Libraries are not just for reading

A guest post by Liz Mytton, the first of our artist-facilitators in our #CreativeCosins summer workshop programme

“If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s the value of moving freely. To travel, to shake hands and embrace. In the early months of lockdown last year, I remember driving to my shift (I was a part-time NHS worker at the time) and on observing the empty streets during what would have normally been rush hour, I felt like a character in some apocalyptic thriller – everyone had disappeared.

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Intelligent, demanding, and meticulous: getting to know Bishop John Cosin

Over the last year, History PhD student Lily Chadwick has been cataloguing the correspondence of Bishop John Cosin, founder of Cosin’s Library on Palace Green in the centre of Durham. Reading through his letters, she caught a glimpse of his personality.

Cataloguing the correspondence of Bishop John Cosin over the course of the last eight months has provided considerable insight into the personality and mind of one of Durham’s most imposing figures. Certainly, there are limitations to the source material, which mean that we cannot draw definitive conclusions about Cosin as a person.

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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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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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#Hist2020: History Day 2020, celebrating our collections

Every year University College London organises a day for academic, cultural and heritage institutions to come together to showcase the enormous range of historic collections in archives, libraries and museums. In pre-Covid times, the day would be held at Senate House and would be attended by anyone in London with a serious interest in historical research.

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Spotlight on the collections: Anne Stevenson Poetry Library

Anne Stevenson at a book launch in 2009 (Photo Credit: Simon James, Flickr, via CC BY-SA 2.0)

According to Anne Stevenson, who died on 14 September 2020, a poet is that rare person ‘who is in thrall to nothing but poetry’s weird tyranny and ungovernable need to exist’. The volume and breadth of her poetry and scholarly interests attest to this uncontrolled creative urge, and we are very fortunate to have part of her poetry library.

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