Ways into the Collection: Serendipity

cartoon books and globe on shelvesResearch Skills Series

By Alison Newby

In previous posts, we’ve discussed the importance of the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (AIU Centre) and its collections, touched on some of the realities of archives and archival research, and looked at the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves before engaging with an archive collection. We’ve also delved into the two main ways into the collection:

We might be forgiven for thinking that’s about it. However, we’ve briefly mentioned a third way into the collection, which we’re going to take a look at here:

  • Serendipity (just going in and browsing)

So you’ll be able to dip into this post to find information that’s particularly interesting to you, I’ll be looking at serendipity under the following headings:

  1. What is Serendipity?
  2. Serendipity in action

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Ways into the Collection: The ‘Human Interface’

cartoon books and globe on shelvesResearch Skills Series

By Alison Newby

In a previous post we looked at the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves before engaging with a resource such as the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (AIU Centre), and we learnt that there are three ways into the collection:

  • Databases (including subject area resource lists)
  • ‘Human Interface’ (speaking to the librarian and/or Collections Access Officer)
  • Serendipity (just going in and browsing)

This time I’ll be looking at the ‘Human Interface’.

The ‘Human Interface’ with any library or archive comprises those individuals whose role is to take care of the collection, answer questions from users, find information, or give advice regarding the materials the library or archive contains. In relation to the Centre, subject area resource lists and databases can produce raw data about materials which might be relevant to a topic, but interacting with a knowledgeable human being (in writing or face-to-face) opens up a whole new level of insight. Such an individual can give guidance tailored to what you in particular want to know.

In this post, I’ll be giving insight into who the Centre’s human interfaces are and how they can smooth our way into the Centre’s resources. So you’ll be able to dip in to find what’s particularly interesting to you, I’ll be covering the subject in the following sections:

  1. Introducing the Centre’s ‘Human Interfaces’ – Hannah Niblett & Ruth Tait
  2. Ruth Tait’s insights into the strengths of the Centre and its collections
  3. Ruth Tait’s advice on how to prepare for consulting the ‘Human Interfaces’

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Ways into the Collection: Databases

cartoon books and globe on shelvesResearch Skills Series

By Alison Newby

Last time we discussed the importance of the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (AIU Centre) and its collections, touching on some of the realities of archives and archival research, and looking at the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves before engaging with an archive collection. This time we’ll be moving on to begin checking out the ways relevant Centre resources can be identified and accessed. 

There are three ways into the collection:

  • Databases  (including subject area resource lists)
  • ‘Human Interface’  (speaking to the librarian and/or Collections Access Officer)
  • Serendipity (just going in and browsing)

Which one you start with is very much up to you and your preferred style. This time I’ll be introducing the different database options at your disposal. I’ll be looking at the ‘Human Interface’ and serendipity in future posts.

Currently the Centre doesn’t have one dedicated searchable database for you to consult devoted to bringing together all the items in its own book and archive collections. Centre collections feature on a number of databases, each geared to its own purposes, placing the Centre’s offerings in amongst those of a variety of other institutions. It’s not always easy to identify the material in the Centre relevant to your interests. Therefore this blog post gives you information and hints that should smooth your way into finding what you need.

So you’ll be able to dip in to find what’s particularly interesting to you, I’ll be covering the subject under the following headings:

  1. First stop – subject area resource lists
  2. Main databases to build a relevant list of Centre resources
  3. Getting hold of the material
  4. Other databases, research aids and links to related collections

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Ways into the Collection: Questions to ask yourself

cartoon books and globe on shelves

Research Skills Series

By Alison Newby

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (AIU Centre) is the premier resource centre in the country devoted to making available materials to facilitate the study of race relations. As such, it’s consulted by researchers from across the world. We at the University of Manchester are fortunate that it’s situated down the road from us in Manchester Central Library. The AIU Centre is the University’s flagship representative in the regional archive umbrella group Archives+. That we have such easy access to it is a rare privilege we should all appreciate and take advantage of.

That’s if we know the relevance of race relations-related resources to our studies, and if we understand how to make the most of the collections. A couple of big ‘ifs’.

The blog posts I’ll be contributing are designed to help us think through these issues. I’ll be taking a look at the kinds of resources held by the Centre, and what they have to offer to various subject areas. Hopefully it will become easier for us to use those resources more efficiently and optimally to enrich our studies.

I’m going to start by trying to get to grips with understanding how to make the most of the collections. In this post, we’ll touch on:

  • some of the realities of archives and archival research that we need to bear in mind
  • questions to ask ourselves that will help our preparations to engage an archive collection

With the stage set, in three posts we’ll look at each of the three ways into the AIU Centre’s collections:

So let’s make a start… Continue reading

Using our Collections in your Studies: Introducing the Research Skills Series

cartoon books and globe on shelves

Research Skills Series

Most of us know the basics of using a lending library, and anyone who has studied history will have a grasp of what archives are, how they’re accessed and why they’re important. But seeing all of the possibilities of a collection for your particular area of study takes time; something many researchers don’t have. So we want to give you a few shortcuts, suggestions and an insider perspective, to help you make the best use of our archive and library collections.

