Tag Archives: events

Using Special Collections for your dissertation

During Undergraduate Dissertation Week, we’re holding a drop in for anyone interested in using Special Collections in their dissertation. Come in to Special Collections (BANN 317a, Level 3 of the Bannerman Centre, accessed via the green staircase) between 12 and 2 on Wednesday 20 January to find out more.

Why use Special Collections?

Your dissertation topic is something you’re really interested in investigating in more detail. Delving into the sources in Special Collections can take your dissertation to the next level by making it more original. Using primary sources means you might discover something no-one has written about before, or find a new angle on your subject.

Develop your research skills

Using primary sources, such as manuscripts and archives, helps you to develop your research skills. Even if you’ve never used this sort of material before, we have resources available to help you. We hold a large number of collections available for research and study by all students and covering a wide range of subject areas. Why not take a look at our history or women’s history pages to get a flavour of what we have? Or try our complete list of collections on our webpages? Some highlights of our collections have also been featured on this blog.

Tempted?

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
  • Historical perceptions of fathers
  • Perceptions of fascism in the inter-war period
  • Issues surrounding crossing political borders
  • Presentation of women in the media
  • Feminism in the US in the 1950s
  • Equality in the 1968 Olympics

Several of our collections have already been used for dissertation research. The Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, in particular, has proven to be popular for its detailed life stories and the people behind the history.

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Writing the 1940s

Ever wanted to find out more about writing historical fiction and give it a go?  Our FREE workshop on Tuesday 26 May, between 6 and 8pm is the place to find out!

Historical fictionWe’ll be looking at primary sources from the 1940s, all specially chosen from Brunel’s Special Collections. You’ll have the opportunity to read and handle original documents, to help you find inspiration. The tutor, Emma Filtness, will help you plan and begin writing a poem, story or other creative piece that explores the time period. This workshop is suitable for those new to writing historical fiction as well as those more experienced who are looking for fresh inspiration and the chance to work with original documents.

The workshop is free, but places are limited so that everyone can have a chance to see and handle the documents. Please book a place in advance. If you have any questions please email Special Collections.

National Libraries Day 2015

Saturday 7 February 2015 is National Libraries Day, a chance to celebrate libraries and find out more about them and their collections. Their website has a list of related events on the day, and this blog post aims to highlight other libraries with Special Collections which you may find useful in your research or which have exhibitions you may want to visit.

Don’t forget that, as well as printed collections, many special collections contain archival material as well. To find out more about these try:

  • Archives Hub is a gateway to search for archives on any  number of subjects in the UK.
  • Discovery you can use to find records from the National Archives and over 2,500 archives across the UK.

LGBT history month

A blog post by Jemima, library graduate trainee.

Each year, over the month of February, the lives and achievements of the LGBT community are celebrated, the history of the gay rights and civil rights movements is remembered and awareness is raised for issues still faced by LGBT people across the world today. Since LGBT history month was last celebrated in 2014, equal marriage has been recognised and legalised in England. Whilst in the world of film, the release of the award winning The Imitation Game has brought attention to Alan Turing, a key figure in cracking Nazi Germany’s naval Enigma code which helped to win WWII, only to later be criminally prosecuted for his homosexuality, leading to Turing taking his own life. This last year has also seen Estonia become the first former Soviet country to recognise same-sex partnerships, Michael Sam, an American football star, made sporting history by coming out as gay and Russia’s anti-gay law sparked protests across the world in the run up to the Sochi Olympic Winter Games. Here at Brunel Library we have our own collections of work by LGBT authors which will be promoted over the month of February through our Pinterest page and ground floor book displays. However, works by or relating to the LGBT community do not exist only on our shelves. If you wish to discover the work of Maya Chowdhry who explores lesbian relationships and female identities in her writing, or to introduce yourself to the Indian photographer Sunil Gupta who produced work on the experience of gay men in India, or if you are interested in the exploring the area of sexual orientation in sport, you need to visit Brunel’s Special Collections.

Bitch lit

Bitch lit

Our Maya Chowdhry collection includes Bitch Lit, a cleverly subversive celebration of powerful, female anti-heroes; Acts of Passion: Sexuality, Gender and Performance, which focuses exclusively on lesbian performance work from representations of lesbian sex in the media to what the term “lesbian playwright” means within contemporary culture, and Lesbian Self-Writing: The Embodiment of Experience, a collection of writing by lesbian women on their own lives and experiences. The Sunil Gupta collection includes information on his gallery exhibits and newspaper reviews of his work, with significant media focus being placed on his decision to document himself receiving treatment for AIDS through photography.

Literature review of sexual orientation in sport

Literature review of sexual orientation in sport

Finally, A Literature Review of Sexual Orientation in Sport was carried out in 2008 by Professor Celia Brackenridge, who worked as Director of the Centre for Youth Sport and Athlete Welfare, here at Brunel University from 2005-2010 and forms just a small part of her large and fascinating collection. Visit Special Collections over February and discover something new this LGBT history month.

Using Special Collections in your dissertation

During Undergraduate Dissertation Week, we’re holding a drop in for anyone interested in finding out more about using Special Collections in their dissertation. Drop in to Special Collections (Level 3 of the Bannerman Centre, accessed via the green staircase) between 10 and 12 on Tuesday 20 January 2015.

Develop your research skills

Rocket inscriptionUsing primary sources, such as manuscripts and archives, helps you to develop your research skills, as well as adding depth to your dissertation. Even if you’ve never used this sort of material before, we have resources available to help you. We hold a large number of collections available for research and study by all students and covering a wide range of  subject areas. Why not take a look at our history or women’s history pages to get a flavour of what we have? Or try our complete list of collections on our webpages? Some highlights of our collections have also been featured on this blog.

