Category Archives: Volunteers

Volunteer in Special Collections

Are you a Brunel student and interested in a career in the heritage industry, Special Collections and/or archives? Our volunteer opportunities are a great way for students to gain workplace skills and experience what it is like working in this sector.

Volunteer

One of our previous student volunteers working on a repackaging project

We are looking for students able to commit to a three hour placement each week for at least one term. Further details about what is involved and how to apply are on the Brunel Volunteers website.

You will receive training in handling objects, books and archival  material. Tasks are likely to include:

  •   Listing, sorting and organising printed and archival material
  •   Promotion and outreach using social media
  •   Carrying  out preservation activity, such as repackaging archival items
  •   Preparing  displays

Hours volunteered will be recorded on your HEAR – which goes on your permanent university record. All hours contribute towards your Brunel Volunteers Award, which leads to an invitation to the annual Brunel Volunteers Awards Ceremony in May. Our previous student volunteers have gone on to work in graduate trainee roles in libraries and archives.

You may also be interested in finding out more about a day in the life of Special Collections or reading some blog posts by previous volunteers.

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Industrial heritage month: urban housing

A blog post by Emma Smith, history student and Special Collections volunteer.

In light of our focus on Urban Environment as part of the 2018 Industrial Heritage theme months, we have delved into our records here at Brunel Special Collections in pursuit of details about urban housing. One common theme present throughout the majority of records is the sheer variation in accommodation: the juxtaposition of the slums and poor institutions of the penniless, and the mansions and townhouses of the affluent, accentuates the considerable difference in housing within urban localities.

Mckenzie slum to mansion

‘It was a complete transition from slum to mansion’ – extract from McKenzie 1:473

James McKenzie’s account emphasises the stark contrast between deprived and luxurious dwellings within urban London (an extract of which is shown above). McKenzie details his childhood experiences of the slum housing of Battersea adjacent to a river ‘poisoned with waste’ from surrounding factories; undoubtedly symbolising his housing conditions. Due to orphan-hood, however, McKenzie soon finds himself residing in a ‘rather weird old mansion’ in Kensington, only a stone’s throw away over the old Battersea Bridge. With its ornamental gates, fashionable Victorian drawing room and antique paintings, such a mansion was a world apart from the destitute Battersea slums, despite its geographical closeness.

Castle goal

‘More like a goal than anything I could imagine’ – extract from Castle 1:134

John Castle also illuminates another prevalent type of urban housing: the workhouse. Castle certainly harboured strong opinions toward Leighton Buzzard Union workhouse as an abode, as shown above. By producing a detailed structural plan of the workhouse, including the location of the Master’s House, Board Room and segregated living quarters of men, women and children, Castle’s memoir provides a personalised vision into the construction of one of the most recurrent, yet often ill-defined, urban living abodes throughout Britain. Emphasis on the presence of factory equipment within the institution arguably highlights the industrial nature of nineteenth-century housing and living areas.

Balne Greenford

‘Lovely leafy lanes of Greenford’ – extract from Balne 1:137

Similarly, Edward Balne provides insight into another, relatively rare, category of urban housing. Residing in a Hanwell ‘Cuckoo School’ (a Poor Law School, officially!), Balne emphasises the juxtaposition between the urbanity of this institution and adjacent ‘lovely leafy lanes of Greenford;’ highlighting the presence of both rural and industrial influences in urban living quarters. Though inferring that the School was superior in comparison to other housing, citing its swimming bath, onsite hospital and ‘large and lovely garden;’ Balne contends that it was still ‘pretty grim.’ While pupils were cramped into dormitories (ten allocated to each side of a room and another ten to the centre), their designated dormitory nurses enjoyed private ‘comfortably furnished’ cubicles. Any luxury in urban living, again, seemed to remain in the hands of those more well-off.

You can see any of these autobiographies or our other collections by contacting Special Collections to arrange an appointment

Burnett Archive
1:473 J. H. McKenzie
1:134 J. Castle
1:37 E. Balne

A blog by our UCL placement student, Anne Carey

As a full-time MA Library and Information Studies student at UCL, I was assigned a work placement through our professional development module. I was so delighted to get started at Brunel University London, as I had requested special collections or academic library experience, and my perceptive course faculty found me the perfect place to do both.

The plan was to set me up three days a week with Katie Flanagan, the Special Collections Librarian, in Brunel Library Special Collections and two days a week with Joanne McPhie, the Academic Liaison Librarian for the Department of Life Sciences, who would introduce me to everyone in the main part of the library and show me the inner workings of the academic side of things. On my first day I felt so welcomed by everyone and that feeling continued for the entire two (and a bit) weeks.

