Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The #BigAlumniProject - vote now!

By Ned Potter, Academic Liaison Librarian

We're very excited to be in the final of The Big Alumni Project, currently being decided by a vote. If you're not familiar with this, it a new YuFund supported scheme for this year, providing one student or staff project with an amazing £40,000 grant to make a lasting change to the campus and community. It's funded by donations from York alumni and friends of the University.

First there 26 projects, then that went down to six, and the final shortlist now stands at three. Here's an overview of our proposal:

It is a complete re-imagining of the Morrell Lounge into an absolutely spectacular space, which better suits the way in which students and staff currently use it. It would involve not just amazing furniture but acoustic treatment as well to contain the noise, plus places to charge devices and a lot of flexible seating.

Below are a couple of 3D views of our proposed design:

The design features high-backed furniture and a 'fabricks' wall to absorb some of the noise
As well as a central seating / working area, there are tables and chairs that can be moved around to wherever suits

This isn't something we want to do on a whim, this is part of big project known internally as UX Space. We've been observing the Morrell Lounge for a year, using a technique known as Behavioural Mapping, and we've concluded that the way we'd set up the space didn't suit the way you were using it at all.  You often cluster together, sometimes sitting on the floor, because the sofas and chairs aren't suited for groups. We changed the space a little on December (the tables and low sofas came in) and that got really good feedback. But this would be a complete re-imagining into something that looks amazing for students, staff and visitors, and works exactly as you need it to. This is perhaps THE busiest space on campus, open 24 hours a day for 362 days a year, with 3,000 people passing through the lobby each day on average, rising to 7,000 at peak times. So it has to work.

The images in this post are based on the design we've come up with to solve all the problems we identified in the UX research, but we'd work with students and staff to finalise it if we we win. Here are a couple more views of the proposal:

The high-grade furniture is if the same type found in the new Piazza Building on Hes East 

There will be powered furniture, allowing you to plug in and charge devices while you work 
We hope as many people as possible will vote, for whichever idea they'd most like to see happen. Whether you're a student, member of staff, alumnus or member of the public, you can find the links to vote on the Big Alumni Project landing page - voting closes at the end of March.

Finally, here's a brief video overview of the whole project...

Monday, 12 March 2018

Role of Women in the Indian Independence Movement

By Alex Jubb

The current exhibition in the cases in the Harry Fairhurst corridor at the University of York Library tells the story of the road to Indian independence. The exhibition uses books and archives from the university’s collections and themes include the relationship between coloniser and colonised, and Indian literature.  Highlights include a telegram from Gandhi, and books that belonged to former Prime Minister Clement Attlee. The exhibition will remain in the cases until the end of March 2018.

Alex Jubb worked on the India project as an intern in 2017 and has written several blogs (Aug 2017#1)(Aug 2017#2)(Jan 2018) (Feb 2018) about the collection and the history of the Independence movement. Here he examines the role women played in the Indian Independence.

Role of women in the Indian Independence Movement

An often-untold story of the Indian independence movement is that of the role of influential Indian women; whilst stories of Gandhi, the nationalist writer Raja Rao and other important male political and cultural figureheads are commonplace, members of the opposite gender are rarely taught about in the history of Indian independence. Indian women were not only working to gain independence for their nation, but were seeking enfranchisement and political representation in the local, national, and international spheres. It is clear that one of the most important aspects of the movement for independence from a historical point of view is that it saw mass participation by women; women who had till then been confined to the domestic sphere. 

Crucial figures of the Quit India Movement. Image courtesy of  Quirkybyte.
Women were involved in diverse nationalist activities, both within and outside the home. Within the home women held classes to educate other women and contributed significantly to nationalist literature in the form of articles, poems and propaganda material. Moreover, shelter and nursing care were also provided to nationalist leaders who were in hiding from the British authorities. Furthermore, and most importantly, when the nationalist leadership were in jail, the women took over the leadership roles and provided guidance to the movement. The JB Morrell Library at the University of York holds many important works written by leading female members of the Indian nationalist movement, in addition to works from Indian women from every class in society.

