Last month I attended the Beyond the Lecture Theatre conference at the University of Aberdeen. It was both the furthest north I’ve travelled and my first time in the city, and after braving the winds off the North Sea I really enjoyed visiting such a vibrant place. The conference brought together staff and students from the archive and museum sector in higher education to discuss cross-disciplinary working and innovations. It was hosted in the beautiful Sir Duncan Rice Library located in Old Aberdeen, with views out over the coast from the 7th floor. The conference was run in collaboration with University Museums in Scotland and the Scottish Universities Special Collections and Archives Group.
The Sir Duncan Rice Library at night
I was treated to speakers from across the UK and Europe talking about their experiences of cross-sector and discipline working with the aim of increasing the reach and potential of museum and archival collections to students and other audiences. This is an area I’m particularly interested in and am always looking to introduce new ways of working with students and collections here at the University of Gloucestershire.
View from the 7th floor
Each speaker brought a new dimension to the discussion and it was fascinating to hear of all the innovative outreach work taking place in university archives and museums. Anna McNally from the University of Westminster described her experience of co-teaching on a dedicated MA Art and Visual Culture module which used collections from their in-house archive. Students took part in various archival orientation activities such as cataloguing, description and background reading on archive theory whilst also conducting their own research to produce tailored exhibitions. Other embedded approaches included Middlesex University’s collaboration between academics and the university museum’s design collection to engage students with magazine collections, whilst Maastricht University’s On Exhibition course saw two students travelling to China to re-trace the footsteps of Jesuit scholars found in travelogues in the Special Collections.
Inside the Sir Duncan Rice Library
The essential links between using collections to aid teaching and digitisation of material were evident. Giovanna Vitelli from the Ashmolean Museum discussed integrating text and object teaching at Oxford University with their new Cabinet software. This tool allows items from museum collections to be digitised, made available online and become part of teaching by allowing staff and students to annotate and manipulate the digital image. Staff can add new objects to discuss in an online forum each week.
Delegates at the conference
There were also inspiring talks on using student placements from the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Glasgow and University of Stirling. All were examples of stimulating and relevant internships which were mutually beneficial to both students and organisations. A lively ‘PechaKucha’ session saw PhD students from the University of Glasgow discussing their experiences of using museum and archive collections in their research. It was a really enjoyable two days and which left me feeling inspired to try new ideas here.
Last night saw the successful launch of the new Special Collections and Archives online catalogue. Three of the University’s archive collections have already been catalogued – the University Archive Miscellaneous Donations collection; the Cyder Press Collection and the Dymock Poets Special Collection.
Last night focused on the Dymock Poets collection – a unique gathering of material on famous poets such as Rupert Brooke, Robert Frost and Edward Thomas who lived in and visited the Gloucestershire village of Dymock during the summer of 1914. The collection not only documents this “brief idyll”, but covers the lives of the poets and the ensuing century of interest they have generated.
Archivist Louise Hughes says “We are so lucky as an institution to have such a fantastic archive dedicated to these world-renowned poets and their Gloucestershire connections. Not only do we have a wealth of published material by and criticism of the poets, we have original drafts of poetry, unpublished letters and private photographs – completely unique and held here at the University. Our new online catalogue has enabled this and other collections to be opened up to researchers both here and all over the world. It is a major milestone.”
Staff and students read poetry by the Dymock Poets and were joined by members of the Edward Thomas Fellowship and Friends of the Dymock Poets. The great turnout, mulled wine and festive treats made it a fitting celebration.
To celebrate the launch of our new online catalogue the Special Collections and Archives are hosting an evening of poetry and seasonal refreshments, giving you the chance to discover our newly catalogued Dymock Poets Special Collection. Please come along and discover more about the poets, why they were in Dymock and what gems the special collection contains. See you there!
For anyone who missed the Roll of Honour display at Park Campus last Friday, it is now available to view in the Special Collections and Archives (QU024) at Francis Close Hall. This year’s display documents those who perished between September 1916 – August 1917.
The Roll of Honour tells the stories of our 264 alumni members who lost their lives during the First World War. They include members of Cheltenham Training College and St Paul’s Practising School. Special Collections and Archives staff use sources such as the University Archive, Commonwealth War Graves Commission and local publications to produce individual case studies. The plan is to make these available online via a searchable database.
Archive staff were very privileged to be involved in this year’s graduation ceremonies at Cheltenham Racecourse. Working with first-year students from the School of Media, we ran a Memory Booth at two of the ceremonies on 26 and 27 November, where past and graduating students were able to share their most memorable student experiences.
The ceremony on the morning of 27 November paid homage to both our graduating Education students and members of the Old Students’ Association, many of whom were present at the ceremony. As an institution we have been educating teachers in Cheltenham for nearly 170 years and old students from as far back as the 1940s were present last week to share their memories.
Radio Production student Alex Hawkins interviewed old student Martin Fry (1975-1979).
I knew that I wanted to be a teacher at the beginning. The interesting thing was at that time the first four weeks we went straight out into schools. And we went into a primary school, infant school sorry, then a junior school and then a secondary school. And after those four weeks there were a number of students who decided it wasn’t for them. You were already teaching, and don’t forget here I was at 18, just left school and then in front of a class and in the Royal Forest of Dean Grammar School I was teaching music the second week, having not any real skills in music, to sixth-formers who were literally six months younger than I was. That was obviously a great test and I think it was a real good point that you knew you wanted to be a teacher or you didn’t after that, and I did.
We hope to make these recordings available on the Special Collections and Archives catalogue very soon.