Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Reaching Out

One of the highlights of my secondment to the Reader Services division has been the chance to get actively involved in outreach activities. I've done many tours and volunteered at a lot of events but this year I bit the bullet and decided to organise my own event. 

We have many outreach opportunities in Cambridge including the Festival of Ideas which was established in 2008. The festival sets out to challenge ideas around a particular theme which this year was Power and Resistance. This seemed like a good fit for the work I wanted to do to show off the Library's collection of World War I propaganda posters. Being a history graduate propaganda has always been a subject of interest to me and I think it has enormous relevance to life today.

My event was entitled Patriotism and Pin-Ups to reflect both the content and theme of the display. In addition to posters I managed to find a selection of war propaganda material from the collection. Amongst the items on display were:
  • the Illustrated War News and the War Pictorial to represent the fact that World War I was one of the most widely photographed conflicts. It was the first war where images could be made readily available to an eager public back home, something we take for granted today
  • Nursery Rhymes for Fighting Times. This was the most popular item in the display as it was jarring to see such blatant propaganda aimed at young children.
  • the Martyrdom of Nurse Cavell explored the story of this heroic nurse who was executed as a traitor for helping wounded soldiers escape.
  • the Win the War Cookery Book which claimed that if the people of Britain stopped eating so much bread then the war would be won in no time! It also advocated chewing bread slowly to make it taste more like cake...
Putting together the exhibition was a great way for me to get deeply involved in a subject and do some historical research. It was also a fantastic way to show-off a little seen part of the collection to the public. I couldn't include all of the posters I wanted to for space reasons but it was great to be able to show what I could and it got a lot of people talking.

I also experimented with Vine to create videos of the material on display. I've been hearing a lot about the app recently and how it can be used to create visuals of tutorials or exhibitions so I wanted to give it a try. Vine allows you to create short, seven second videos that play on a continuous loop and can be shared with others on the usual social networks. The app was simple to install on my tablet and I was making videos in minutes! My results are shown below:




This was the first time I had developed an outreach event from start to finish and many lessons were learnt. My top piece of advice would be to always leave yourself more time than you think you will need. Life gets in the way sometimes and things like writing captions will always take you longer than you think! If you are able to participate in something like this then my advice would to be to go for it. We are lucky in Cambridge as there are so many opportunities to get involved but if that isn't the case where you are then why not launch something? It doesn't have to be expensive or time consuming - it could just be an online display. The important thing is that you get your material out there and share it with interested people. You never know what might come of it! 


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