University of West London
09/07/2021Anne-Marie Purcell - Archivist
Anne-Marie Purcell has worked for the University of West London since 2017 as their first archivist. She talks about the diverse collection that UWL has built from it's amalgamated colleges throughout the years. Anne-Marie hopes in the future for the Archive to include more material from the different parts of the University to create a more representative collection for people to enjoy.
The UWL has recently acquired the Heathrow Archive Collection which, with the help of Heritage Lottery Funding, has now been fully catalogued and is on exhibition on the UWL Ealing campus.
Please Note: This is an automated, machine-generated transcription. We have presented this 'as is' and have not undertaken any editing.Hello and welcome to the Max Communications 2021 podcast, a series of podcasts where we explore various archives and collections. My name is Ruth Williams and I'm joined today by Anne-Marie Purcell, archivist for the University of West London. Hello, I'm Marie would like to introduce myself and talk about how you came to be working at the University of West London. Oh, hello there. Hi, my name is Anne-Marie Purcell and I am the archivist at the University of London. So how I came to be working at UW? Well, I'd say approximately four years ago I took the job as archivist at the university, had previously not had a archives department in place. And so this is a new role. And basically, it was initiated as part of a project to catalog a external collection which had recently been acquired by the university relating to Heathrow. And say my job is involved in basically cataloging that and also making the items available for a permanent exhibition, which would be in place at the university and has since been installed, as is in place at the moment. Still. So what what kind of work do you do with? Is it just that outward collection that you deal with or do you have other information coming from within the university that you have to archive yourself? So UW Archives has a number of collections relating to the university's predecessor organizations and also this large external collection relating to the history of JFK and say, the collections relating to the university's predecessor institutions. Collections relating to things like the London College of Music, which is part of the UW, and also various different nursing colleges relating to books and reading and other parts of West London, which have all been amalgamated at some point to form part of what is now UW out and also the ailing School of Art, which is another predecessor organization, and the London Geller College of Hospitality and Tourism, which is another part of UW. And we have historical archives relating to all of these predecessor organizations within the archive, and they are separate little collections because each of these departments or schools are separate and have been brought together under the one University of West London umbrella. So we have historical collections relating to UW predecessor organizations and also, he fi in terms of the Heathrow Archive, which is the external collection. So it is a combination, really. And how did you come about acquiring the Heathrow archive there and say the Heathrow Archive and came to you? Well, prior to 2017, which is when I joined. And and what happened was the UW well, London Geller College of Hospitality and Tourism LGC Haiti. They have some courses related to aviation, so things like airport management and students and lecturers have a relationship with Heathrow in that. I believe there were some visits to the airport by some students and lecturers where the it was discussed or it's noticed that there were some archives and artifacts related to the history of Heathrow, which had previously been displayed at a visitor center, which existed at Heathrow until about 2006. So the lectures and students who then returned to each Egypt and started a dialog between UW and Heathrow about UW were acquiring these materials to display them for the benefit of the students, but also the wider community and local area to have a collection relating to Heathrow, which is a significant local landmark in the West London area . And it's had a huge thing which impacts lots of people's lives in West London. It's a huge employer. People travel for it daily on a daily basis in huge numbers, so it's significant to have a collection relating to Heathrow at UW. And because you I always in West London, it hosts aviation related courses, so it seemed like a good idea to have something at UW related to Heathrow. And that is how the project started off, basically to bring the Heathrow Archive to jump out and then have a project around this to catalog the materials and make them available to the wider public, and also to install a permanent exhibition. Looking at the history of Heathrow right back to 1946, when it started off up to the sort of 2000, which is when the collection sort of ends the project to catch the Heathrow Archive and install the permanent exhibition on the history paper at it was made possible due to general generous funding from the National Heritage Fund, also Heathrow themselves and also, you know what type of materials in the collection. OK, so the collection is a real mixture of different types of materials, so there's a combination of artifacts, say things like modern aircraft, and we're not talking about modern aircraft. I'm really not talking about so small replica aircraft. I'm talking about quite large items. And so things like, Oh, I'm just thinking the sizing you to describe one of the model aircraft on the shelf, it probably takes up approximate less of a meter and a half or two meters. So they're really quite large items. So we have a selection of these model aircrafts. We also have a selection of souvenir items which would have been even handed out on on flights or perhaps items which airlines where it was stored on aircraft as things like crockery or things that were used on the aircraft, but in collaboration with those sorts of materials. There's also lots of materials which which relate directly to Heathrow and not just aviation. So things that relate to London airport, as it was known, so that would be things like pamphlets and brochures on London Airport or, say, lots of photographs and images of London airport back in the forties and fifties, some plans or brochures of of the airport. And it's in development works that were taking place there. We also have a really interesting document, which is we call it the Heathrow Property Transaction Register, which basically details lots of property transactions from 1945 onwards, which were transactions to expand the aircraft site. And these are stored with maps and plans of the airport. And they were really this