tory (Conservatives), and Red Giant (Socialist Society), and departmental ones, which can provide unique information about local goings-on and personalities.  I’m a fan of the Library School publication The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (1970), which manages to link the singer of the psychedelic classic ‘Fire’ with Professor Arthur Brown, Director of the Library School and Professor of English:

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, UCL student magazine, 1970

We love to use this kind of material in our teaching and outreach activities, and you can of course visit us to consult them yourself – a shelfmark search for COLLEGE COLLECTION PERIODICALS on our library catalogue, Explore, will bring up most of the titles, though we are still finding more. And of course many titles have been digitised: see the History of UCL page of our Digital Collections. You can also see many titles in our current exhibition Generation UCL: 200 Years of Student Life in London, in the UCL Octagon until August this year:

A photograph of an archway leading into the UCL Octagon Gallery. The archway is covered in copies of colourful UCL publication front covers.

We are also very keen to close the many gaps that exist in the collection, so I want to end here with an appeal to anyone who thinks they might have something that’s missing from our current holdings, and might be willing to part with it, to get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you!

The New Curators Project 2024 is Open for Applications!

By Vicky A Price, on 4 December 2023

The New Curators Project is an annual programme run by UCL Special Collections and Newham Heritage Month. It offers 10 young adults in East London the chance to develop the skills and experience needed to start a career in the cultural heritage sector.

Apply now!

Previous applicants have gone on to work for organisations such as Toynbee Hall, Tate, The Roundhouse and UCL.  It is a friendly, fun way of learning about the cultural heritage field and taking your first steps towards a career in the sector without needing a degree.

What is Cultural Heritage?

The cultural heritage field is an area of work focused on preserving history and culture and making it available to the general public. Among other things, it includes:

Museums.
Arts organisations and charities.
Libraries and Archives.
Historic Buildings and heritage sites.
Archaeology.

What will the project entail?

Successful applicants will receive training from industry experts in key areas such as:

Carrying out historical research.
Using archives.
Creating an exhibition.
Running events and campaigns.
Communications in the cultural heritage sector.

Participants will gain real work experience by creating an exhibition for Newham Heritage Month using historical material from UCL Special Collections, the Archives and Local Studies Library in Stratford and beyond.

The programme also offers employment support such as advice on applying for jobs, writing applications and being interviewed.

Participants who attend all the workshops will receive up to £635.

Who can apply?

Applications are open to people who:

Are aged 18 to 24 at the time of making their application.
Are living, studying or working in Newham, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.
Are not a university graduate or currently studying at university.
Have less than 6 months paid experience in the cultural heritage sector.

As this project is a part of Newham Heritage Month, there are 5 places available to individuals who live, work or study in the borough of Newham. The remaining 5 places are available to those who live, work or study in Tower Hamlets, Hackney or Waltham Forest.

Two young adults and an archivist look at an historical map together in grand surroundings.

Archivist Richard Wiltshire from Tower Hamlets Archive shows participants archival maps and plans.

When and where is it happening?

Workshops will be ‘in person’ on Tuesday evenings from 5pm to 7pm, beginning on March 7 2024 and ending June 18 2024. There will also be three full day workshops on Friday 22 March, Friday 19 April and Friday 14 June.

Workshops will take place at the UCL’s brand new East London campus:

UCL East
Marshgate
London
E20 2AF

Do applicants need to have any specific A Levels or GCSEs?

Absolutely not. We want to recruit participants who have a passion for local history, regardless of their qualifications.

How do I apply?

You can apply online via our online form. If you have difficulty using the form, please send us an email (library.spec.coll.ed@ucl.ac.uk) and we can find an alternative way for you to apply.

The application deadline is 8.00pm on Saturday 17 February 2024.

Delivered in partnership with Newham Heritage Month.

Brenda Salkeld and Eleanor Jacques: the lost letters of George Orwell

By utnvsea, on 28 June 2023


More than a decade ago, the family of Eleanor Jacques discovered a cache of papers hidden in a handbag in a garden shed. On the envelope was written ‘Letters to be destroyed’ and upon opening them, they found handwritten letters to Eleanor from George Orwell, who had been her next-door neighbour in Southwold, Suffolk.

At an event in 2018 to celebrate the discovery of these letters, another sensation was created when an audience member announced that she had at home letters from Orwell to her aunt, Brenda Salkeld, also a Southwold neighbour.

 

There had long been rumours of the existence of these letters amongst Orwell scholars, who hoped to uncover more correspondence with these long-standing female friends. Through serendipity, both sets emerged with a year and were purchased by Richard Blair, Orwell’s son. The letters have now been placed in the Orwell Archive in UCL Special Collections, catalogued and digitised for public access, with the kind permission of the Orwell Literary Estate.

 

 

What is so special about the letters?

The letters span a long range of time, 1931-1949, and continue throughout both of Orwell’s marriages – to Eileen in 1936 and Sonia in 1949. They reveal new details about Orwell’s life in the 1930s – including his overlapping romances, his love of ice skating, and his struggle to write and publish his first novels. They also show that the two women, whom he met while staying with his parents in Southwold, had a profound importance in his life lasting long after his romances with them appear to have ended. Eleanor would go on to marry one of Orwell’s best friends, Dennis Collings.

In a letter to Brenda in 1940, four years into his marriage with his first wife, Eileen O’Shaughnessy, and as a German invasion appeared imminent, he wrote: “It’s a pity … we never made love properly. We could have been so happy. If things are really collapsing I shall try and see you. Or perhaps you wouldn’t want to?” Orwell also wrote to Brenda from his hospital bed (at University College Hospital), sending his last letter four months before his death in 1950, just as he was about to marry his second wife, Sonia Brownell.

The letters also reveal something of Orwell’s writing practice. D.J. Taylor, who helped to track down the letters and has just published an updated biography of Orwell, said:

“In terms of improving our understanding of Orwell’s work, I have a strong suspicion that his letters to Eleanor reminiscing about their country walks at Southwold may have inspired similar passages describing Winston’s affair with Julia in Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

The collection is also notable for the playful drawings Orwell added in the margins of his letters to Brenda, something that is rarely found in his other correspondence. They include images of Billingsgate Fish Market, windmills and the infamous ice rink.

The bulk of the letters have not been publicly available before.

