X Close

UCL Special Collections

Home

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

Menu

Archive for the 'Teaching' Category

Public History group projects 2023: Small Press, Big World – exploring the world of Wikipedia

By Joanna C Baines, on 14 August 2023

Jo: 

Special Collections has been supporting the new MA in Public History since September 2022. As part of our support, we lead two group projects in Term 2 for Critical Public History, which is the core module all students take. These projects aim to equip students with real-world scenarios and experience, where they deliver an outcome to a client (in this case, Special Collections). Anna Fineman leads the other Special Collections project, which this year focused on creating an informal archive for the new UCL East campus.

My project involved putting information about our Small Press collections – which can be challenging to digitise due to the fact that they’re often still in copyright – online via Wikipedia. Small Press publications contain a wealth of work by artists, writers and publishers often collaborating to make independent works. This year our students James and Yuxuan worked on the 1960s art magazine 0 to 9, creating a brand new page for the title which includes a complete list of contributors to each issue. The page at present is in review stage, having initially been declined in April, so links will be updated on this post when it hopefully gets approved! You can still read the page whilst it is waiting for approval.

Huge thanks to James and Yuxuan who were an absolute dream team to work with this year!

James and Yuxuan:

For this short blog post, we will showcase the benefits of Wikipedia for information creation with student collaboration. We will also highlight some key strengths and pitfalls that come alongside Wikipedia development through the lens of working with the Small Press collection: 0 To 9 Magazine. Almost everyone has used Wikipedia for access to information, but to help ensure its continuation, it needs the support of contributors to help develop new articles.

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia with free content anyone can use, edit, and distribute. It is developed to have a neutral point of view. There are no firm rules, but contributors to Wikipedia must treat each other with respect and civility. For new users, Wikipedia also provides tutorials to help teach the basics. On creating a new page, various templates can aid your creation/development of an article! 

Useful features to utilise when creating your Wikipedia page would be your sandbox, which allows you to play around with Wikipedia’s features in a less formal environment. Standardised elements include headings, citations, references and an infobox template.

Note: Although anyone can edit on Wikipedia, on published pages, people will check and edit what you post: Make sure to base your work on reliable sources. You can see a baseline of what reliable sources are from this Wikipedia page.

For our Wikipedia page, we included a brief description of what 0 To 9 Magazine was, some background behind the creators of the magazine, the production of the magazine, and the themes expressed by the contributors to the magazine. We then proceeded to list all the issues of 0 To 9 and more specifics about each issue. 

At the bottom of the page, you can find further information about the impacts of 0 To 9 through the Supplements, Impact and Legacy subheadings and the various references.

As we worked on our Wikipedia page, we tried to focus on the magazine’s materiality of language and the distinction between visual art that it defies. We have also created a short video for this blog post, giving more details about the magazine, which you can watch below.

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

“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.

‘Very coarse articles’ – celebrating UCL’s institutional archive

By Colin Penman, on 8 February 2022

February 11 is generally accepted as UCL’s ‘birthday’, the date in 1826 of our founding instrument, the Deed of Settlement. This document establishes a society, called ‘The Proprietors of the University of London’, to set up an Institution with the object of ‘affording to young Men … adequate opportunities for obtaining Literary and Scientific Education at a moderate expence’. That’s exactly what our founders did, disregarding a very snooty letter to The Times on 2 November 1825, which suggested ‘There should be something of a prohibitive duty in the way of expense, to prevent the admission of very coarse articles’.

UCLCA/1, Deed of Settlement

This is an image of the first page of the Deed of Settlement, held in the UCL institutional archive, which I manage. This archive is of course just one part of Special Collections, but I want to use this anniversary to bang our drum or blow our trumpet (or both).

When those who know us think of our Special Collections, they may not think first of the archives of UCL itself: after all, we have other, flagship collections which rightly claim a lot of scholarly and popular attention. But I’d argue that our own archive is not only worthy of some of that attention, it’s vital to UCL’s understanding of itself, and the way we present ourselves to the world.

For a start, it can be a useful corrective to the stories we tell about UCL. For example, for a long time you could read on our website and social media that UCL was ‘the first university in England to admit women on equal terms with men’. You rarely see that claim now, because it simply isn’t true. It’s a lot more interesting than that, and you can trace the complex truth in the College archive through items like the College Calendars, which tell us:

College Collection A 3.2, p. 2

That is, if you were a prospective student in the second half of the 19th century and happened to be a woman (and not connected to a man at the top of the institution), you needed the approval of the Lady Superintendent of Women Students. Similarly, a look at plans of the Wilkins building from this time shows separate spaces for women, with the Union Society (men only) on the left, and women’s space on the right, in the South Wing:

College Collection A 3.2

and the archives of the Women’s Union Society (WUS) attest to a separation of male and female students that lasted right up to 1946.

