Tag Archives: outreach

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).

 

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.

Next week…

we’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the official opening of the Channel Tunnel by the Queen and President Mitterand on 6th May.

Look out for our display on the ground floor of the library, featuring images of items from the official opening.

 Further details about our Channel Tunnel Association Archive are available on our webpage, and there is a description of the collection on Archives Hub. Look out for further updates on our blog next week!

Against the grain

The culmination of various workshops held in Special Collections this academic year, using our SALIDAA (now re-named SADAA) collection, was a Saturday afternoon event at the West Wing Arts Centre in Slough.

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Founders of the AWWC Ravinder Randhawa, Rahila Gupta and Rukhsana Ahmad in conversation with Shyama Perera

The afternoon included reflections from the original creators of the Asian Women Writers’ Collective on how the group had started and then evolved, turning from a writers’ group to a writers’ collective.

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AWWC founding members with their daughters.

Later on some of the founding members returned to their stage accompanied by their daughters and discussed how they too went against the grain to pursue uncertain careers.

One of the founding members, Maya Chrowdhry, read some of her poetry to the gathering, and was interviewed by Lakshmi Holström (one of the founding trustees of SALIDAA).

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Maya Chowdhry reading some of her poetry

The afternoon was a celebration of achievement: the two community groups who had visited us earlier in the year for workshops on Preserving community heritage and culture, where they learnt about caring for historic collections, had then gone on to learn skills in oral history, and gained certificates in Heritage Skills. They were presented with their certificates by the Mayor of Slough.

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The Mayor of Slough presenting Heritage Skills certificates

And another group, this time of local women, who had worked on a creative writing project based around the SALIDAA collections, had the opportunity to read their work aloud, and also see it published in a booklet.

The booklet will shortly be available in Special Collections.

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Creative writing group participants reading aloud from their work.

Writing back – local women writers take inspiration from the archive

A guest post by Emma Filtness.

I have spent many happy hours over the past three years absorbed in the Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, amused, moved, shocked and entertained by the life stories of a select few of the women contained within. Dr Claire Lynch introduced me to the archive, which has since come to form an integral part of my Creative Writing PhD, so when Claire emailed me about a project that involved a combination of rooting around in yet another special collection and creative writing, I was more than a little intrigued.

Brunel University Library’s Special Collections is currently the home of SALIDAA, the South Asian Diaspora Literature and Arts Archive. SALIDAA was awarded lottery funding to run a heritage project, ‘Mummyji’, which would consist of a range of local activities including workshops in schools, author talks, readings and events in libraries in and around Slough, plus a series of women’s community creative writing workshops. These writing workshops were to be run by Brunel in collaboration with SALIDAA, and they were looking for volunteers to run the sessions.

The idea was to recreate and update the original Asian Women Writers Collective (AWWC) – sorry about all the acronyms – by providing local women of South Asian heritage, or women with a link to or interest in South Asian culture, with a place to meet and write and share their work-in-progress, with the aim of producing work of publishable standard for an edited collection.

Myself and two other women writers ran eight workshops in total, beginning with an introductory session early February and ending with a reading party at the end of March, where each woman shared her “best” piece of work aloud to the group. The six sessions in between we split between us. Shaheen Hashmat ran two lovely sessions in which the women took trips down memory lane and explored their childhoods and family homes, among other things, in their writing. The final two sessions before the reading party were led by Anujit Kaur, who did some crucial work on editing and polishing work for submission for possible publication.

Emma teaching the group

The middle two sessions were mine. For the first of these, I led the women up to the Research Commons and Special Collections where SALIDAA resides, where we met with Katie Flanagan, Special Collections Librarian, who gave the women a crash course in handling and working with archive materials. I showed the women some examples of the creative writing myself and other colleagues had produced in response to the Burnett Archive, to give them an idea of what was possible. I had developed a lesson plan of sorts, with some tips and advice on how to find inspiration in the archive and how to translate your observations and responses to the archive materials into written creative outputs.

The women were given time to explore the archive, with the focus on the materials of the original AWWC deposited with SALIDAA. They were encouraged to take notes (with pencils, of course), write down words and phrases that jumped out at them or resonated somehow, to take photos of anything particularly visually stimulating, to make a note of any feelings, memories or ideas conjured up by interacting with the materials. We each then took turns sharing what we had found and what had interested us with the group.

For homework, and in preparation for the session the following week, I asked the women to think about what they would like to write about in response to their tactile session with SALIDAA. We began the following session back in our workshop circle, with each woman announcing what she was going to write (poem, short story, autobiography about/inspired by…). The women were then given the majority of the session to draft their written responses to the archive material. This included poetry inspired by words in spider diagrams found in Maya Chowdhry’s beautiful notebooks, stories inspired by photographic stills of a play production, self-reflective pieces of non-fiction exploring a theme or idea and much more.

Maya Chowdhry’s notebook

For those who were a little stuck, I recommended that they write a story, poem or personal response inspired by a list of interesting words and phrases I ‘borrowed’ from Maya’s notebooks:

  • Grieving
  • Secret – lie – tell – reveal
  • Good hurt
  • I think I’d like to live in the past
  • To seal the heart is to be a man
  • Impulse, innocence, uninhibited
  • Desire beyond identity
  • Dancing/movement
  • Tell stories

Towards the close of the session, some of the women shared snippets of their newly-created poetry and prose, and some gave constructive feedback: “I really like your use of repetition of…”, “perhaps if you make it clearer at the beginning that…” but most just offered smiles and encouragement. The women are now preparing to submit their work at the end of the month, when it will be considered for inclusion in an anthology (watch this space).

Preserving community heritage and culture

Recently two community groups from Slough visited us in Special Collections. They were here specifically to find out more about preserving their heritage and culture for future generations of their families, as well as researchers. For many members of the groups it was their first visit to a university library or art gallery.

We started off by looking at the variety of collections housed here at Brunel. This includes the more obvious book and manuscript material, but also posters and other ephemera from the Transport History Collection, as well as the occasional piece of furniture, and even a costume worn by Ram Gopal from the SALIDAA collection.

Showing off one of our railway posters.

Showing off one of our railway posters, with a chair from the same collection also on display.

One of the groups looking at some of our railway posters

Looking at items from the Transport History Collection

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Looking at the materials that make up a book.

                                                                    Once we’d looked at the variety of items in the collections, we discussed how best to care for them so that future generations will be able to see them too. This included talking about how paper is made and how this affects how well it has survived, how to handle books and manuscripts to avoid causing more damage to them and safe ways of packaging items to keep deterioration to a minimum.

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Demonstrating the use of Melinex sleeves in preservation

We also talked about how the items are used in research, why people might want to use them and what to do to arrange a visit to a special collections library or archive.

Finally, both visits ended with a trip to the Beldam Gallery, part of Brunel University, where the participants enjoyed an introduction to the current exhibition, Suspense,  from the University Curator, George Mogg, followed by a well-earned cup of tea in the Eastern Gateway building.

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George Mogg introducing the Beldam Gallery exhibition