Tag Archives: teaching

Explore Archives Week 2017

Join us for a fun-filled week of exploring archives in Special Collections here at Brunel University. We’ll be highlighting items from our collection every day here on our blog, Twitter and Instagram. You can also visit us in person at our open afternoon on 20 November.

Many of our pictures feature Bendy Brunel, and you can read more about his other adventures on this blog too.

#ExploreArchives Bendy Brunel strikes out for the aptly named Invention Exhibition to begin our Archives Week adventures.

Students using archives

Here a group of #history #students take time to #explorearchives and discuss the academic use of #primarysources

Bendy exploring

#ExploreArchives Bendy Brunel discovers tunnelling and more at Brunel Special Collections Channel Tunnel Association Archive.

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New reading room

New reading roomWe’re delighted to announce that our new reading room is open. Our new facility offers a much improved space for researchers with dedicated reader spaces, sockets to plug in laptops, better lighting and reference books on hand to support the primary sources from our collections. It is also much easier to access, straight down the corridor on level 3 from the green staircase/lift.

You can find out more about accessing our collections on our webpage.

 

Our new space is also available for group workshops, where material from the collections can be put on display for your group’s use. We have further information available on our teaching and learning page, or please contact special collections if you would like to find out more.

New reading room 2

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.

Teaching using Special Collections

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A workshop taking place

Material from our Special Collections can be used as part of a seminar or workshop. It can be very rewarding for academics and students alike to be able to handle original material, as well as introducing students to a range of primary sources and giving them the skills and confidence to be able to access and use archival collections.

 

 

Our teaching facilities include a group study room which can accommodate up to 12 people, and space for larger groups in the Research Commons.  

Group study room

Group study room

Larger teaching space in Research Commons

Larger teaching space in Research Commons

 For further information about teaching using our collections, please see our Teaching and Learning page.

You will find case studies of workshops that already use Special Collections material on our blog.

Maya Chowdhry Collection

A creative writing workshop

A creative writing workshop

One of our collections housed here at Brunel as part of the SALIDAA (South Asian Diaspora Literature and Arts Archive) archives include a collection of work by the writer Maya Chowdhry. It is proving to be an inspirational resource for teaching creative writing.

Maya Chowdhry grew up in Scotland. She began as a film maker, but went on to write short fiction, poetry and plays. Her experience includes running workshops for young people and a residency in a theatre.  She is an interactive artist, who uses modern media to make her work more accessible. Chowdhry has written on the experiences of Asian women, and on lesbian relationships.

Maya Chowdhry's notebook

One of Maya Chowdhry’s notebooks

Our collection focuses on her work as a writer for the theatre. It includes some of her play scripts, and extracts from her plays. We are fortunate to have some of her writer’s notebooks. These show the research behind her writing, and how it develops.  The notebook for “Tara” has drawings, photocopies, photographs, postcards, her poems, notes, and diary entries. She writes pages that explore the characters and the story that she is creating.

This archive has recently been catalogued and now appears on Archives Hub. As well as being of interest to researchers of Asian literature and the experiences of Asian women, it also gives a valuable insight into the process of creative writing.

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).

Teaching from the Archives: the magical and meaningful

A guest post by Dr Claire Lynch.

As a researcher I’ve spent many happy hours, elbow deep in the manuscripts of the
Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography held here at Brunel. The archive contains over 230 autobiographies by authors born between 1790 and 1945 and
was compiled by John Burnett, David Vincent, and David Mayall. They were
interested in how working class people had written about their own lives and the
texts they collected are rich and varied.

Burnett ArticleMy research looks at this material from a
literary perspective; I’m interested in the techniques these writers have used and the ways they have managed the almost impossible task of capturing life on the page.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been sharing this work with MA students from the English and Creative Writing programmes. For many of the students this is the first opportunity to work with manuscript material so we always begin with a few ground
rules. As some of the original documents are old and fragile it’s important that they’re handled carefully with clean hands. While it’s certainly vital to know how to use the material without damaging it, it’s equally important to know how we might begin to think about it.

Students at a Burnett Archive workshop with Dr Claire Lynch

Students at a Burnett Archive workshop with Dr Claire Lynch

Archives are different from published texts. As Philip Larkin described they have
both “magical” and “meaningful” qualities. For these students, being in contact with
handwritten documents, photographs and personal letters, provided a magical
sense of connection with the authors. At the same time, reading about the lives of
orphans, circus performers, soldiers and housemaids gave them a new and
meaningful insight into the past. The material includes surprising revelations about
private lives, comic anecdotes and tragic stories of hardship. Students have to take
on not only the content of the autobiographies but also the form, which may include
unclear handwriting or non-textual elements such as drawings or maps as below.

Map from the Burnett Archive

Map from the Burnett Archive

Since these manuscripts come directly from the author, without input from an editor
or publisher, it is tempting to read them as uncomplicated and wholly truthful. But as
Carolyn Steedman wisely reminds us, archives also include “the mad
fragmentations that no one intended to preserve”. Think for a moment about the
files on your hard drive or the contents of your inbox. If these documents were
archived for the future, would they tell a wholly accurate picture of your life?
In the following months the students will return to Special Collections to
develop their own projects using the Burnett Archive. Some will use the
manuscripts for academic essays, others for inspiration for writing fiction. Watch
this space for the magical and meaningful results.

Dr Claire Lynch is a Lecturer in English in the School of Arts. She has had the
privilege of sharing her work on the Burnett Archive at numerous conferences, most
recently with the International Auto/Biography Association in Canberra, Australia.
You can read more about her research on the archive.