The archive is also increasingly used as a resource in UCL’s teaching. This term we are taking part in the Institute of Education’s Worlds of UCL module, which uses the history of UCL and the Institute to explore topics in the history of education. Last week, students were using items from the archive – specifically a blazer, medals and magazines – to think about student culture and identity, and how these have evolved over time.

Last term, we contributed to the Bartlett School’s Architecture & Historic Urban Environments MA module on Surveying and Recording of Cities, using our building plans, like this, one of Thomas Hayter Lewis’s plans for the South Wing of the Wilkins Building,

UCLCA PLANS D5

as well as a remarkable document with the prosaic title of ‘Analysis of Plans’. It was the Bartlett’s Dr Amy Spencer, who has just completed her PhD on UCL’s architectural history, who pointed out the significance of this item, slightly unnoticed in our vast collection of College Correspondence. It is in fact a comparison of the bids received (around the time of the Deed of Settlement, in early 1826) for the building for the new university. Due to its significance, and to make it safer to handle and display, we decided to ask our wonderful conservators to stabilise it for the future. Now it has a new enclosure of its own, and will be stored flat, instead of being folded four times:

UCLCA/CORR/1167/15

These are just a few examples of how we’re getting the archive out there, and developing it for the future. Much more cataloguing is needed, and we’re working on that, but we also have a wealth of digitised material which is so vital in research and teaching support, particularly throughout Covid lockdowns, when nobody could access the collections physically. For this, we have to thank our Special Collections digital curation colleagues, and UCL Educational Media Services.

Meanwhile, the archive is being developed in innovative ways. Although we occasionally accept donations from people formerly connected with UCL, the vast majority of the archive consists of the administrative records that you would expect to find in any large educational establishment – minutes, correspondence, registers and so on. These are vital to our understanding of the story of UCL. But with the records of individuals, we can include voices that are missing from that story. If you were a student or staff member at the Slade School, for example, there’s still time to send something to Slade 150: Letters to the Archive. And the Generation UCL project will make a more wide-ranging contribution as a record of recent student life in London.

After all, our 200th birthday is only four years away!

To learn more about UCL Records, check out our main page.

Results announced for Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize 2020

By Tabitha Tuckett, on 9 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.

Judges

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.

 

 

Transparency can be tricky. Conserving UCL’s iconic buildings plans and drawings.

By Angela Warren-Thomas, on 29 June 2018

Written by Laurent Cruveillier on June 29, 2018

The College Plans, belonging to the Records Office Collections within UCL Special Collections, Archives and Records Department, are housed in part at the National Archives and in part at UCL. They are architectural plans and drawings of several landmarks of the UCL campus, such as the Cruciform, the Rockefeller Building of the “New” Chemistry building.

If most of these plans and drawings, dating from the end of the 19th and early 20th century are in stable condition, some show conservation pathologies that prevent their usage by students, scholars or the public, or would impede their handling for digitization and cataloguing purposes.

They present naturally occurring conditions in working documents, such as pin holes, folds, dirt and smudges, creases… but these objects are also often torn, cockled, warped, and bear historic repairs, many of which are made with pressure-sensitive adhesive tape that needs to be removed. Those conditions are worsened by the fact that most paper substrates are brittle, particularly the different kinds of tracing paper.

A conservation campaign was then launched to stabilize as many records as possible. The work started with surveying 485 items of the collection, and identifying the unstable ones.

The plans and drawings were prioritized according to their state and their relevance for the curators of the collection, and were treated according to a protocol aiming at stabilizing them with minimal intervention:

  • Setting of tears using wheat starch paste
  • Repairs and consolidation of regular paper objects using different thicknesses of remoistenable repair tissue prepared with wheat starch paste and methylcellulose.
    Some of the tissue was toned with black acrylic paint for the repairs over black media on the recto of objects.
  • Repair and consolidation of tracing paper using remoistenable tissue prepared with Isinglass: a fine protein adhesive prepared using swim bladders of sturgeon fishes.
  • Adhesive removal using poultices prepared with methylcellulose and ethanol, or heated spatulas and other solvents.
  • Structural infills
  • Photographic and written documentation:
    Condition and treatment records
  • Housing in polyester pockets.

These interventions were carried out by paper conservators at UCL Special Collections Conservation Department, and also involved the participation of UAL – Camberwell College MA Conservation intern students, who were given the opportunity to add working collection objects treatments to their portfolios while learning and practicing different techniques, such as preparing Isinglass, removing adhesives or repairing tracing paper.