Over the coming months our Honorary Research Associate Dr Alison Newby will be exploring the collection and putting together a series of blog posts about how it can be used. She’ll cover practicalities, such as how to use databases and collection information; she’ll highlight some collection strengths, such as studying oral histories; and she’ll also reflect on the issues that a collection like ours raises for research, such as reflecting a diversity of historical voices.

Alison is a historian by training, as well as a qualified coach working in the HE sector. For her, the roles of coach and historian involve using similar skills – including the abilities to see lots of different perspectives, and to pull together reflections based on the ‘stories’ people actually narrate. You can read about her coaching work here. On the history side, she completed her PhD on nineteenth-century American social and political history at the University of Manchester, and has been specialising in focused research projects bringing together race relations themes and materials from cultural institutions in the Manchester area. Having visited a variety of archives of different sizes in the UK and the USA, she is able to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of each.

The posts in this Research Skills Series are aimed at researchers at all levels, so whether you’re just starting out with independent research or a school project, or you’re a seasoned researcher interested in maximising your time at the Resource Centre, we hope there will be something here for you. Check out the series to date (which includes some skills-focused past posts) in the Research skills category.

New research: Sikh activism and race relations organisations in Britain

It’s always gratifying to see our collections contributing to academic research and new publications.

Gyani Sundar Singh Sagar, who fought for turban-wearing Sikh men to be exempt from the law regarding motorcycle helmets. Image courtesy of Ujjal Singh

Gyani Sundar Singh Sagar, who fought for turban-wearing Sikh men to be exempt from the law regarding motorcycle helmets. Image courtesy of Ujjal Singh

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Asian Youth Movements Archive: Reflections on Re-engaging with Personal History

Nigel de Noronha has been our Researcher in Residence this year, working on the Tandana Collection; a large archive of material about the Asian Youth Movements (AYMs). Nigel was a member of the AYM in Manchester in the 1980s, so this project has been of personal as well as academic and professional interest for him. In this post he reflects on the process of re-engaging with his own personal history through working in the archive.

Asian Youth movements (AYMs) emerged spontaneously in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s. The AYM was active in anti-deportation campaigns in Manchester, connected to other AYMs and supported their campaigns against racist discrimination and racial violence.   I joined AYM Manchester in 1982. We adopted a black political identity. Many young Asians witnessed racist and fascist violence, state discrimination from the police, schools, housing and immigration authorities, and discrimination in the labour market.

Liberation, the newsletter of the Manchester AYM. The Manchester movement formed in 1980. Public meetings were often held in Longsight library. They made links with AYMs across the country and supported their campaigns. Courtesy Tandana Archive

Courtesy Tandana Archive

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Chinese Whispers?

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

 

Three pounds of rice, four duck eggs, a pair of straw shoes, and a lonely trip over the mountains to 1940s Hong Kong. Long hours of labour in food outlets mushrooming on 1960s London high streets. What do these scenes have in common? The answer’s illiterate Chinese migrant Yue Kai Chung.

image of Yue Kai Chung

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Black ’47, Bob and Me

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

 

Get yourself a coffee and sit down. Here’s another intriguing tale behind what looks like an innocent volume parked on the Centre’s shelves…

Image of Black 47 coverHave you seen Black ’47. Britain and the Famine Irish by Frank Neal, with its bleak black and white cover and title printed in green? Haunted by the image of a gaunt famine-starved couple with a baby, it doesn’t look a relaxing read. Published in 1998, it appeared during the 150th anniversary commemorations of one of the most catastrophic transformational experiences ever to scar the collective psyche of any community in the world – the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s.

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From Jamaica to England – What happened next?

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

 

Our Roving Reader has been investigating what happened to the people whose stories and writings she looked at in her journey from Jamaica to England.

 

Una Marson died in 1965, but she lived for many years in the London Borough of Southwark. In 2005, Southwark Council awarded her a Blue Plaque in recognition of her contribution to literature and broadcasting. If any of you go and see it, let us know. There’s some more information on the Southwark Council website.

Joyce Gladwell is still alive and kicking. Her Brown Face, Big Master was reissued as a Caribbean Classic by MacMillan in 2003. Joyce herself went on to become a successful marriage and family therapist in Canada, whilst her husband became a professor of mathematics. In 2009, a counselling centre was named after her in recognition of her work. One of her sons is the journalist and best-selling writer Malcolm Gladwell, who discussed his mother’s life in one of his books – Outliers: The Story of Success (published 2008). You might like to read more about Joyce and the counselling centre or  Malcolm Gladwell’s thoughts on his multi-racial background.

Concerning the Adult Literacy Projects, I don’t have updates about Louise Shore and the individuals who contributed to So This Is England. But you may like to know what happened to Centerprise, the organisation which published Louise’s autobiography Pure Running. A Life Story. It survived as the Centerprise Trust Community and Arts Centre in Dalston, London, until 2012. Unfortunately, its peppercorn rent of £10 per month was suddenly raised by Hackney Council to an impossible £37,000 per year. After much legal wrangling, it looks like it finally closed, to great disappointment all round. It had been open 41 years, and had helped many isolated immigrants in London. If anyone out there knows of any further developments on this matter, we’d welcome an update. You can read more about it on the Radical History of Hackney blog and the Hackney Citizen website.