X Close

UCL Special Collections

Home

Updates from one of the foremost university collections of manuscripts, archives and rare books in the UK

Menu

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

Bridging the Digital Gap (Part I)

IsabelleReynolds-Logue16 July 2019

I joined UCL in October 2018 as the Bridging the Digital Gap trainee from The National Archives. I have been learning about all things digital in relation to archives, working with UCL’s Special Collections and the Institute of Education archives. In order for me to produce meaningful work with the material, I first needed to understand a bit more about archive repositories and what they contain. As part of my training, The National Archives runs a Moodle course where I have learned about archives, records and repositories, as well as about a key problem facing holders of archives today: digital preservation.

My work so far has ranged from cataloguing to digitising material. A key part of my work at UCL has been digitisation. I photograph or scan original items so that they can be put online and be made more accessible to a wider audience. In addition to accessibility, digitisation aids in preservation. The copies of the original items generated through digitisation are archived so that we have a digital version in case anything happens to the original, or if, for example, it becomes too fragile for readers to view in person.

A digitised photograph of the Wilkins portico from the UCL College Collection c1900s.

Most of the time I use a Canon EOS5D camera alongside a Kaiser RS1 copy stand and lights for digitisation. For some material I use an Epson12000XL flatbed scanner. Some items cannot be completely flattened for scanning, for example rare books, as this would cause severe damage to the item. In these cases, I will always use the camera and copy stand. In digitisation, we aim to get the most true to life image of the item whilst handling and moving the item as little as possible, in order to cause the least damage or deterioration to it. As digitisation requires handling and placing items in particular ways, we must liaise with the conservation team prior to digitisation, to make sure the item is in a suitable condition to be used. If an item is badly torn, falling apart, or very dirty, for example, it would have to be conserved before digitisation.

Once all of this is sorted out, I capture the photographs in RAW before editing them in Adobe Photoshop and saving them as high quality TIFF files for archiving, and JP2 files for use online. For some items with text, it is possible to use OCR software such as Nuance to generate searchable PDFs. However, some text proves too tricky for the software to pick up, for example unusual fonts or handwriting, so we don’t use it every time. However, we have begun to work with the OCR for handwriting software, Transkribus, so watch this space!

Now that you have an overview of what I have been up to, stay tuned for the next post where I will show you some of my favourite projects so far…

Paper Trails Conference Programme 4th July 2019

NazlinBhimani7 June 2019

We are delighted to announce the programme for this year’s Paper Trails conference which has been jointly organised with Dr Andrew W M Smith (University of Chichester). The conference focuses on the lives of our research material which often go unmarked, lost between the gaps in disciplinary boundaries and narrow definitions and the full programme is below. You can register for the conference here.

PROGRAMME

09:15-09:45 Registration

09:45-10:00 Welcome

10:00-11:30

PANEL 1. (Beyond) The Margins:

Cath Bannister (Sheffield): Annotating the Opies: Teachers’ Notes and Marginalia in Children’s Responses to Iona and Peter Opie’s Survey of Folklore of Schoolchildren.

Michael Durrant (Bangor): Lost, Found, and Lost Again: The Messy Histories of Bangor’s ‘Cranmer’ Bible (c.1540)

Chloe Ward (Sheffield) Counting cards — Exploring the Contexts of Historical Archaeological Archives

11:30-11:45 BREAK

11:45-13:15

PANEL 2. Lives Overleaf:

Elizabeth DeWolfe (New England): Agnes Parker, Miss Johnson, Jane Tucker, and Me: Archival Layering, Received Narratives, and the Spy Who Hid in Plain Sight

Katrina Goldstone (Independent): A Photograph. A Scrapbook. Three Large Cardboard Boxes: The Lost World of Irish Radical Writers in the Thirties

Hannah Parker (Sheffield): The Emotional Lives of Letters: Encountering Soviet Letter-Writing in the Archive

