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Bridging the Digital Gap (Part II)

IsabelleReynolds-Logue18 July 2019

In my last post I explained what I have been up to for the last 9 months as the Bridging the Digital Gap trainee at UCL. Now, I will show you some of my favourite digitisation projects so far…

The UCL College Collection

The UCL College Collection contains, among other things, photographs of the exterior and interior of UCL buildings.

This photograph looking towards Gordon Street (Gordon Square is signified by the trees in the background) features some graffiti from the mid-twentieth century: ‘Merry Xmas. Love peace anarchy.’

Technicians seen posing on the ruins of the Great Hall at UCL in the 1950s.

The issue desk at the Main Library post-1951.

Bomb damage to the Main Library after the Second World War.

The Little Magazines Collection

The Little Magazines Collection was set up in 1964 to gather together little magazines from the UK, North America, Commonwealth and Europe. We have defined Little Magazines as “those which publish creative, often innovative work, with little or no regard for commercial gain.” You can learn more about the collection here.

Cover of ‘Gargoyle’ Number Two, 1921.

A page from ‘The Owl: A Miscellany’ 1919.

Jewish Pamphlets

I worked on a joint project with Dr. Maria Kiladi to digitise the Jewish Pamphlets Collection.

One challenge with these was that some pamphlets were read from right to left, when in Hebrew, as opposed to ones written in English. Another challenge was that I am unable to read Hebrew, so with pages entirely in Hebrew it was not easy to know which way round they were supposed to be. Additionally, the pages containing Hebrew characters were automatically rotated by the OCR software when generating PDFs, so I had to manually go through these and change them individually.

The entire collection can be found in our digital collections repository.

The cover of one of the pamphlets.

Library Exhibition

Again working alongside Maria, we digitised material that was going to be on display for the exhibition, ‘From Small Library Beginnings: a brief history of UCL Library Services.’ The photographs are online but were also printed in the exhibition catalogue. You can see more items from the exhibition online.

1935 Block Plan of University College London.

Dante’s Divine Comedy

This copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy features illustrations that go across a double page spread. This is not straightforward to capture with one camera pointing down towards the item, as the print is not flat, and cannot be made flat. There was also a problem of shadow appearing in the centre along the gutter. In order to capture the print as best I could, I ended up taking two separate images, on of each side of the book so that there is even illumination, and merging them in Photoshop.

You can read more about this item here.

Slade Archive Reader

Finally, the Slade Archive Reader is now available as four fully digitised, searchable PDFs, which you can view here.

My first thought was, why, if this is a printed, word processed document, do we not have a digital copy already? Unfortunately this is often the case with older word processed material. So, we have the task of re-digitising something that was already digital! Once we began looking at the volumes, it was clear that digitising the Slade Archive Reader would not be without its fair share of challenges. Primarily, the four volumes are bound quite tightly, which made it hard for me to keep the pages flat when photographing them. This curvature of the pages leads to a distortion of the text, which in turn makes it difficult for the OCR software to pick up.

You can browse all of our digital collections online here.

UCL Special Collections is committed to making digitised content available online. Although every effort has been made to identify and contact rights holders, we recognise that sometimes material published online may be in breach of copyright laws, contain sensitive personal data, or include content that may be regarded as obscene or defamatory.

If you are a rights holder and are concerned that you have found material on our Digital Collections repository for which you have not given permission, or that is not covered by a limitation or exception in national law, please contact us at spec.coll@ucl.ac.uk

UCL Special Collections Presents…

Helen FBiggs21 May 2018

We’re excited to announce UCL Special Collections Presents… – a day of talks and displays in UCL’s South Junction Reading Room on Tuesday, June 5th.

Join our team of friendly archivists and librarians at the South Junction Reading Room to hear about some of their favourite Special Collections items in an informal setting. Come face to face with exquisite treasures, learn about the work of our conservators, and discover which curious tomes our volunteers have been studying.

We are running a range of sessions throughout the day, including:

11am-11:30 and 11:30am-12pm:
Protest songs for equal pay
A balloon’s eye view: historical maps of London
Maps from the Jewish Pamphlets collection

12-12:30pm and 12:30-1pm:
A history of the book
“Confessions of a Down and Out in London and Paris”: gems from George Orwell’s archive

1-1:30pm and 1:30pm-2pm:
UCL’s student disruptors
Small Press magazines on vinyl

2-2:30pm and 2:30-3pm:
Jeremy Bentham and Lord Brougham, social reformers
Enid Blyton’s Teacher’s Treasury

3-3:30pm and 3:30-4pm:
Medical and Scientific Manuscripts and Rare Books
A 14th Century Haggadah, and other Jewish and Hebrew treasures

When: Tuesday, 5th June, 11am-4pm

Where: South Junction Reading Room, Wilkins Building, University College London, WC1E 6HJ

Book your free tickets now!

Treasures Day 2017: Warhol, convicts, and Beethoven’s fish

Helen FBiggs9 June 2017

Despite the weather doing its very best to soak visitors, staff, and precious manuscripts, this year’s Treasures Day, Treasures of the Written Word, was a complete success. After shedding their dripping coats, brollies and bags, guests were treated to a range of delights, with 20 different displays on show throughout the afternoon, as well as a live demonstration of SCAR’s conservation work.

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The conservators’ table included some rather familiar looking building plans

Visitors came from as far afield as Newcastle, and as close as the security desk at the front of the Roberts Building. Some popped in as they passed us on their way to another Festival of Culture event and some came back repeatedly to make sure they got a chance to see everything on display. One guest even brought with him his own 17th Century German astronomical manuscript, for which he received an expert opinion from a Warburg professor who also happened to be visiting our event at the time.

Popular exhibits included a 16th Century Italian Mahzor from our Hebrew and Jewish Collections, and the 1966 issue of the multimedia magazine Aspen edited by none other than Andy Warhol, held in our Little Magazines collection. But given that a live reading of 1984 was running concurrently at Senate House, it’s probably not surprising that the most in-demand item was George Orwell’s notebook containing manuscript notes for the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Our collections may be largely historical, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have anything new on show. Dr Tim Causer, Senior Research Associate at the Bentham Project in UCL’s Faculty of Laws, has just had his first book launched by UCL Press. His edition of Memorandoms by James Martin, drawn from manuscripts held in the Bentham collection, challenges the myths and fictions around the earliest Australian convict narrative. For Treasures Day, Tim joined us to show his own opus next to the original manuscripts he used in his work.

Memorandoms by James Martin is now available at UCL Press as a paperback, hardback, or free Open Access pdf download.

As a member of SCAR I, of course, don’t have any favourites among our collections, but I was immediately enamoured with the brief note from the great composer Ludwig Beethoven we had on display. It doesn’t offer great insight into his compositions, but does give some insight into his taste in fish, as he instructs his “Kitchen Procurator” that “decent pike … alone is to be preferred to all the rest” before asking about the price of the local farm butter.

A huge thanks to everyone who braved the storm to come and see us, to all the UCL staff who helped us run the event, and especially to Tabitha Tuckett, Rare Books Librarian: Academic Support and Events, for the amazing job she did in organising and delivering another successful Treasures Day.