Volunteering at the Feminist Library

By volunteer Lorna Harrington
As well as being involved with the UCA archives I also volunteer at the Feminist Library in London, so what better way to finish women’s history month than to explore the resource in further depth.
The library houses over 7,000 books including fiction, non-fiction and poetry and 1,500 periodicals. What makes it so special, is its unique classification system which reflects the feminist ethos of the library, with its’ non-hierarchical categorisation.
I first discovered the library as a student at UCA while researching feminism as part of my dissertation focusing on fashion and its relationship with women. I never actually had the time to visit, but now as a volunteer I am finally able to spend some time getting to know the collection.
In terms of acquisitions of interest to art and design students, the periodicals room has a total of twenty four art journals including Feminist Art News, Women’s Art Journal and Make. It also contains copies of Spare Rib, the women’s liberation magazine which ran from 1972 to 1993 which has since been digitalised and is now available online through the British Library website.
Zines are also a key part of its collection with publications covering themes such as race, sexuality and gender. A zine or fan zine is a self-published piece of work about a specific topic often those that are not usually covered by the main stream media.
For designers, it is interesting to see the various unique styles of zines and gain inspiration for layouts and graphic presentation. In an increasingly digital world, zines still reflect their analogue routes through their use of collage, photocopying and hand written text.
They also holds many events during the year related to the arts be it zine festivals, art exhibitions or feminist film screenings. As well as this they attend events such as Feminism in London and Women of the World at the Southbank Centre.


Women of Africa in UCA Epsom Library

Women of Africa in Epsom Library

Epsom library has a stunning collection of images of women from African countries: https://www.flickr.com/…/119688205@N…/sets/72157663258089553.

These images include drawings of women from different tribes, women displaying bridal adornment, various hairstyles and hair accessories, as well as a selection of jewellery and costumes. The images also give an insight into the lives of these women as some are carrying out their daily tasks, such as foraging or carrying milk with their cleverly designed equipment to assist them.  The collection is part of the Diagram Group Archive, which is a cooperative group of graphic designers, writers, artists and editors. This can be found in the archive room at Epsom library along with other interesting material including diagrams, charts, tables, maps and illustrations all contained within the Diagram Group Archive.

Fiona O’Rooke, Advisor, Epsom


Student Archive Workshop: Subjective and Objective Responses

I recently undertook a workshop with International Pathways students to work with them on their project ‘Archive Fever’.

This involved analysing archives or artefacts through a subjective and objective response. As part of their brief they had to answer the following questions

A subjective or more emotional response to an art stimulus that has affected you enough on a personal level for you to want to write about it. (1000 words)

A critical response to an artwork, artefact or archive that you would like to evaluate (1500 words). This will constitute the more objective ‘academic essay’

The workshop started off with asking students what they felt ‘subjective’ or ’emotional’ meant to them. We then looked at series of examples both from UCA archives, such as the Rethinking the body project and other archives and artists, such as the archives and artists website produced by Birmingham university.

Students were then asked to choose an item from the archives, namely the Bob Godfrey animation archive, and examples from our institutional archives, and look at the answering the following questions:

  • What does the image make you feel? (e.g.Happy/sad/confused/surprised/angry)
  • What part of the image stands out for you? What would you want to write about?
  • Draw (if you wish) part of the image that interests you and you’d want to talk about

For the latter part students focused in on a particular shape or colour of the item they used, looking, for example, at how they could utilise that image in their own work.

For example Ifueko used an image from the Bob Godfrey archive – drawings of buildings from an animation – Shakespeare Music Hall, and focused on in a particular shape that could be used in Interior Design

Ifueko Omoniyi

Myra looked at the textures and layers of strokes on an image of a tree


Other images included a remake from a student yearbook marking the end of Fine Art in Maidstone in the 80s. The image reminded the student of a dream

Student picture sent by Joanne

Other images by another student looked at tourists that were in Shakespeare Music Hall and scene structure. This is the interpretation.


For the objective essay part I asked the students ‘What is an objective response?’ and ‘What is a critical response?’. We looked at analysing how you might provide an objective response through looking at our archives. I asked them to look at an image, and write down what they would need to know to analyse that image. For example, who took the photo? What were the art movements at the time – did any inspire that image?

We finished up with looking at how you might access archives, and how you might access contextual information

Rebekah Taylor, Archivist & Special Collections Officer