The George Orwell collections at UCL

The George Orwell Archive has been a cornerstone of UCL Special Collections for over 60 years. Deposited by his widow in 1960 and built up over subsequent decades, it is the main resource for Orwell scholars around the world. Comprising manuscripts and typescripts, diaries, notebooks, letters, photographs and family material, including the papers of his two wives, Eileen and Sonia. UCL also holds substantial book collections relating to Orwell, including books owned by him and rare editions of his works.

New Short Film Celebrates Successful Collaboration with the Orwell Youth Prize

By Vicky A Price, on 26 June 2023

The last year has seen Special Collections’ Outreach programme go from strength to strength.  We have welcomed school and community groups to a wide range of activities, especially at our new campus at UCL East, and exciting plans are afoot for next academic year.  That said, it is always beneficial to look back at triumphs and celebrate them when you can.  The upcoming anniversary of George Orwell’s birthday (120 years!) is a great opportunity for us to celebrate something that took place last summer at UCL’s Bloomsbury campus with a very special delivery partner, The Orwell Youth Prize.  This new short film does just that:

Delivering a Summer School to Year 12 students from around London is always a brilliant way to explore our collection at UCL Special Collections, as it gives us the chance to spend quality time with young learners and offer them an extended opportunity to engage with the collection.  This was a particularly special project, as The Orwell Youth Prize had worked with us to bring in professional, trailblazing journalists, who could share contemporary experiences and advice on becoming a journalist.  Alongside this, we were able to present Orwell’s experiences (as represented in the UNESCO registered Orwell Archive), make meaningful comparisons with our guest speakers’ experiences and find present-day applications of Orwell’s principles and journalistic outlook.

A group of sixth form students sit at a table looking at a manuscript from Special Collections.

Participants interrogate a manuscript from the George Orwell Archive

Finding the right partners to collaborate with, who share similar goals and who can offer something unique to our programming, is often an essential part of our work in the Outreach team.  While this way of working can require careful planning and meticulous, consistent communication, the success of this summer school is testament to the huge potential rewards.

Tabby Hayward (Orwell Youth Prize Programme Coordinator) also recognises the benefits that Special Collections brought to their programme; “We were delighted to work with UCL Special Collections on this Summer School, for so many reasons. At the Orwell Youth Prize, we’re always trying to find new ways to get young people excited and inspired by the life and work of George Orwell, and his profound continuing relevance today. Special Collections provided the fantastic opportunity to share the Orwell Archive with the Summer School participants, allowing them to get up close and personal, exploring manuscripts, diaries and photographs. This direct experience really helped the participants to develop a deeper understanding of Orwell as a man and a writer, and we felt very lucky to be able to offer this. We were also so pleased that some of the Summer School participants went on to enter the Orwell Youth Prize this year, bringing everything together. It felt like a really fruitful and productive partnership and we’re looking forward to more collaborations in future!”

One very special output from this Summer School was participants’ writing.  We are delighted to share some excerpts with you from three participants’ pieces in this blog.  We asked our Year 12 cohort to find a topic that they were passionate about and to write a persuasive, argumentative piece that spot lit their own voice, using Orwell’s principles of clarity, directness and language economy:

A journalist speaks and smiles to a sixth form student in a workshop setting.

A participant speaks with Marianna Spring, the BBC’s Disinformation and Social Media Correspondent and guest speaker at the Summer School.

Never Again by Jafa Bin-Faisal (a piece about the persecution of the Uyghur people in China)

After hearing about the immense economic influence of China, it’s perfectly understandable to feel hopelessly underpowered against a country with the second highest GDP in the world. But remember, a fire that engulfs a whole forest begins with a small spark, and it is our efforts right now that will provide the fuel for this spark to begin. We need to pressure our government into taking real action against the CCP, and this can be done through two main avenues: petition and protest.

Petitions are a great way to get issues being discussed in parliament, and it tells the government that the British people care about the welfare of the Uyghurs. In this age of social media, it’s easier than ever to increase awareness and gain signatures for these online petitions. Protests are another impactful way to visually show and physically impose pressure on the government, as it shows that we the people are willing to use our free time and use it to speak out against this injustice. Protests are already being organised, and just by marching, you are strengthening the legitimacy and impact of the message and movement.

CHAD AND STACY: THE PARADOX OF INCELS by Zara Hossain (a piece about misogyny and the internet’s power to amplify it)

The pitfall to such circles [online Incel forums] begins on mainstream sites like Youtube; the algorithm may begin with simple, innocent videos like “how to be more attractive to women,” or “dating tips,” or “how to be more masculine”, but these titles quickly open the door for more extreme content which is blatantly misogynistic. These videos tend to encourage men to embrace masculinity to an extreme degree, such as by asserting their power over women, refusing to be a “beta”, a term used to describe a man who is cowardly, especially in situations which involve approaching women. These videos depict a power imbalance between man and woman, as the man is urged to always be in control of the situation, to never let emotions cloud judgement and to never show signs of weakness. In contrast, women are portrayed as a homogeneous identity where every woman is only attracted to men who are strong, unemotional, in control, or “alpha.” In this “alpha” dynamic, the man is urged to be the leader of his pack and to me a role model for other men; thus in itself isn’t a bad thing; many such circles focus on men’s fitness and confidence, and can be healthy spaces for personal growth; but too often than not, these spiral into internalising extreme perceptions of gender roles, and lead them even deeper into the rabbit hole.

Is Colonisation Still Relevant? by Aya Mohamed (a piece about the importance of recognising the history of colonisation across the world and its influence on modern life)

Finally, why is it so important we acknowledge the relevance of colonisation and for that matter, history as a whole? In 1984, Ingsoc (the government of Oceania) was able to retain control over its citizens by rewriting history to fit its own narrative. “Who controls the past, controls the present.” Without knowledge of our past, we’re unable to make valuable judgments about our present. Those in power who manipulate information are able to not only influence what we do and what we say, but also what we think. It’s vital we never forget our roots, so that we can shape the branches of our future.

 

The Summer School also acted as a spring board for the creation of our first free digital education resources that feature the George Orwell Archive.  Check out our film and written resource, intended for Year 12 and 13 students.