13:15-14:00 LUNCH

14:00-15:15

PANEL 3. Responding to the Archive:

Kim Martin (Guelph): Stories of Serendipity: Reflections on Studying the Research Habits of Historians

Sarah Grange (Brighton): Improvising with the Archives

15:15-15:30 BREAK

15:30-17:00

PANEL 4.Archival Sleuths:

Will Pooley (Bristol)

Quest for the Absent Narrator: A Criminal Paper Trail in Alsace, 1925

Alexandra Steinlight (IHR): From ‘Paper Monster’ to Relic: The Jewish Card File in Post-Holocaust France

Lotte Fikkers (Leiden) & David Mills (QMUL): The Archive in the Fish Cellar

17:00  Thanks and Close

UCL Special Collections Launches Lates Programme

Helen FBiggs11 March 2019

We are excited to be launching a series of evening talks for 2019, starting this month and running through to the next academic year.

We’ll be hosting sociable, relaxed after-work events,  perfect for anyone who is interested to come into UCL to learn about the wonderful rare books, archives and manuscripts that we hold here.  Each evening will present a particular topic or theme; talks and collection displays with wine, soft drinks and nibbles for all.  What more could anyone want?!

Our first Late will be ‘Protest!  Voices of dissent in art and text’.  Guest speakers Egidija Čiricaitė and Susannah Walker will join us to explore this theme through their fascinating research and corresponding collection items.

Although all of our Lates events will have academic research at their core, they will be accessible and are open to all aged 16+.  We hope you can join us for the first of what will be a regular series of talks and evening events to inspire, intrigue and amuse!

Get your ticket now!

Protest! Voices of dissent in art and text

Date: Tuesday, 26th March, 6.15-8pm
Venue: UCL Haldane Room, Wilkins Building, Gower Street, WC1E 6BT

The Small Press Project: In Conversation with Egidija Čiricaitė and Liz Lawes

The Small Press Project from Slade School of Fine Art takes inspiration from UCL Special Collections’ small press collection each year. This year’s project, Visions of Protest: BLAKE THE MARCH, has been used as a critical lens through which artists, academics and students can focus on what connections exist between the democracy of print, their aesthetics and the autonomy of artists’ books and publishing. The project is formed through a programme of workshops, performances, screenings, talks, collaborations and interdisciplinary practices involving non-academic institutions and the public.  Egidija Čiricaitė will be in conversation with Liz Lawes, our very own small press collections expert (and UCL’s Subject Liaison Librarian: Fine Art, History of Art and Film Studies).

Egidjia Čiricaitė publishes books, exhibitions, and book related projects.  Although firmly based within contemporary artists’ books practice, her varied interests can be loosely divided between book history and contemporary metaphor theories (in linguistics).  Egidija is co-curator of Prescriptions project of artists’ books and medical humanities (University of Kent). She is co-curating Artists’ Books Now events at the British Library and is currently studying for her PhD at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL.

Printing Peterloo

On the 16th August 1819, a peaceful protest for electoral reform at St Peter’s Fields Manchester was suppressed. The large crowd, assembled to hear the orator Henry Hunt, were charged on by the local yeomanry cavalry resulting in casualties and injuries. The events became known as “Peterloo”, an ironic reference to the Battle of Waterloo of 1815. This was a pivotal moment in the histories of democracy, protest and “working class politics.” Peterloo inspired political pamphlets, poetry and caricature and most recently Mike Leigh’s film of 2018. This session will consider the memory of Peterloo in print using objects from UCL Special Collections and The British Museum.

Susannah Walker was a Teaching Fellow in History of Art at UCL from 2014 to 2018 specialising in Print Culture and Romanticism, and is currently working as a curator in the British Museum’s Department of Prints and Drawings. Her recent work has involved cataloguing and researching a range of political pamphlets produced in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars.

Wine (or a soft drink) and nibbles are included with your £3 ticket. Click here to book your place.

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.