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Ten Lords A-leaping

Vicky APrice19 December 2018

We can go one better than the traditional ‘ten Lords’ and offer you ‘one royal’…

We’re not going to lie to you, this one is a bit tenuous. But we couldn’t resist the opportunity to share one of our most successful outreach projects to date.

Thousands of children have been involved in an immersive First World War education programme that UCL Special Collections have played a key role in delivering. This was part of the Shrouds of the Somme project, one of the major centrepieces of Armistice commemorations that took place at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from Thursday 8 to Sunday 18th November this year.

The Shrouds of Somme project is the brainchild of Artist Rob Heard, who has spent the past five years making more than 72,000 small shrouded figures, each one representing one of the men killed and never recovered from the battled field at the Battle of the Somme. On Thursday 8 November, each of the shrouds were laid out as a graphic reminder of the scale of sacrifice they made in the Great War. The installation welcomed just under 3000 school pupils as well as around 85,000 members of the public.

Photographs of the Shrouds of the Somme installation and artist Rob Heard, courtesy of the Shrouds of the Somme.

UCL Special Collections teamed up with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and UCL Institute of Education’s First World War Centenary Battlefields Tour Programme to create free online teacher resources, worksheets for visiting schools and a programme of workshops for schools in the neighbouring Olympic Park boroughs (Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Waltham Forest and Newham). Special Collection’s Education Coordinator, Vicky Price, delivered 33 workshops, visiting 12 schools and reaching almost 1000 pupils.

Pupils at Randal Cremer Primary School in a workshop delivered by UCL Special Collections.

Resource packs for Shrouds of the Somme workshops.

The workshops combined historical enquiry with creative writing and used primary resources from UCL‘s College archive. Through exploring archival items like Rosenberg’s student record and a publication of perhaps his most famous poem, Break of Day in the Trenches (in Poetry: a magazine of verse. Vol. IX (3), December 1916 [reprint edition, 1966], STORE Little Magazines), pupils learnt of the poet Isaac Rosenberg, who had been a student at the Slade School of Fine Art. He grew up in a Jewish working class family in Mile End and went to art school to become a painter. When war broke out, he volunteered to fight, sending poetry back to the UK from the trenches. He was killed in France in 1918.

But where does the royalty come in? (I hear you say). Well, we were honoured to be invited to attend a visit by The Princess Royal at the installation site. Vicky Price (UCL Special Collections Education Coordinator) shook the Princess’ hand and explained the work we had done alongside pupils and the Head Teacher from the Bobby Moore Academy.

The Princess Royal meets Vicky Price from UCL Special Collections, alonside pupils and Head Teacher Dr Foley from Bobby Moore Academy at the Shrouds of the Somme installation.

Summer School a Success!

Vicky APrice15 August 2018

Last week saw UCL Special Collections hold its first Widening Participation Summer School. For four days, a group of twelve 17 year olds from in and around London explored archives, rare books and manuscripts here at UCL, guided by colleagues within Special Collections.

We had brilliant time, and were impressed with the students’ ability to link collection items to areas of their own knowledge and contextual understanding. We also spent a day at The National Archives, visiting their current exhibition, Suffragettes vs. The State, and discussing the notion of authenticity in relation to exhibition interpretation.  The participants then got to work researching collection items from UCL Special Collections, developing interpretation for a public exhibition on the final day.

You can see examples of their work in this video:

We would like to thank everyone at Library Services for accommodating the group, whether that be in the Science Library or the Institute of Education Library, and for Special Collections colleagues who offered their time and expertise.

Special Collections welcome first Summer School at UCL

Vicky APrice27 July 2018

We are excited to announce UCL Special Collections’ newest addition to the outreach and education programme – our first Summer School programme, in August 2018!

We will be offering 14 Year 12 students a chance to learn about all things special collections – from what we keep, why we keep it, how we keep it and how our collections can be significant to an array of audiences.

Funded by Widening Participation, the four day programme will make good use of our wonderful host city; we will explore how special collections items are interpreted and displayed at The National Archives (at their exciting current exhibition Suffragettes vs.The City) and The British Library.

Our team of specialists will offer guidance and advice as participants explore the notion of authenticity in interpretation, and participants will experiment with applying what they have learnt to some chosen manuscripts, rare books and archival items at UCL.

The final result will be an exhibition that presents students’ own responses, in a variety of formats and genres, alongside the items themselves. The exhibition will take place in UCL’s South Junction Reading Room on August 9th from 2pm to 4pm – it will be free and open to the public, so please come along!*

*Visitors are invited to pop in at any time between 2pm and 4pm.  Should the room become full we might ask you to wait a short while before entry, due to space restrictions.

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

Helen FBiggs14 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!