Call for Papers: Creative Responses to the History of Covid-19

By Nazlin Bhimani, on 26 April 2023

UCL Press’s Paper Trails: The Social Life of Archives and Collections and the University of Stirling’s Oral History of the Pandemic Project are pleased to invite contributions on the broad theme of Creative Responses to the History of Covid-19. Since 2021, researchers at Stirling have been interviewing the University’s staff and students about their experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Inspired by the playful approaches of ‘creative history’, the researchers at Stirling have now produced a highly innovative history based on their oral interviews. Co-produced by academics, archival staff, curators, and students, with creative input from artists and musicians from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, this history will be presented on Paper Trails in the form of written text, film, animation, and music.

The editors of Paper Trails – a collaborative, peer-reviewed, open-access BOOC – now invite researchers from across the higher education, archive, and museum sectors to submit new proposals for additional contributions to a special edition on Creative Responses to the History of Covid-19. In addition to the Stirling history, this edition will showcase the diverse ways in which these sectors experienced, recorded, and interpreted the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The deadline for proposals is 19th June 2023, and the deadline for submissions will be 20th October 2023. Contributions may be submitted to the following streams and can be in a variety of formats and lengths:

  • Research Stories: full-length research articles.
  • Co-Production: outputs from projects in which non-academic, undergraduate, and postgraduate audiences collaborate with others to create new work based on research collections.
  • Collection Profiles: shorter, descriptive or narrative pieces that highlight collections of interest.
  • Engagement: Reflective pieces that focus on a broad range of engagement activities.

Paper Trails is edited by Andrew Smith, Director of Liberal Arts, Queen Mary University of London, a.w.m.smith@qmul.ac.uk. The University of Stirling Oral History of the Pandemic Project team is led by Stephen Bowman (Lecturer in History, stephen.bowman@stir.ac.uk), Rosie Al-Mulla (Archivist, rosie.al-mulla@stir.ac.uk), and Sarah Bromage (Head of University of Stirling Collections, sarah.bromage@stir.ac.uk).

UCL Press logUniversity of Stirling logo

Kelmscott School historians present a History of London – a digital exhibition with Special Collections

By Anna R Fineman, on 31 January 2023

Photo of Kelmscott School students viewing a large folio-sized diagram of the River Thames, at UCL East.

Kelmscott School students viewing William Faden’s map of the River Thames and surrounds (1799) from UCL Special Collections, at One Pool Street, UCL East.

Last term the Outreach team of UCL Special Collections were delighted to collaborate with Year 9 History enthusiasts at Kelmscott School in Waltham Forest. The club, called Becoming an Historian, took place over six weekly after-school sessions. Students defined the skills and qualities which make a good historian, learnt how to undertake historical research of primary resources, and each explored an item from UCL Special Collections in-depth. They chose the History of London as their theme and have produced informative and dynamic museum labels presented in this mini digital exhibition. You can also read their personal responses to the collection items on Twitter. The students each gained different things from participating in the club, as these three examples attest:

My favourite thing about the club is the amount of discussion we have. An opportunity to speak out your thoughts freely was very encouraging.

I liked getting to know more about how research is conducted.

My favourite thing about the club was the opportunity to work with others on a subject that I am passionate about.

To conclude the club, the students came to visit UCL East on 30 January 2023 – the very first school group through the doors of One Pool Street! Supported by the Outreach team, the students were thrilled to experience the original historical items they had been researching  – having worked from facsimiles until that point. One student observed:

‘It was interesting to see the details on the real-life item, as it was much more intricate than online.’

While another commented:

‘I was surprised seeing the actual item and the actual text. It was great!’

UCL Special Collections say a huge thank you to the students for undertaking this research and for helping to tell the stories of these extraordinary rare books and archives in our care.

Living London, Volume 1, Ed. George R. Sims (1902)

Photo of a double page spread of the rare book Living London by George R. Sims (1902). The left page is an illustration of people at a market, and the right page is the book's title page.

A double page spread of the rare book Living London by George R. Sims (1902).

Living London was written in 1902 by George R. Sims. It describes scenes of people looking for work in the London Docklands. At the time of writing, Britain was plagued by a deep class divide; upper classes saw themselves as superior to the working class. The mixing of different classes was frowned upon. Sims himself was the son of a successful merchant. Through the medium of the book Sims disparages those looking for work in the docks by describing them as ‘the common slum type, either criminal or loafer or both.’

Zahra

 

The several plans and drawings referred to in the second report from the select committee upon the improvement of the Port of London, illustrated by R. Metcalf, William Faden (1799)

A scan of a plan of the River Thames and surrounds, for the improvement of the Port of London, illustrated by R. Metcalf and published by William Faden (1799).

A plan of the River Thames and surrounds, for ‘the improvement of the Port of London’, illustrated by R. Metcalf and published by William Faden (1799).

William Faden (1749-1836) was a British cartographer. He was so well known that he was the royal geographer for King George III. This meant that he had to publish and supply maps to the royals and parliament. The map shows a detailed view of London.

Musa

William Faden was a British cartographer and a publisher of maps. He was born on July 11 1749 and died on March 21 1836. He self-printed the North American Atlas in 1777 and it became the most important atlas chronicling the revolution’s battles. He also made this map of the River Thames which gives a lot of information about the way buildings were placed, and the trading docks that held the actual trading ships used back in the day.

Petar

 

Letter from the Trades Advisory Council regarding wartime food regulations in relation to the baking of challah (1945)

Scan of the first page of a letter from the Trades Advisory Council regarding wartime food regulations in relation to the baking of challah (1945).

The first page of a letter from the Trades Advisory Council regarding wartime food regulations in relation to the baking of challah (1945).

This letter by the Trades Advisory Council was drafted in the 1930s and reconstituted in the 1940s to prevent growing hostility towards the Jewish population from British fascists. In this letter it states that the Jewish challah loaf was very similar to the bun loaf, and would be placed in the same category as it. It goes on to state that the ingredients for it should be rationed for the best of the British people.

Ahrab

The Trades Advisory Council was created in the 1930s and reconstituted in 1940 to challenge the British fascists. Because the Jewish bread challah is extremely similar to bun loaf, which was rationed, the council decided to add it to the same category as the bun loaf, saying that every British citizen was to put the nation first.