Priority was given to stability for handli

ng purposes, also respecting the nature of each substrate. For instance, repairs on tracing paper were done with extremely thin tissues to avoid being visible by transparency. Due to their aesthetical value, some objects were nevertheless given extra care, with the usage of toned tissues for repairs and infills. One plan with a large lacuna even received an infill digitally produced to minimize the visual impact of interrupted lines.

In the images, one can see the detail of record Ref. Nº ROC 86, a drawing for a decorative swag of the Board Room in the Rockefeller building before and after conservation. It was extremely rewarding for the conservators to discover that the ornament was still in place. As recommended in writing on the May 1907 document, the sculptor hadn’t “adhered” exactly to the drawing, but his execution of the motif still allowed super-imposing the final result with architect J. Carmichael’s vision.

‘The Lover’s Confession’: students research Confessio Amantis fragment

By Helen Biggs, on 23 April 2018

This post contributed by Calum Cockburn and Lauren Rozenberg.

On the 8th and 9th December 2017, UCL Special Collections hosted the third workshop in the Digital Editing and the Medieval Manuscript Fragment series (DEMMF), organised and taught jointly by UCL and Yale postgraduates students to twelve graduate students (the majority of whom are UCL-based).

The workshop began with a lecture on UCL’s manuscript fragment collection and a handling session held at the Institute of Education library led by Katy Makin (UCL Library Services). A huge variety of materials was on on display, including a leaf from a music manuscript, once thought to have been used as a binding for an Early Modern book; a thirteenth-century breviary with a charming inhabited initial; a Hebrew papyrus from the Book of Genesis; and a tiny piece of parchment with lines from Euripides’ Medea. Examining these materials, the participants were introduced to the unique and complex challenges literary scholars and digital editors face in creating literary editions from medieval manuscript fragments, fragments that often vary considerably in size and shape, in the legibility of their scripts and hands, in the nature of their decoration and layout, and the amount of damage they have sustained during their different lifetimes.

The students examining the the Confessio Amantis fragment.

The ultimate aim of this workshop was the collaborative transcription, encoding and publishing of a digital edition of a four-leaf fragment of the Confessio Amantis ‘the Lover’s Confession’ (MS FRAG / ANGL / 1), dated from the fifteenth-century and now housed in UCL Special Collections. This poem is a 33,000-line Middle English work by John Gower (d. 1408), a contemporary of Chaucer (d. 1400), whose compositions were particularly popular during the late medieval period. This text alone survives in 59 copies, one of the most copied manuscripts that survives to us, alongside the Canterbury Tales and Piers Plowman, written by William Langland (d. 1386). The Confessio uses the confession by an ageing love to the chaplain of Venus as the framework for a long series of shorter narrative poems, linked thematically by each of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’. UCL’s fragment is unique in the collection in that its four leaves were given their own brand new binding at the turn of the twentieth century. It originates from Book V of the poem, concerning Avarice.

 

Two details from MS FRAG / ANGL / 1

To aid them in the creation of their edition of this text, the graduate students took part in a series of discussions and exercises concerning the palaeography and codicology of fragments, digital editing and TEI markup, the use of XML editing tools, most notably oXygen software, and project-based collaboration in the digital arena. Subsequent sessions across the two-day event focused on the teaching of common markup languages and the Text Encoding Initiative.
Subsequently, this expertise was used to mark-up and encode UCL Special Collections’ Confessio Amantis. The fragment itself reflects issues frequently encountered by digital editors of manuscripts and fragments. Most significantly, the fragment’s leaves are actually bound in the wrong order, an observation unrecorded in the manuscript catalogue itself.

Students and instructors examining the Confessio Amantis fragment and discussing its features.

The first folio ranges from lines 775 to 966 of Bk. V while the second one jumps to line 1735 continuing to 1926, before returning to lines 1159 to 1541 over the last two folios. Additionally, the fragment includes numerous small illuminated initials and marginal Latin glosses, separate from the main body of the text, and this raised questions across the weekend as to what the workshop participants should mark up and thus include in their edition itself. Such issues prompted the students to think about the nature of the text and the materiality of medieval manuscripts, and to consider fragments as objects rather than simply illustrated books.

Special Collections provided invaluable high definition images of the fragments. This helped students to prepare their own transcriptions of each manuscript page, and in addition better grasp the necessity for scholars of medieval manuscripts in the digital age. Digital reproductions can indeed alter our experience of the text in different and unforeseen ways. The finished digital edition of our own fragment will be published online at the end of this year, accompanying an edition of another item in Special Collections, a medical manuscript (MS / Lat / 7), transcribed and encoded during a similar workshop that took place during the summer.

