Tag Archives: Special Collections

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

 

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Preserving our collections

A major part of our work in Special Collections is to ensure that our materials will still be available to future generations of scholars and visitors. Many of the objects we hold are made of sturdy stuff, our rare 18th century books will probably outlast us all, but other items such as our photographic collections are more fragile, and even stable materials can become vulnerable over decades. To this end we spend a lot of time making sure materials are stored in optimal conditions to extend their life and usefulness. This week we are participating in the ALA Preservation Week by celebrating all things preservation and giving you an insight into the activities we undertake. You might even pick up a few tips on how to preserve your own special items!

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Blue blinds and ultraviolet filters

Where and how you store different materials can have a big impact on their lifespan. We try to store collections in a space that has a consistent temperature and humidity all year round. This is because extremes of temperature and the presence of moisture in the air can induce a harmful reaction in different materials. For instance, paper can be vulnerable to mould in hot and wet conditions or older colour photographs can decay in high temperatures.

This year we have installed some rather snazzy blue blinds to prevent sunlight artificially warming our facility, with the addition of ultraviolet filters to prevent yellowing of paper and fading of inks. We also monitor the temperature and humidity of our collections with some basic digital indicators to give us a warning of problems.

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Digital temperature and humidity monitors

Additionally, we keep our eyes peeled for any pests such as silverfish that might take a fancy to our materials for food or accommodation. We use pest traps to monitor any nuisance visitors, and if we find any try to modify the environment to discourage their visits.

Other environmental factors should also be considered. This might include dust, or pollution if you live in a built up area. One way to mitigate these is to store

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Pest trap

materials in an enclosure like a box that will prevent light and particles from accessing the item. This is a simple way to preserve heirlooms or keepsakes, although you do have to check on them occasionally to make sure there is nothing happening inside the box itself.

Interestingly, a common way materials become damaged is just through poor handling. To try and minimise handling and stress we use book supports to cradle our printed materials when they are being viewed. We also add a protective layer of Melinex to items like photographs or paper to prevent them from being damaged by constant use. At home, something as simple as washing your hands before handling rare materials can limit environmental pollutants.

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Book rests to support texts

With these safeguards in place we hope our collections will be available for years to come.If you would like more information about Preservation week visit the ALA webpages for advice and insights.

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).

 

Why use Special Collections for your dissertation?

Why use Special Collections?

You’ve chosen your dissertation topic because it’s something you’re really interested in discovering in more detail. Then delving into the sources in Special Collections can take your dissertation 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, or your Subject Liaison Librarian for help.

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.

Don’t forget to drop into Special Collections (level 3, access via green staircase) to find out more between 10 and 12 on Tuesday 20 January 2015!