Lu’Ay

 

Vagabondiana : or, anecdotes of mendicant wanderers through the streets of London; with portraits of the most remarkable drawn from life, John Thomas Smith (1814)

The scan of an illustration of a woman, drawn from life on the streets of London, from Vagabondiana by John Thomas Smith (1814)

An illustration of a woman, drawn from life on the streets of London, from Vagabondiana by John Thomas Smith (1814).

This is a book written and illustrated by John Thomas Smith. It was published in 1813 and made from paper with printings of paintings. The author was born in 1766 inside a Hackney carriage. He was educated at the Royal Academy and was nicknamed ‘Antiquity.’ He attempted to become an actor, and then a sculptor. His eventual occupations were engraver, draughtsman and curator.

Ace

 

Metropolitan Sewers: Preliminary report on the drainage of the metropolis, John Phillips (1849)

A scan of the first typewritten of page of Metropolitan Sewers: Preliminary report on the drainage of the metropolis, John Phillips (1849).

The first page of Metropolitan Sewers: Preliminary report on the drainage of the metropolis, by John Phillips (1849).

Due to a combination of growing population, lack of sanitation and sewage systems, a result in the capital was several severe, contagious outbreaks of sickness, like cholera and typhoid. London’s Metropolitan Commission Sewers was established in 1848 as part of the solution to the issue. This text of 1849 describes the necessity for construction. It has plans for the running of a new sewer tunnel west to east, to transport London’s waste. The tunnel wasn’t built, but this map depicts London as far as Stratford.

Faith

 

East London, Walter Besant (1901)

Black and white illustration 'The Hooligans' from East London by Walter Besant, 1901. The drawing is of five figures involved in a violent attack - four stand, wielding knives, while one is slumped and holds the back of his hand to his forehead.

Illustration ‘The Hooligans’ from East London by Walter Besant, 1901.

‘The Hooligans’, a picture from Walter Besant’s book East London, showcases five figures, two armed, in a dark room with an arched entrance. One man seems to be lying down in pain, possibly from an injury caused by the two armed men. In a passage below the picture it is stated that ‘the blood is very restless at seventeen.’ This could be related back to London’s notoriously high knife crime and gang violence rate, with thousands of children taking part. Despite being published in 1901 East London mirrors modern London and its violent tendencies.

Natalie

What frightens me the most were ‘The Hooligans.’ Looking at the picture alone gives me the shivers. The beaten-up man lies defeated in the hands of the hooligans. These behaviours are similar in today’s knife crime London.

Habiba

This book was published in 1901, and it was written by Walter Besant. Besant was born on August 14 1836 and died on June 9 1901. He was an English novelist and philanthropist and who wrote quite a lot of works, one of them is East London. A good enough question is why did he write East London? Besant wanted to describe the social evil in London’s East End. And in my personal opinion, in this book he wanted to show people who lived in the west and in the south how people live in the east.

Kiril

 

Remarks on rural scenery : with twenty etchings of cottages, from nature; and some observations and precepts relative to the pictoresque [sic], John Thomas Smith (1797)

The title page from Remarks on Rural Scenery by John Thomas Smith (1797). The text is contained within a highly decorative border and a drawing of a paint palette breaks up the text.

The title page from Remarks on Rural Scenery by John Thomas Smith (1797).

The book Remarks on Rural Scenery was written in 1797 by John Thomas Smith, as the first of two items bound together. The author was also known as ‘Antiquity Smith’ and was born in 1766 in a Hackney carriage. When he left school he tried to become a sculptor, but left to study at the Royal Academy to become a painter, engraver and antiquarian. With this book he tried to bring to the mainstream the picturesque life in rural areas of England.

Viky

 

Common Lodging House Act, Metropolitan Police (1851)

The first page of the typewritten Common Lodging House Act by the Metropolitan Police (1851).

The first page of the Common Lodging House Act by the Metropolitan Police (1851).

The industrial revolution contributed to the population growth in the nineteenth century. During the century a record number of people relocated to London. By the middle of the century areas where cheap lodging could be found grew dangerously congested. The least expensive types of lodging were common lodging houses, where residents shared rooms and frequently beds with multiple other residents. Under the 1851 Act, these homes were registered with Metropolitan Police. These regulations were a direct reaction to the inadequate conditions of crowded housing and unscrupulous landlords and recognised the risks to public health posed by disease and poor sanitation.

Maleah

The Common Lodging Housing Act, 1951, sometimes known as the Shaftesbury Act, is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is one of the principal British Housing Acts. It gave London boroughs the power to supervise public health regarding ‘common lodging houses’ for the poor and migratory people. This included fixing a maximum number of lodgers permitted to sleep in each house, promoting cleanliness and ventilation, providing inspection visits and ensuring segregation of the sexes. These powers were extended to local authorities in the Common Lodging Housing Act of 1851.

Malaeka and Inayah

The New Curators Project 2023 is Open for Applications!

By Vicky A Price, on 14 December 2022

The New Curators Project is an annual programme run by UCL Special Collections and Newham Heritage Month. It offers 10 young adults in East London the chance to develop the skills and experience needed to start a career in the cultural heritage sector.

Apply now!

What is Cultural Heritage?

The cultural heritage field is an area of work focused on preserving history and culture and making it available to the general public. Among other things, it includes:

Museums.
Arts organisations and charities.
Libraries and Archives.
Historic Buildings and heritage sites.
Archaeology.

What will the project entail?

Successful applicants will receive training from industry experts in key areas such as:

Carrying out historical research.
Using archives.
Creating an exhibition.
Running events.
Communications in the cultural heritage sector.

Participants will gain real work experience by creating an exhibition for Newham Heritage Month using historical material from UCL Special Collections, the Archives and Local Studies Library in Stratford and beyond.

The programme also offers employment support such as advice on applying for jobs, writing applications and being interviewed.

Participants who attend all the workshops will receive up to £550.

Who can apply?

Applications are open to people who:

Are aged 18 to 24 at the time of making their application.
Are living, studying or working in Newham, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.
Are not a university graduate or currently studying at university.
Have less than 6 months paid experience in the cultural heritage sector.

As this project is a part of Newham Heritage Month, there are 5 places available to individuals who live, work or study in the borough of Newham. The remaining 5 places are available to those who live, work or study in Tower Hamlets, Hackney or Waltham Forest.

