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Special Collections content in new online collection: Pandemics, Society and Public Health 1517-1925

By Joanna C Baines, on 11 April 2024

Posted on behalf of Caroline Kimbell, Head of Commercial Digitisation:

In the aftermath of the Covid 19 pandemic, UCL has contributed around 12,000 images of rare books and original documents from our Special Collections to a prestigious new online teaching resource from British Online Archives:  Pandemics, Society and Public Health 1517-1925 launched this month (April 2024).

UCL content from 6 named Special Collections, the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies (SSEES), rare books from Stores, and the archive of Edwin Chadwick forms around a quarter of the new resource, alongside records from the National Archives, the British Library and London Metropolitan Archives.

Women wearing surgical masks during the influenza pandemic of 1919, Brisbane.

Women wearing surgical masks during the influenza pandemic of 1919, Brisbane.
State Library Queensland

Spurred by an all-too-understandable upsurge in research interest in pandemic history, the project focuses on primary sources relating to outbreaks of 4 diseases in British history – plague, cholera, smallpox and influenza. The academic call-to-arms for the project is summed up by editorial advisor Emeritus Professor Frank M Snowden of Yale: “Epidemic diseases are not random events that afflict societies capriciously and without warning… To study them is to understand [a] society’s structure, its standard of living and its political priorities”.

The online resource starts with documents relating to the first state-mandated quarantine in England, in 1517, but the earliest UCL items in the collection is a 1559 edition of William Bullein’s A newe boke of phisicke called ye gouernment of health. The project ends with the Spanish Flu epidemic which followed the First World War, on which UCL contributes a Ministry of Health Report on the pandemic of influenza 1918-1919 and a 1920 typescript Report on mortality among industrial workers, in relation to the influenza epidemic. UCL sources reflect the university’s preeminent focus on medical history, the development and application of vaccinations, and UCL sources are strong in campaigning, statistical and investigative works. Named Special Collections included in the selection include the Hume and Lansdowne Tracts, London History, Mocatta and Ogden collections, and material from our Medical History, Rare Books and SSEES collections are also included.

The main UCL archive represented is that of Edwin Chadwick (1800-1890), who began his career as secretary to UCL spritual founder Jeremy Bentham and was a lifelong campaigner for public health. He believed strongly that poverty was often the result of poor health, and poor health in turn was the result of poor living and working conditions, in particular sanitation. His lifelong campaigns, many focused on cholera, resulted in the passing of the first Public Health Act in 1848 and the establishment of the Board of Health, which he chaired until 1854. This digitisation programme includes selected reports, memos, statistics and 120 letters from his collection, with correspondents including Florence Nightingale, Lord Palmerstone and agriculturalist Philip Pusey.

The online collection is available now, and UCL library members will have access to the entire collection, which groups source materials into five themes: economics and disease, control measures, international relations, medicine and vaccination and public responses.

If you are a member of UCL Libraries, the new resource can be accessed by visiting our online Databases page and searching for ‘British Online Archives’. 

UCL’s Student Ephemera collection

By Leah Johnston, on 11 January 2024

Leah Johnston, Cataloguing Archivist (Records), shares details of a newly catalogued collection of student ephemera.

The Student Ephemera collection is a curated collection of manuscripts, publications, artwork, photographs, and objects, relating to the lives of UCL students, the Student Union, and members of UCL staff. The material dates from 1828 to 2002.

The collection was accumulated by UCL alum Dr Mark Curtin and donated to the Student Union, who in turn have deposited the material with UCL College Archives. Over the past year the collection has been fully catalogued and is now all available to view online.

A photograph of the front page of a programme for UCL's Foundation Week, dated March 1946. It includes a number of various signatures in black and blue ink.

UCLCA/SEC/A/2 Signed Foundation Week programme of celebrations, 1946.

The items within the collection are a representation of student life that complements and expands upon the institutional records held in the College Archive. It consists of a wide range of material, such as correspondence, programmes, tickets, newspaper clippings, leaflets, books, periodicals, photographs, and artwork. The collection also contains a significant number of objects including academic and sporting medals, and both UCL and Student Union branded memorabilia. A small number of items relating to the history of the university are also included, such as correspondence relating to its establishment, centenary publications, commemorative objects, and artwork.

The first series in the collection consists of manuscripts and records and contains items such as correspondence to and from students and staff, theatre and music production programmes, ephemera related to students’ sport, music and social events, newspaper clippings, a medical student’s notebook, and a University College Hospital [UCH] Socialist Society poster.

A scanned copy of a cutting from 'Melody Maker' newspaper advertising a Pink Floyd gig at UCL.

UCLCA/SEC/A/4: Cutting from ‘Melody Maker’ advertising a Pink Floyd gig at UCL, circa 1969.

Series two in the collection consists of publications either written by, or related to, past students and staff. There are also a couple of books which relate to the history of the university, along with some university produced publications. A small sub-series of articles taken from Pi Magazine, which were previously framed, are also included.

The third series comprises photographs and artwork related to UCL, the Student Union, and UCL students and staff. Included are some of the earliest photographs of the Wilkins building, portraits of Student Union presidents and officers, photographs of sports teams, plus various student association performances and events.

A black and white photograph of a group of UCL Dramsoc students during a performance of a play. They stand on the Wilkins' building Portico steps and are dressed in Medieval costumes.

UCLCA/SEC/C/1/21 Photograph of a Dramsoc play on the Portico, c.1947.

The remainder of the collection includes a large series of academic, sporting, commemorative and military medals, and a small series of objects. Included is a Botany Laboratory microscope, a silver cup awarded for first place in the UCH Athletic Club pole jump, a variety of UCL and SU branded memorabilia, such as a car bumper badge, silk tie, union badges and miniature ceramic models. One particularly interesting object in this final series is a Royal Doulton tyg cup which was awarded for first place in the UCH Athletic Club’s ¼ mile handicap race (pictured below). A tyg is a drinking vessel with three or more handles and is traditionally used for sharing a celebratory drink!

A photograph of a 1890 Royal Doulton tyg, or three handled cup, and two medals on an office desk.

Tyg awarded for the UCH ¼ mile handicap race in 1890, and two medals, in the process of being accessioned.

A considerable amount of the collection has formed part of the current Octagon Gallery exhibition, ‘Generation UCL’, which explores the lives of UCL students over two centuries and the foundational part they play to the story of the university. Mounted in the run up to UCL’s bicentenary celebrations in 2026, the exhibition also marks 130 years of Student’s Union UCL.

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

One of the entrances to the Gen UCL exhibition, on now at the Octagon Gallery.

