Tag Archives: explorearchives

Explore Archives

This week is a great time to get involved in archives and special collections that interest you! Have a look at the Explore Your Archive main page to see what’s happening near you, and look at the #explorearchives posts on Twitter and other social media.

Find out about our collections:

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

You can see more about us on Twitter and Instagram too.

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 with the Special Collections Librarian to come and see them once we re-open in January. If you haven’t used Special Collections or archival material before there is a guide on our blog.

 

50 objects 38: bindings

“Don’t judge a book by its cover”, the adage runs, but covers and bindings can be a rewarding topic of study. The type of binding used can also tell you about the age and status of a book, the intended audience, and the owner.

These four books from our Transport History collections show developments in bookbinding technology enabling covers to be printed in several colours and with complex designs, to attract readers. You can see a lot more detail about the history of this type of binding via this blog from St. Andrews’ university library rare books staff.

 

These periodicals were bound in a standard Brunel style, to keep the issues together and to protect the pages more than the original covers would have done. The binding includes a gold stamp of the old Brunel crest, as well as of the shelfmark.

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The publishers of this series have sold space on the cover, as well as inside the book, to advertisers.

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The condition the binding is in can tell you about the amount and type of use a book has had. Bradshaw’s Guide (a collection of railway timetables) was an ephemeral publication, re-issued frequently with up-to-date details. Once you had the new issue, the old one was not useful for planning journeys, and so the volumes were not intended to survive very long, and had only paper wrappers.

The surviving issues are kept for historical interest and for research into railway history, but the paper is now very fragile and gets damaged with handling. To keep the books safe and minimise further damage, we are making new wrappers of acid-free card to fit each fragile volume.

 

This book has a blue binding with gold tooling on the front and on the spine. A previous owner has tried to protect this cover by adding a homemade brown paper dustwrapper, and has meticulously drawn an image from the gold tooling onto the spine of the wrapper as well as noting the title.

Many modern books use cover art as a way to demonstrate the type of content, or to attract readers, or to show how relevant they are to a particular activity or type of study. Examining the cover art and styles can show who the target audience for the book is, and what aspect of the book’s contents the publishers are trying to emphasise.

50 objects 33: Norah Elliott’s autobiography

The collection of documents on Norah Elliott is number 2:242 in the Burnett collection of working-class autobiographies, held in Special Collections.

Norah was born into the Pilch family in 1903, and writes of her early life and her memories of her grandparents. Disaster struck in 1913 when her father was drowned; the family went to the workhouse, and Norah was adopted. She recalls her work as a teacher, and her life in Australia, sending food parcels home to her siblings in the UK, during the second world war.

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Norah’s poem on her Aunt Susan

 

Her file includes several handwritten workings not only of her own story, but also of substantial research by her and other family members into her family history. The writing is interspersed with maps, copies of primary sources, family trees, and poetry by Norah, and accompanied by original documents including a birth certificate, a union card, and burial records.norah2

There is a vaccination certificate, made out in 1879 for Norah’s ancestor John Pilch, in linenorah3 with the legal requirement to demonstrate that children were vaccinated against smallpox: see http://www.genguide.co.uk/source/vaccination-registers-amp-certificates/51/  for more on these records.

 

 

Another interesting aspect of this collection is the insight given into Norah’s writing and editing process: there are several drafts, with footnotes and amendments, and a few comments on the writing process. A late diary entry states “I’ve finished last night’s crossword and got up to date with this mish-mash. I don’t think I want to read what I’ve written”. She may not have wanted to, but the file is well worth reading.

50 0bjects 28: The Ladies Home Journal

A post by Graduate Trainee, Becky Tabrar

The Ladies Home Journal was an American monthly lifestyle magazine which was established in February 1883. By the turn of the century it was the leading women’s magazine in the US, and reached one million subscribers in 1903. Within our collection we hold editions spanning from 1939 to 1961, and studying the Journal allows us an insight into the attitudes and opinions of the time.

Persistent themes can be seen throughout the editions we hold; the most prominent of which is sexism. Advertisements frequently urge women to look their best for their husbands, as seen in an advert for Lady Esther cosmetics in the July 1939 edition, which states ‘the wrong shade of powder can turn the right man away’. Women are also advised on the best methods of keeping an orderly home. An Annual Report to Housewives, featured in the July 1961 edition, advertises the newest domestic appliances available, but exclusively addresses women. The article advises the reader to ‘ask a user what service she gets before you buy’; the assumption being that only women will ever use the domestic appliances. Moreover, adverts for domestic products universally feature women, and even when only a hand is shown, nail polish is used to ensure femininity is represented.

Another frequent theme is consumerism. Since the late 19th century, shopping had been changing from a functional role for women, to a leisured and respectable activity. Companies began to see women as the ‘chief purchasing power’ for households and the adverts seen in the Ladies Home Journal reflects this. In fact, the journal itself was enforcing the link between women and consumerism, which was further strengthen by technological inventions in the domestic sphere, allowing women to spend less time on the household and more time shopping. The most frequently advertised items in the Ladies Home Journal include new domestic appliances, make up products and cleaning products.

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However, apart from tracing overarching themes through the editions, we can also gain information on the reaction of the American public to specific historical events. An article in the July 1945 edition documents the shocked reaction of the American public to the discovery of extermination camps following the collapse of the Third Reich. It claims that a cynical world, which has lost morality, and is obsessed with power, was to blame, and urges the world to return to religion. Similarly, reactions to the signing of the United Nations Charter can be seen in the September 1945 edition, whereby an article surmises that the agreement signed at San Francisco will not eradicate greed, but ‘can keep the peace when the inevitable threats of war arise again’.

