Public Engagement & Outreach
Engagement and outreach with new and potential audiences remains central to UCL's and the Library's work. By way of report for the period, there follow three super examples of work that demonstrates our determination to escalate and innovate in this area. Thanks go to Dr Katie Meheux from our UCL Institute of Archaeology Library who has in this period ably taken on the task of driving much of the practical work involved.
UCL Horizons Summer School
June-July 2013 saw the UCL Linguistics department run a "Speaking Your Mind" course as part of UCL's Horizons Summer School outreach programme, aimed at disadvantaged school students from the London area who were encouraged to consider applying to UCL or similar universities. Language and Speech Science (LaSS) Library staff were involved in setting up and supporting this course from start to finish. They advised academics on a number of topics and supported students for the duration with access to computers, help with the necessary but unglamorous routine of photocopying and with accessing online course content. Colleagues concentrated on creating a welcoming and safe environment for the students, for all of whom this was a first experience of being in a university and university library. All fifteen students graduated at the end of the six week summer school.
LaSS Library staff received a number of positive comments from the students, with one saying that they were “the most helpful and cheerful librarians” and that her time spent in the library had “improved her independent research skills”, which was delightful to hear. Site Librarian Breege Whiten was also very complimentary:
“LaSS staff found supporting these students extremely rewarding, and enjoyed being able to give personal encouragement to a group of talented teenagers who were unaware of their potential.”
LaSS Library staff, L-R: Robbie Lumsden, Sharon James, Simon Beesley, Breege Whiten
Special Collections outreach
It is difficult to select only one of the many instances where we've managed to turn what might otherwise be hidden treasures in our Special Collections into artefacts that audiences within and beyond and UCL encounter anew and engage with both intellectually and imaginatively. However, the series of public seminars which took place at the Warburg Institute between October 2012 and March 2013 stands out as a fine example of how valuable, but currently under-exploited collections can be used to engage audiences in ways that bridge public interest, academia and the wider cultural scene.
The Library's Dr Tabitha Tuckett worked with UCL's department of Italian and colleagues at the Warburg Institute to offer what UCL Public Events described as “a multi-sensory whistlestop tour of the great poem”. The seminars included scene-setting introductions, advice on key elements to listen out for and readings - in Italian and English - of selected pivotal cantos (verses) complemented by a changing display from UCL's outstanding Dante Collection, dating back to the 15th century.
Library Exhibitions 2012/13
As part of the celebrations taking place at UCL and elsewhere in honour of the sculptor John Flaxman (1755-1826), and associated with the refurbishment of the Flaxman Gallery in 2012, an exhibition in the Main Library presented Flaxman alongside his many eminent contemporaries, entitled Flaxman and his circle. On display were papers held by UCL Special Collections illustrative of the lives and work of many luminaries of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries including William Blake, Henry Crabb Robinson, William Hamilton and William Hayley. Documents about the design and development of the Flaxman Gallery were also exhibited.
Three exhibitions were held at the Queen Square Library during the year as part of their annual programme of exhibitions, usually curated with Institute and National Hospital staff. Gowers, the artist, highlighted the artistic talents of neurologist Sir William Gowers (1845-1915), with a new biography about him being published by OUP in 2012. Another key figure, Samuel Alexander Kinnier Wilson (1878-1937), was profiled in an exhibition to mark the anniversary of his 1912 paper, published in Brain, on progressive lenticular degeneration. The third exhibition, Queen Square at Work & Play comprised a photographic retrospective of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery: 1860-1960.
Louise Shepherd, former Librarian at Queen Square, also co-curated an exhibition for the 10th European Congress of Epileptology of the International League Against Epilepsy, held in London in 2012. An extended version of this exhibition, as described in the catalogue, The Beginning of the End of the Falling Sickness: Epilepsy and its treatment in London 1860-1910, co-authored by Louise, is being put on at Queen Square and is dedicated to the memory of Louise, who died in August 2013.