Anans and Hutheesing's 1949 work. © amazon.co.uk
Female nationalist authors did not let up in their campaign for further empowerment following the granting of independence. The Brides Book of Beauty, written by Mulk Raj Anand and Krishna Nehru Hutheesing, was published in Bombay in 1947. The work served almost as an anthological manual on feminine sensibilities, formulas of female beauty, and female social experience. One critic described the work as the manifestation of Anands affinities with Marxist utopian notions of egalitarian civilisation and womens empowerment. The authors developed a perception of Indian female beauty that was adorned with poetry, prose, folktales and myths. [There is a copy in the exhibition]. It was clear that Anand and Hutheesing saw independence as a springboard with which to further the rights of Indian women. Using the very same myths and folklore that were crucial to creating a nationalist fervour prior to independence in 1947 was essential to Anand and Hutheesings writings.

Nanda's seminal work. ©amazon.co.uk
Savitri Devi Nanda was the author of The City of Two Gateways: The Autobiography of an Indian Girl; Nanda writes every detail of her early life in a typical Hindu aristocratic family of the pre-partition Punjab. This is an important work that brings to life the beliefs of many young Indian women both before and after partition. For example, Nanda writes that one night her father took her to Lahore to put her in a school; neither her mother nor her grandmother was in favour of educating her. It was this thirst for freedom and knowledge that was encountered in the young female nationalists and marked a distinct difference and a remarkable gulf between this generation and the previous generations before them. Where Nanda excels is in describing her sense of loss or separation; this stemmed directly from her strong awareness that she was an active participant to the exciting events of the national struggle for freedom.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Women in IT: Celebrating International Women's Day 2018

Today is International Women's Day (IWD) and this year's campaign theme is #PressforProgress. It's a call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive. Recently you've probably heard quite a bit about global activism for women's equality due to movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp.

These are important movements raising the profile of gender disparity across a range of sectors and issues. This year's campaign theme got us thinking about women's equality in IT and technology and the women past and present who have motivated us to #PressforProgress.

Here six of our staff at the University of York pay homage to their role models.

Katie Burn, Project Officer, Enterprise Projects Team 

"Coming from a non IT background I don’t have an immediate “go to” female inspiration, such as Ada Lovelace. My first thought was to the women that I work with, and have worked with in the past.  I am, and have been surrounded by women who are inspirational to me. And for that I know I am very lucky. What makes these women inspirational?:
  • Their ‘can do’ attitude
  • The support they give to each other and other staff (both male and female) 
  • Their professional achievements 
  • Their readiness and eagerness to use their voice and experience to make positive changes to the workplace

Michelle Blake, Head of Relationship Management

"As a mum of two young girls I want to ensure they grow up with amazing female role models. We’ve been enjoying reading Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls and one of our favourite stories is Ann Makosinski who invented the Hollow Flashlight, which runs off the heat of the human hand. 

She also created eDrink, a mug that converts heat from your drink into an electric current to charge your phone. She’s only 20 and has made the Forbes 30 under 30, and is studying English Literature.

I love the fact that she combines art and science and I feel lucky that such amazing women exist to inspire my girls."

Sarah Peace, Head of Desktop & Printing Services

"For me, Serena Williams breaks the mould and combines my passions for sport, technology, equality for all and is a positive female role model.

 “My dream wasn’t like that of an average kid, my dream was to be the best tennis player in the world. Not the best “female” tennis player in the world.”

She’s dominated the tennis world for the past decade and now she’s joined the board of SurveyMonkey with a mission to help tech companies diversify their workforce and address equal pay. If she has only half the impact on silicon valley that she’s had on the sporting world, this can only be positive for women in tech like us!

I also love this advert she’s made for International Women’s day "There's no wrong way to be a woman" (She also features in Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls)"

Eleanor Coultish, Network Operations Manager

"Having worked in this predominantly male dominated industry for over 20 years I thought it might be difficult to name some women who have been inspirational to me over the years.  But when I sat down and thought about it, actually it was quite easy.  These are two who particularly stand out for me.

Fiona was a mature student who I met at university when we were studying the same degree course.  She had worked in IT support for many years, leaving to study full time and achieve a formal qualification in IT.  She shared a wealth of knowledge and experience of the IT industry with me and was a big influence in my decision to take this career route.

Helen was a Programmer and Business Analyst and was my manager for a while when I worked as a Desktop Support Technician at South Ayrshire Council.  She had returned to IT after having quite a long career break to bring up her 4 children.  I really admired her for this as technology had moved on so much during her time away.  As my manager she encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and apply to study the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) course which led me to a career in network support.

These are just two of the women who have been influential to me and played a big part in shaping my career. Over the years though I’ve met many inspirational women (and men) in IT who have supported, encouraged and given me advice."

