Autumn 2019 newsletter

Our Autumn 2019 newsletter has just been published. In it you will find information about events happening this term and our summer projects, including the cataloguing of a new collection, improvements to our reading room, volunteer projects and the launch of a new display about the Burnett Archive.

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Summer projects 2019

Another busy summer has gone by. The weather may not have been perfect, but we’ve certainly made a lot of progress with Special Collections projects which will improve the experience for our users!

Improving accessibility in our reading room

As well as, earlier in the year, installing new windows in the reading room, we’ve also now had the whole reading room area re-lamped. This has improved lighting, making it easier to use our collections for research and improving our accessibility.

Improving access to our collections

Much work has taken place over the summer to make our collections more accessible to a wider range of users.

A new collection, the Carpenter collection of maritime history, was catalogued and is now fully available. You can find out more on the collection’s webpage, search the library catalogue to discover the books and contact us to make an appointment to view any of those items.

Collection descriptions for the Clinker (railway history) and Mowat (railway photographs) collections were added to ArchivesHub, making them discoverable by a much wider audience. We are already seeing an increased number of enquiries as a result of this.

Crystal working on repackaging some of our railway history pamphlets

Railway pamphlets volunteer project

Our summer project volunteer, Crystal, worked on a repackaging project for our extensive collection of railway pamphlets. This involved identifying pamphlets, checking to make sure they had been catalogued, updating locations, repackaging them in melinex sleeves and putting them away in boxes. This represents a big improvement in their storage, as they are now protected from damage caused by poor handling, as well as ensuring they can be more easily found and available to our users. We’ll be recruiting more student volunteers to work on similar projects for the 2019/20 academic year. Do contact us if you are interested in this opportunity.

Website improvements

Our Special Collections webpages have been improved, making it easier to find information about, for instance, requesting copies of material or information about a particular collection.

Events and displays

We’ve also planned a full range of Special Collections events for this academic year. Some old favourites will be returning, such as Colour Our Collections and Elf on a Library Shelf, but there will be some new ones, including Heritage Open Days (September), a new Burnett Archive display (mid-September onwards) and an event to showcase the work our volunteers do (16 October). Find out more about events on our website or join our mailing list to stay in touch.

75th anniversary of the first V2 bombing

Written using research undertaken by Crystal Prescod, summer project volunteer 2019.

In the dying days of the Second World War Germany sought to place the Allies on the back foot. In an attempt to reverse the course of the war by shaking Allied confidence and wreaking havoc on the British population Germany launched its Vergeltungswaffen or “revenge weapons”- the V2 rockets.

On the 8th of September 1944 the first of these rockets were fired at Paris and London. The attacks resulted in the deaths of approximately 9000 civilians and military personnel.

History often neglects to note the effects of major events on the lives of the common man. The Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies includes accounts that relate the lives of a few of the civilians who were affected by the air raids of the Second World War.

You can find out more using our World War Two topic guide, which highlights particular accounts from this collection. If you would like to see the autobiographies for yourself, please contact us to make an appointment.

It is ironic that these weapons of war which created so much devastation were later used as the foundation for the rockets which would take mankind into space.

Image from Picasa and shared using a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 3.0). No changes have been made to the image.

Introducing the Carpenter Collection

Over the summer the Carpenter collection of maritime history has been catalogued and is now fully available for the first time, with details of all items in the collection on our library catalogue. Reginald Carpenter’s daughter, Margaret Joachim, has provided us with a description of her father and how he went about collecting his books.

Reginald Carpenter, 1920-1993

Reginald Carpenter, always known as Reg (or ‘Titch’ to particular friends, as he just about reached to 5’4” in height), was born in Brighton and lived there until the mid-1980s. He went to Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School, and would have liked to have trained as a naval architect, but his maths wasn’t good enough. Instead he joined the Civil Service in a junior administrative grade in the Department of Education and, apart from the war years, commuted to London every day until his retirement, eventually rising to Principal. He learned to sail in dinghies off Brighton beach, joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a midshipman and was called up in 1939. During the war he served, inter alia, in HMS Resolution in Norway and at the battles of Mers-El-Kebir and Dakar, on arctic and transatlantic convoys, at the landings in Italy (where he won the DSC) and as the commander of an LST on D-Day. He was demobbed as a Lieutenant Commander.