If you would like to further explore the collection it can now be viewed online at https://archives.ucl.ac.uk/ and by typing ‘Student Ephemera Collection’ into the search bar.

To make an appointment to view the records, or for any queries regarding the collection or the catalogue, please contact us at spec.coll@ucl.ac.uk.

To read more about the Generation UCL exhibition visit the exhibition project page.

Cataloguing the papers of Anthony Lester, Lord Lester of Herne Hill

By utnvweb, on 12 December 2023

By Martin Woodward, Cataloguing Archivist, Lester Papers

The Project to catalogue the Papers of Anthony Lester, Lord Lester of Herne Hill (1936-2020) is now complete. Lester was an eminent barrister (QC), Special Adviser to Labour Home Secretary Roy Jenkins in the 1970s, and for twenty-five years a Liberal Democrat peer. During his time in the Lords, Lester’s Private Member’s Bills and tireless political work on behalf of human rights, equality and free speech helped bring about the Human Rights Act 1998, the Civil Partnership Act 2004, the Equality Act 2010, and the Defamation Act 2013.

Lester held visiting professorships at UCL, and we are very pleased that the Lester Papers are now available for research at UCL Special Collections.

Boxes in storage

Boxes of files from the Lester archive as received from the donor

There were two main elements to the project: appraisal and cataloguing. A careful process of appraisal has seen the reduction of an original deposit of 59 banker’s boxes of files to thirty smaller archive boxes of papers. The priorities during appraisal were to retain anything written by Lester, such as publications and correspondence, and records of House of Lords Written Answers where Lester asked the question. Accompanying documents, such as official publications, reports, and policy statements, in which Lester had no involvement, were generally not retained.

 

This process led to three main classes of material for cataloguing.

The first of these was Lester’s Written Answers, principally in the form of an apparently comprehensive chronological run of six files of Lester’s questions to Government Ministers covering the years 1993-2005, and a scattering of similar records elsewhere. One cannot fail to be amazed at the sheer number of questions put by Lester in the House of Lords during this period.

Front cover of 'The Politics of the Race Relations Act 1976' by Lord Lester

LESTER/207: Lester was co-founder and Chairman (1991-1993) of the race relations and civil rights think tank the Runnymede Trust. Image published with the permission of the Runnymede Trust.

The second category of material was Lester’s publications: book chapters, articles, speeches, lectures, letters to the press, and so on. Here also there was a very carefully arranged chronological run of papers by Lester in nine files covering the years 1964-2011 (the index lists 335 items). The publications demonstrate all Lester’s main concerns in Parliament: race relations, human rights, equality, constitutional matters, Northern Ireland, European law, and free speech. Lester’s written output is immense, as is the depth of his legal knowledge. There are also several other files of Lester’s articles and speeches, which are recorded separately in the catalogue. Lester’s Jewish origins are often reflected in his writings, such as when he refers to his father’s witnessing the activities of Sir Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts in the East End of London in the 1930s.

 

The third category was the subject files (such as papers on international Human Rights), reduced by appraisal largely to Lester’s own correspondence. Here again there was an original alphabetical subject file classification between LESTER/1 (Blasphemy) and LESTER/149 (Venice Commission), which has been followed in the online catalogue; thereafter the papers are not arranged in any recognisable order. The records of Lord Lester’s Office are in general extremely well kept. The subject files illustrate Lester’s work on behalf of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the early 1980s and the Liberal Democrats in the 1990s, and (principally) his political interests in the House of Lords between 1993 and 2015. The files contain letters, amongst many others, from Tony and Cherie Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Jack Straw, Shirley Williams, and Lord Scarman. Some of the correspondence is more personal in nature, such as a letter from Lester to Mohamed Al Fayed in 1994, thanking him for allowing Lester and his wife, Katya, to stay at Al Fayed’s Scottish estate.

The correspondence is notable for the evident warmth and respect in which Lester was held by his many contacts in the legal profession, politics and the media.

Image of the letter from Lester to the Minister of State

LESTER/195: letter from Lester to the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2005, seeking a review of the Government’s decision to withhold information about the invasion of Iraq.

Doodle of two inter-twined faces with the caption 'crime prevention and control and the treatment of offenders'

LESTER/165: one of Lester’s doodles, dating back to his days in the SDP.

Nor is humour lacking: a letter from the Parliamentary Group for World Government addressed to ‘Lord Anthony Leicester’ prompted the response: ‘Incidentally you might wish to note the spelling of my name because the Earl of Leicester would be upset’. Again, when Lester was asked his name and professional background by an interviewer in 2007 he replied: ‘Well, that’s not so easy because I changed my name when I became a member of the old people’s home but I was born Anthony Lester and I am now Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC’. And then there are the doodles. There is a scattering of these throughout the papers.

 

 

Government legislation on equality and human rights has produced enormous social change in this country since the Roy Jenkins era. It is my belief that the Lester archive will be a very important resource in future in understanding how that change occurred. The catalogue is available on our archives catalogue

 

 

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.

‘There is no university without its students’

By Leah Johnston, on 16 October 2023

On the 25th September a new exhibition, ‘Generation UCL: 200 Years of Student Life in London’, opened in UCL’s Octagon Gallery. The exhibition explores two centuries of student life at UCL, placing them at the centre of the university’s history. Mounted in anticipation of UCL’s bicentenary celebrations in 2026, it also marks 130 years of Students’ Union UCL, one of the largest student-led organisations in the world. Material has been contributed by UCL Special Collections, UCL Museums, Students’ Union UCL, and UCL alumni.

Photograph showing one of the exhibition lightboxes. It reads 'Without its students' in white font on a background of collaged photographs of students, all coloured in chartreuse and lilac. It sits above the first case in the exhibition which shows glimpses of some of items on display, including a blazer, photographs and documents.

A photograph of one of the lightboxes in the exhibition stating that there is no university ‘without its students’.

The exhibition is part of the wider Generation UCL research project, which looks to explore the lives of UCL students and present them as the real ‘founders’ of the university.

Over the past 9 months, members of the Special Collections team have been working alongside Professor Georgina Brewis and Dr Sam Blaxland, of the Generation UCL team, to select and prepare material for display. Fifty of the items featured in the exhibition are taken from the University College and IOE archive collections, making it one of the largest Special Collections exhibitions in recent years.

Photograph showing a member of the team installing some of the items in one of the exhibition cases. The man wears a green t-shift and black trousers, and has his back to the camera. He is perched half-way up a step ladder and is surveying the items already installed in the case.