Vicky Wilkie, 2nd Line Support (Systems)

"Coming from a working-class family I was told by a lot of people not to strive for too much and to be happy with what I had. My IT teacher told me I would never amount to anything and for a while I believed him. However, there were two people who inspired me to break away from this mindset and to push myself to try new things. The first was my gran, she didn’t have the chance to go to university and she showed me what an amazing opportunity it was. She wasn’t tech savvy but she helped me to buy my first laptop and encourage me to use technology and explain to her how things worked. I guess she was the first person I practiced my first line support skills on.

The second is my friend Naomi. She has supported me and picked me up every time I have fallen over or doubted myself (which is a lot). It was through her support and encouragement that I decided to change careers and work in IT. Whenever I’m not sure if I made the right choice she reminds me of how far I have come and that, although I still have a long way to go, I will get there."

Jo Loftus, IT Service Desk Manager

"Who is my inspirational women in tech?

A self proclaimed "non - techie" who is now managing the Desktop and Printing team and  has been thrown right in at the deep end handling a change of managed print supplier, Yes, my line manager, Sarah.

Never one to back down from a challenge and there have been a few in her years in IT Services.

She has always supported her staff and encouraged me to push myself and ask questions, in fact I wouldn't be where I am now if it wasn't for her."

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

March 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.   Ilka Heale has been hunting among the Library Collections.

A selection of material from the University Library. Photograph by Paul Shields.
2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s first novel. Written over two years, Frankenstein, Or, The modern prometheus was published anonymously in 1818. With themes of body snatching, early surgery and robotics the novel is widely considered to be the foundation of the modern science-fiction genre.

Born in 1797, Mary’s life reads like a soap-opera storyline: falling in love with a married man (fyi, the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley) at 16, eloping with him to Europe, marrying him at 19 (after his first wife commits suicide), widowed at 25 and, refusing to marry again, supporting herself and her son by continuing to write, publish and edit and dies aged 54 of a suspected brain tumour.

Mary Shelley portrait by Penn State. Flickr.com.

However it is the story of a doctor who builds a creature from scavenged body parts that is her lasting fame. All the more amazing that she was barely out of her teens when she wrote this terrifying tale. Copies of the novel, and other titles authored by Shelley, are at shelfmark MA 153.7 in the Library.

...‘How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and dilate upon, so hideous an idea?’ Frankenstein, 1831, Preface by the Author.

The idea for the novel came about during the now famous summer at Lake Geneva. In 1816 Mary travelled to Geneva with Percy and was joined by the poet Lord Byron and his physician Dr John Polidori. In the introduction to the 1831 edition, Mary wrote: ‘... it proved a wet, ungenial summer, and incessant rain often confined us for days to the house. Some volumes of ghost stories ... fell into our hands….”We will each write a ghost story, said Lord Byron; and his proposition was acceded to.’

The University Library has a copy of the novel in the Dyson collection, one of many rare books. The original manuscript of the novel is at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. In 1996 it was published in facsimile edition, The Frankenstein notebooks which can be found in the Morrell Library.

Photograph by Erik Sagen.
Flickr.com. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Often adapted and occasionally parodied (see the spoof film Young Frankenstein directed by Mel Brooks), the lasting interest in the novel continues.

The play Frankenstein, adapted from the novel by playwright Nick Dear, was performed in 2011 at the National Theatre. This groundbreaking production saw the two lead actors alternating the roles of Frankenstein and the monster each night. This short video has the playwright in conversation with the director Danny Boyle.

There have also been many reworkings of the novel. Amongst them are Peter Ackroyd’s The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein and the 1935 horror classic Bride of Frankenstein. We also have a children’s book, Frankenstein’s Aunt, in the Peggy Januriek collection!

Even the circumstances that inspired Mary to write the novel have influenced others and were dramatised in the documentary Frankenstein and the vampyre which is available on Box of Broadcasts, a TV and radio on demand service. [Access is restricted to University of York account holders].

After her husband died Mary continued to write, publishing several novels along with a large volume of miscellaneous prose: short stories, biographies, and travel writings. The last decade of her life was dogged by illness and she died at home in 1851.

Written two years after Frankenstein in 1820, Maurice, or the Fisher’s Cot is also worth a read. Mary had tried to have this children’s story published by her father’s publishing company but he refused, saying that the story was too short for publication. So this unpublished story, written for her goddaughter, was lost until November 1997 when a manuscript copy was discovered in a box of papers in Italy but that’s a whole other story …..