That first week consisted of a lot of academic library experiences that were completely new to me. I was lucky enough to shadow people who had all kinds of roles that I had heard of but hadn’t seen in action before. I was so grateful for everyone to take time out of their day to talk me through all the different aspects of their jobs. I got a crash course on cataloguing with Symphony and the chance to see how the system is managed. I also got exposed to Scholarly Communications, which really opened my eyes to the sheer amount of time needed to keep the university repository, Open Access publishing, and REF compliance up and running. The Academic Liaison Librarians were another wonderful team I spent a lot of time with. I got to shadow teaching sessions, which were helpful as a librarian who may be in their shoes one day, and as an MA student myself! I also got to sit and talk through managing reading lists, book orders, and collection management. I even got to sit in on a vendor meeting and a few staff meetings, and that gave me a lot of insight into the day-to-day reality of the job.

On the second week, I got the chance to dive into Special Collections. I had a bit of experience in a similar collection before, but it was so nice to get another chance to work hands-on with special collections. Katie was great and guided me on rare books cataloguing and showed me some excellent resources. Their Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies is amazing, and it was a lot of fun researching the blog post I wrote for International Nurses’ Day. It was a privilege to catalogue some of the published works in the collection as well. As the week went on, I got more confident cataloguing rare books and got some really great career advice from Katie and Joanne.

Katie and Alison, my placement co-ordinator, agreed I would come back for three days later in the month. In that time, I got more cataloguing under my belt and had some very interesting discussions on the in-and-outs of running a Special Collections library solo. After finishing up my final three days, I am so pleased with how much I learnt at Brunel University London. I am truly grateful for all the help and support from the lovely staff. It was such a wonderful experience and I am very sad to be going!

A huge thank you to everyone!

Posted on behalf of Anne Carey, UCL Library and Information Studies MA student

 

Volunteer opportunities in Special Collections

Are you a Brunel student and interested in a career in the heritage industry, Special Collections and/or archives? Our volunteer opportunities are a great way for students to gain workplace skills and experience what it is like working in this sector.

We are looking for students able to commit to a three hour placement each week for at least one term. Further details about what is involved and how to apply are on the Brunel Volunteers website.

You may also be interested in finding out more about a day in the life of Special Collections or reading some blog posts by previous volunteers.

 

 

 

 

Gilbert Blount collection

A post by Tom Elliott-Aston, work experience student.

In Special Collections I took some time to look through our collection on Gilbert Blount, a man who spent a considerable amount of time working under Isambard Kingdom Brunel, this university’s namesake. Blount was an architect who worked extensively for Catholic churches. Due in no small part to his father’s networking he managed to find a way into a job with the Thames Tunnel Company. There is much evidence of the nepotism that Blount used to get his job with Brunel, in many of Blount’s father’s letters. Blount Sr. urged his contacts personally to employ him. As Blount Sr. writes to Benjamin Hawes:

“I feel confident that you will befriend the young man if possible. Mr Brunel, I am very certain, will not find any one to look after the Works who would follow his instructions more implicitly than my son.”

As he writes to his son:

“My belief is that both Mr Hawes and Mr Allen wish to serve you and that they are not at all inclined to be ruled by Mr Brunel”

This provides fascinating insight into the world of business in the 1840s, it indicates that the old Hollywood adage “It’s not what you know but WHO you know” was incredibly prevalent.

Blount archive

The Blount collection includes many letters from the time and a bevy of work related material pertaining to the civil engineers of the age. You can find out more about the collection on our website.

Feminism and women’s history resources

A post by Ginny Dawe-Woodings, Special Collections placement student/volunteer.

Brunel University recently celebrated a week dedicated to Feminism, set up by the university’s Feminist Society to encourage debate and understanding of the ideology.

IMAGE1

An advert from the Ladies Home Journal

In Special Collections I took some time to explore our own collections and create an exhibition of pieces that illustrate women’s history. Special Collections houses a set of The Ladies Home Journal, an American magazine published from the 1880s to the present day. It was the Cosmopolitan of the day and offers a very visual insight into women’s history. We have issues dating from 1939 to 1961. A regular feature in the magazine was an article entitled ‘Can This Marriage Be Saved?” which advised women on how to fix their marriages.

These extracts are taken from issues from the 1950s, they place the responsibility of a good marriage entirely with women:

“The wife who is secure in the knowledge that she and her husband love each other can accept these irritations, and will do so as a matter of course”

“she will not add to his burdens by complaining. Nor will she begrudge him an occasional burst of temper”

“one way she can help him is to be his safety valve”

“We have found in our experience, that when a husband leaves his home, he may be seeking refuge from an unpleasant environment. Could it be that your husband feels that he is not understood or appreciated in his own home? What might there be in your relations to him that could make him feel that way?”

IMAGE2

Fancy TWO new vacuum cleaners for Christmas?!

One of the best examples of sexism in women’s history is in the form of adverts, and The Ladies Home Journal has a lot to offer.

Women’s history can also be studied via several of our other collections, including:

  • Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies
  • SALIDAA (South Asian Diaspora Literature & Arts Archive) which documents the contribution made by Asian women to literature and art in the UK.
  • Neglected Voices documents the experience of some disabled people, mostly women.