Model of a Bright and Wilson phosphorus tanker at 100ft:1″ scale (in his daughter’s collection)

Reg had a lifelong interest in shipping. He was an expert ship modeller at 50ft or 100ft to the inch scale, regularly winning the Championship Cup at the Model Engineering Exhibition in the 1950s and 60s (until he withdrew from the competition to give other modellers a chance). Modelling took place every evening at a table in the living room, using various fine-grained woods (holly was a particular favourite), single threads of parachute silk, cigarette paper, ‘Plastic Wood’, thin white card, single-edged razor blades and diluted Humbrol paint applied with brushes containing only a few fine hairs, and was accompanied by clouds of pipe smoke and the occasional cry of ‘Nobody move – I’ve dropped a lifeboat!’ After his death his merchant ship models were given to the National Maritime Museum.

Cheverney – British Petroleum tanker at 50ft:1″ scale (in his daughter’s collection)

His knowledge was exhaustive – he could recognise most vessels by their profile and knew the flag and funnel of every shipping line. While most children went to the park or playground at weekends, his two daughters would regularly be taken to Newhaven to watch the channel ferry come in, or to walk round Shoreham harbour ‘to see what’s in today’. A favourite summer holiday excursion was to go by train to Victoria and then down the river to Greenwich, where he would point out and identify all the ships in London Docks and explain where they had come from and what they carried.

Reg accumulated his library slowly, but he would sometimes spend a long time in second-hand bookshops (of which there were then several in Brighton) looking for specific books on naval or maritime history, or postcards of ships painted by particular artists. The search for ‘Ships and South Africa’ took years, and the entire family was tasked to look out for it (no eBay or AbeBooks in those days).  He also had a lasting interest in reading about the First World War. The protagonists in modern naval warfare tend to fight at a considerable distance from each other, and he was always trying to understand how men (of whom his father had been one) existed in the trenches and could ‘go over the top’ and engage in direct combat.

Following retirement and the death of his wife Joyce in 1977 and mother in 1985, Reg moved to Cornwall, exchanging modelling for art classes. His tutor tried hard to get him to paint impressionistically but eventually gave up when introduced to the model collection, realising that someone with such an eye for fine detail could only paint with photographic precision. 

Painting of SS Rotterdam by R. Carpenter, in his daughter’s collection

Reg wrote numerous articles for modelling magazines, the merchant ship section of The Dumpy Pocket Book of Ships, (London: Sampson Low, Marston, 1961), Modern Ships, (Hemel Hempstead: Model and Allied Publications, 1970) and Container Ships, (Hemel Hempstead: MAP, 1971). A number of his models are superbly illustrated in Model Ships, by Toby Wrigley, (London: Orbis Books, 1973).

Access to the Carpenter Collections book is by appointment only. Please contact us to make an appointment.

Heritage Open Days 2019

As part of Heritage Open Days 2019 Brunel University Library is holding 3 open days. All are invited to visit Special Collections (library level 3, within the Bannerman Centre at the centre of the campus) to discover our collections of unique and distinctive rare books and archives.

The Collections cover a range of subject areas, particularly working class autobiographies and transport (especially railway) history, the Channel Tunnel and much more.  Come along to meet Katie Flanagan, Special Collections Librarian, and be inspired by our collections.

Entrance to the open days is free of charge and there is no need to book.

The Open Days are taking place at the following times:

  • Mon 16 September 2 – 5 pm
  • Tues 17 September 12 – 2 pm
  • Wed 18 September 12 – 2 pm

Directions for visitors are available on the Brunel University website.

News from Special Collections

We have recently start publishing a termly newsletter detailing news and events from Special Collections. Our most recent issue may be found here:

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Lunchtime workshop

In April we held a very popular free lunchtime workshop on Preserving your family history where participants were able to explore methods they could use at home to preserve their family history documents and photographs.

Workshop participants learn more about preserving documents from Special Collections Librarian, Katie Flanagan

Due to popular demand, we are running the workshop again on Tuesday 2 July at 13.15pm. The workshop lasts for 45 minutes and is free, but please book a place as space is limited. The event is open to staff, students and visitors to Brunel University.

Please contact us if there are other lunchtime workshop topics you would be interested in.