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UCL Special Collections


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


Archive for the 'Outreach' Category

Becoming an Historian at Kelmscott Secondary School

Vicky A Price17 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.

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.

Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes

Community Curated Exhibition Tours Newham Libraries

Vicky A Price7 May 2021

The Outreach team at UCL Special Collections have been working hard on a new community collaboration with Newham Heritage Month – The New Curators Project. This project set out to provide 10 young people from East London the chance to develop the skills and experience needed to start a career in the cultural heritage sector. Successful applicants would receive a bursary, training from industry experts and they would create an exhibition and online event for a real-life audience as part of Newham Heritage Month in May 2021.

With funding from Foundation for Future London and UCL Culture, we ran two months of workshop featuring visiting facilitators (who delivered sessions on public history research, curatorship, digital communications and using archivers in historical research). We also worked with the cohort to devise an exhibition and online talk that used resources from (among others) Newham’s archive, UCL Special Collections and personal photography from participants. It was a whirlwind of activity, all leading to Newham Heritage Month programme this May.

While we felt confident that the partnership with Newham Heritage Month would be a hugely valuable one, and we knew the visiting facilitators would provide insightful, exciting presentations, we could not have anticipated how well the participants would work together or how good-natured and multi-talented a group they would be. It has been a pleasure to deliver.

This week, we were delighted to see the exhibition arrive at Stratford Library:

Two colourful pop-up banners stand in Stratford public library.

The first side of the travelling exhibition made by participants on The New Curators Project.

Two colourful pop-up banners stand in Stratford library.

The second side of the travelling exhibition made by participants on The New Curators Project.

The exhibition will spend the rest of May travelling to eight other public libraries in Newham, and the group will be putting on a free public talk (online) on 28th May.

This is just the beginning for The New Curators Project, as we intend to run it annually. In time, we hope to see a growing alumni of past participants finding careers in the cultural heritage sector, and perhaps delivering content on future iterations of this project!

Contributing towards providing accessible pathways into the cultural heritage sector and demystifying roles within the field can sometimes seem an insurmountable task, especially when also trying to address the current lack of diversity in the sector. However, this is a practical step that will now take pride of place in our Outreach programme at UCL Special Collections.  At the same time, the project is an opportunity to strengthen a valuable community partnership with Newham Heritage Month and Newham’s public libraries.

The New Curators Project is Open for Applications!

Vicky A Price18 January 2021

The New Curators Project is a new programme by UCL Special Collections and Newham Heritage Month. It will offer 10 young people in East London the chance to develop the skills and experience needed to start a career in the cultural heritage sector.


UPDATE: The application deadline has been EXTENDED to midnight on 5th March 2021.  If you’d still like to apply, please do!


What will the project entail?

Successful applicants will receive training from industry experts in key areas such as carrying out historical research, creating an exhibition and engaging with cultural heritage audiences. Participants will also work together to create an exhibition for Newham Heritage Month. Using historical material from UCL Special Collections and the Archives and Local Studies Library in Stratford, the exhibition will be an opportunity for participants to gain real life curation experience for a public heritage festival audience.

We expect the entire project to take place online, with the possibility of face to face sessions towards the end of the project (this will depend on national and local restrictions.  Any face to face activity that does take place with be compliant with government guidelines).

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.
  • 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.

When is it happening?

Application close midnight on 12th February 2021.  There will be two online sessions per week, the first will be during the week of 1st March 2021 (date and time to be agreed with participants).  The final week of activity will be the week of 24th May 2021.

What’s in it for me?

We will be providing training in essential skills for working in the cultural heritage field, including:

  • How to carry out historical research.
  • How to use an archive.
  • How to create an exhibition.
  • Presentation and public speaking skills.

We are also offering a £200 bursary, paid in instalments, to support participants in attending as many of the workshops as possible.

Do I 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.

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.
  • Conservation.

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 due date for the application has been extended to midnight on 5th March 2021.  We aim to reply to applicants by 5pm on 8th March 2021.

A student looks for resources in a library. Shelves laden with colourful books line the edges of the photograph as she reads a book.

Among other skills, The New Curators Project will train participants in carrying out research, creating exhibitions and public speaking.


You can send us an email at: library.spec.coll.ed@ucl.ac.uk.
Or, if you’d prefer to give us a call, you can call Vicky Price, Head of Outreach, on 07741671329.

If you think this project is a good fit for you, apply now!

The Foundation for Future London logo The logo for Newham Heritage Month

The New Curators Project

Vicky A Price12 January 2021

We are excited announce a new collaboration with Newham Heritage Month 2021.

Building on previous successes working with the London Borough of Newham’s Libraries and Archive and Newham Heritage Month, The New Curators Project will be a community curatorship project made especially for young adults aged 18-24 from Newham, Waltham Forest, Hackney and Tower Hamlets who do not have a university degree or more than 6 months paid experience in the cultural heritage field.