Members of the North Star team installing Institute of Education items

Items included range from official UCL publications and records, such as student record cards, files and calendars, to union and society magazines and posters. Thanks to a recent donation by Students’ Union UCL of the collection of UCL alum, Professor Mark Curtin, we have had the opportunity to display a number of objects too. These include a 1940s blazer and silk scarf worn by Geography student Enid Sampson, a UCL Botany department microscope, academic medals and union badges.

Other objects were uncovered in the process of putting together the initial longlist. A visit to the College Archives silver store back in April resulted in the discovery of a full set of 1950s cutlery (including fish knife!) that had been used by students at Bentham Hall.

Photograph showing a full set of silver cutlery arranged in an exhibition cabinet. The cutlery is arranged in a dinner setting with a mint green plate and bowl in the centre. A black and white 1920s cartoon sits behind the place setting.

Bentham Hall cutlery on display alongside a 1918 Union Magazine cartoon, showing diners crowding around Refectory menus.

With a vast amount of material to choose from the process of shortlisting was tough! However, some clever design on the part of Polytechnic studio meant that we have also been able to display material that would otherwise have been left out. The two arches that lead into the gallery have now been covered in digitised copies of publications, posters, adverts, and invitations, which were created for, or by, UCL students. If you are in the space, see if you can spot a Student’s Guide to Computers from 1996, an advert for a 1960s Pink Floyd gig and a 1981 Student Survival guide with the title ‘Don’t panic: it’s too late anyway!’.

Photograph showing part of an archway into the Octagon Gallery at UCL. The archway is painted white and is completely covered in digitised images of UCL publications.

A snapshot of one of the arches leading into the Octagon Gallery

The exhibition is open now until August 2024 and is free for all to attend. For more information about the creation of the exhibition visit the exhibition project page.

Gaster Cataloguing Project: Part 2

By Katy Makin, on 22 September 2023

In our previous blog post we introduced our project to catalogue the archive of Moses Gaster, and looked at some of the letters sent to Gaster on topics as diverse as Sunday trading and Hebrew braille. In the second of our two posts relating to the project, Gaster Project Cataloguer Israel Sandman discusses Gaster’s charitable activities.

From the Gaster Archives: A Glimpse into Moses Gaster’s Charity Activities

By Dr Israel M. Sandman, Gaster Project Cataloguer

Moses Gaster was a multifaceted person. He was the chief rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in London, and, by extension, of all Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ congregations under the British Empire. He was a polymath academic scholar, with strong focuses on comparative folklore and linguistics. He was a key figure in the emergence of modern Zionism. And he was a go-to person for Jews worldwide, for help with their various needs and wants.

Charity Appeals to Gaster:

Daily, Moses Gaster received multiple charity appeals, some in the post, and some in person during his reception hours. While he donated from his personal funds to Jewish and other worthy causes, as seen in receipts, lists of donors, and gentle reminders to honour his pledges, what he could do from his own funds was a mere drop in the ocean of need.

[Image and Transcription of Receipt for Donation made by Gaster (file 131, item 44)]

UCL Special Collections, Gaster Archive, GASTER/9/1 [formerly file 131/44]

Royal Asiatic Society
22, ALBEMARLE STREET, W.
346
March 15, 1900
Received from Dr. Gaster the sum of One Guinea as a donation to the Medical Fund.
£1-1-0
[Signed] Secretary

Charitable Funds on a Community Level:

Addressing the vast needs faced by people in fincial hardship required charitable funds on a community level. Charitable funds established in the Jewish community enabled Gaster to help the Jewish individuals and worthy institutions that turned to him from Palestine, North Africa, elsewhere in the Near East, India, West Indies, Eastern and Central Europe, the East End of London, the length and breadth of Britain, and elsewhere. We shall examine two such funds, one of which was well established, and another of which was an ad-hoc fund set up to meet a specific need.

Case 1: Gaster Helps S. Edelstein via the Board of Guardians of the Poor of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue:

Shalom Edelstein was a Romanian Jew residing in London’s East End, which at the turn from the 19th to the 20th century was the first place of settlement for many Jews from Central and Eastern Europe. Reading between the lines of Edelstein’s 21 March 1899 postcard to Gaster, written in ornate Hebrew full of allusions to classical Jewish literature, and in which he mentions his ill health, one gets the impression that Edelstein was more a man of the mind than a man of the body, and that he shared interests with his “landsman” Gaster.

London 21/4/99
כבוד הרב החכם הבלשן
סופר מהיר בלשונות החיות, רב ודרשן
לעדת הפורטוגעזים, בעיר הבירה לונדן,
והמדינה וע”א כש”ת מו[“]ה ד.ר. גאשטער נ”י.
הנני בזה לכתוב למ”כ
את רשומתי, כמו שבקש מאותי, אולי יאבה
לכבדני במכתבו, ומפני כי מעת ראיתי פני
כ”מ, לא נתחדש שום דבר, – רק שאני חלש
מאד, ואנני בקו הבריאה, עד כי בכבדות
אוכל לקום ממשכבי, – לכן אקצר
ואומר שלום.
והנני מוקירו ומכבדו כערכו הרם.
פ”ש, כשמי, – שלום
הן תוי ונוי
S. Edelstein
17 Winterton St.
Commercial Road, E.
Image of S. Edelstein’s 21 March 1899 Mostly Hebrew Postcard to Gaster (file 117, item 9)]
London 21/4/99

His honour, rabbi, sage, linguist, speedy scribe in living languages, rabbi and preacher to the congregation of Portuguese [Jews] in the capital city London and the [entire] country, and furthermore [possessor of] the ‘crown of Torah’, our Master Rabbi Dr Gaster, may his lamp shine!

I am hereby writing my address [Hebrew: רשומתי or רשימתי] to his honour, as requested by him. Perchance he will desire to honour me with a letter? On account of the fact that since I have seen his honour’s face, nothing new has occurred – aside from my being very weak: I am not keeping in good health, so much so that it is only with difficulty that I can arise from my couch – I will therefore be brief, and say ‘farewell’ [Hebrew: Shalom].

I hereby hold him precious and honour him, in keeping with his lofty worthiness,

Greetings of Shalom, in keeping with my name, Shalom [Peace], being my mark and my charm
S. Edelstein
17 Winterton St.
Commercial Road, E.

