Set up for the UAL History Tour (c) Robin Sampson

Last week I ran a “UAL Institutional History” tour at UAL’s Archives and Special Collections Centre, giving my fellow Library Service staff members the chance to learn about, explore and discuss the multimedia holdings of the UAL Institutional Archive.

I began with a brief overview of the political context surrounding the University’s formation, back in the mid-1980s when the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) responded to threatened Government cuts to London’s art schools by bringing a select band of them together in an entity known as the “London Institute”. I then described the challenges and issues this new institution overcame, and the opportunities; funding problems, dilapidated sites, college mergers, Higher Education incorporation and the eventual move to University status. Finally the group was given the opportunity to browse samples of the various record formats including institutional newsletters, student magazines, prospectuses, exhibition ephemera and recorded oral history interviews. A notable item of interest was the “Honorarium” a volume containing the signatures of honorary degree recipients from 1998 to 2016, including Grayson Perry, Jarvis Cocker, Maggi Hambling, Jimmy Choo, Tom Hardy and Mike Leigh.

I also gave the attendees the opportunity to provide comment and feedback on the tour and the current contents of the archive. This was so we could gain an appreciation of what was “missing” from the archive and what kind of research streams it could be used for, and also whether staff were aware of any potential collections of records that could be added to the archive and further help to tell the University’s story.

This was a successful event and I am hoping to run more of these tours over the course of the academic year. If any members of staff are interested in participating and learning more about the establishment and development of UAL, please contact me at r.sampson@arts.ac.uk

Robin Sampson