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Printing and protest at Special Collections’ summer schools

Helen FBiggs13 August 2019

Librarian Liz Lawes discussing the Small Press Collections with summer school participants

While many of our colleagues have been enjoying (much deserved!) holidays over the past few months, it has been business as usual for UCL Special Collections’ outreach team. We have been lucky this year to be able to offer not one, but two summer schools for secondary school students, both taking their inspiration from our amazing Small Press Collection.

Protest in Print: Year 12 Non-residential Summer School (funded by Widening Participation)

This week-long summer school was co-led by artist David Blackmore, 2018-19 Honorary Research Associate at the Slade. The project aimed to give participants an opportunity to explore the ways in which artists, activists and writers have used and continue to use print to communicate a message of protest or political activism.  David was already familiar with much of the protest material in our Little Magazines collection, having taken part in the 2019 Small Press Project, Visions of Protest. With his encouragement, our students were quick to outline the many issues that they believe are worth drawing more attention to (including mental health, Islamophobia, the Extradition Bill in Hong Kong, and data protection) and staged their own demonstration on UCL’s Portico steps.

Summer school students stage a demonstration on UCL’s Portico steps

Our students then spent some time immersing themselves in archival and print collections, exploring ways in which some marginalised voices have found platforms in small press and self-published works. As well as viewing some of the wide range of titles held in Little Magazines, curated for them by Liz Lawes, they visited the May Day Rooms on Fleet Street, and had a tour of the Bishopsgate Institute Archives.

Putting their newfound knowledge into action, each of our students then created a work of art, using collage that incorporated copies of items they’d seen, and screen printing taught and facilitated by the Slade’s Lesley Sharpe.

The week ended with a ‘soft crit’ of their work, and a well-attended public exhibition. While many of our students had arrived anxious that they weren’t ‘art students’, they all showed a remarkable amount of skill and creativity, and a real passion to explain what was important to them through the medium of print.

A ‘soft crit’ of students’ artwork ahead of their exhibition.

 

Paper, Press, Print: East Education Summer School

With barely a pause to breathe, we launched straight into our second summer school, a free three-day course based at UCL Here East, as part of the Olympic Park’s education programme for local 13-to-16 year olds. It was wonderful to be able to host our project at UCL’s own campus at Here East, where our colleagues made both us and our students feel welcome.

Summer school students creating their own zines.

We were once again looking at protest in print, but with a different twist: this time, we focused on the ‘grassroots’ nature of many of the magazines in our Small Press collection, and invited Lu Williams of Grrrl Zine Fair to run a zine-making workshop. While our students differed in ages and abilities, they were all able to use photography, collage, block printing and a photocopier to create their own zines, allowing them to disseminate their ideas almost instantly.

And if that wasn’t enough…

…we’ve had plenty of other workshops to keep us busy! This year Sarah Hutton of UCL Culture invited us to take part in her Year 8 and Year 12 summer schools, both of which saw us discussing morality through 19th Century scientific archives and 16th Century religious texts, and July’s Paper Trails Conference was followed by a two-day workshop for Year 12s from Newham Collegiate Sixth Form College, led by Andrew Smith, on how to use primary sources in history research.

We will shortly be looking ahead to the new school and academic year – but first, we’ll finally be taking a well-earned summer holiday of our own!

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

Announcing our first UCL Special Collections Visiting Fellow

ErikaDelbecque26 April 2019

We are delighted to announce that Dr Adrian Chapman has been appointed as our first Special Collections Visiting Fellow. The Fellowship programme is an opportunity for external researchers to visit UCL to conduct research on a topic centred on the Special Collections holdings. Its aims are to raise awareness of our collections and to facilitate new research into our archives, records and rare books.

Adrian holds a PhD from UCL, and currently teaches at Florida State University. He has published extensively on psychiatry and the counterculture of the 1960s.

He will be spending six weeks with us in summer working on his project ‘Underground Psychiatry: R. D. Laing, Radical Psychiatry and the Underground Press’. Drawing on our unrivalled collection of Little Magazines and alternative press publications, Adrian will examine how the underground press circulated, contested and appropriated Laing’s ideas in the 1960s.

