Placement, Interrupted: Digitisation to Lockdown

Paige Plannette shares her experience of her Museum Studies student placement at GWL

Hello everyone! I had the opportunity to do a work placement at Glasgow Women’s Library through the University of Glasgow’s Museum Studies programme this year. During my time at GWL I had a few different tasks that I was working on.

The first was the digitisation project. Jenny, the museum curator, is working to digitise GWL’s collections to put in eHive, an online collections management system. My focus was on the National Museum of Roller Derby. You should check it out when you have the chance! The roller derby collection spans all over the United Kingdom and includes items from international bouts as well. With programme titles like ‘The Prisoner of AzkaSLAM’, ‘Crashablanca’, ‘Loch Mess’, and ‘Hassle at the Castle’, it was quite entertaining working with the items and digitising them. My favourite title was ‘8-Bit Brawl’.

On the left, a a bay of shelves filled with green boxes and roller derby material, including helmets. On the right, a box filled with roller derby bout programmes; the top two are titled Roll Britannia and Wack 'Em.
The National Museum of Roller Derby collection at GWL

Another project I was working on was cataloguing a collection of old comic books from the 1970s and 80s, specifically the Bunty and Judy comics. They were so cool! I had never seen them before and was delighted to get the chance to look through them. Though I did notice that on the backs of the old comic books, they would highlight famous people of the time; all of the women needed ‘descriptors,’ but strangely enough the men never did.

The back pages of a selection of Bunty comic books, featuring black and white photos of men and women.
A selection of Bunty comic book back pages

I was also doing some research within the GWL collections, cataloguing art exhibitions and brochures looking for artists who were contemporary or influenced by Joan Eardley. While I only found one contemporaneous artist during my time there, I loved going through all of the old programmes and seeing the beautiful and inspiring works of art, the majority of which were displayed in Scotland. My particular favourite was one titled ‘the dangers of sewing and knitting’ by artist Deirdre Nelson. One of her projects focused on the Ayrshire needle workers and how they would put drops of whisky in their eyes to sharpen their sight. Ouch!

Exhibition catalogue open at a page titled 'Whisky work' featuring an image of needlework tools alongside a miniature whisky bottle
Exhibition catalogue titled ‘the dangers of sewing and knitting’ by Deirdre Nelson

Beyond getting the chance to work on these projects, I was lucky enough to get insight into some of the other projects that GWL is working on. One of them is where they are partnered as a friend to Book Bunk, a Nairobi organisation focusing on the reshaping of public libraries for the community. I got the chance to meet Syokau from Book Bunk and sit in on a meeting between her, Jenny, Nicola (the archivist), and Wendy (the librarian).

This was not just about GWL explaining what they do to the still newly formed Book Bunk but was a true sharing of information and learning, as well as a lively and warm discussion. Topics varied from getting rid of stuff or ‘weeding’ to create space, cataloguing, different library systems and library management programs like AtoM for archives, code of ethics, and accessioning. It was really inspiring watching all of these women work together and share ideas. Each person had a part and a role. Overall, it was an intriguing introduction into how the library as a cultural heritage organisation worked.

Four women working around a laptop at a round table filled with tea cups, buns and GWL programmes, with stacks of bookshelves behind.
The GWL collections team meeting with Book Bunk’s Syokau

Sadly, my time inside the library came to an end before I was able to finish the comic books cataloguing and Joan Eardley projects, due to COVID-19 and the lockdown. In the meantime, I have been in the process of creating a digital game for GWL which I look forward to revealing to you in a few weeks. Till then!

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