Category Archives: Library events

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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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.

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.

Preservation Week 2019

A major part of our work in Special Collections is to ensure that our materials will still be available to future generations of scholars and visitors. Many of the objects we hold are made of sturdy stuff, our rare 18th century books will probably outlast us all, but other items such as our photographic collections are more fragile, and even stable materials can become vulnerable over decades. To this end we spend a lot of time making sure materials are stored in optimal conditions to extend their life and usefulness. This week we are participating in the ALA Preservation Week by celebrating all things preservation and giving you an insight into the activities we undertake. On Monday 29 April you can even come along to our free lunchtime workshop to find out more about preserving your own family history (places are free but limited, please book in advance).

Pencil sketches added by a former owner to our copy of The poems of Sir Walter Raleigh (1814). Find out more about this book.

Where and how you store different materials can have a big impact on their lifespan. We try to store collections in a space that has a consistent temperature and humidity all year round. This is because extremes of temperature and the presence of moisture in the air can induce a harmful reaction in different materials. For instance, paper can be vulnerable to mould in hot and wet conditions or older colour photographs can decay in high temperatures.

Special Collections is equipped with snazzy blue blinds to prevent sunlight artificially warming our facility, with the addition of ultraviolet filters to prevent yellowing of paper and fading of inks. We also monitor the temperature and humidity of our collections with some basic digital indicators to give us a warning of problems.

Additionally, we keep our eyes peeled for any pests such as silverfish that might take a fancy to our materials for food or accommodation. We use pest traps to monitor any nuisance visitors, and if we find any try to modify the environment to discourage their visits.

Other environmental factors should also be considered. This might include dust, or pollution if you live in a built up area. One way to mitigate these is to store materials in an enclosure like a box that will prevent light and particles from accessing the item. This is a simple way to preserve heirlooms or keepsakes, although you do have to check on them occasionally to make sure there is nothing happening inside the box itself.

Interestingly, a common way materials become damaged is just through poor handling. To try and minimise handling and stress we use book supports to cradle our printed materials when they are being viewed. We also add a protective layer of Melinex to items like photographs or paper to prevent them from being damaged by constant use. At home, something as simple as washing your hands before handling rare materials can limit environmental pollutants.

With these safeguards in place we hope our collections will be available for years to come.If you would like more information about Preservation week visit the ALA webpages for advice and insights.

International Women’s Day

As part of International Women’s Day today we’re celebrating women’s achievements by launching our new subject guide to women’s history resources. This is aimed particularly at undergraduate students, and offers an easy way in to discover the rich resources about women’s history held in our collections. We’ve featured a couple of highlights below, but do have a look at our guide for more inspiration.

World War I ‘Canary Girl’

Lottie Barker was a ‘canary girl’ in a WWI munitions factory, making shells which turned her skin yellow. Part of the Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, her account includes the description of an explosion in the factory, which killed many of her colleagues. We have more information about her account in this blog post, and many other accounts of women’s work during both WWI and WWII are waiting to be discovered in the Burnett Archive.

Women travelling alone

The Travellers’ Aid Society poster is part of our Transport History Collection, dates from about 100 years ago and features advice to women travelling alone to ensure they able to find safe, respectable accommodation when arriving in a new town. You can find out more about the Travellers’ Aid Society in this blog post. This poster was digitised last year as part of a student volunteer project to digitise our railway posters collection.

Other resources

Do contact us to make an appointment if you would like to see any of these items

Life vs fiction research seminar

The Brunel Centre for Contemporary Writing (BCCW) presents a session on the relationship between fiction and autobiography inspired by the Burnett Archive of Working-Class Autobiographies held in the Special Collections of Brunel Library. Philip Tew will discuss writing about his relationship with his working-class father in his new novel, Afterlives, and Nick Hubble will talk about the relationship between working-class autobiography and proletarian autobiografiction revealed by his British Academy-funded research on the Burnett Archive.

This event will feature Brunel MA Creative Writing students opening the evening with readings from their work, as well as complimentary refreshments and free admission – please register here.

It will be held in Bannerman Centre 226 (in the library) Wed 20 March 2019 17:30.

Philip Tew’s debut novel, Afterlives, published in February 2018, is about university lecturer, Jim Dent, who, nearing retirement, is inspired by the death of a friend known in the 1970s, writer Sue Townsend, to review various premature deaths over the past fifty years of others once close to him, and recollect their lives. They include a school-friend, his working-class father, and other talented chums all denied their creative potential. Among scenes featured are his work with Sue on a local arts magazine on her stories of Nigel (later, Adrian) Mole, and a trip with an oddball scholar of the Beats to interview poet, Basil Bunting. Afterlives is no old man’s lament, rather a poignant and yet comic narrative of eccentric, talented people whose lives are celebrated. Commenting on the novel, Fay Weldon said “The father’s episode is a fine and moving piece of writing.”

Nick Hubble’s latest book The proletarian answer to the modernist question is out this month in paperback from Edinburgh University Press.

Colour Our Collections 2019

From 4 – 8 February 2019 libraries across the world will be involved in Colour Our Collections Week. Brunel’s Special Collections invites you to take part by downloading, colouring and sharing a picture from our unique and distinctive collections of rare books and archives.

Pictures are available to download below, or on the Colour Our Collections website and hard copies are available near the library’s help desk in the Bannerman Centre.

Please share your finished creations with us using the hashtag #colourourcollections and by tagging us @BrunelSpecColl (Twitter) or BrunelSpecColl (Instagram)

This year’s featured pictures are all part of our Transport History Collection.

Horse Monday and the Jubilee Polka are both from S.T. Richardson’s The world’s first railway jubilee  (1876), a book of cartoons (black and white, photo-lithographed) featuring the Stockton and Darlington Railway, offering a humorous look at the first 50 years of rail travel in Britain. (ref.: Clinker 1059)

Download Horse Monday


Download Jubilee Polka


Download Two Penny Tube


The Two Penny Tube is from The train scrap book published by E. Nister in c.1910 and intended to be a children’s book about railways, including the London Underground and international railways (ref.: Clinker 1088)