Several of our collections have already been used for dissertation research. The Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, in particular, has proven to be popular for its detailed life stories and the people behind the history.

 

Shakespeare

#DayInTheLife

As part of Explore Your Archive week, today we’re looking at a Day in the Life of Special Collections here at Brunel University.

Enquiries
Answering enquiries

 

Most days start with checking for any new enquiries about our collections, answering them, making appointments for readers to visit and checking that reader-related admin is up-to-date. We keep statistics on the number of readers who have come to use the collections, and how many items they have looked at. Most enquiries come in via email, by phone or in person, but we still get an occasional letter in the post. All of our enquiries are logged in LibAnswers, which makes it easy to keep track of statistics, and which also provides a FAQ function for users, to help answer questions we are asked regularly.
Once a week we check our environmental monitoring equipment.

The thermo-hygrograph continuously charts the temperature and relative humidity in our storage area. We have to change the chart paper on this once a week, and, at the same time, we check if there have been any fluctuations in storage conditions over the previous week. We keep the charts to provide us with a record of storage conditions throughout the years.

We use sticky traps to detect insects that might be loitering in Special Collections, as these can indicate further problems that would damage our collections, such as infestations or damp conditions. Fortunately, all we’ve caught so far is one very small spider!

You can find further information about environmental monitoring and pest management on the British Library’s Collection Care webpages.

Environment

The thermo-hygrograph

Pest

A pest monitoring trap

We welcome two of our volunteers in, who are cataloguing part of our Transport History Collection. They have specialist railway knowledge, and their help is vital, as this is a really big collection.

When we have readers in to use our collection we register them and check their ID, get out the items they want to look at, and, if necessary, show them how to handle items correctly. We also invigilate all our readers to ensure that our collections remain secure. In the picture below there is one reader looking at items from our Transport History Collection, as well as our two volunteers. You can find out more about what to expect when you visit Special Collections as a reader on our How to use Special Collections blog post.

readers

Readers and volunteers using the collections

We hold workshops for particular subjects for groups from within Brunel and also outside. You can find out more about them on this blog.

 

 

 

Our collection include both printed books and archival material, both of which need cataloguing, so that users can find the items that they are interested in seeing. You can find items by searching our library catalogue for our printed collections, whilst the archive collections appear on Archives Hub. We fit cataloguing in around everything else that we do and have some help from other library staff members too. Our most recently catalogued collection is the Bill Griffiths Archive, which you can find out more about on this blog post.
Boxes Book shelves

Apart from monitoring the environment, other preservation steps we take, and which, again, are fitted in around other activities, are housing the collections appropriately. For books, this means measures such as having similarly sized books on the same shelf so they are properly supported, and training staff and users in how to shelf them correctly. For archival material we repackage items in Melinex (inert polyester) sleeves and store them in acid-free boxes. We also remove staples, paperclips etc, and replace them with brass paperclips, which won’t rust.

Melinex

Blount Archive packaged in Melinex sleeves, and in an acid-free box

And, once any readers have finished for the day, we reshelve the items they have looked at. Readers are asked to complete a feedback form, and any issues (good or bad!) arising from this are noted so that action can be taken. Two months after a visit, readers who have given permission are contacted with an online survey to complete about whether they have published or will publish work based on their research in Special Collections.

Feedback

Throughout the day we keep an eye on the Special Collections’ social media accounts, this blog, Flickr and Twitter (@BrunelSpecColl), promoting the collections. We design posters to publicise events in Special Collections, and put on displays for these too.

If you’ve got any questions about #DayInTheLife please leave a comment on the blog and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Explore Your Archive week

Picture of a letter from the Blount archive

Letter from the Blount Archive

Explore Your Archive week is an exciting national event in which archives all over the country are showcased and promoted; and we at Brunel Library are getting involved.

Here in Brunel’s Special Collections we have an interesting and diverse range of archival collections and we’re inviting you to come along to one of our drop in sessions and find out more about the archival treasures at your fingertips, and how you can access and use them for your essays and assignments.

You’ll find us on Level 3 of the library, accessed by the green staircase/lift.

Drop in sessions:

Monday 10th November 2 – 4 pm English/Creative writing Come and find out more about our literature collections and the different ways in which they have been used in creative writing. We will have items from the collections out for you to see, and then at 2.00, 3.00 and 3.30 pm brief talks will be given from people who have used Special Collections in their research and teaching. These will be interspersed with readings from creative writing inspired by the collections. There will be plenty of opportunities to find out more and ask questions.

Check out these blog posts to find out more about the collections that have been used for English and creative writing: Writing back and Teaching from the archives.

You can also get a flavour of the collections on our Special Collections guide for English.

Tuesday 11th November 10 am – 12 noon Any subject Maybe you can’t make it to one of the subject-specific sessions, or maybe you’re interested in a different subject to English or History? Then why not join us to find out more about what our collections offer for both English and History/Politics, but also other subjects?

There will be collection items out on display for you to see and handle, plus plenty of opportunity to ask questions and find out more.

Wednesday 12th November 2 – 4 pm History/Politics Drop in to discover which Special Collections you might find interesting for your assignments or dissertation. There will be collection items out on display for you to see and handle, plus plenty of opportunity to ask questions and find out more.  There is more information on our Special Collections guide for History and Women’s history.