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The New Curators Project 2023 is Open for Applications!

By Vicky A Price, on 14 December 2022

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

Apply now!

What is Cultural Heritage?

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

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

What will the project entail?

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

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

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

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

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

Who can apply?

Applications are open to people who:

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

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

Three young adults look at an archival map.

New Curators Participants scrutinising an historical map.

When and where is it happening?

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

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

UCL East
One Pool Street
London
E20 2AF

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

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

How do I apply?

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

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

Delivered in partnership with Newham Heritage Month.

Word as Art: Beauty in the Margins

By Sarah S Pipkin, on 27 October 2021

A brown square with a banner at the top that reads ‘Library Services, UCL.’ The text in the square reads ‘Word As Art: Beauty in the Margins. October 2021-July 2022. An online exhibition featuring items from UCL Special Collections and the work of students at the Slade School of Fine Art. ucl.ac.uk/library/word-art-beauty-margins. #UCLWordAsArt.’ The square is decorated with a black and off-white floral pattern and a small drawing of a kingfisher.

Our new online exhibition, Word as Art: Beauty in the Margins, is now open!

Writing is an essential part of everyday communication. It permeates every element of our society so that it is easy to forget its prevalence. Yet every time we put words down on a page or type them on a screen, we are creating a piece of art unique to us.

Our new online exhibition, Word as Art: Beauty in the Margins, explores the permeable borders between art and writing. We examine manuscripts, printing, textiles and objects that celebrate the way in which we have embellished the word, making it far more than just a means of communication.

In addition to items from the Library collections, the exhibition includes three pieces of art by students from the Slade School of Fine Art at UCL. Their interpretations of writing and communication demonstrate that the books, manuscripts, and letters of the past continue to inform and inspire creative practices of the present.

The inspiration for the exhibition is the Slade 150 anniversary year, celebrating fine art teaching and research since 1871.

The exhibition runs from October 2021-July 2022, with plans for a physical presence in the UCL Main Library from December 2021.

To view ‘Word as Art: Beauty in the Margins’ visit our exhibitions webpage.

A two page spread decorated with gold leaf and floral patterns. At the centre of each page is two column or writing in Farsi script.

Community Curated Exhibition Tours Newham Libraries

By Vicky A Price, on 7 May 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two colourful pop-up banners stand in Stratford library.

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

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

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

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

‘Word as Art:’ Call for Slade Student Art Submissions

By Sarah S Pipkin, on 30 April 2021

Decorative image that says 'Word as Art: Call for Art'

UCL Special Collections is asking for submissions from current undergraduate and postgraduate students at The Slade School of Fine Art who would like to be included in an online exhibition with the working title ‘Word as Art.’ This exhibition will help highlight the historic artistry of the written word while connecting it to the present legacy of The Slade School of Fine Art. 

‘Word as Art’ is an exploration of the artistry that takes place whenever we make words physical. It includes manuscripts, printing, textiles and objects that celebrate the way we have embellished the word and make it more than just writing on a page. We are inviting students at The Slade School of Fine Art to join a collaborative exhibition of selected works from UCL Special Collections and contemporary arts worksWe would like to see reflections on words and writing that challenge us to think about how writing reflects ourselves as much as the meaning of the word on the page. 

Three candidates will be selected for inclusion in UCL Special Collections Library Exhibition celebrating the artistic works present in UCL’s rare books and archives collection. It will be displayed online alongside rare books, manuscripts, and archival items. By being featured alongside items from UCL Special Collections it can help provide a new perspective on the exhibition themes as well as connect the artistry of the past to current practices.  

Due to Covid and space restrictions, artwork will be displayed online. Digital artworks are welcome, alongside photos and videos of physical or performative artworks. Currently there are no plans for a physical art display, but we will re-assess this on a case-by-case basis.  

The selected artists will receive a £100 prize for successful submissions and the opportunity to publish a brief statement about this work in the exhibition catalogue.  

If you would like to contribute, please send your artwork alongside a brief explanation (no more than 200 words) as to how your artwork ties into ‘Word as Art.’  

Deadline for submissions is midnight on May 31, 2021We aim to reply to all applicants in mid June and the exhibition is expected to go live in September 2021. Please send your submissions to library.spec.coll.ed@ucl.ac.uk. 

Image of MS Pers 1, an item that may be included in the exhibition. It features arabic caligraphy with a decorative border

Masnavi-i Akbar Sultan, a proposed exhibition item. (MS PERS/1)

A Sampler with decorative elements

Sampler, a proposed exhibition item. (HUGUENOT LIBRARY ARCHIVES. SAMPLER BOX)

Books, buildings, and people: an exhibition on the making of UCL Library Services

By Helen Biggs, on 28 November 2019

How do you make a library? In our current exhibition in UCL’s Main Library, we suggest that all it takes is three basic ingredients: books; somewhere to keep the books; and people to read and look after the books. Nice and easy… right?

Of course, From Small Library Beginnings: A brief history of UCL Library Services very quickly shows us that it’s not that simple. Tracing UCL’s libraries back to the start of UCL itself, we find that a lack of funding meant that the planned Great Library was never built, and the very first library was named instead the Small Library – a diminutive start for a university library service that today supports over 40,000 students.

Buildings need to be built: it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re occasionally difficult to come by. But even at a university, people can be in short supply, too. Certainly, the library doesn’t seem to have ever lacked for users, and one never has to look far to see traces of past borrowers in the form of notes scribbled in the margins of textbooks*. However, staffing a library can be a different matter, and for some 40 years, until 1871, UCL dispensed with the role of Librarian entirely, employing only an assistant – sometimes. A lack of funding was once more to blame.

Page from 'De Situ Orbis', showing handwritten student notes along with the book's own text.

Evidence of library users. (Side note: please don’t write in your library books.) [GRAVES 4.i.26]

That only leaves books. Here, it seems, UCL has been more fortunate. From the beginning a large number of books were donated, bequeathed, gifted and even bought, so while they may not have had a home or been well looked after, they were at least available to be read…

…Until the London Blitz, anyway. The Second World War saw the most precious books and manuscripts in the library’s collections sent to the National Library of Wales for safekeeping. Of those left behind, an estimated 100,000 were lost or damaged when the university was hit during a 1940 air raid.

We’ve been careful to label the exhibition as a ‘brief’ history, and it would certainly be difficult to present a full narrative of the service’s 17 sites and almost 200 years of existence in just one display. But you’ll still find plenty of fascinating stories here: a library bell made from 17th Century parts; the student life of famed librarian S. R. Ranganathan; the rise and fall of school libraries, and the impact of this on information literacy at universities.

For more on these stories and the items that tell them, download the exhibition catalogue, which includes an introduction by Anne Welsh from UCL’s own Department of Information Studies.

From Small Library Beginnings runs until Friday, 13 December in UCL Main Library, and is open to the public on weekdays, 9.30am-5pm.

*Marginalia can be fascinating and tell us a great deal about a book’s use and its previous owners. That being said, please don’t write in your library books.