Though attitudes differ, the special features of the Journal are still recognisable in today’s magazines. Each month a novel segment was included, and Eleanor Roosevelt, like celebrities today, was a regular columnist, answering queries from financial woes to the most fashionable hairstyle. Similarly, interviews with Hollywood celebrities were a frequent trend, along with fashion segments. In later editions, ladies could receive advice from a medical column, and letters of readers were published within the magazine.

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50 Objects 27: A History of Uxbridge

A post by Graduate Trainee, Becky Tabrar.

Included within our local history collection are nine volumes of The Victoria History of The County of Middlesex by the University of London Institute Of Historical Research. They are part of the Victoria County History project which was established in 1899, with the aim of producing a complete encyclopaedic history of each county in England. The project is still ongoing, and so far the histories of thirteen counties have been completed. The topics covered are varied and include natural, political, religious, economic and social histories.

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Some of our Victoria County History volumes

Volume Four of the Middlesex history is dedicated to the ten ancient parishes in North- West Middlesex, of which Hillingdon is one. It contains fascinating information on the development of Brunel University London’s home town Uxbridge, which we have summarised into a short history below.

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The frontispiece from Volume four.

Originally Uxbridge was a hamlet under the administration of its parent parish, Hillingdon. The earliest evidence of settlement within the Parish dates to the Palaeolithic era. A Roman road ran through the middle of the old Parish, and Roman pottery was found in Uxbridge in 1959, near Cowley church. It is believed the place names of ‘Hillingdon’, ‘Colham’, ‘Cowley’ and ‘Yiewsley’ originate from Saxon family names, while it is believed ‘Uxbridge’ derives from the original hamlet’s proximity to a bridge crossing the river Colne.

The first recorded use of the name ‘Uxbridge’ is in the 12th century, and the hamlet was represented in Edward I’s first parliament in 1275. By 1328, Uxbridge was the major settlement in the parish of Hillingdon, and by the medieval period was an affluent market town. At the intersection between Windsor Street and High Street was the centre of the town. As is still the case today, it was home to the market house and St Margaret’ chapel (original built in 1275, and later rebuilt in the 15th century). The present market house dates from the late 18th century, while the oldest part of St Margaret’s Chapel, the North Tower, dates to the late 14th century.

Further connections between the medieval market town and todays Uxbridge are still visible. The 16th century Treaty house, which is now the Crown and Treaty pub, was used as a venue for negotiations between King Charles I and Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. The inside retains original features, though only a single wing of the 16th century mansion remains. Similarly, the building of the Three Tuns pub originates from the 16th century, and is grade II listed. There is a monument on Cross Street overlooking what was formally known as Lynch Green to remember three protestant heretics who were burned there in 1555. The three men were not from the local area, but were used to set an example to the people of Uxbridge, and ensure they conformed to Catholic ideology. The memorial was established four hundred years later.

By the late 1700’s insanitary conditions in Uxbridge meant the high street was widened by fifty two yards to the South West, and a new market house was built. By 1790, the town consisted of houses neatly lining both sides of the high street, with a few shops, including a chair factory, a malt house, a brewery, a mill, Higgenson’s bank and the market house. By the 19th century Uxbridge, aided by its proximity to the Grand Union Canal and it lining the route from Oxford to London, became one of the most important market towns in Middlesex, and was the main producer of flour for London. Even Kingsmill bread originated from Uxbridge!

Becoming increasingly autonomous, Uxbridge split from the Parish of Hillingdon in 1894, and formed the civil parish of Hillingdon West, which later became the Borough of Uxbridge.

References:

R.B. Pugh, The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Volume IV (13 Vols, London, 1971).

C. M. Hearmon, Uxbridge: A Concise History (Hillingdon Borough Libraries, 1982).

 

50 objects 25: Library Staff Suggestions Book

A post by Graduate Trainee, Becky Tabrar.

In celebration of Brunel University’s 50th birthday, which is fast approaching on the 6th July, we thought we would share with you another item from the Library History Archive. In 1978, a staff suggestion book was created by the University Librarian Nick Childs, to allow library colleagues to have their say on how services could be improved.

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Library Staff Suggestion Book, 1978-1984.

 

The comments were recorded between 1978 and 1984, and offer a unique insight into the operations of an academic library in this era. Often borrowing books from the Library was a time consuming and arduous process. Before the existence of online record systems, Brunel University Library used an early computer form of automated library system, which read a student’s issue ticket and ticket held within the item they wanted to borrow, and copied them on to a tape which was printed every day for records. One colleague lamented about the complexity of issuing journals under this system, and in particular, was concerned about the difficulty of discharging journal articles if its ticket had fallen out, as was often the case. They suggested that journals should become reference only as a solution, and later on this was indeed the case. As expected, with barcodes now allowing paper journals articles to be easily discharged from our computer system, this is no longer a concern.

Nevertheless, the rise of the computer has not resolved all of the concerns from the 1970s and 80s. In 1978, a staff member refers to the frequency of checked out books being left behind on library desks. This is a common phenomenon even today. Likewise, a comment recorded in 1979 states ‘someone was disco dancing in the reading room at 5pm (till I saw him!)’. One staff member in 1978 had an enthusiastic way of describing the high noise levels in the Library and in verse declared:

‘Once upon a time,

Before the laughter pierced the silence,

And pattering tiny feet,

Thundered round in circles,

…….Library quiet had lingered,

Once upon a time’

Though I can’t say I have ever seen a student ‘disco-dancing’, we still have our fair share of noise complaints!

Explore Archives

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.