Category Archives: Volunteers

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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

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.