The December workshop was made possible thanks to the support of UCL Doctoral School, the Octagon Small Grant Fund, the UCL English Department and Yale Beinecke Rare Book & Music Library. We’re especially grateful to Katy Makin (UCL Special Collections Archivist), for allowing us access to the fragment collection and assembling these materials on the day, and to Dr. Alex Lee (UCL SELCS), for all her palaeographic expertise and help in the transcription of the document itself.

The DEMMF workshop was coordinated by Dana Kovarik (UCL PGR English). The team of instructors included Ph.D. students from a number of different departments and institutions. From UCL’s Arts & Humanities and Social & Historical Sciences faculties: Calum Cockburn (UCL PGR English), Lauren Rozenberg (UCL PGR History of Art), Agata Zielinska (UCL PGR History). From Yale University: Gina Marie Hurley (Yale PGR Medieval Studies) and Mireille Pardon (Yale PGR) as well as Stephanie Azzarello from Cambridge University (Pembroke College, History of Art).

Advent Definitions: Archives, age, and the school nativity play

By Helen Biggs, on 14 December 2017

“Nativity”, in: R 221 DICTIONARIES DYC 1748: Dyche, A new general English dictionary (London, 1748)

A substantial amount of Special Collections’ work is in teaching and teaching support across a broad range of subjects: classics, law, library studies, architecture, history, maths – the list goes on. Sometimes this is a single class on using historical and primary materials, but this may also be a series of sessions, as with the Archival Research and Oral History in Education (AROHE) module, taught at UCL Institute of Education.

This year AROHE students have explored the topics of international education, special educational needs, progressive education and multi-racial education, using items from Newsam Archives, to focus on areas like visual sources, curriculum, biography and learners’ voices.

One of the visual sources picked out by students was this photo from the Amelia Fysh collection:

©UCL Institute of Education Archives [AF/1/3/A/25]

Although they weren’t given any contextual or identifying information about the photography, it was immediately recognised as a school nativity play. Mary, Joseph and chorus of angels were all correctly identified, and after some discussion, so were the Three Wise Men and the shepherds. (The shepherds are very well dressed; fortuitously, the Three Wise Men can be distinguished by their crowns.)

However, when it came to dating the photograph, the students came somewhat unstuck. The wearing of costumes make it impossible to use fashion to estimate when the photograph was taken, and likewise most of the children’s heads are covered, so nor can their hair styles be used as a guide. In the end, it was suggested that the photo was probably “old”, because it was black and white.

This gave me something of a shock. Not the assertion itself; it may have been a little misguided (black and white film is still in use today, not to mention the black and white or sepia filters of digital photography!) but learning how to draw on others’ research, context clues and our own personal knowledge to understand objects is at the very heart of using archive materials. No – what stunned me was the realisation that many of today’s students are too young to recognise the product of a 1990’s style black-and-white photocopier…

In case you’re wondering – the image is from a booklet from Beech Green Nursery School, featuring photos from 1956-1973 (the booklet itself was created in 2002). Whether you think this can be considered “old” or not is up to you – although colour photography was definitely around by the 1950’s!

A typical school? Introducing undergraduates to the archive

By Helen Biggs, on 26 January 2017

What was a typical school in 1914?

In a two-hour “Introduction to Archives” session earlier this term, first year students from the Education Studies BA at UCL Institute of Education studied a range of documents from the IOE Archives, to see what they could discover about schools in Britain before and after World War One.

Which archival materials best represent the education system during this time? Photographs from Regent’s Park Open Air School, showing students and teachers learning and teaching strictly outside the classroom? The Newcastle Upon Tyne Boys’ Industrial School dietary schedule, offering delectable meals like bread and dripping? Or a Girls Day School Trust admission register, carefully noting the occupations of pupils’ fathers – diplomats, doctors, and gentlemen?

These examples lead to just one inevitable deduction – that there was no such thing as a “typical” school – and that it’s very important to consult a range of archive resources before leaping to a conclusion!

The need for this “triangulation” of resources was again emphasised with in-depth look at the Baines Archive, which charts the work of George and Judith Baines at the very progressive Eynsham County Primary School from the 1960s to the 1980s. Students were asked not just to consider what is in the archive, but what isn’t there. Does the material that survives tell a particular story? Who decided that this was the story that should be told – and why?

The archivist-led “Introduction to Archives” tutorial runs annually as part of the Education Studies BA programme, and is integral to students learning how and why they should be using archival resources in their own work. Since the class’s inception in 2013, the number of IOE students using the IOE library’s archives and special collections has more than doubled, showing that these students do see real value in using original historical documents in their research and assignments.