Three young adults look at an archival map.

New Curators Participants scrutinising an historical map.

When and where is it happening?

Workshops will be ‘in person’ on Tuesday evenings from 6pm to 8pm, beginning on March 7 2023 and ending June 27 2023. There will also be three full day workshops on Friday 31 March, Thursday 20 April and Friday 26 May.

Workshops will take place at the UCL’s brand new East London campus:

UCL East
One Pool Street
London
E20 2AF

Do applicants need to have any specific A Levels or GCSEs?

Absolutely not. We want to recruit participants who have a passion for local history, regardless of their qualifications.

How do I apply?

You can apply online via our online form. If you have difficulty using the form, please send us an email and we can find an alternative way for you to apply.

The application deadline is 8.00pm on Saturday 11 February 2023.

Delivered in partnership with Newham Heritage Month.

“We Are Not Alone”: Legacies of Eugenics in Education and Society

By Nazlin Bhimani, on 17 October 2022

This post has been co-authored with Professor Marius Turda.

The IOE Library has on display a shortened version of the exhibition “We Are Not Alone”: Legacies of Eugenics which was first shown at the Weiner Holocaust Library in 2021 and which is now at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The exhibition was curated by Professor Turda (Oxford Brookes University) with some content from UCL Special Collections (Galton Laboratory Collection and the IOE Library’s History of Education Collection) as well as content from the LSE’s Library. Following the opening of the exhibition, the Weiner Library hosted a Roundtable Discussion where all who worked on the exhibition shared our research. Both Indy Bhullar, Curator for Economics and Social Policy at the LSE Library, and I were subsequently invited by Subhadra Das (previously Curator of Science Collections at UCL Culture and now an independent scholar) to publish this research as short stories for the Wellcome Collection. The following provides some background on eugenics and the resources that are currently on display at the IOE Library.

The title of the exhibition, “We are Not Alone” is inspired by a widely circulated Nazi eugenic poster from the mid-1930s. After the introduction of the 1933 ‘Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring’, Nazi propagandists claimed that their eugenic programme of forced sterilisation was in no way different to provisions already existing in the penal legislation of countries such as the USA and Sweden, and which was about to be introduced in other European countries such as Britain, Hungary, and Poland. ‘We are not alone’, they said, hoping to garner international support for their plans to eliminate ‘defectives’ from society and to ‘purify the race’.

Eugenics was a global movement. The exhibition highlights this aspect, providing historical examples from Britain, USA, Italy, Sweden, and Romania, whilst recognising that eugenics programmes targeting individuals with mental disabilities and ethnic minorities were not stopped after 1945. They continued during the post-World War II period in countries as diverse as the USA, Scandinavia, Japan, Czechoslovakia, and Peru. The exhibition aims, therefore, to offer a historically informed account of our eugenic past, present, and future, balancing various elements of continuity and discontinuity, of idiosyncrasy and similarity between eugenic movements across the world.

The internationalisation of eugenics reflected a general appreciation in many parts of the world that science was the sufficient and necessary foundation for the long-awaited renewal of the human race. As a self-styled scientific theory of human betterment and planned breeding, eugenics was based on the principle that people who were deemed socially and biologically ‘unworthy’ of reproduction should be excluded. In the name of future generations, eugenicists dissolved aspects of the private sphere, scrutinising, and working to curtail reproductive, individual, gender, religious and indigenous rights. The boundary between the private and public spheres was blurred by the idea of public responsibility for the nation and the race, which came to dominate both. In the twentieth century, the state and the society at large increasingly adopted a eugenic worldview, even though none of it was based on proven scientific arguments. Instead, eugenics relied on speculations about social norms, cultural, ethnic and gender differences, and racial worth. Ideas of economic and social productivity also flowed readily from eugenic arguments, and eugenicists argued that if an individual was found to be socially ‘unfit’, it was appropriate for them to be ‘weeded out’. ‘Unfit’ had become a label for those members of society who were deemed ‘pathological’, ‘criminal’, ‘asocial’, ‘foreign’ and ‘undesired’.

Eugenicists claimed to act in the name of future generations by ensuring the continuity of people who were believed to be ‘hereditarily healthy’. Some eugenicists highlighted the primacy of heredity in shaping character and behaviour, while others insisted equally on the role of education and the environment. Not surprisingly, they also disagreed over which eugenic measures were deemed practical and efficient, and which ones should be rejected on ethical, scientific and religious grounds. In Britain, for instance, the Eugenics Society set up a committee to draft a sterilisation bill in 1929, chaired by the society’s president, Bernard Mallet. Two years later Major Archibald Church (1886–1954), a Labour MP and member of the Eugenics Society, introduced a sterilisation bill in the House of Commons, but it was rejected. One of his Labour colleagues, physician Hyacinth Morgan (1885-1956) rebuked the bill sharply: ‘Some when inebriated see beetles; the eugenist intoxicated, sees defectives’. In 1932, another sterilisation committee was established under the chairman of the Board of Control, Lawrence Brock (1879-1949). But these efforts led nowhere, as no sterilisation bill was introduced in Parliament again.

The exhibition presents us with the opportunity to review how assumptions and attitudes rooted in eugenic principles became entrenched in British education. From the beginning, eugenics appealed to educationalists, school reformers and feminists who advocated teaching the nation’s children and the youth ‘sound morals’ alongside physical education and modern ideas of hygiene. These were considered prerequisites for maintaining a healthy body and mind, and in society’s advancement towards a eugenic future. Educationalists such as the co-founder of the London School of Economics, Sidney Webb (who was instrumental in the establishment of the London Day Training College –now the IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society), was a key supporter of eugenics. Other examples include heads of colleges such as Margaret Tuke, Principal of Bedford College and J. J. Findlay of Owen’s College, Manchester, the London County Council’s Schools Inspector, W. H. Winch, and the educational psychologist Cyril Burt.

