The University of Gloucestershire Special Collections and Archives are currently involved in a project with other AtoM catalogue software users to make our descriptions available on the Archives Hub. Archives Hub brings together catalogues from hundreds of higher education and specialist archives in the UK, making all their descriptions searchable in one place. Having a presence on Archives Hub will increase the audiences for our collections both in the UK and via Archives Portal Europe.
Jen Mitcham of the Borthwick Institute at the University of York is co-ordinating the project, working with Artefactual, the developers of our online AtoM catalogue. AtoM (Access to Memory) is open source archive cataloguing software, meaning it is free to download and set up. We’ve been working hard to make our collections available online since setting up AtoM in summer 2015. So far three of our collections are catalogued and searchable, encompassing almost 5,000 descriptions.
Jen has written a blog explaining more about the project here.
Today I had a visit from 2nd year Creative Writing students and their tutor Lania. We looked at material from our Dymock Poets Special Collection and U A Fanthorpe Archive, even listening to an audio recording of Robert Frost reading his own poetry. It was lovely to listen in on how the students used the material to inspire their creative processes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 week I was involved in a session with second year Radio Production students recording in our very own Chapel of St Mary and St Paul at FCH. As part of their module MD5401 Radio Genres and Cultures, the students read and recorded their own religious broadcasts in the chilly but beautiful Chapel.
They listened to archive recordings of student choirs and events from the 1950s – 2000s over the Chapel PA system to get an idea of the types of recordings made over the years. These recordings are held in the University Archive. They also practiced reading the sermons of Reverend Francis Close, who in the 1840s helped establish the institution that went on to become the University of Gloucestershire.
Student and Frome FM DJ Alex Hawkins has made the recordings available here:
The Special Collections and Archives service will be closed to researchers from Wednesday 21 December 2016 – Monday 2 January 2017. Appointments will be available as usual (10am – 4pm) from Tuesday 3 January 2017.