is a really interesting document which we have and conserved and have digitized. We are just in the process of acquiring those digital images of that material so that there is a variety of different types of materials and documents within the collection. So artifacts, traditional archives. But then also more recently, we have got some digital images of the archives as well. So it's a mixture. And how about the material that you have from the different original colleges that finally made up University of West London, is there a variety of material from those as well? There definitely is, yes. So it does vary. So I mentioned a group of nursing colleges, which we have a number of really interesting meadows and also some photographs of students and say it is a mixture of artifacts and archives again and probably more on this side of archives in terms of the materials that we have for predecessor colleges and other items that we have included for the LGC, which is the hospitality and tourism college. We have a really interesting collection of photographs from when the college first opened as the Acton Hotel and Catering College back in 1948. So we have these amazing photographs from the early stages in the life of the college, and those are they. All of those images have been scanned and available digitally. And we also have a really interesting collection of food menus and layouts of a restaurant which was in house. It's like a teaching restaurant for students to be able to learn how to not only learn how to to cook cuisine, but also how to layout and how to serve customers so that I wouldn't have a really interesting document. We also have various other documents relating to the other colleges say, for example, for any school of art, we've got a really interesting magazine created by graphic students from 1968, which is really colorful and you can see really amazing artwork to produce that. And then we also have various different documents relating to more recent years of the university in its various different forms they had prior to being used. It was also Thames Valley University, so we have some materials relating to its existence as Thames Valley. So that includes some photographs and also some documents just relating to the. And the university in its form back in the nineties. And yeah, basically lots of photographs, lots of pamphlets, lots of magazines. So maybe students and stuff magazines. We used to have materials related to the London College of Music. So for the London College of Music, we have some former student records. Very, very patchy. Not complete at all. I mean, we really just have like a random and random ledger of student information. Then we also have some information relating to students in terms of their certificates and their examination reports and things like piano, forte playing and that sort of thing, really. So it is a real mixture, a complete mixture because there's lots of courses or schools at UW, which teach a range of different subjects and courses. So the types of materials that you'll find in the UW archive is really quite varied and covers of a broad spectrum of different disciplines. So it's a real interesting mixture of materials. It's an incredibly diverse who accesses this material. You must have some interesting inquiries. Yeah, yeah, we certainly do. The majority of the inquiries, I would say, have come from people interested in family history and people that may have attended, for example, the Latin College of Music or another one of the predecessor organizations. But then we also get an awful lot of inquiries from researchers who are interested in the materials for their research purposes. So we've had people interested in the history of history and in the history of aviation generally, who've come in to use the collection and have a look at the materials. So generally speaking, yeah, we have a range of different inquiries who use the materials. But it would mainly be for people looking at finding out about an ancestor who they knew attended a particular school, which is now in its current form, part of UW well, but also researchers who are interested in and, for example, the ailing School of Art because the Ealing School of Art was attended by and a few. Celebrity faces, so people like Freddie Mercury attended the School of Art, and we used to have people like Ronnie Wood and Pete Townsend also attended the School of Art. So, you know, there's a number of different ways in which people might want to access the material for their research purposes. But we have had a few inquiries relating to celebrities who have attended our previous films, and unfortunately, we don't have a lot of we don't have any student materials related to the elite school of Art. So in those cases, we are not necessarily able to help them, but we do have some of the materials which were produced by students around the same time who attended the School of Art. So we can still offer some of us material, which may also be interesting and provide some sort of background images or any background information about the type of things that the students were looking at or study back in the Sixties. So. And those are the sorts of inquiries and the type of use we have had of the material so far. You know, as the first archivist for this collection, what type of challenges if you come across, OK? So certainly they the range of materials and all of the different predecessor organizations, that certainly the beginning could make it complicated to work out a suitable cataloging structure for the many different predecessor collections, all forming under the one umbrella collection. So that is the challenge and sort of understanding all of the different previous collages and how they fit into our history. And that has made creating the catalog tricky. But in some ways it's just been easier to to separate all of the colleges and allow them to have their own catalog because they do really sit in their own right within each other. Wow. So it says the best way to just treat them right, that was in the catalog. So that was one of the challenges. And I think as well being a new department and trying to promote when I say new, actually, you know, the department or the the archive has now been in place for approximately three years, which is quite a short space of time. And even though it's four years, it's still a short space of time for establishing an archive which is relating to the history of the institution. So publicizing and promoting the archive even to internal departments because there are so many different disciplines who may not necessarily think that or realize or or certainly in the beginning, think that their materials or their subject would necessarily benefit from the use of archive. But just being able to promote and speak