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Special Collections at Brunel University London is home to a wide range of both printed and archival collections.

Why use Special Collections?

Delving into the sources in Special Collections can take your research (whether for an undergraduate essay or dissertation, to postgrad work) to the next level by making it more original, as well as helping you to develop your research skills.

Recent topics that people have researched using Special Collections include:

  • London during the First World War
  • Communists in the 1920s and 1930s
  • Clothing of the poor
  • Perceptions of fascism in the inter-war period
  • Feminism under Thatcher
  • Colonial and post-colonial writers at the BBC
  • Presentation of women in the media
  • Feminism in the US in the 1950s

and the Burnett Archive of working class autobiographies has been featured in Radio 4 programmes about the history of friendship and the lives of working people during the industrial revolution.

Find out about our collections:

Special Collections is home to a huge array of material that can support your research. You can find out more by using our A-Z list of collections, or consulting our Special Collections guide, where we’ve highlighted collections of particular interest to English or History students.

You can search our collections by subject or keywords – use the library catalogue for printed material and the archive catalogue for manuscript.

Browse the Special Collections blog, you can use the tags to find posts on particular themes, such as the First World War or trains.

Contact the Special Collections Librarian if you need help finding suitable material.

If you are looking for collections beyond Brunel you will find a list of resources on our guide.

Using Special Collections

Our collections are kept on closed access, so you will need to make an appointment to come and see them. If you haven’t used Special Collections or archival material before there is a guide on our blog.

 

National Sporting Heritage Day

Today it’s National Sporting Heritage Day, and we’re blogging about a couple of our collections which are particularly relevant to this.

Celia Brackenridge Collection

Celia and her OBE

Celia and her OBE

Celia Brackenridge OBE is Professor Emerita at Brunel University London. She spent her academic career researching inequalities in sport with special reference to gender and children’s rights. Among other things, she established her archive to document the struggles and successes of her efforts to secure child protection and the prevention of non-accidental violence and abuse in sport.

The collection documents her various research studies on sexual abuse in sport and her advocacy journey through the formation of the Women’s Sports Foundation (1984 onwards), the NGO WomenSport International (1994 onwards), the foundation and development of the NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit (2001 onwards). The collection is based on Celia’s commitment to recording not just the outcomes of research but also the process and experience of doing advocacy-based investigations.

You can find out more about the collection on our website.

Dennis Brutus Collection

Dennis Brutus was a South African human rights activist, sports campaigner against apartheid, and poet. He is perhaps best known for his campaign to have apartheid South Africa banned from the Olympics in the 1960s. His collection here at Brunel includes personal and professional correspondence and a large collection of newspaper cuttings on sport and apartheid in South Africa.

Find out more about the Dennis Brutus collection on our website.

Launch of Celia Brackenridge Collection

One of our newest arrivals in Special Collections is the Celia Brackenridge Collection, which focuses on preserving original sources and information about the development of child abuse and child protection research, advocacy and policy in the UK and overseas from the 1980s to 2000s.

Celia has provided an introduction to her collection:

Celia
 

I have always felt it important to respect ‘living history’ and to try to record the processes of our studies as well as the content. This is all-the-more important for women, whose lives are so often marginalised or rendered invisible by the male machine that governs our public and private lives. This feeling was reinforced when I discovered the many books based on the Mass Observation project that started during World War II. The value of these works, for me, is that they capture the widest possible range of views and experiences from people from all walks of life but, especially, those who might otherwise be considered ‘ordinary’. A catalogue of academic papers of course bears little relation to those experiences but is also an important adjunct to the conventional historical record: in particular, it helps to plot one’s thinking over years of application to the everyday politics of research.

In Spoilsports (2001, Chapter 8) I wrote a deliberately reflexive piece that attempted to untangle some of the personal challenges of my research on sexual abuse. That chapter turned out to be one of the most important transitions in my research career. I had kept as far as possible a complete set of papers and communications from this research from the late 1980s but the discovery of reflexive sociology led me to do more than simply store papers: it prompted me to keep diaries for my larger projects and to ask my PhD students to do the same during their studies. Not much from my diaries appears verbatim in the collection’s catalogue but the research reports and books are infused and, I hope, enriched by them.

The catalogue is an ad hoc assemblage with many gaps and overlaps. Some of the gaps in the catalogue relate to work-in-progress and will be filled eventually. I have not attempted to make it strictly chronological but I hope that the index takes any interested reader more or less in their required direction of travel. There is a great deal of secondary material about abuse cases: this is because the subject of abuse in sport was so poorly recognised and documented in the early years that I felt compelled to collect case histories from the public domain. As described in Spoilsports and in the correspondence files, I was barred from conducting a prevalence survey in the UK so had to resort to amassing qualitative material that could then be used both for research analysis and for advocacy and lobbying. There are very obvious limitations to using media reports of abuse but when primary data are thin on the ground they are a very useful starting point.

Celia and her OBE

Celia and her OBE

Besides the content about abuse in sport there is also material here from other work, including some of the earliest match analysis in the UK that was developed at Sheffield Hallam University when BBC computers and genuinely floppy disks were all the rage! Many tortured years of studying dance notation while a student paid off as I was able to develop a notation system for games and use this during my brief but inglorious time as national coach for women’s lacrosse. Computer analysis of sport is now standard stuff and technical beyond my comprehension.

I hope that you find this material of use and that it might impel you to use your own studies for advocating positive social change.

Celia Brackenridge, 2013

More information on the Celia Brackenridge Collection is available on our website. The collection is also listed on Archives Hub.