Further information

There are many adaptations and dramatisations of the novel, along with essays and criticism. Search the Library catalogue for details.

To arrange to view an item in the Rare Books Collection, please contact the Borthwick Institute.

There are many events celebrating the novel during this anniversary year. The Shelley Frankenstein Festival website has more information.

The novel has also spawned several essays and articles from scientists (see this interesting article).

Friday, 16 February 2018

Indian Nationalism by Alex Jubb

The current exhibition to be found in the cases in the Harry Fairhurst corridor at the University of York Library tells the story of the road to Indian independence. The exhibition uses books and archives from the university’s collections and themes include the relationship between coloniser and colonised, and Indian literature.  Highlights include a telegram from Gandhi, and books that belonged to former Prime Minister Clement Attlee. The exhibition will remain in the cases until the end of March 2018.

Alex Jubb worked on the India project as an intern in 2017 and has written several blogs (Aug 2017#1)(Aug 2017#2)(Jan 2018) about the collection and the history of the Independence movement. Here he examines the theme of Indian literature in more depth.

Indian Nationalism

Image: Commemorative Postage Stamp (1967), India Security Press.
The movement to free India from British rule manifested itself through a variety of different mediums. Indian poets, writers and artists provided the inspiration to many ordinary Indians to develop sympathies towards the nationalist cause, particularly as the twentieth century progressed. It became obvious to political commentators of the early twentieth century that there was very little in the way of a unifying identity amongst the peoples of India. In addition to the many political and economic works published to aid the nationalist cause, both inside and outside India, scholars that have studied the causes of Indian independence in 1947 believed that by the 1920s and 1930s, literature had come to occupy a central role in the Indian nationalist movement.

Image sourced from India Online

Raja Rao, an Indian novelist who participated in the Quit India Movement of 1942, was the prime mover in the formation of a cultural organisation, Sri Vidya Samiti, devoted to reviving the values of ancient Indian civilisation. Although deemed a failure by many, his nationalist beliefs were clearly reflected in his first two books; ‘Kanthapura’, an account of the impact of Gandhi’s teaching on peaceful resistance against the British, was followed by ‘The Serpent and the Rope’; the serpent being illusion and the rope being the reality of independence. Rao borrowed the style and structure form Indian vernacular tales and epic fold stories. Rao’s winning of both the third and second highest civilian awards in India following independence signified the impact Rao had on Indian nationalist thinking. According to Ulna Anjaria, a modern day historian of pre-independence India and Pakistan, ‘Indian writers of literature began to imagine cultural unity through their fictional and poetic works’. It is clear that she was correct in her assumption.

Whilst words on a page inspired many Indians to strive for independence, the role played by artists skilled enough to conjure up great nationalist imagery in their works can surely not be understated. Indian artists sought to maintain an ‘Indianness’ representative of their newly independent nation. It became clear that, as Rebecca Brown describes, an ‘emergence of a self-conscience Indian modernism’. Post-independence art showed the influence of Western styles, but was often inspired by Indian themes and images. One particular group, the Progressive Artists’ Group, was established shortly after independence and was intended to establish new ways of expressing India in the post-colonial era. Most of the major artists of India in the 1950s were associate with the group, and the Indian ethos was further cemented by these influential artists and painters.

© Susleriel, 2009. Image: CC-BY-SA
Moreover, a further aspect of Indian culture that the newly independent nation states sought to use to break from their colonial past was architecture. Shortly after independence in 1947, India employed Le Corbusier (a Swiss-French pioneer of modern architecture) to design Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab. The American architect Louis Kahn was invited to design the capitol complex at Dhaka (the modern-day capital of Bangladesh). Indian architects developed a revivalist style of bold architectural gestures, anchored in India’s past, particularly as they planned the Ashok Hotel and the Vigyan Bhavan Conference Centre in New Delhi. Seeking alternative visions after independence through foreign expertise, meaning anything not made by British hands, became a main priority for the new leaders of both India and Pakistan.

Independence was not simply brought about by the work of politicians, economics and those in power in Britain, India and Pakistan; the works of cultural leaders meant just as much to Indian nationalists across the continent. The works of many of these individuals can be found within the Library at the University of York. These works contributed to the cementing of a strong, unified Indian identity both before independence and in the following decades. Nationalist works, for many ordinary Indians, mean just as much in the modern era as they did at the turn of 1947.