The cases display the intelligence tests or IQ tests from the Psychology and Human Development (PHD) Collection at the IOE. These tests were adapted by Cyril Burt from the IQ tests developed in Paris by Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon at the turn of the twentieth century. Burt’s ‘mental footrule’ was used to rate the intelligence of a child and his evaluation of mental deficiencies influenced the outcome of the 1924  Hadow report on psychological testing and the  1929 Wood Report of the Mental Deficiency Committee and the Board of Education. The latter recommended the reclassification of children considered to be ‘mentally defective’ . Also on display are publications by the experimental psychologist, H. R. Hamley and director T. Percy Nunn on The Education of Backward Children: and, Juvenile Delinquency in England and Wales as well as A Textbook of Hygiene for Training Colleges by Margaret Avery, Vice Principal of Warrington Teacher Training College.

Image of the title page of Margaret Avery's textbook 'Hygiene'

Besides focusing on biological hygiene, Avery devotes an entire chapter on eugenics. This chapter provides examples of how eugenic thinking persists in the present day and is consistent with recent statements made by some politicians currently in power. For example, Avery states that while there are many ‘causes of pauperism’, one of them is that the working classes simply ‘lack…”grit”‘(p. 310)–a message that is not dissimilar to the one recently expressed by the (now previous) prime minister in relation to ‘British workers being the worst idlers in the world’. In relation to immigrants, Avery states: ‘We should welcome the right type of immigrant and discourage the wrong type’ and ‘we… receive the off-scourings of other countries, and these are racially very undesirable’ (p. 320). Once again, this mirrors the views of the present government on refugees and immigrants. Avery ends her chapter by stating that Christianity is on the side of the eugenicists because it, ‘more than any other power, has given us a sense of the infinite value of human life, and the eugenicist is trying to prevent the wreckage of human life’ (p. 323). While the Church has spoken out against these messages in Britain, the story is far from different in the United States (see Witnessing Whiteness by Kristopher Norris). Avery’s book continued to be published in several editions until 1951. It was the recommended textbook for the Board of Education’s teachers’ examination in hygiene. Undoubtedly, it will have influenced the thinking of generations of teachers and their students.

Although the true impact of eugenics will never be known, its legacies continue to penetrate deeply and widely into the fabric of our society. Continuing education and engagement with eugenics, as well as its public condemnation, are essential components of our efforts to comprehend a hidden and ominous past, while also pursuing a fair and just society.

The New Curators Project Visit Tower Hamlets Archives

By Vicky A Price, on 11 July 2022

This blog was written by Arzama Hossain, a participant on this year’s New Curators Project. The project seeks to offer a cohort of 18-24 year olds from East London the chance to learn more about the cultural heritage sector, receive relevant training and to produce something for a real life heritage audience as part of Newham Heritage Month. In Arzama’s own words, it is ‘a project in which you learn and work’ at the same time. This blog is a reflection that she wrote after visiting Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives.

Visiting Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives

Today I had the great pleasure to visit the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives; I really had an amazing time exploring the place and the vast collection of artefacts they have. One thing I was pleased to learn was that anyone is able to visit them and it’s not an exclusive thing, this is a good thing as it allows people interested in history to be able to research some things at the source.

One of the things I enjoyed seeing was pictures of the local area throughout the year. I think it is important to keep an archive of photos which will allow people to see the history of the place they live. Due to the vast amount of material in the place, it feels like you are able to properly get an idea of local history and how it has progressed over the years. These archives are an important part of history as they showcase the important role of minorities in the history of this country and how they have helped make Britain what it is today.

Three young adults look at an archival map.

New Curators Participants scrutinising an historical map.

Archives play an important role in our understanding of the past, as they showcase some of the hidden aspects of history that many people may not know. Throughout history, only the biggest events got the spotlight while smaller, just as significant stories aren’t told as often. A country should always acknowledge even the bad mistakes of the past as it makes sure they don’t happen again, and keeping an archive of events allows people to learn the good and bad.

I moved to England from Italy when I was 12 and started learning about British culture but not forgetting my roots, seeing my community represented in the Archive gives you some inspiration to be like the people that came before you and made this country what it is. I wanted to learn more about the history of the Bengali people in London due to being Bengali myself and seeing them represented in the archives made me proud of my roots.

Archives are important things to have as they preserve important knowledge which otherwise may have been lost. People should take a trip and visit an archive as they are open for anyone to look at.

Two young adults and an archivist look at an historical map together in grand surroundings.

Archivist Richard Wiltshire shows participants archival maps and plans.

Remember 2012?

By Vicky A Price, on 24 May 2022

The New Curators Project is run by UCL Special Collections, in collaboration with Newham Heritage Month.  It is an annual programme for young adults (aged 18-24) who are interested in working in the cultural heritage sector, whether that be the arts, libraries, museums or heritage sites.  It aims to provide the training and experience required for these new professionals to take their first steps on their chosen career path, and to create an opportunity for the group to create work for a real audience as they take their first steps into this field of work.

Each year the cohort create something for Newham Heritage Month’s programme, based on the given theme.  2022’s theme is ‘What London 2012 Means to Us’, and so participants set about collecting oral histories, film footage and photography of the Olympic Park and surrounding area.  This is their first short film, created in response to the theme.

Get to know 2022’s cohort and revisit this page for addition short films in the month of June 2022!

New Summer School at UCL: What does it mean to be a journalist in turbulent times?

By Vicky A Price, on 25 April 2022

University College London (UCL) Special Collections and the Orwell Youth Prize team up to offer one-of-a-kind Summer School!

Applications are now open for a very special Summer School at UCL in July 2022. Year 12s based in London are invited to join Special Collections and The Orwell Youth Prize to develop their investigative writing skills, encounter first hand stories of journalism from the past and present and meet present-day journalists who are at the forefront of their profession.

Up to 25 participants will attend a range of seminars, study sessions, writing workshops and trips that will shed light on the life of professional journalists. They will develop their own writing with support from professional journalists, who will offer advice and share their experiences. They will also learn how the work of one of the UK’s most famous journalists, George Orwell, has influenced modern day writing and thought. During the Summer School, participants will have access to Orwell’s original notes, letters and diaries in the UNESCO listed George Orwell Archive held at UCL Special Collections.

A group of seven Year 12 pupils stand in the UCL main quad holding placards with their backs to the camera.

Year 12 participants at a previous UCL Special Collections Summer School.

The Summer School will take place for one week, from Monday 25 July to Friday 29 July, 10.00am – 4.00pm, and participants will be expected to attend every day.