[Image, Transcription, and Translation of S. Edelstein’s 21 March 1899 Mostly Hebrew Postcard to Gaster. UCL Special Collections, Gaster Archive, GASTER/9/1. Formerly file 117, item 9]

Multiple Communications Between Edelstein and Gaster:

This was not their first communication. In the postcard, Edelstein refers to their having had a face-to-face meeting; and he notes that Gaster had asked him for his reshuma / רשומה [or: reshima / רשימה], presumably meaning his address. Presumably, this indicates that Edelstein had asked Gaster for assistance; and that Gaster was going to try and help him. Three days later, on 24 April 1899, Edelstein sent another postcard to Gaster, this one in Romanian. Apparently, to help Edelstein, Gaster turned to the charity board of the synagogue of which he was rabbi, the Board of Guardians of the Poor of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue.

[S. Edelstein’s 24 March 1899 Romanian Postcard to Gaster (file 117, item 20)]

UCL Special Collections, Gaster Archives, GASTER/9/1 [formerly file 117/20]

The Board of Guardians’ Approval:

Nine days later, on the 3rd of May, Gaster received a memo from the Board of Guardians. They would cover Edelstein’s train fare from London to Liverpool, and his boat fare from Liverpool to New York. However, that cost £5, and they did not have anything additional to offer Edelstein. Although that would mean that Edelstein would arrive penniless in New York, the Board had reason to believe that Edelstein would nonetheless be admitted to the USA. It seems that Edelstein was permitted to enter the United States, for we have a long letter, in Romanian, which he sent to Gaster from New York. Towards the end of that letter, he updates Gaster about a certain D. Gottheil. The Gaster Archive contains letters to Gaster from a Professor Richard Gottheil, relevant to the writing of Jewish Encyclopedia articles and possibly to Zionism; but it is unclear whether there is a link from Richard to D. Gottheil.

Image of a letter of Approval by the ‘Board of Guardians of the Poor’ of the ‘Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue’ to Cover S. Edelstein’s Travel Expenses from London to Liverpool to New York (file 118, item 11


London May 3rd 1899

Dear Dr. Gaster,
re – S. Edelstein
With difficulty I succeeded in securing a passage for this man per “Tonfariro” which will sail from Liverpool on Saturday next. The fare came to £5 which includes railway fare to Liverpool so that I have nothing to hand over to the man. I am informed that by this line it is not necessary for him to have a certain sum of money in his pocket on arrival in New York.
Yours faithfully,
J.Piza

The Board
would do nothing
for Haham Abohab
J.P.

[UCL Special Collections, Gaster Archive, GASTER/9/1. Formerly file 118/11]

The Limitations of Working Through the Board of Guardians of the Poor:

In addition to the limits of what the Board felt capable of doing for Edelstein, at the end of their memo, the chairman adds an apologetic side note. He mentions that the Board did not approve a different request, for funding for a certain Hakham (rabbi/sage) Abohab. It is noteworthy that Edelstein was a Central / Eastern European Jew, while the name Abohab indicates a Jew from the Islamic countries. Although the Spanish and Portuguese tradition is more aligned with the traditions of the Islamicate Jews, the Spanish and Portuguese Board approved Edelstein’s request, not Abohab’s. This seems to indicate an objectivity on the part of the Board. It appears that the reason for the Board’s limits in giving was the fact that the Synagogue was experiencing financial difficulties; and in order for Gaster to carry out his wide range and full scale of charitable activities, he needed additional sources of funding, beyond those available through his own congregation

Letter refarding The Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue’s Financial Difficulties, 1900

UCL Special Collections, Gaster Archive, GASTER/9/1 [formerly file 131/85]

London E.C., 29th March 5660 1900

Dear Sir,
The Gentlemen of the Mahamad [executive committee] invite your attention to the Statements of Accounts of the Synagogue, and the Report of same for the year 1899, which have been circulated amongst the Yehidim [members] of the Congregation, & I have particularly to point out that the result of the year’s working shews a deficit of £595.-, and that the Elders have been compelled to sell out Capital Stock to meet this & other deficiencies accrued since 1895, amounting in the aggregate to £1608.-
This position, which is a very serious one, was duly considered by the Elders at their recent Annual Meeting, and they requested the Mahamad to take such steps as they might think necessary, to call attention, in the first instance  …

 

The Ad Hoc Fund for “Our Poor Roumanian Brethren”:

The Crisis of Romanian Jewry:

One additional source of charity funds, independent of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue and its Board of Guardians, is an ad hoc fund that Gaster seems to have created himself. The fund is for ‘our poor Roumanian Brethren’, as described in Benjamin Ritter’s letter to Gaster, accompanying a cheque from a collection taken up in Vine Court Synagogue. At this juncture (around 1900), Romanian Jews were experiencing an unusual level of persecution, and were seeking to leave Romania. From all directions, individuals and institutions were turning to Gaster for solutions and financial help; and Gaster did respond.

Letter from Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company for Donald Currie & Co., Seeking Gaster’s Advice on How to Handle the Anticipated Increase of Jews Seeking to Emigrate from Romania, and Mentioning Gaster’s Involvement with the Issue (file 135, item 120)

UCL Special Collections, Gaster Archive. GASTER/9/1 [formerly file 135/20]

The Vine Court Synagogue:

The Vine Court Synagogue was a congregation of Eastern European Jews, in the Whitechapel section of London’s East End. As noted, the East End was the first place of settlement for many Eastern European Jews. Thus, this congregation would have had particular sympathy for the Romanian Jews, as did Gaster, who was a Romanian Jew, and who received many charity appeals from the community of his origin. Gaster’s relationship with the Eastern European immigrant Jews of the East End came to good use in his finding the best ways to help his Romanian brethren.

Image of the Letter from B. Ritter to Gaster, Regarding the Vine Court Synagogue’s Collection on Behalf of the Romanian Jews

UCL Special Collections, Gaster Archive, GASTER/9/1 [formerly file 135/81]

53 Parkholme Rd
Dear Dr Gaster
I am forwarding you a cheque for 23/- which I have collected at a meeting of the Vine Court Synagogue for our poor Roumanian Brethren. I have also paid 7/- for two weeks rent for a family. I have also arranged for the rent to be paid until she is sent away. I hope that will meet with your approval.
I remain
Yours faithfully
B Ritter

The Blaustein (Bluestein) Family and their Relocation from Romania to London:

Another Romanian Jewish party helped through Gaster’s efforts is the Blaustein (Bluestein) family. (The surname seems to have been anglicised from Blaustein to Bluestein.) While it would take further research to try to discover the source of the funds Gaster used to help them, and to piece together this family’s full story and the relationship between all the family members, the partial story that emerges from the documents below is worthwhile in and of itself.

