Some interesting equality and diversity activities going on in our libraries and collections:
Equality and Diversity Images Internships
The Edinburgh Centre for Research Collections (CRC) has a student internship curating images from our collections that show gender, race and diversity with a view to having these images be used for promotion of the University courses, and as part of courses where they are relevant. The successful outcomes of this have been digitisation of materials, engaging blog posts which have narratives from the collections that raise the profile of resources and narratives in the collections to support work in the area.
Following on from this £10,000 was awarded from the Innovation Fund to engage student interns to look at images and narratives of equality, diversity and community to support Students Association campaigns and encourage student engagement. This will be undertaken in the first 6 months of 2019 and is supported by the Students Association executive.
Project: Revealing and Expanding Diversity in our Library Collections
In 2017-18 Library and University Collections teams worked with Students Association to organise two collection displays in the Main Library. A display in October 2017 celebrated Black History Month and in February 2018 a display celebrated LGBT+ History Month. A small number of additional books were purchased to contribute to the LGBT+ display and to increase the range of Library resources; the LGBT+ display also linked to a display in the Library’s CRC which highlighted first editions of books, signed letters, essays and other manuscripts related to W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood.
The Main Library Black History Month display in October 2018 included 41 new items purchased through the project budget, and the project budget also enabled the purchase of additional display units for the Main Library and the purchase of new display units for New College Library and ECA Library. Further displays in 2018-19 are planned to support the Students Association’s four Liberation Campaigns (Black and Minority Ethnic – BME, Disabled Students, LGBT+ and Women). Students Association representatives and colleagues from across the University are involved in organising the displays, selecting resources for purchase and communicating the project to students. The displays have been popular with students, with display items being borrowed and students providing positive feedback to staff.
Women’s Collections Cataloguing
The Edinburgh Centre for Research Collections have had an intern for 8 weeks cataloguing the collection of a misrepresented female composer from the 19th century to raise her profile and make the collection available for dissertations and study. The Centre hopes to do more of this type of project – the archive projects team have prioritised how women are described in collections and are reviewing best practice for future cataloguing
The Libraries and University Collections (L&UC) have also been working with the Student Association’s LiberatEd project to highlight the functionality available to students to suggest new readings for their course resource lists.
Feminist Art Collecting Strategy
In the past few years the Libraries and University Collections (L&UC) has adopted an equality strategy to balance the women artists represented in the University collections. They are actively working with the Principal to diversify the art seen in Old College. For example, of the works that have been collected since 2012, 54% are by female artists. This has included noteworthy work by significant female artists as well as works that deal with gender representation and diversity concerns.
The Contemporary Art Research Collection
The Contemporary Art Research Collection, established in 2016, is the newest art collection at the University and is the most significant area of activity in the diversification of the collection. The Collection is linked to the research of colleagues in History of Art. Their research and teaching area concerns feminism within the structures of Globalisation. This collection actively redresses the gender imbalance as well as the prevailing geographic focus on Western Europe and therefore enable us to broach new territories in terms of space, media and practice. The works acquired thus far highlight the major concerns of our times and the issues that affect women in particular – for example sex workers rights, care work and housing.
This gender and diversity bias in the Collection is perhaps highlighted most evidently within the Portrait Collection. The majority of portraits in the collection do not date from the contemporary period and therefore there is an overwhelming imbalance of representation – a recent estimate suggested that approximately 5% of artworks were by female artist or female sitter. This is no more obvious than in the display of works in historical parts of the University like Old College. On the request of the principal, over the last few months work has been carried out internally on how best to rehang Old College to better reflect both the history and diversity of the University community in our displays. This will be an ongoing, long term project.
A pop up exhibition opened in the Main University Library in November 2018, telling the story of how some of the University’s first female graduates pushed the agenda forward for equal enfranchisement in the UK. The exhibition focuses on when Chrystal Macmillan, Frances Simson and Frances Nairn took the fight to the House of Lords in November 1908. Chrystal Macmillan and Frances Simson became the first women to speak in the House of Lords. The exhibition was opened by Diva , Students Association Vice President for Education, who spoke about how inspiring the women were for students today, showing that students had fought for their rights and for equality.
As a result of this project L&UC are helping RAG week reps with hosting Helen Pankhurst to come and speak in March 2019.
New Internship for Equality, Diversity and Gender in Archive Catalogues
This project will look at the University of Edinburgh’s archive catalogues to explore the description, language and surfacing of women, cultures, communities and diverse groups in these catalogues. Many of the catalogues have been inherited over centuries of collecting, meaning that women and minority groups are often misrepresented or simply missing altogether from the catalogues. This project will require the business school students to analyse our data and explore the issues and problems, coming up with ideas to make them more diverse and inclusive using qualitative and quantities methodologies.