Apply now to:
• Learn from the best; meet current day journalists who will share tips, techniques and stories from today’s real life news desks.
• Write your own journalistic piece, which will be published online by UCL Special Collections.
• Get hands-on experiences with original archive items from UCL Special Collections, including the UNESCO registered Orwell Archive.

This Summer School is suitable for a wide variety of students who are currently in Year 12 at a London state-funded school, particularly those interested in English, History, Politics, Language, Culture and Anthropology. Anyone applying should currently be studying at least one of these subjects at A level: English Literature, English Language, Politics, History.

This is a non-residential Summer School, meaning that participants will need to commute to and from UCL’s campus each day.  Applications close at midnight on Sunday 12 June 2022.

If you have any queries about the Summer School or would like support with completing your application please email us at library.spec.coll.ed@ucl.ac.uk or call 07741671329.

Who are We?

The Orwell Youth Prize is an independent charity that sits under the auspices of the Orwell Foundation. It is a social justice-based writing programme rooted in Orwell’s values of integrity and fairness that introduces young people to the power of language and provokes them to think critically and creatively about the world in which they are living. The prize is driven by an understanding of social and educational disadvantage in the UK and works closely with schools and individuals to deliver an annual educational programme.

University College London’s Special Collections manages an outstanding collection of rare books, archives and manuscripts, dating from the 4th century to the present day. Together, the team preserve and conserve the collection and facilitate access through a reader service, academic teaching, digitisation and outreach. The Outreach programme aims to create inspiring educational activities for audiences who would not otherwise access the university’s special collections in UCL’s neighbouring and home boroughs; Camden, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Waltham Forest.

Students Duke and Eric Reflect on their BA Education Studies Placement with the Outreach Team

By Vicky A Price, on 23 March 2022

We have been fortunate to host two students on a 50 hour placement from the IOE’s BA in Education Studies, and as their time comes to a close with us, they have written a blog to share their experiences.  Both students spent time learning about the Special Collections department before immersing themselves in the delivery of an Outreach project at UCL Academy – an after school club called Illustrate! which explores the use of illustration in our collection of rare books, archives and manuscripts.

Eric Xu

As part of the IOE’s Education Studies Placement Module, my course mate Duke and I have been working with Vicky Price as part of UCL Special Collections’ outreach team on the after-school workshop: Illustrate. I had a keen interest not only in working with students in a visual art focused workshop, but also in the collection itself after seeing items from the Orwell Collection around UCL’s campus. Our placement began in early January when we met with Vicky for the first time online. As the weeks went by, Duke and I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with the people and places of Special collections, and learning about the processes of archiving, cataloguing, digitisation and of course the outreach of the collection.

Our work on Illustrate began promptly in the first weeks, reviewing the past workshop deliveries, and taking inspiration from curated catalogues of the collection. Trying to come up with original ideas of how to integrate collection items into fun and fruitful activities for the students was definitely a challenge, but Duke and I were able to come up with and produce resources for sessions which we were keen to deliver ourselves. Creating these lesson plans and resources was a much more multifaceted task than I had anticipated, the considerations of how students react to your information and questions greatly influences and informs the direction of the class, and having Vicky help us with leading the direction of these disseminations was very helpful and eye-opening. Similarly with the resources and activities, I found that oftentimes I had to give the activity a go myself to determine the difficulty and viability of it for the class, which meant a lot of the times that I had to adjust or even change the resource entirely. Ultimately, the final product of the workshops we delivered were much different and more refined than the initial plans that Duke and I had drawn up.

Working with the students at UCL Academy was also an experience that has reshaped my perspective on professionalism in schools. There were many hurdles we had to hop, both expected and unexpected, including uncertainty with the number of students coming into the workshop. The students that did consistently come every week were lovely to work with, not only were they respectful and interested to learn, but they were also amazing at drawing. Trying to keep every student up to pace with one another and engaging all of them in the content was another struggle that Duke and I faced, and we realised that sometimes it’s impossible to have everyone interested or fully committed in participating, but again with Vicky’s assistance, the workshops still ran successfully.

Overall, the experience for me was an amazing and insightful experience into the organisational operation of UCL Special Collections, the preparation of workshops and resources as well as the teaching of students. I would highly recommend anyone interested to get involved, and I’m very grateful to have worked with Vicky and UCL Special Collections as part of my placement.

 

A piece of grid lined paper featuring a number by number drawing task to outline an never-ending staircase like those of Escher's work.

Drawing activity designed by Eric and Duke based on the sketch from the Penrose Papers (below).

Grid lined paper with hand drawn illustration of a set of never ending stairs that continue in a loop, similar to Escher's work.

A sketch of a ‘continuous staircase’, much like the work of Escher, taken from the Penrose Papers at UCL Special Collections.

Duke Li

This term, the placement module from BA Education Studies offered us an opportunity to be involved in the outreach team of UCL Special Collections and the project “Illustrate”. To be specific, the aim of the project was to give the knowledge of special collections items to an audience with a non-academic background. It was really great to bring out activities to the after-school club and have interactions with students on the topic of special collections.

Our experiences started with the introduction of the UCL Special Collections team. Before that, I didn’t know that the UCL Special Collection team involved so many departments. For instance, we took several visits to the UCL Science Library and “hidden rooms” in the IOE building in order to see parts of the collection. It is always exciting to see those rare collection items – archives, rare books, and manuscripts – especially in a storage space that adds a mystery to it. As the placement went by, we got to know how to search items in the Special Collections catalogue, learn about the digitalization of the special collections items, and the process of getting access to items in the reading room. We also had a chance to take a look at an exhibition of the collection. From my perspective, those activities helped me to get a better idea of how the UCL Special Collections team work and cooperates with each other, and the experiences that I got turned out to be helpful when conducting the “Illustrate” project in the later weeks.

As well as intaking this knowledge, we also managed to bring out two sessions to the students on topics related to the collection items. The “Illustrate” project was an after-school class for the students, but the participants all engaged and learned from the discussion and the drawing activities in their own ways. Most of them were really active and willing to interact with us. It’s really delightful when giving out sessions and making students involved in the class. Though the teaching experience was wonderful, we do have several aspects to reflect on.