Mrs. Ch. Bluestein was a Romanian Jewish widow. One of her sons had a disability. Gaster had helped the family, and now they were established in London. The son with the disability was gainfully employed. Another son, who was to be married, ‘also earns a nice living’. Mrs Bluestein writes to invite the Gasters to the wedding, and to express her gratitude to Moses Gaster.

Image of Personal Letter of Gratitude to Gaster, Accompanied by a Wedding Invitation (file 131, item 58)]

UCL Special Collections. Gaster Archive, GASTER/9/1 [fomerly file 131/58]

2 Virginia Place
Lower Chapman Str.
Commercail [sic] Rd E
London March 20 1900
Reverand [sic] Sir

I beg to enclose your invite for my son’s wedding. I hope you will come, as you was always a good friend to me when in need so I am happy to let you know of my joy thank God my son is doing a respectable match – and I hope you will live to see joy by your dear children in happiness with your dear wife I am the widow whom you helped to bring over the crippled son from Bucherst, he is grateful to you as he thank God earns £2 – 0 – – weekly – and is quite happy – and my son that is to be married also earns a nice living. We often bless you for everything & I am pleased to tell you of my joy as well as I did my trouble. With best respect, yours gratefully,

Mrs Bluestein

Printed Wedding Invitation Addressed to the Gasters, Sent by Mrs Ch. Bluestein. The Hebrew line at the top is from the prophecy of restoration in Jerimiah 33:11, and is used in the Jewish wedding liturgy: ‘A voice of joy and a voice of gladness, a groom’s voice and a bride’s voice’.

In Summary

Gaster was heavily involved in charity work, on a scale that required communal funding. Although the Board of Guardians of the Poor of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, Gaster’s congregation, provided funding for those beyond their own community, they were too financially limited to finance the full scope of Gaster’s work. Thus, we see that Gaster raised charity funds elsewhere, too. One example of this is Gaster’s ad hoc fundraising network on behalf of Romanian Jewry, which at the turn from the nineteenth to the twentieth century was undergoing strong persecution. We see how Gaster met this challenge, and we see the sweet fruit of his labour.

Blog post by Israel M. Sandman

Galton Laboratory Records

By Sarah S Pipkin, on 7 September 2023

Leah Johnston, Cataloguing Archivist (Records), shares details of the Galton Laboratory archive.

Content warning: This blog includes details of records and objects that relate to racist, ableist and classist beliefs. The ideas within this material do not reflect the current views of UCL.

 

The Galton Laboratory Records form a collection of archives recording parts of the laboratory’s history, from its creation in 1904, up to the late 1990s. Much of the material was donated to UCL Special Collections in 2011, with some smaller accessions added since then. Over the past year the collection has been fully catalogued and is now all available to view online.

The origins of the Galton Laboratory at UCL can be traced back to 1904 when Francis Galton established the Eugenics Record Office in Gower Street, Bloomsbury. Although the laboratory was not officially part of the university at that time, a connection was formed with Galton endowing UCL with an annual £500 Fellowship of National Eugenics. In 1906 Professor Karl Pearson took over Directorship of the Eugenics Record Office, while still informally working alongside Galton. After Galton’s death in 1911, the residue of his estate was bequeathed to the university, under the condition that it was used to establish a Chair of Eugenics, whose role would be to direct research into ‘those causes under social control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations either physically or morally’.

Sepia photograph of the Anthropometric Laboratory, South Kensington, 1884. Wood cases stretch into the distance.

GALTON LABORATORY/4/1/8 – Photograph of the Anthropometric Laboratory, South Kensington, 1884.

This early history of the laboratory is recorded in a series of administrative papers within the collection. Included is early correspondence between Galton, Pearson and P J Hartog (the then Academic Registrar), regarding their proposed scheme for a laboratory at the university, plus copies of Galton’s will and related planning for the establishment of a Chair of Eugenics. While these files include high level planning, other papers record more practical decisions, such as plans for the proposed new building. Below is an estimate for blinds to be supplied by James Shoolbred & Co. Ltd, including a small sample of green cloth.

Handwritten Estimate for blinds from James Shoolbred and Co., on lined paper. Pinned to the top left corner is a sample of green fabric, 1921.

GALTON LABORATORY/1/6/3 – Estimate for blinds from James Shoolbred and Co., including a sample of fabric, 1921.

Other series include papers accumulated by the laboratory, records of laboratory publications (such as the Annals of Eugenics, The Treasury of Human Inheritance and Eugenics Laboratory Memoirs), and research working papers.

Weldon pedigree mice schedule, consisting of several lines and charts showing the pedigree of individual mice.

GALTON LABORATORY/2/3/3 – Weldon pedigree mice schedule, 1905-1906.

The remaining series consist of photographs, artwork, audio-visual material, and objects.

Artwork in the collection includes portraits of individuals connected either to Galton, or to the laboratory, alongside early watercolours of scientific specimens and samples. It appears from related annotations that they were either displayed in the laboratory or were used in their publications.

Four watercolour illustrations. Two show close up images of the human eye. The other two show detailed illustrations of the interior of the eye.

GALTON LABORATORY/4/2/6 – Watercolour illustrations of human eyes, 1915.

A series of photographs are similarly varied and were also used in publications, displayed in the laboratory, or kept as reference material. Included below is an image of Francis Galton seated on his porch, with his servant standing behind him and holding his pet Pekingese puppy.

A damaged discoloured photograph. A man sits in front, wearing a broad brimmed hat and holding several papers in his hands. A man in a a butler suit stands behind him holding a small white dog.

GALTON LABORATORY/4/1/19 – Photograph of Francis Galton seated on his porch, with his servant Alfred Gifi, who is holding Galton’s Pekingese puppy, Wee Ling, c.1910.

This is contrasted against a more recent addition to the collection, which is one of three photographs showing women working in the laboratory in the early 1900s.

Black and white photo of two women working on desks in front of an open window. Sunligh is streaming through the window and the women seem to be processing skulls

GALTON LABORATORY/4/1/17 – Women working in laboratory, early 20th century.

Alongside other UCL Library and Culture collections, the Galton Laboratory Records help to form a fuller record of the history of the laboratory and in turn, its legacy at UCL. If you would like to further explore the collection it can now be viewed on our online archives catalogue and by typing ‘Galton Laboratory Records’ into the search bar.

To make an appointment to view the records, or for any queries regarding the collection or the catalogue, please contact us at spec.coll@ucl.ac.uk.

MS Mocatta 20: Taking a closer look at fragments of a 14th century Quran

By Sarah S Pipkin, on 30 June 2023

Over the course of Spring 2023 we worked with our UCL Library Services’ colleague Abida S. to take a closer look at MS Mocatta 20: Fragments from the Holy Quran.

