Waving goodbye to REF 2021

Last week, staff in the Library waved off 12 boxes of books and other publications authored by current and former Durham staff as a final (for now) step in our university’s REF submission. This submission involved a huge commitment from staff across the university, across professional support and academic departments. Colleagues from across Durham University Library and Collections service have been involved in collecting publications, enabling open access and reviewing compliance with REF requirements, supporting Impact case studies and providing support for our poor academic colleagues tasked with drafting Research Environment statements.

Here we provide some brief figures to show some of the effort made to be able to wave off the final boxes one sunny morning last week…

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The miraculous cure of Sister Aloysia Gonzaga O’Connor: Spotlight on the collections

One of our archivists, Dr Jonathan Bush, retells the story of a miraculous cure that stunned doctors and caused quite a stir in 19th-century England. The account of Sister Aloysia’s healing is found in the archives of the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, which Jonathan has been cataloguing.

The substantial archive of the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, dating back to its foundation in Liege in 1642, documents the rich and colourful history of an English convent abroad. The records in the collection tell the story of the community in Liege, its evacuation to England during the turbulent years of the French Revolution, and its subsequent flourishing as a school and convent at New Hall, near Chelmsford, Essex.

One of its more remarkable personal stories concerns the extraordinary ‘cure’ of Sister Aloysia Gonzaga O’Connor. News of the case caused something of a sensation in a country where Catholics and their tales of ‘miracles’ were treated with suspicion and derision by a predominantly Protestant media.

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Conservation training during Covid-19

Katie, one of our conservators based at Palace Green Library, is studying for her ARA certificate in Archive Conservation. A significant element of her training is getting practical experience – not the easiest thing to accomplish at the moment. But last year, in between lockdowns, she managed to head to Flintshire Record Office for her placement with Conservator Mark Allen. In this post, she shares the results of her training.

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Foraging for theses

Recent headlines have highlighted concerns over unscrupulous third parties attempting to make money off the back of researchers by attempting to sell (for pennies) copies of Masters and Doctoral theses online. These have been taken from universities around the UK, including Durham University, and resold without permission (and often in breach of copyright). But for many years, Durham and other universities around the world have endeavoured to provide free access to theses, moving from what was previously rows of shelves of hard bound theses in our libraries, to digital repositories sharing the knowledge and expertise of our community online.

We often get asked by students, staff and others outside of the university if we have a specific theses available, or how to access theses and dissertations more generally, so we thought we’d highlight some of the resources available to you and why we make our theses available.

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Journeys: Reading the World

This February saw the launch of our new online exhibition Journeys: Reading the World, showcasing material relating to travel and tourism from our rare books, archives and manuscript collections. David Wright, Assistant Curator (Exhibitions), gives us a preview of the exhibition, which we would encourage you to visit for yourself.

There is a certain irony to us launching an exhibition about the pleasure, value and excitement of travel when are all mostly stuck indoors, unable to venture much further than the local supermarket, but so far visitors seem to be finding it a pleasant escape from the mundanity of lockdown.

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University Library and Collections – favourites from our collections…

As part of our World Book Day celebrations, we’ve been exploring the theme of ‘Choice – curiosity has no age limits and neither do books.’ There can be no better examples of this than from our very own collections held within our archives, special collections and museums. With a vast range of books that are as fascinating today as they were when first written, they continue to generate a desire to discover and learn and will cultivate this curiosity for many, many years to come. 

With that in mind, we’ve asked some of our librarians and curators to choose their favourite book from our collections and share their insight into these incredible items… 

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The Importance of the Rainbow in Library Collections

As part of LGBT History Month we wanted to highlight the importance of representation of the LGBT+ Community within our library collections.

When we read a book or watch a film, if we see ourselves or our community represented we have a sense of identity and belonging. It also helps challenge and fight prejudice and encourages education.

In the last year many LGBT+ events, such as Pride, have been cancelled and safe spaces and representation of the LGBT+ Community has been challenging for people to access. This means representation in books, media and objects have been even more important for people to turn to.

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Holocaust Memorial Day

On Holocaust Memorial Day, our blog post is written by Dan Lewis, Information Assistant at Bill Bryson Library, where she shares her thoughts and reflections on the holocaust and what she found when looking through our collections at Bill Bryson Library.

Further information about Holocaust Memorial Day, as well as university, local, and national events, can be found on the Durham University website – Equality, Diversity and Inclusion : Holocaust Memorial Day – Durham University.

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#DULibIntroducing… Richard Holmes

Please state your name, full job title, and a brief description of what that entails:

Richard Holmes, Faculty Librarian for Social Sciences. The central element of my role is to communicate between the departments in the faculty and the University Library and Collections to ensure we are delivering services and resources that meet their diverse needs. I do this by attending key committees within each department to promote new and impending library developments and to pick up changes that may have an impact on the Library, Special Collections or Museums. I also provide support to enable members of Durham University at all levels of study to get the best out of the wonderful collections available. This can range from answering basic email enquiries, through one-to-one tuition, to delivering research skills classes embedded within teaching programmes. I also have a role in collections development, ensuring the right materials are available when needed to support each department’s teaching and research activities.

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