Over three months, participants will be given training in skills and competencies relevant to working in the cultural heritage sector.  They will also work as a group to create their own collaborative exhibition for the Newham Heritage Month programme (held in May 2021).  It is hoped that this can become a recurring annual project, developing an ‘alumni’ of community curators who can go on to enrich future programming from this partnership.

With funding from Foundation for Future London and UCL Culture’s Community Engagement Seed Fund, we are able to bring in a range of different professionals from multiple corners of the cultural heritage field to deliver these training sessions, and we are able to offer a bursary to participants to ensure all those interested are able to apply.  This funding has also enabled us to bring in an external evaluator for the project.

A conservator works on manuscripts at UCL Special Collections. She holds a pair of tweezers at a table strewn with conservation materials in a brightly light room.

A conservator working on items at UCL Special Collections. Photograph © David Tett.

Call for Trainers and an Evaluator

We are currently seeking professionals in the cultural heritage sector with the right skills and experience to deliver one or more of a series of training sessions;

  1. Carrying out public history research (including how to develop an historical enquiry, understanding and interpreting a wide range of historical resources and how best to record findings).
  2. Accessing public records, archives, museums and libraries (how to find publicly available historical resources).
  3. Digital tools, skills and accessibility for the cultural heritage sector (how to create online ‘exhibitions’ and  how to use online platforms to engage with new audiences within the cultural heritage sector).
  4. Curatorship (how to develop ideas for an exhibition as a group, including ways of creating a narrative, using themes and how to first identify and then play with or challenge the tradition ‘norms’ of what an exhibition is).
  5. Oracy and presentation skills (how to speak about yourself and your work to various audiences, including on the radio or podcast, or to run an online or face to face event for the public).

We would be particularly keen to hear from professionals based in or around East London.  For a full brief, please contact us at library.spec.coll.ed@ucl.ac.uk .

We are also seeking an evaluator who is available to start in January.  We would also be most keen to hear from prospective evaluators who are based in or near East London.  A full brief will be provided on request, please email library.spec.coll.ed@ucl.ac.uk  before sending an expression of interest.

The Foundation for Future London logo


Results announced for Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize 2020

Tabitha Tuckett9 July 2020

Books on shelves

The winner – Alexandra Plane – and six other finalists have been announced for this year’s Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize, which aims to encourage students at an early stage of collecting physical books, manuscripts and printed material.

The competition is open to any student studying for a degree at a London-based university, and this year received a record-breaking 64 applications – the largest number in the prize’s history. Universities represented included Birkbeck, Queen Mary University of London, Goldsmiths, SOAS, King’s College London, and UCL which hosted the prize for the first time this year.

Collectors under lockdown

Despite the pandemic, students applied from wherever they found themselves during lockdown, from Norway to Texas, Bulgaria to China, Vienna to North Wales, with many applicants unexpectedly reunited with, or separated from, their collections.

The range of collection themes was similarly wide, from Singaporean debut poets to Slovakian Beat poetry, Norfolk history to a 20th-century novelist who used eight different pseudonyms, photobooks and queer manga to bilingual parallel texts and women’s genealogical health.

Finding the collectors of the future

The guidelines of the competition specify that ‘the intention is to encourage collecting and we expect that applicants’ collections will be embryonic, so their size, age and value are irrelevant. What is much more important is the enthusiasm and commitment of the collector, the interest of the theme and the vision of how the collection will be developed’. But selecting a winner from so many applicants was a challenge.

After a process of longlisting, shortlisting and interviews, the judges have chosen Alexandra Plane for ‘Books that built a zoo’: her collection of works by Gerald Durrell. Alexandra is studying for an MA in Library And Information Studies at UCL.

The other finalists were:

  • Imogen Grubin for her collection of early 20th-century editions of Victorian literature
  • Blake Harrison who collects material on James Joyce’s Ulysses
  • Jiayue Liu for a collection of early 20th-century English Private Press editions
  • Naomi Oppenheim who collects editions produced by Black British publishers in the mid 20th century
  • Bori Papp for her collection of Hungarian translations of English literature illustrated by the artist Piroska Szántó
  • Kit Rooney for a collection of hand-written inscriptions in books.

See the finalists present their collections online

Join us for this summer’s UCL Rare-Books Club Online, every Tuesday lunchtime, to hear the winner and finalists discuss their collections and present some of their books, starting on 14 July with Alexandra Plane, introduced by Anthony Davis.


The judges included representatives of the UK’s Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association, the UK’s Bibliographical Society, and Senate House Library who hosted the prize last year, as well as UCL Special Collections.

For the Special Collections team, it was also a great pleasure to collaborate this year with the founder of the prize, Anthony Davis, and to share his inspiring enthusiasm for books and collecting with the students. We hope many of them will continue to develop and cherish their collections long into the future.