Adrian will participate in the programme of workshops, talks and lectures run by the Special Collections Department. The events will be advertised on the Special Collections website and on our Twitter feed.

Special Collections for Schools: a continuing programme

Helen FBiggs25 January 2019

January is always a good time to reflect on our achievements and look forward to our upcoming plans and projects. Read on to discover some of the Outreach team’s highlights from last year’s Special Collection’s schools programmes – and what to expect from them next…

Teacher CPD with First Story

Helen Biggs from UCL Special Collections and Jay Bhadricha from First Story preparing for the visiting teachers.

Last year we built on our valuable relationship with the charity First Story to devise a CPD event for GCSE English Language teachers.  The event sought to help teachers develop ways of enabling pupils to write creatively on topics they know little, or nothing, about (in response to current GCSE examination expectations), using Special Collection items as examples of prompts.

We’re running this event again (only bigger and better!) on the evening of Tuesday 19 March. If you are a Secondary school English teacher and would like to attend, you can get tickets here.

Curriculum Support for Secondary Schools

Our vision for 2019 is to develop school relationships in a strategic way.  We want to reach as many young people as we can, sharing the incredible collection that we look after, with meaningful, enriching experiences; one way to do this is to develop a ‘menu’ of curriculum relevant workshops that schools can book with us.

We have a team of volunteer researchers helping us to find unique items that are relevant to curriculum areas and once we have made the resources and planned the workshops we will pilot them with the schools with whom we have a close working relationship.

A slide from the PowerPoint for the Year 11 session on Stevenson’s ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’. It features a section of a Toxicology lecture from UCL (Christison, Robert, 1831, Christison Lecture Notes, MS ADD 316) regarding gentlemen’s recreational experimentation with Cyanide. This was found by a volunteer researcher.

An example is our session for GCSE pupils that explores the context of Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

We recently piloted it with Year 11s at East London Science School.

We have also developed a workshop on the context of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  Our vast collections covering British and European medical history have meant the session features unique resources; surprise and intrigue abounds in Year 10 classrooms as they learn about the practice of body-snatching, and just why Carswell’s drawings are so important!

School 21: Real World Learning

For the second year running, we are working with School21 in Newham to participate in their Real World Learning programme. This provides both students and their host workplaces with something that is more meaningful and authentic than a traditional work experience programme. For a term, two Year 12s are spending half a day each week with UCL Special Collections, solving an authentic problem for the department.

Last year’s participants worked to develop a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to conserve and digitise selections from UCL’s collection of student magazines (from the College Archive).  We’re excited to see what their successors Munna and Umar will do this year; we have given them the task of creating welcome resources for a new landing page on our website.

UCL Special Collections Summer School – Protest in Print

After the success of 2018’s UCL Special Collections Summer School, we are happy to announce that we were successful in our bid to Widening Participation to run another programme this summer.

Work produced by students at last year’s Summer School, focussing on an item from the Small Press Collection

This year we are taking inspiration from the Slade Small Press project Visions of Protest, which aims to provide a forum to examine the status of contemporary protest in Small Press Publications. UCL Special Collections’ Summer School, Protest in Print, will be a smaller, more compact and easier to access iteration of this.

Protest in Print will offer participants an opportunity to be creative and hands on, applying what they learn about small press publications (such as those in the Little Magazines and Alternative Press collections) archives and rare books in practical ways.  The result will be a public exhibition of their work alongside a display of examples of collection items that have inspired their work in the South Junction Reading Room – watch this space for dates and times!

Shrouds of the Somme
The biggest achievement of the Autumn Term was also undoubtedly our highest profile project to date: working as partners in the Shrouds of the Somme installation at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, alongside other organisations such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the London Legacy Development Corporation.  We delivered an education programme to schools in the Park’s neighbouring boroughs, reaching almost 1000 pupils.   We wrote a blog about this project as part of our department’s Advent Calendar – to read more, click here.

Text by Helen Biggs and Vicky Price.

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.