Blog post by Grace Nelder, undergraduate student at Nottingham Trent University.
I completed my undergraduate dissertation in April 2015. I study History and Spanish BA (Hons) at Nottingham Trent University and my dissertation was worth two modules of the six of my final year. The research project needed to be 15,000 words long. The final title of my piece was: The Servant Problem in Interwar Britain.
In the research for my piece I used many sources. Luckily, the delving into many footnotes and references led me to the Brunel Special Collections; in particular, the Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies. From the plethora of records in this archive, there were four that were relevant to my study. I enquired about visiting the University, upon which I received a very accommodating and friendly reply. When I arrived, I was greeted by an enthusiastic member of staff who explained to me the procedure of how I would be able to use the archives. I had researched what I needed beforehand and the staff member brought me one document at a time. I was able to view the documents and photograph all of them if I deemed it necessary.
In my dissertation, I used extracts from personal accounts from those who worked as domestic servants in the interwar period in Britain to evaluate and analyse their experience in a historical context. I used the records of Katherine Henderson (2: 384), Grace Martin (2: 515), Winifred Relph (2: 657) and Lilian Westall (1: 746). Although seemingly few from the myriad transcripts, the four I used were instrumental to my research project. Despite Brunel University not being near to where I studied it was completely worth the journey down and I felt much more confident when I had these primary sources to help me with my project. I also felt that because the collection is not something that can be found online or at the National Archives for example, my work and research measures would have been valued more highly.
I can thoroughly recommend the use of these archives and this Special Collections, they will give flavour to any research project or are highly interesting to browse through. As a history student, I always find that I spend far too long reading perhaps irrelevant information, but information that is terribly intriguing. This was certainly the case during the day I visited the Special Collections.