I am grateful to have been given this opportunity to take part in a fun project with UCL’s Special Collections team to showcase a 14th century Quran manuscript on the library social media account. The Quran is the holy book for Muslims. To be able to witness first- hand a Quran manuscript from the 14th Century was a special moment. I had this overwhelming feeling of awe and fascination when viewing a piece of history that has been preserved so well for centuries and I was able to read this Quranic Arabic text that is written in an intricate “muhaqqaq” script. This is the same Quranic words that is read today, unchanged.

Image of a book open to an elaborately decorated page. The paper is durty but the arabic script is still very clear. Surounding the script is an intricate blue and gold leaf pattern. The light is shining off of the gold leaf at the bottom of the page.

MS Mocatta 20. Photo by Abida S.

The Holy Quran is the sacred religious book of Islam. In Islam, the Quran is God communicating with mankind. Reciting the Quran is a religious duty for Muslims, especially during Ramadan. It allows you to connect with the Quran’s message and is a rewarding spiritual practice.

UCL’s manuscript, MS Mocatta 20, is thought to date from the 14th and 15th Century and was previously owned by the historian Fredrick David Mocatta. Upon his death in 1905, the Jewish Historical Society of England deposited his collection with UCL. It is unknown how this Arabic manuscript ended up in Mocatta’s collection, but he may have acquired it as part of his historical research.

The manuscript is written in an intricate “muhaqqaq” script in black ink. This majestic type of script was considered one of the most beautiful, as well as one of the most difficult to execute well. A distinct characteristic of this script is that it’s descending strokes end in a straight, sharp point rather than turning upwards in a hook.

Close up of the arabic script used in the Mocatta manuscript. The background is decorated in a faint floral pattern and there is a gold leaf flower on the top portion of a verse.

First two lines of leaf 2r of MS Mocatta 20

UCL’s fragments include juz’ 19 of the Quran, Surah 25 titled “Al-Furqan, The Criterion”. It is the 42nd Surah to be revealed in the Quran. This juz’, which means part, contains verses 21 to the beginning of verse 62 from Surah Al-Furqan. These particular verses deal with themes of prophethood and resurrection on the Final day of Judgement and the believers’ place in Heaven.

A large, circular design created with blue and green ink, decorated with gold leaf

A large, elaborate roundel

A smaller roundel above some text. It is made out of gold leaf and is decorated with blue and red ink. Some of the gold leaf has rubbed away

A smaller roundel showing signs of wear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are small roundels on the pages which are used to mark the beginning of each verse. Verse 21 has a decorative page which indicates the start of the juz’ 19 in this surah. These pages are part 19 of the 30 sections of the Quran. This manuscript fragments are written in ink on paper, with colored symbols and gold leaf detailing. It is unknown why these particular pages did not arrive as part of the complete Quran. However, the condition of this manuscript and signs of wear suggest it was regularly read and transported around.

Close up of a detailed and heavily decorated page from MS Mocatta 20. The edge of the page is very worn, and in the centre is large, clear arabic script. There is an intricate border around it with blue ink and gold leaf decorations. Thelight is shining off of the gold leaf.

First page of MS Mocatta 20. Photo by Abida S.

I appreciate how I was given access to a Special Collections archive of a 14th Century Quran manuscript. It not only allowed me to interact with a historical, significant religious holy book that is key to my Muslim identity; but it also introduced me to the traditional format of manuscripts from the past and the physical material and finish of one. Access to Quran manuscripts from the past is so important to keep awareness of traditional manuscripts and religion alive and to appreciate and understand the culture of religious manuscripts.

Thank you again to Abida for her research into MS Mocatta 20! Portions of the juz’ have been digitised, and our collections are open to anyone to come and view. For details on how to make an appointment to view items in our collection such as MS Mocatta 20, check out our “visiting us” page.

 

 

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.

Royal History: A close look at George VI’s Coronation Programme

By Sarah S Pipkin, on 5 May 2023

Colin Penman, Head of UCL Records, writes about a newly uncovered item in the UCL Records collection.

In the timely way that these things can happen, I recently came across an official souvenir programme for the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in May 1937:

Red book which reads 'The Coronation of Their Majesties King George VI & Queen Elizabeth'

As this is the last time there was a coronation of a king and a queen consort –Charles III’s grandfather and grandmother – it has been interesting to compare the occasion with Saturday’s event. The procession and liturgy are very similar, these things changing little over time. There will be new music and prayers, and the much-publicised ‘Homage of the People’. But some elements of the ceremony date back to before the Norman Conquest, for example the Presentation, when the king is ‘presented’ to the four points of the compass.

The programme itself is quite a lovely thing, a lavish 36 page quarto  booklet with decorative embossed card covers, glassine protective sheets, and nice watered-silk end papers. It seems to be bound with cord rather than staples – you can see it here at the centre pages, which show the route of the procession:

George VI Cornoation Route

Interestingly, on the right hand side, just above the compass, is the ‘Site of New Waterloo Bridge’, not completed until the middle of the Second World War, largely with women’s labour. We can compare this route with a London Transport map which can be found in the Gaitskell papers in Special Collections, showing the route of Queen Elizabeth II’s procession in 1953:

TFL Map showing Elizabeth II coronation route

GAITSKELL/G/MISCELLANEOUS PAMPHLETS AND OTHER PAPERS

Not much between them. King Charles, on the other hand, will simply travel up Whitehall and down the Mall to get back to Buckingham Palace:

Charles III cornoation route

Image from gov.uk

 

The programme for George VI’s coronation includes a coloured, embossed title page:

Embossed title page with the royal coat of arms which reads 'The Coronation of their majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth'

and another showing the emblems of the king’s Dominions, which definitely wouldn’t look so crowded in today’s equivalent:

Page featuring coat of arms for each member of the British Empire and British Territories in 1937.

This is followed by a poem by the Poet Laureate, John Masefield, very much of its time: ‘Make wise the councils of the men who sway / The Britain here, the Britains far away’. There is also an interesting essay on the ceremony itself by the Garter King of Arms, the full order of service, and a genealogical table showing the king’s descent from William the Conqueror. The latter can’t compete for splendour with UCL’s own MS ANGL/3, a giant 15th century roll, 10 feet long, showing the supposed lineage of the kings of England all the way back to Adam – you can see a video about MS ANGL/3 online. However, the lineage in George VI’s programme is presumably more accurate.