to different departments and alert them to the post the endless possibilities of the use of the material in their work. And that is quite a challenge because there are quite a few, and it's about building relationships and contacts within individual departments, so that that is another challenge that I found with it, especially with it being there. And many of the departments and lecturers who I would say extremely busy with the work of seven students and and and showing that the students have an amazing experience at UW. How so, in terms of then bringing in the use of archives into that work? That's obviously quite a challenge for them as well as me promoting it to them. So. And that's one of the the issues of fan at the moment. Although we do certainly with the archive, I have tried to expand the use as much as we can at UW also. And for example, there is the dementia care center at UW and we have used the archive events that the damage care center found in the past. So they have run things like the Imagination Café events, which is to bring lots of different stuff like multi-sensory therapies. If you like together to help people living with dementia, say that will include not only historical images and documents and archives that you would find in the UW archive, but also music and arts and crafts and various different types of of like sensory therapies that can assist people living with dementia and assist them in their well-being and help them in any way. So that that's one way that we try to use the archive in a different way to just researching it for historical purposes, but bringing it into other disciplines and enabling the use. I mean, the archives can be used in a way to and show students how to use primary source materials and use different types of sources and just using a source and writing about it in a group or producing a presentation. So the use of the archive. So the fact that it's a historical source isn't necessarily the main thing, but the fact that it can be used to help build study skills of students is another way that we can try and encourage its use and expand its use across the university. Gosh, that's a lot of work you put into it. What are your hopes for the future of the archive them? And I think the UW archives, it would be great to build it further in that we can expand the collections forever. So it would be great to expand external collections at the moment. Our only external collection is the Hafer Archive, but it would be amazing to build on that and to acquire collections from external organizations, which directly relates to the courses taught at UW. And as I've mentioned, there is a variety of courses that are taught to each other, and there's a variety of different ways in which I suppose we can appeal to lots of different external organizations who may have archives or sources that I wanted to project and may decide to choose UW to do that. So that's one way. It would be great to to expand the collections, extend collections, but also there are a number of departments at UW who are not necessarily represented within the archive collection. So it would be great to expand that and be able to have something relating to all of the different departments. I mean, some departments might be of the opinion that it's potentially some of the archives that they have may not necessarily be old enough, or they may not seem historically significant, but it's about bringing in them the knowledge or understanding that you know what a department may not necessarily perceive as a historically significant document, maybe different to what we in the archive would consider historically difficult. So it would be nice to expand that knowledge and expand the awareness within the University of the Archives so that all departments and contact the archive and decide to transfer their documents to UW archives. So that's what we'd love for the future to basically build on the collections and have collections, have a more representative kind of sample of lots of different colleges at UW and also the student body. So, for example, at the moment, there's lots relating to the colleges, but it would be great to have more within the archive that represents the students and and shows the student experience at UW. We recently tried to appeal to across the university to donate materials relating to students experience of the the COVID 19 pandemic, so much like an archive of COVID memories. So we had some bits and pieces and a lot of digital materials because during this period, a lot of us turned towards doing more digitally than we would have done. And prior, I think so. We have had some materials, but it would have been great to expand on that and even use that as a way of appealing fervor to the student body to share their experience of UW and build more within the collections related to students as well as the departments. So yes, that's that's basically where we'd like to go on in the future. Know in your current collection what is your favorite item, what appeals to you personally? Um, there's quite a lot of things that I quite like. I have mentioned the ailing School of Art 1968 Graphic Student Magazine, which is a really amazing document. It's filled with some amazing examples of artwork produced by the students back in 1968, and it's quite psychedelic with amazing colors and just amazing patterns and backgrounds for text and things like that. So I really like that item, but also I really enjoy looking at a document which is called the London Airport signing book, I suppose, as well. So it's called the London Airport Visitor Book. And what this contains is from 1947 onwards, it contains signatures from members of the royal family and of a head of state who have visited Heathrow or London Airport, as it was known back in its early years. And it's just a really nice document to look for. I love looking at the signatures and the handwriting of the individuals who have signed because to book. And it's interesting to see how some people like Winston Churchill, have got their own page and their signatures there at the shop. And then there's other pages which have got a whole host of signatures relating to an example ambassadors that visited London or. The UK for a particular event, and they traveled via he first of Poland and airports, they signed the signing book and it ranges from 1947 up to 1977. And the final signature in the book is Princess Anne and her husband, former husband Mark Phillips. And I think it was just before they were to go on honeymoon after they got married. Say that, said that particular document. I really enjoy looking at it and looking at all the different signatures and also some of them, we can't decipher who they are. So it's it's a bit of a puzzle, and it's interesting to be able to use things like