Tag Archives: workshops

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

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.

#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.

On tunnels and female freedom fighters: archives inspire local writers

Guest post by Emma Filtness, Creative Writing Tutor

Over the course of this academic year, I have run two more writing workshops with Brunel’s Special Collections. The first involved a session with the Creative Writing class from the Brunel Arts Centre – a mix of staff, students and members of the public – the second with the London Borough of Hillingdon’s Creative Writing group based at Uxbridge Library.

The participants spent an evening browsing a selection of materials from across the collections. The materials were introduced by Katie Flanagan, Special Collections Librarian, who provided the writers with some information on the specific item and the archive or collection it was from, including entries from The Burnett Archive of Working-Class Autobiogrpahies, editions of the Ladies’ Home Journal from the 1940s and 1950s, items from the South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive (SADAA) and books and memorabilia from the Channel Tunnel Association collection. Participants then picked an item that particularly appealed to them and used it as a springboard for creativity, producing poems, short stories and articles in response to the item they chose.

All our own workA poem and a short story inspired by materials in the collections were recently in an anthology on display as part of the All Our Own Work exhibition at Brunel’s Beldam Gallery.

Memory is a poem by Viraj Chouhan, an Anthropology Master’s student, inspired by an article in issue 18 of Outwrite, a feminist newspaperfrom the South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive. “It described the plight of Zimbabwe’s female freedom fighters who had participated in the guerrilla struggle for independence from white colonial rule,” said Viraj, speaking about the article that inspired his poem. “Soon after achieving an independent state, they were somewhat spurned by society, particularly older women who were loathe to let their sons marry these strong-willed girls.”

TunnelsOubliette is a short story by Joseph Norman, an English PhD student and Brunel staff member. His story was inspired by The History of Tunnels by Patrick Beaver in the Channel Tunnel Association archive. “If I’m honest,” said Joseph, “I judged the book initially by its cover: for this edition, a wonderfully gloomy photograph of workers down a coal-mine. This image spoke to me of hardship and toil in an environment largely unfamiliar to myself, and – allowing my imagination to stray somewhat – with connotations of mystery and buried secrets. Flicking through, I isolated key words and phrases that caught my attention. I was struck by the variety of uses that tunnels have had throughout history, but more by the small details of life underground. Most important of the phrases that I chose was “an underground global system to connect the major cities of the Earth,” which forms the premise of my story. During the workshop I wrote a very loose and rambling first-person account of one man’s time working underground. Later I used this as a basis for a dystopian narrative of a man enticed into working underground, seeing the work as an escape from a suggested traumatic past. This gave me plenty of scope to play with metaphors linking tunnels and digging with remembrance and forgetting.”

 

Teaching using Special Collections

DSC00112

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).