I don’t know how or why we ended up with this item.  It was found in a box of uncatalogued College archive material, where it obviously doesn’t belong. It’s accompanied by a card from the Vicar of St Peter, Vere Street, and a copy of his sermon, so perhaps there’s a clue there:

A blue pamphlet with the title 'The Coronation of the King: Sermon preached by the REV. DR. Mions Devine in the Church of St. Peter with St. Thomas, Vere Street, W.1., on Sunday Morning May 9th, 1937.' Underneath the pamphlet is a card from Minos Devine, however his handwriting is very hard to read.

I have no information so far on Minos Devine, but hope to find a connection to one of our existing collections. If not, this will be an interesting addition to our London History collection.

Hidden in Plain Sight: Why Liberating our Collections matters

By Sarah S Pipkin, on 20 April 2023

The following is by Rozz Evans, Head of Collection Strategy and co-chair of the Library Liberating the Collections Steering Group. It was originally published in the introduction to our 2023 Exhibition Catalogue “Hidden in Plain Sight: Liberating our Library Collections” and has been slightly edited for the purposes of the blog.

Striking cover of 'Black Orpheus 20' with an intricate pruple and black design

Black Orpehus 20, part of the 2023 Main Library Exhibition

UCL Library Services holds a rich and diverse range of collections containing almost two million printed items (alongside an extensive digital library). These collections comprise both Special Collections (a term that we use broadly to describe our rare books, archives and records)  and Teaching Collections. As Head of Collection Strategy, I work closely with our Head of Special Collections, Sarah Aitchison. We are responsible not only for the development, care and curation of our collections, but also for ensuring that we prioritise our effort and resources in the form of money, staff and space. An important aspect of this is our commitment to uncovering the hugely diverse material within our existing collections, enabling us to give a  voice to those who have been historically less visible.

As an institution, UCL has been very public about its commitment to addressing issues  around Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) for some years. Arguably the most high-profile work has been around eugenics, UCL’s part in  its history and its enduring impact.

However, institutional effort goes far wider than this. For example, UCL was one of the first institutions in the UK to set up its Liberating the  Curriculum project in 2016 to improve the inclusivity and diversity of its reading lists. One of the outcomes of this was a community of  practice, bringing together colleagues from across the university who are working in this area; this now has a broader remit than the original  project.

Cover of "Early Efforts by the Misses Moss of the Hebrew Nation, aged 18 and 16"

“Early Efforts by the Misses Moss”

It is this group that inspired the name of our Library Liberating the Collections Steering Group (LLTC), which we set up in July 2020 to plan, monitor and oversee our work in this area. We have developed an action plan based around three key themes of Description and Visibility,  Collection Policy and Communication and Engagement.

‘Liberating’ is a term that already has currency in UCL and beyond. It conveys an active approach to this work and its broadness  demonstrates how this group is working to uncover, identify and promote a more inclusive collection in relation to all under-represented  voices. This means that although there will be specific projects in the realm of decolonisation, for example, the remit is broader than race and  racism. We feel strongly that it is important not to use terminology such as decolonisation as a shorthand for wider issues around diversity and inclusion.

UCL Library Services’ collections were initially built from departmental libraries, gifts, donations and bequests, supplemented by some  purchases. In the library’s earliest accessions registers it is clear that the focus was on generating teaching collections and filling shelves. This meant that there was no strategic approach to developing a collection, and therefore was primarily reflective of the status of donors. This is  very different to how we acquire material today. This involves a much more selective, considered and proactive process, governed by clear  and transparent collection policies that are available on our website.

Cover of the New Tribe, which shows three abstract figures wearing crowns

Our newly reclassified copy of “The New Tribe”

This also means that in some cases – particularly in our older material – our collections tend to reflect historic bias and structural  inequalities in the university and in the society of the time. These include a normalisation of white, male, Western-centric theories, views,  experiences and opinions. This certainly does not mean that we do not hold material which relates to under-represented authors and  communities. However, it has become apparent that many of the systems and processes traditionally used by libraries in the curation,  management and description of the collections serve to perpetuate systemic bias and can make it difficult to discover this material. For example, the widespread adoption of international cataloguing standards, such as Library of Congress Subject Headings, makes it difficult to  challenge or change the use of outdated or discriminatory language in catalogue records.

We are also aware that our collections include content that is now considered discriminatory or harmful, and we must be explicit that its existence in our collections does not represent UCL’s current views.

Traditionally libraries have hidden behind ‘neutrality’ as a way of  preserving objectionable content without proper contextualisation, regardless of the harm it can cause to our academic and cultural  understanding of these items. However, their historical importance means that we cannot simply remove or delete such items from our  collections. Instead we are looking at how we can contextualise such material, acknowledging where necessary the harm these items might do to some of our users and alerting them to problematic content where we can. Pairing re-contextualisation with a celebration of previously ignored voices allows us to have a fuller understanding of our history and culture.

Cover of "Girls Education: What do you think?"

“Girls Education: What do you think?”, part of the Mariana Foster archives collection

Working in this space tends to require a lot of background research and reflection before any work can begin, much less before the books and other materials are made available for use. “Hidden in Plain Sight” does not represent a finished project, but sets the scene for ongoing investigation,  discovery and promotion. Staff and volunteers have been working for many months or years, and this will continue to be the case. In the next few years we hope that more of our collections – already full of interesting stories, diverse voices and differing perspectives on colonialism –  will be accessible to students, staff and researchers. “Hidden in Plain Sight” is thus a teaser of things to come.

We hope that this exhibition also embodies a spirit of hope and excitement, as well as an ongoing commitment to ensuring that UCL Library’s collections are truly reflective of the richness and diversity of our shared history.

For more information on the history of UCL Library Services, check out our 2019 Exhibition catalogue “From Small Library Beginnings: a brief history of UCL Library Services.”

Hidden in Plain Sight: Liberating our Collections” is on display in the Main Library Stairwell and 1st floor until December 2023. Exhibition items and catalogue are also available online.

New Exhibition: Hidden in Plain Sight

By Sarah S Pipkin, on 30 March 2023

Our new Main Library exhibition “Hidden in Plain Sight: Liberating our Library Collections” is now open! The exhibition is free and open to members of the public.

Graphic which reads: Hidden in Plain Sight: Liberating our Library Collections. March-December 2023. A free exhibition highlighting UCL Library Services’ work to discover, record and celebrate the diverse voices in our collections. On display in the Main Library Stairwell and 1st floor.  To learn more, search ‘UCL Library Exhibitions.’ Graphic features UCL banner and a woodcut of a woman in 17th century dress.