public WiFi scales and just looking at the signature and see if you can work out who that person is. If it's one or two, that can still a bit of a mystery, but that's another document that I really enjoy looking at lots of stories behind the signatures, no doubt. Yeah, definitely. It's definitely one to wonder why they were traveling the way to what the what then and we have compiled a spreadsheet to basically have a look at the dates that they were traveling and work out what important events were around the period. And I think in the fifties of the early fifties, there was the funeral of King George. The sixth say there were some who were traveling because of that, and then they were signed into the book. So it's a really interesting document. Yeah. Have you thrown that open to two detectives everywhere to try and decipher the signatures? Oh, we've had a bit of an investigation, mainly among the librarians in the department to see if anyone could work out. But yeah, and maybe we could figure out a bit further to see if there's one particular signature, which this has no clue as to who the person is, even by the dates around it. So yes, that would be possibly a nice thing to do in the future to get more people to engage with the material and see if they can work out who the signature is. You have things available online for people to look at. And so at the moment, we have a catalog which lists all of the material, just the catalog form of descriptions of all of the items we have in the collections. So that's constantly being added to where we receive additional items here and there from both departments, but also external. And we often get people sending us items relating to Heathrow and aviation, so we don't actually have materials available on a digital platform for people to access. So we have a catalog and online catalog which is available for people to search, and that lists our collections by description so you can search for a particular theme or subject. And then you'll be met with a list of our items that match your search. And you'll be able to then request to see those materials. Or we can see why things could be copied or scanned and then sent. I say that's an option, but in terms of digital material, I mentioned that we have something called a Heathrow Property Transaction Register, which was in dire need of some conservation because many of the interesting plans and documents included have been folded into it. So it needed to be separated from those so that they could be conserved and then appropriately packaged and stored so badly and we could preserve them for the future. So that particular document, we have digitized all of the pages and those are soon to be transferred to us by our conservation consultant company who are doing that work, and they will be available for people to view at some point in the future, whether that is online via a blog or some sort of publicity we use to publicize those. And but also in terms of research, when people inquire about those that document or subjects related to that document will be able to provide them with the scans for them to use in their research. So that's how we have at the moment. It is something that I think we would like to build upon and have more available and digitally as shown through the COVID 19 pandemic and where physical access to the material was limited. If you have more available online or digitally, it certainly makes things easier to access and easier to answer people's inquiries. So that's something we certainly would not to expand in the future. All right. Where is your fiscal base, where's the exhibition, where's the archive within different places? So they're in the same place as in their base at the University of West London Ealing campus, which is on St Mary's Road in Ealing. So the exhibition, which is an exhibition on the history of Heathrow from 1946 up to the present day that is currently situated on the ground floor of the WOW Ealing campus and the Heathrow Archive is situated within the U.W Archive, which is on the third floor of the library. So the library also. The Archive is part of the library department at UW and but they are in close proximity to one another and the exhibition is a really interesting look at the history of PFI. And with some items, original items included on display alongside some audio material and also some video and basically looking back at the history for over the last 70 years and a look at the future as well. So yes, that's basically the expression in the archive. It definitely sounds worth exploring when things start opening up again. Yes, certainly. I think at the moment, it's obviously subject to the current restrictions. It's not. The exhibition isn't available at the moment. However, as things begin to open up, obviously, that we will assess the situation and consider how we will open up and when, what, what, in what way. At the moment it is closed, though, our website. So if you were to go on to even just to Google you W.L. Archive or Heathrow Archive, UW, how you'll be met with our web page, which basically will get we'll update any information about opening the exhibition on there. So that would provide you with some information about how to access the archive and the exhibition. Wonderful. Thank you so much for taking time to talk to us, Samori. It's been so interesting hearing about, as you say, a new archive, but it sounds like you've done so much impressive work in the short time you've been working there . Really fantastic. Oh, great, thank you. Well, thank you very much for inviting me to talk about it is always a pleasure to talk about the archive collections and be able to publicize them a little bit and let people know that they exist and what we have. But if anyone is interested in you well and more specifically in the E.W. archive, it would be worth having a look at the EWR website, which is WW Dot. You see UK and you can search for the Adobe archive or alternatively, you can have a look on the library page of the website, which will also provide you with a link to the archive. So that's basically where we are, where you can find more information not only about you well, but also about the library and archive that we have there. So and the many interesting things. Yes, definitely. It's really interesting. It's it's a really the collection is so what's that so diverse? And so comes lots of different subjects and topics due to the lack of this courses on offer, many of which are vocational and very interesting. And so it is like a really interesting collection with lots of different types of things. So definitely we're finding out more about. Thank you so much for taking time to talk to us, Bridget Samori. No problem, that's great. Thank you again. It's a pleasure. Thank you very much. Cheers. Thanks.