Activities at the British Library
Since 2003 I have been part of the freelance team leading workshops at the British Library for schools and other groups (age from reception infant classes up to 6th form, colleges, postgraduates and adult study groups). My first engagement was an interactive handout to accompany the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition in 2002.
I am currently leading the workshops on:
Research Matters - an introduction to different ways of approaching research, using items on show in the BL galleries, a relief printing press, and the structure of the Library.
Exploring English - looking at change in the English language, and how the language has developed, using items in the galleries, the timeline, and handling nineteenth century dictionaries. This workshop also involves looking at mistakes, swearing, and how we no longer know how to address each other.
Ways of Reading - how, why and what we read, what we do it for, how we interpret what we read, why we stop reading, and how new technology is changing our approach to reading. This workshop involves looking at writers' draughts/drafts, and trying out different interpretive positions.
Treasure Tours - a critical exploration of the treasures in the Ritblat Gallery: why are they treasures, and what does this designation tell us about ourselves? This tour explores the publication context of Shakespeare's plays, the materials used in making illuminated manuscripts, and Gutenberg's struggles to create movable type, and many more treasures including the Lindisfarne Gospels, the inverted Curtis Jenny 23cent stamp, the Beatles Lyrics, and Magna Carta.
I have also worked with refugee groups and in prisons, particularly on illuminated manuscript and embroidery projects. These cover my interest areas of language, the development of the book as object from scrolls to digitally stored information, the politics of oppression, the history of visual culture, particularly illuminated manuscripts and early printing, and the nature of reading.
Following some workshops I did in June 2004 based on the Transit of Venus I was asked to work with a science curator to develop an exhibition on astronomy and world cultures. As a result of this I was asked to develop workshops based on scientific thinking for the Nobel Prize exhibition last winter; these workshops were reviewed favourably in the Times Educational Supplement.
I have also led tours of the Sacred Texts exhibition and the Henry VIII exhibition for groups of visiting academics, students, and foreign study-groups; I regularly lead tours of exhibitions for corporate events at the Library. For the Evolving English exhibition I wrote Evolving English Explored, commissioned by the BL, a handbook based on the exhibition, exploring different facets of the English language; this sold out during the exhibition. My workshops are regular ly offered as examples of best practice, with observers recently from the House of Commons, The Guardian and John Rylands Library (University of Manchester).
I have worked on the BL website literature timeline (William Blake interview, and several written panels), and spent two years researching and writing for the Discovering Literature project, a digital encyclopedia of English Literature using the British Library collections. the specialist area for this was 19th century literature, for which I supplied material on Coleridge, Blake, Burns, Hardy, H G Wells, R L Stevenson, Byron and Shelley. I also supplied four essays on language for the First World War website.
Over the past twelve years I have written or co-written the following workshops: Beautiful Minds, Exploring the World's Knowledge, Evolving English, Henry VIII, Exploring English, Ways of Reading, Gothic, Research Matters, Treasure Tours, Magna Carta, Sacred, Writers' Britain. In 2014 I co-organised an international conference at the British Library and the University of Antwerp on the Languages and the First World War, the papers for which I am currently co-editing for two publications by Palgrave Macmillan.