Across UCL Library Services, staff members, students and volunteers have been working together to discover, record and celebrate the diverse voices in our collections. Through a number of projects, overseen by the Library Liberating the Collections Steering Group, we have gained a better understanding of our collections and improved their accessibility. However, we are at the early stages of this important initiative and there is still more work to be done.

The exhibition is located in the Main Library Staircase and First Floor. It is open to the public – just speak to a member of the Main Library front desk about getting a 15 minute pass to see the exhibition.

A catalogue for the exhibition is available online.

Items in the exhibition have also been digitised.

Photo of the Main Exhibition display

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.

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.

The Royal Bounty Archive

By uczcmba, on 3 September 2021

French Protestants became one of the largest group of immigrants in England from the 16th to the 18th century. A small number of refugees started arriving from the 1520s onwards, especially during periods when persecution increased in France. Emigration began to decrease at the beginning of the 17th century thanks to more favourable conditions for Huguenots in their own country after the promulgation of the Edict of Nantes, but then increased again during the dragonnades, which started in 1681, and peaked in 1685 with the Edict of Fontainebleau. The latter, which effectively revoked the 1598 Edict, stipulated that all Huguenot ministers were to be expelled and that the laity had to convert to Catholicism and was furthermore forbidden to leave the country. Nevertheless, c. 40-50,000 French Protestants fled to England but for the most part had to leave all their belongings behind and therefore, many arrived entirely destitute. It soon became clear that substantial aid would need to be dispensed.

James II initially ordered collections to be carried out in Anglican churches for the benefit of Huguenots between 1686 and 1688. The first brief was issued on 5 March 1686 and originated from a petition by the Ministers and churchwardens of the Savoy French Church. The King intended the collection to be for the relief of Huguenots conforming to the Church of England only. Indeed, the potential applicants had to show certificates of having received communion according to the Church of England’s practices. A second brief was issued in 1688 but crucially did not mention that Huguenots had to conform in order to be considered.

A more structured way of providing for the refugees directly from funds from the Civil List was then created by joint monarchs William and Mary, in 1689: The Royal Bounty. On 5 May 1689, William III issued a declaration encouraging Huguenots to make their way to England and promised them protection and support. Responsibility for administering the funds was given to a number of eminent Englishmen, called the Commissioners, and to a French Committee. The Commissioners were appointed directly by the King and were responsible for overseeing the entire operation. On the other hand, the French Committee was composed entirely of Huguenots who had to decide who would get financial assistance and then allocate the money accordingly. From 1696, the distribution was split between the laity and the clergy, represented by two distinct committees. In 1705, the English Committee was set up and its members, nominated by the Commissioners, were tasked with auditing the accounts. These were deposited in the Chamber of London, at Guildhall.

Outside of London, distributions to the poor were carried out by the Huguenot churches, who received block grants, whereas other categories of recipients, such as the nobility and the bourgeoisie, had to apply directly to London. In the capital, two companies were set up to achieve the same aim: one in the City and one in Westminster. Below are two petitions from the French Hospital collection mentioning that both individuals were reliant on the Royal Bounty or bénéficence royale, prior to applying to live in the Hospital.

André Morelon’s petition to the French Hospital, 1783-1785

Catherine Lambert’s petition
to the French Hospital, 1783-1785

 

The papers housed in the Huguenot Library are those of the French Committee. The largest group of manuscripts are the certified accounts which were kept meticulously and list all those receiving funds as well as the respective amounts. They were divided into several categories differentiating the various persons receiving aid and/or the reasons why they needed it. Categories would include, amongst others, funds for the nobility, clergy, country churches, bourgeoisie and those of the lower classes. The amounts allocated to each category was decided in advance with the higher classes, incongruously from a modern viewpoint, receiving the most funds.

Schedule of the payments, under various
heads, authorized for the relief of poor
refugees for 6 months, 8 December 1699

 

Funds were not just distributed to individuals but sometimes also earmarked for a specific purpose, such as payments for funerals, emigration to colonies in the West Indies, establishment of apprenticeships and payment for Huguenots who looked after French Protestant orphans. They were also providing aid to Huguenot organisations such as schools for refugee children and the Pest House, the precursor of the French Hospital, located near Bunhill Fields.

Undertakers’ bill for interments,
November 1753-July 1760

Receipt for money and clothing for orphans by order of the Church of St Martin Orgars, 1735

 

In 1802, the Treasury, which had become responsible for issuing payments for the Royal Bounty, began to question the Committee more rigorously, with the intention of eventually winding up the funds. The gradual extinction of the pensions paid concluded in 1876, when the last payment was made to one Sarah Rignon.

The importance of this collection is not limited to the story of the grant itself, its organisation, distribution and the challenges it faced, but also derives from the detailed information it provides on the individual recipients: their family unit, original provenance in France, occupation and possible health conditions. Finally, it documents to some extent the running and activities of the French Churches involved in the distribution, as well as giving us a snapshot of part of the Huguenot community in England during this period. It can be argued that the Royal Bounty was instrumental in helping Huguenots to assimilate and in some cases prosper in England.

The Huguenot Society decided to digitise the microfiches of this entire collection and make them available on the members’ area of the Society’s website, which can also be accessed by UCL staff and students, upon request.

The project was approved in May 2019, and went live a year later. The digitisation of the 646 fiches, consisting of 12 x 5 images each was outsourced; whereas the creation of a searchable catalogue to which the images of the manuscripts would be attached was done in-house. The resulting resource has not only made this collection more accessible, especially during the various lockdowns, but has also substantially improved its cataloguing, as records for each constituent item had to be created. In turn, this benefits those who prefer to still visit and see the original documents.

If you would like to access the Royal Bounty archive online or would like to visit the library, please contact the Huguenot Library at: library@huguenotsociety.org.uk

By Micol Barengo

Further reading:

Escot, Margaret M., ‘Profiles of relief: Royal Bounty grants to Huguenot refugees, 1686-1709’ in Proceedings of the Huguenot Society, vol. 25, issue 3 (1991)

Rey, Claudius, An account of the cruel persecutions rais’d by the French clergy since their taking sanctuary here… (London: Printed for J. Roberts, 1718)

Smith, Raymond, Records of the Royal Bounty and connected funds, the Burn donation, and the Savoy Church in the Huguenot Library. Quarto Series volume 51 (London: Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1974)

Smith, Raymond, ‘Financial aid to French Protestant refugees 1681-1727: Briefs and the Royal Bounty’ in Proceedings of the Huguenot Society, vol. 22, issue 3 (1973)

Sundstrom, Roy A., Aid and assimilation: a study of the economic support given French Protestants in England, 1680-1727 (PhD Thesis: Kent State University Graduate School, 1972)