2023 Summer placement: Hannah McAuliffe

A blog by PhD placement student Hannah McAuliffe on her project with the Special Collections Teaching and Learning department.

Hannah is smiling over her shoulder wearing the formal academic graduation gown with pink and white trimming and a mortar board cap
My undergraduate graduation – the beginning of my academic journey

Hello, I’m Hannah McAuliffe. I’m working with the University of Manchester’s Special Collections over the summer with the aim to produce an ‘Introduction to Special Collections’ video.

I am a second-year PhD student in the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York, where my research focuses on the poetry and art of William Blake. My doctoral research is kindly funded by the AHRC through the White Rose consortium. Generously, my funding arrangement means I have the opportunity to undertake a Researcher Employability Project in order to gain transferable skills, which is what has brought me to the University’s Special Collections this summer.

I grew up in the Greater Manchester area and have fond memories of visiting the John Rylands Library as a child, so when presented with the opportunity to pause my thesis research and gain new skills, the Rylands immediately sprang to my mind. I got in touch with the Teaching and Learning team and found that they were looking for a placement student to produce a video… It was perfect timing! Though I’m no expert in videography, I am enjoying learning on the go and am hopeful I can deliver a concise and informative video on the Special Collections.

Upon arriving at the Rylands in June, my first task was to sort through the audio-visual equipment available at the library. The Rylands boasts an advanced Imaging department and regularly hosts online seminars so there was plenty of equipment to choose from!

Clear plastic box with video and audio equipment
Rooting through the audio-visual equipment

Once I had located and familiarised myself with my tools, it was time to immerse myself in the rich offerings of the University’s Special Collections. With camera in hand, I have been able to explore many aspects of the collections – including the vast map collection and university archive at Main Library and the specialised material on race, migration, and ethnicity at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre in Manchester Central Library. I have also had chance to spend time with the incredible Collection Care team at the Rylands and to film their ground-breaking treatment of a Demotic papyrus which had been poorly treated with vegetable oil in the past. It was a privilege to capture the team’s highly specialised conservation processes on film.

My ‘Introduction to Special Collections’ video is designed to give students, staff, researchers, and members of the public a sense of the variety of the University of Manchester’s Special Collections and how they can access them, and to encourage them to make use of the collections for teaching and learning. It will provide an overview of the University’s Special Collections held at the Rylands, the Main Library on Oxford Road, and at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre in Manchester Central Library. The video will include footage of the reading rooms to give viewers an accurate idea of what it’s like to come and work with the collections.

A screenshot of video editing software. The preview shows archive materials including letters, snake weights, and a magnifying glass, with a laptop in the top-right corner
A glimpse into the editing process

I am grateful to the University of Manchester, the Rylands staff (particularly Dr Aya Van Renterghem and Dr Janette Martin), and the AHRC for making this placement possible.

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