1. The teaching experiences
In the first session, we designed the whole activity on the work of Escher and his impossible world. We also set questions to ask the students. However, since we didn’t notice the difficulty and the linkage between questions, some of the students may have felt it hard to follow these ideas. From this, we concluded that the questions should be more carefully designed to express less in-depth, but easy-to-follow ideas, or else the knowledge of the collection items can not be promoted. Luckily, the final outcomes of the drawing activities turned out to be a big success, due to the creativity of the students. They have their own designs and thoughts.

2. The external factors
We also encounter some problems with the project as a whole. Since the project was an afterschool class in the school, schools may pay less attention to our project than the school’s wider teaching and learning activity. This may be the reason that most of the time, we did not have a lot of participants for our sessions. Also, we experienced once that the school was closed due to a problem with their water supply, but we only find out that when we arrived there, so these factors may have affected the teaching quality as well as the experience of teaching and learning.

To conclude, the whole placement experience is really great, we got the chance to know the UCL Special Collection team and how a team like this operates. The teaching experience with students was always nice since they were all really engaged. Also, we were really interested by the idea of the outreach team’s work when we were trying to make linkage between the non-academic audience and the special collection items that deserve to be noticed by more people. It was a really nice experience and I learned and reflected a lot.

Becoming an Historian at Kelmscott Secondary School

By Vicky A Price, on 17 December 2021

The Outreach programme at UCL Special Collections delivers free projects for schools and community groups in Camden, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Waltham Forest.

We have recently completed an after-school programme with a group of talented young historians at Kelmscott Secondary School in Waltham Forest. While learning how to ‘become an historian’ they decided the following skills were essential:

A Great Historian…

1) Uses multiple sources
2) Is aware of bias at all times
3) Is thorough and looks outside the box
4) Enjoys the process
5) Reads between the lines
6) Takes great care of primary sources.

These are certainly wise words, and they set themselves a high bar, doing everything they could in a short period of time to follow these principles.  Here are the fruits of their labour, in their own words – participants chose collection items to research and interpret on this blog:

The Trevelyon Miscellany (MS Ogden/24)
By Mary, Jasmine, Delphi, Rosa

While studying the Trevelyon Miscellany at our school’s history club, organised by the Head of Outreach at UCL Special Collections, we have learnt a lot regarding the 17th century manuscript. It’s believed to be created and published by Thomas Trevelyon around 1603. It consists of a variety of information, such as the dates of various monarchs’ births, deaths and accessions since William the Conqueror, as well as historical events, recent inventions of the time, biblical stories, charts of roads and portraits of rulers. It also includes nice patterns at the back.

We were drawn to it by the interesting illustrations and illuminations, one of which is shown below.

A close up from a manuscript. Elizabethan illustration of hay with the words 'dangers of hay' above.

A close up of part of a page in the Trevelyon manuscript.

Before coming into the UCL’s collection the Miscellany was owned by Charles Kay Ogden. We were intrigued by letters written to Warden Lock in Oxford in the 20th century about the item. They were written by a H. A. Wilson, R. L. Poole and ‘Allen’. They show an interesting and unique perspective into the thoughts and historical beliefs of the time. For example, a letter from H. A. Wilson to Lock details all the correct and incorrect dates of monarchs’ deaths, births and ascensions in the Miscellany. Speaking of unique thoughts, after much research we still have no idea what the ‘dangers of hay’ are.

Interviews with young apprentices in a House of Correction, Cold Bath Fields from 1837 (Chadwick 3/2/1)
By James

My item was commissioned by Edwin Chadwick, who wanted to know what it was like in a house of correction at the time and to work out why so many children were there. Inmates consisted of both genders at all ages.

A slightly faded page of neat handwriting.

A page from the Chadwick archive item.

While researching the item, I discovered a mortality record of Cold Bath Fields which was a ‘house of correction.’ I decided to study this item because I wanted to see what it was like in a workhouse because I visited one that was made into a museum when I was in primary school on a school trip.

I found out that during the years, 1795 – 1829 there were 376 deaths. Something very interesting I found out is that there were 15 child deaths during that thiry-four year period.

Here are two quotes I found from a writing about this place by Thomas R. Forbes. This is about what they had to go through on a day to day basis. They “picked old hemp ropes into oakum or separated stiff fibres of coir from outer shells of coconuts”.

This one is about the conditions that were in the workhouse: “The dungeons were composed of brick & stones, without fire or any furniture but straw, and no other barrier against the weather but iron gates”.

Something quite interesting is that 85 out of the 376 deaths (22.6%) were female. This may mean that most people there were male or that women were treated differently (better) from men back then.

This is where I got a lot of my information.

Fragment of a copy of Euripides’ Medea (MS Frag/Gre/1)
By Cameron

A tiny fragment of a manuscript revealing early hand written Greek.

UCL Special Collections’ oldest item – a Greek manuscript fragment from the 4th or 5th century.

I decided to study Euripides as he is someone I had heard of before and wanted to learn more about.

Medea is a play written in 431BC by Euripides, a Greek playwright who was the son of Mnesarchus and his wife Cleito. His writing continued to influence literature well into the 12th century.

Early life
He came from a well-off family and was a pupil of Aristotle.

Adulthood
Once Euripides had grown up he went into playwriting and poetry. Sadly he didn’t gain too much popularity as he was always outshone by Sophocles.
He also ran into some trouble with Kleon who prosecuted him for blasphemy after he disrespected the “immortals” however no evidence has been found of the outcome of this trial

Euripdes sadly passed away around 485 BC

Medea is only one of his famous plays – he wrote quite a few over his lifetime, and if you would like to I’m sure there’s info you can find on certain websites. I even encourage you to as I find his work very interesting.

Sources: Encyclopedia.com, which contains information from David Kovac’s Euripides.

Euripides and Feminism
By Isabella

I have chosen to focus on Euripides’ thoughts on women because by appreciating the modern concepts in Euripides plays we can understand the impact they would have had in Ancient Greece. The fragment we have is from Medea which is an important play for women because Medea is a girlboss; she is a multi-layered character who has her own opinions and ambitions.

“We are women, quite helpless in doing good but surpassing any master craftsman in creating evil”

While Medea could be considered a bad person and maybe didn’t represent women in the best light she still subverted the stereotypes women were expected to obey in Ancient Greece. They definitely weren’t supposed to murder their children.

Sources:
Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes