“You are listening to the audio version of the Courtauld Digital Media blog…”

We have long had an ambition to make this Digital Media blog more accessible by adding audio versions. Since lockdown began in March, most of our day-to-day library-based digitisation activities have been re-jigged so that we can do them remotely. A silver lining to the change of pace is that the team have had to design alternative activities that volunteers can do at home. These activities are all aligned with the aims of the project, and also fit around people’s changed schedules alongside the stress and difficulty of lockdown.

One such opportunity has been to record audio versions of blog posts. We have been wary that not everyone can participate in volunteering from home because of a lack of the right equipment. However, audio recording is something that a lot of people can do using something they carry around in their pockets every day. Most phones now have free voice recording apps, which, combined with some tweaks to the home recording environment, produce a pretty good sound.

Home studio shared by journalist @RebeccaRideal

Pillow fort / podcast studio of @jameswmorland, researcher and podcaster for Queen Mary University Pathologies of Solitude project

Posts on social media from journalists and podcasters show that almost anyone can create a makeshift recording studio: crouching under duvets, throwing blankets over children’s bunk-beds, or making a pillow fort all suddenly become very serious, professional activities!

Our volunteers really rose to the challenge! Pictured below are John and Tanya: John rearranged furniture to create his home studio, while Tanya went for the old fashioned duvet-over-the-head approach. Other volunteers used a cheaply-available yet extremely effective clip-on mic, or nestled in a walk-in wardrobe – anything to reduce the ‘sound of silence’ (all rooms have a drone or buzz!), external noises, and echo.

John home studio with rearranged furniture

Tanya’s tried and tested under a duvet recording studio

We also held an audio skills video chat, and volunteers shared their recording tips (smile as you read) and pitfalls (prop the duvet up on a clothes horse for much-needed ventilation) with each other. A huge thank you to Norman, Tanya’s partner, who is a vocal and performance coach, who shared some brilliant advice on breathing and speaking clearly https://sway.office.com/EsjdpNM0H7uPbtgC?ref=Link.

With the outtakes now on the cutting room floor (I admit I have had an empathetic giggle at some of the frustrated noises, self-coaching, and occasional cursing that comes with making a recording) the first wave of 25 recordings are now available to listen to!

A huge, massive, enormous thank you to everyone who wrote the blogs to begin with, and everyone who read them so beautifully.

 

Behind-the-scenes of the Digitisation project

 

Modernist and post-war architecture

 

 

Anthony Kersting

 

 

See the world through the eyes of Conway photographs

 

 

You can also listen to the audio versions of the blog on a range of podcast services, see our Anchor.fm profile for the full list: https://anchor.fm/courtauld-digitisation

Or you listen right here on the Spotify player embedded just below! Happy listening!


Fran Allfrey
Courtauld Connects Volunteer Officer

Who made the Conway Library?

Much loved and perused by staff, students, and the general public in the know, the Conway Library is a collection of 9764 red boxes containing brown manila folders. The photographs glued on the brown manila mounts are black and white original prints showing places of architectural notice, often in painstaking detail. The variety, detail and beauty of the photographs, as well as the value of this research resource are well documented in this blog.

Martin Conway, who had started collecting art in 1887, “spent a great many of the pre-war years occupied with his photographs, developing the system of mounting, annotating and arranging which can still be found today” (Higgon, 2006). His glamorous American wife, Katrina Glidden, and their daughter, Agnes, joined him in his passion and continued to further enrich the collection. Towards the end of his life, Martin Conway busied himself with the foundation of the Courtauld Institute, to which he donated his much-beloved collection (“The Conway Library archive contains some photographs taken at the Himalayan base camp, where a member of the team made a bust of Martin out of snow, adding a pipe and an incongruous wreath of local vegetation!” Higgon, 2006).

 

What is less well known about the collection is who took the photos after it moved to the Courtauld

 

One of the tasks available to the volunteers, Attributions, seeks to answer that very question. In capturing the names of the photographers, inked, pencilled or stamped predominantly on the back of the mounts, the volunteers compiled, for the first time in the history of the collection, a definitive list of the hundreds of people who contributed photos to the Conway after Conway.

The list of photographers tells a completely new story about the library. No longer simply the story of the initial collectors, this is now also the story of the hundreds of people – students, staff or independent supporters – who donated the images.

The attribution list could tell us the story of the development of these photographers’ interest in specific research fields and the beginning of their careers, or perhaps the story of a small foray into a life they chose not to pursue. It could reveal the arc of development of personal photographic styles and visions, or maybe just the sheer determination of non-photographers to capture and document all sites objectively and in as much detail as possible.

Already, just by looking at the names, we know that it was a truly collective effort and that women were very much represented.

 

In capturing these names, we set out to research the photographers who made the Conway, and credit their work

 

The volunteers carrying out the Attributions task came across famous (and infamous!) contributors such as Anthony F. Kersting, Robert Byron, Tim Benton and Anthony Blunt, but they also came across many names that were scribbled illegibly or reported in too little detail to be tracked reliably.

The easiest photographers to transcribe and research were those who had their names stamped clearly – such as F.H. Crossley – the unmistakeably unique – such as Edzard Eilert Baumann – or those with names reported in full and with aliases – such as Dr Amanda Simpson a.k.a. Amanda Tomlinson.

The most difficult names to research are those whose surnames are more common and those for which we either don’t have first names or we only have initials – such as “M. Wall”, “Mrs Booty”, “Nunn”, “P. Clayton”, Kidson or Lindley.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, we assigned our volunteers the task of researching these names and find out as much biographic information as possible, looking in particular for reliable sources to fill in their research forms. Once the forms were filled in and returned, they went out again to other volunteers for cross-checking and the second part of the task began.

We scheduled Wikipedia editing training sessions and asked the volunteers to try their luck creating new pages for our photographers, and adding information about their involvement with the Conway Library to the biography of photographers with existing pages.

The result, we hope, will give the collection even more visibility, and let us share its fascinating genesis.


 

Do you know anything more about the Conway photographers?

 

For the full list of names please continue reading.

Continue…

Layers of London Highlights: Records by Michael Mayes

 

Introduction by Fran Allfrey, volunteer officer

 

You can now find over 80 photographs from the Conway Library on Layers of London. Layers of London is a fantastic resource and website run by the Institute of Historical Research, University of London. In brief, Layers of London allows you to pin photographs into a digital map of London, and add a short description.

Anyone is able to log on and add photographs that they have taken themselves, and many museums, archives, and libraries have been adding their collection items too. Most importantly, anyone is able to just explore the map!

Since lockdown in March 2020, over 28 Courtauld volunteers have been extremely busy sharing photographs from the Conway Library on Layers of London. In a series of blog posts, we’ll be sharing just a few of the records they have made to try and encourage our blog readers to go explore the map and photographs!

In this post, we have reproduced four of seventeen records (and counting) made by our volunteer Michael. Thank you, Michael, for creating so many evocative records, which really show the variety of photographs in the Conway Library.

Michael says: “My favourite photograph is one of Anthony Kersting’s – The Horniman Museum. It’s a place I know well from visits and he captures it in that unique way he has, making a building, no matter how familiar, appear to you as if for the first time.
My favourite entry, however, is of The Crown Tavern. I hope I’ve captured the nostalgia of the period and the central role pubs played in social life particularly as we have lost so many already and no doubt more to come.”

Records created by Michael Mayes

 

The Crown Tavern, Aberdeen Place, London. Architect CH Worley, built 1898. CON_B04084_F002_034. The Courtauld Institute of Art, CC-BY-NC.

The Crown Tavern, 23 Aberdeen Place, London NW8

This pub is sadly no longer with us, having sold its last drink in March 2004. Its new incarnation is a striking residential property restored to show off its late Victorian origins. This image is intriguing. The wonderfully decorated windows invite the sunlight to steal in, throwing panes of light across the floor and wall, and highlighting a coat on its peg. A restless dog lingers near its master. A half-finished beer stands on the table, where on the opposite side a man sits, rolling his smoke, with a pint of Dublin’s finest waiting to be enjoyed. Cheers!

Lenin Memorial, Holford Square, London. Designed by Berthold Lubetkin, erected in 1942. CON_B04266_F001_005. The Courtauld Institute of Art, CC-BY-NC.

Lenin Memorial, Holford Square, London WC1 

Badly damaged by bombing in World War Two, the then-named Holford Square was condemned in 1948 and rebuilt to plans drawn up by the architect Berthold Lubetkin. It was renamed Bevin Court and located in Holford Gardens. Lubetkin had previously, in 1942, designed and installed the memorial you see in the photograph. In an uncanny parallel with events in June 2020 when protesters targeted statues of figures involved in the slave trade, Lenin’s memorial was regularly damaged and defaced, and eventually it was buried by Lubetkin beneath a staircase when Bevin Court was being built. The photograph featured in an exhibition, British Art and Design Before the War, at the Hayward Gallery in 1979-80. The photographer has captured an image of what could be considered an understated design: the arch above Lenin’s head, the inset inscription, the housing set at a downward angle. Note, however, the security chain around the base, a sign, perhaps, of the protests to come.

Ludgate Circus Railway Bridge, London. Opened 1865. CON_B04108_F003_024. The Courtauld Institute of Art, CC-BY-NC.

Ludgate Circus Railway Bridge

This image featuring the railway bridge is undated though there are some clues as to the period in which it was taken. The clothes worn by a small group of young people in front of the King Lud pub on the left suggest the 1950s or earlier 1960s; note also the bus and the traffic light design. Scrutinise the cyclists hurtling down the hill, drop-handle racers having a great time in the light traffic – it is probably not rush hour. The City is either at rest, suggesting a weekend, or in an urgency of homeward bound city workers still toiling at their desks.

The Horniman Museum, London. Photographed by Anthony Kersting, 1990. CON_B04088_F001_010. The Courtauld Institute of Art, CC-BY-NC.

The Horniman Museum

The Museum opened on its present site in 1901. It is well known and frequently attended and plenty of information can be derived from its website. This image, taken by Anthony Kersting, exemplifies his approach to photography. Judging by the leafless trees, it appears to have been taken in the late afternoon of a winter’s day. The long shadow raking from the left anchors the building, which is highlighted and framed. Sky detail is minimal but the wisp of cloud is such a delight. The vehicle passing in front of the building suggests a longish exposure. Time, care and attention to detail whisper quietly from this image.

See all the records created by Michael here: https://www.layersoflondon.org/map/users/2090

And all the Conway Library photographs on Layers of London here: https://www.layersoflondon.org/map/collections/446 

Meet our volunteers… Gill, Lorraine and Bill

It’s Volunteers’ Week in the UK this week and we wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate our fantastic Digitisation Volunteers. Every day last week we have shared their stories and thoughts in our Meet our volunteers series – we hope you enjoyed meeting them! 

Why I volunteer…

Gill: I’ve only recently joined the Courtauld volunteers, in mid-May – just by chance I came across details of the Open Courtauld Hour webinars on Zoom, and enjoyed watching them. In the one on 14 May I heard about the digitisation project, saw a photo of a big group of happy volunteers, and realised that it was exactly what I’ve been looking for! 

Lorraine: It’s so nice to be retired and to have time to do what I want. Learning is what drives me to volunteer – nothing altruistic I’m afraid (except the Year 13 student support in a local school).

Bill: To be helpful, and it gets me out of the house.

What I enjoy most about volunteering…

Gill: Courtauld volunteers are really well looked after by the wonderful members of staff, who make sure we’re well supplied with interesting work to suit our skills and knowledge. It was a bit of a learning curve for me at first, as it involved getting set up with various bits of new (to me) technology, such as Zooniverse and Slack. Fortunately, I’ve already been using Zoom quite a lot since late March, and it’s been fun to take part in a number of video conferencing sessions, meeting the staff and other volunteers to discuss aspects of the digitisation work, or just for a social chat to share recommended books, TV programmes, etc. I’m finding the remote working very flexible – there are different aspects to choose from, so it’s possible to dot around from one task to another for the sake of variety, or focus on one longer task, depending on how you’re feeling.

Lorraine: It’s the whole package really… the journey to and from the Aldwych, the various options available when in the Courtauld, the surprises when cataloguing or digitising, etc. The opportunity to research your own interests within the collection. I particularly enjoyed transcribing Anthony Kersting’s ledgers and his terrible handwriting!

Bill: Meeting crazy ‘arty’ people!

A favourite photo or moment?

Gill: I’ve been captioning a lot of Canterbury Cathedral images via Zooniverse – lots of different styles of column/capital. There was a lovely funny capital of a man with what looked like two donkeys on either side of him. Obviously that particular stone carver had a good sense of humour! 

A capital in the Conway crowdsourced metadata entry project on Zooniverse: World Architecture Unlocked.

Lorraine: The London boxes are fascinating – so much has been lost! I always enjoy photographs of modernist architecture (read Lorraine’s blog post here!): for instance, this image of the staircase in Bevin Court, Finsbury.

Bevin Court Stairs. CON_B04266_F001_022. The Conway Library.

What do you do when not volunteering?

Gill: I teach from home (mostly English as a Foreign Language), and I also work part-time for a picture library, where I do a lot of work with pictures from different periods in history and from different countries all around the world. My work involves researching the images, then captioning and keywording them. I’ve been on furlough from the picture library since 1 April, and when I discovered that the Courtauld has a team of volunteers doing similar work, I got in touch straight away! 

Lorraine: After 38 years of teaching, volunteering at the Courtauld reignited my interest in the History of Art and as a result, I recently completed an MA in History of Art and Photography. I’m now seriously considering a PhD but… who knows… do I have the time!? I also volunteer at the Tate archives and support year 13 students in a local school. When I am not researching or reading, I am a life-long football supporter and an avid Star Trek/Picard fan. I’m also an animal rescue fanatic – bears especially but all animals. I live South of the river with a long-suffering partner/husband and a cat.

Bill: I’m 83 and try to do as little as possible (some would say “no change there then”). In a past life, I have learned Russian (during National Service in the RAF) – mostly forgotten in the intervening 60 odd years. At school I learned Scholarship level French and German as well as Spanish. I’ve worked at GCHQ and the Home Office (in the since- renamed Royal Prerogative section) and after retirement managed volunteers at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. I follow Chelsea Football Club. I like to travel and use my camera.

The Conway items as they appear on Zooniverse’s World Architecture Unlocked. Gill and other volunteers who joined during the lockdown have only accessed the items in digital form.

What would you say to someone who wasn’t sure whether volunteering is for them?

Gill: Just give it a try – there’s nothing to lose, lots of support is available, and everyone is really friendly. 

Lorraine: You have nothing to lose and everything to gain… new skills, historical and photographic knowledge, and in many respects a greater understanding of what has been before. Become immersed in the vast range of images, from London in the 1950s and the lost English Country Houses to European cathedrals and the Middle East Mosques and Coptic Churches.

Bill: I wasn’t sure what to expect when I joined up but it has introduced me to a different “field” and increased my interest in photography. Meeting other people is normally great fun.

Bill examining a Conway box at the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Volunteering during lockdown

Gill: Once my furlough period comes to an end and I can hopefully go back to work, I’d still like to continue as a Courtauld volunteer – I’m looking forward to visiting the Courtauld building and meeting people face-to-face when the time is right!

Bill: I live on my own and the interaction with others on the project during this stressful time has proved important to me in keeping a sense of perspective.

One of Lorraine’s contributions to Art Club.

One of Lorraine’s contributions to Art Club.

Artwork by Lorraine Stoker.

Meet our volunteers… Francesca and Anne

It’s Volunteers’ Week in the UK this week and we wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate our fantastic Digitisation Volunteers. Every day this week we will be sharing their stories and thoughts in our Meet our volunteers series – we hope you enjoy meeting them!

Francesca and Anne

Why I volunteer…

Francesca: I am pursuing a career in the museum sector and wanted to gain some skills to help me. I also enjoy meeting new people and sharing stories and think that engaging with people over art is a fantastic starting point. Often personal stories are birthed from looking at an old photograph and relating to it, alongside conversations about its historical context which is always interesting. I am currently unemployed so need to fill my time wisely and find that the Courtauld provides me with many inspiring tasks to get on with. I would say I see my volunteering as 60% for career progression and learning skills and 40% as a hobby.

Anne: Having taken early retirement a few years ago I was on the lookout for a volunteering opportunity; I heard about the Courtauld Digitisation Project from a friend who volunteers and it sounded really interesting so I joined up to give it a go!

What I enjoy most about volunteering…

Francesca: I enjoy learning about diverse and precious content in the Conway Library. The Courtauld has the best sense of community that I’ve ever experienced in a volunteer museum setting and I love making new friends who have something in common with myself (love of art). Many of the volunteers are from the older generation and I find it fascinating to spend time with them and hear about their experience and ideas.

Anne: I really enjoy trying my hand at different parts of the process of digitisation, and seeing how it all fits together. I love the randomness of what you come across in the collection – one week it is Le Corbusier architectural drawings, the next Celtic crosses in Cornwall. And it is always exciting to come across photographs of places you know – in my first session we were digitising photos of a church tower in Croatia I had visited on holiday a few years ago.

Celtic crosses in the Conway Library.

Do you have a favourite photo or part of the collection?

Anne: KER_NEG_G03999 – a photo of young people gathered around the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain (“Eros”) in Piccadilly Circus.

AF Kersting, Eros.

What do you do when not volunteering?

Francesca: The skills I learn while volunteering can be transferred to jobs that I will potentially have in the future in the museum sector (currently I am unemployed).  Working in the museum sector can be challenging at times because of the need to be up to date with the art world, so learning more about architecture and photography is always useful. When I’m not volunteering at the Courtauld I am applying for jobs, doing online learning, and volunteering elsewhere.

Anne: I have really got into birdwatching in the last couple of years, so I often go for day trips to local(ish) nature reserves armed with my binoculars and trusty little camera – I particularly like to visit the Thames estuary which has amazing water birds. I dabble in drawing a little, and enjoy making the most of London’s wonderful art galleries, and browsing the regular amazing exhibitions at London’s auction houses.

What would you say to someone who wasn’t sure whether volunteering is for them?

Francesca: I love volunteering here and even if there are things you’re not sure about there is bound to be something that will draw you in because there are a lot of diverse aspects of it that you can enjoy, whether that’s being sociable and making friends, engaging in the interesting art, learning new skills, or going on group museum trips. Another thing I would add is that the staff are very experienced and enjoy sharing and the collections, they are one of a kind, so the experience is very inspiring.

Anne: Give it a go! There are several different parts of the process you can try out which each require different types of skill, so you can find something which suits you or do a bit of everything. You’ll meet a very varied group of people, and be really well looked after by the lovely staff!

Volunteering during lockdown

Francesca: I think it’s important to keep an open mind during this time. The Art Club and general tasks to get on with have been useful for being creative and just filling up my time with something to work towards.  Staying at home all the time can often be demotivating because you lack a schedule, but the tasks from the Courtauld have positively rectified that.

Frncesca’s contribution to Art Club

Art Club prompt, week 4.

Anne: Volunteering at home during COVID19 has been a real surprise – there is a whole new set of tasks we can work on, and I’m really enjoying delving deep into (again) random bits of research in my own time. I worked in IT in my former life, so I am able to make good use of – and update! – my computer skills. The twice-weekly Zoom team calls have really helped give some structure to my weeks, and it has been lovely to gradually get to know other volunteers and the staff over the weeks. I’m also loving the Art Club, where we are given a weekly challenge and encouraged ever so gently to have a go at creating something to share with the group.

Meet our volunteers… Heidi and John 

It’s Volunteers’ Week in the UK this week and we wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate our fantastic Digitisation Volunteers. Every day this week we will be sharing their stories and thoughts in our Meet our volunteers series – we hope you enjoy meeting them!

Heidi in the Courtauld lift and John in his makeshift recording studio.

Why I volunteer…

Heidi: Of all places, I saw a retweet on Twitter asking for volunteers who were needed for a digitisation project at The Courtauld Institute of Art, they needed help recording and saving many 1,000s of photographs they have stored in collections. Like most people, I knew of and had visited most of the big London museums and galleries, but the Courtauld had always had an air of mystery, needless to say, I’d been to Somerset House but had never actually gone inside. Therefore when I saw the chance to not only feed my curiosity but also my love of Architecture and the Arts, as well as doing something that sounded extremely interesting and worthwhile, I immediately applied to volunteer. I love coming to such an amazing building, I’m still overly curious about my surrounding (Somerset House is vast), the many boxes of photos, and taking part in saving minute pieces of history that all add up to one amazing collection, rather like putting together an image pixel by pixel until you get the whole picture.

John: To support the Courtauld, as the Gallery has been part of my imagination all my adult life.

What I enjoy most about volunteering…

Heidi: I start each shift knowing what I’m going to be doing, usually it’s Metadata, my favourite, but also knowing that there’s going to be surprises, mysteries I have to solve, handwriting for instance. But that’s what I enjoy, the repetitiveness of interesting information (I’m a born organizer), when suddenly you’re confronted by a challenge and it needs to be solved then and there. Every shift I learn something new, whether it’s through the photos themselves or the information that accompanies them.

John: Finding beautiful or unusual detail in the photographs of the Conway – such as this sculpture in Canterbury Cathedral.

CON_B00089_F002_026 with John’s drawing

A favourite photo or moment?

Heidi: The photographs that have made me stop and stare were the boxes of the Plans of the Vatican and Vatican City, several boxes containing masses of plans. I hadn’t realized the Vatican was so vast, the amount of rooms, the tunnels. I immediately wanted to go there and start exploring because you know for sure that there are going to be hidden rooms, hidden passageways not on any public records.

John: There are so many! But a recent wow moment was James Austin’s photos of the Eiffel Tower.

What do you do when not volunteering?

Heidi: Recently as I haven’t been able to go to the Courtauld or out & about really, I’ve been making things, though I have had to curb my enthusiasm for baking for obvious reasons. But I love steampunk, retro styles with a twist of Heidi woven in. So I began the lockdown all eager with some painting, note the wacky handles.

Heidi’s revamped lockdown shelves.

I have three children, and six grandchildren (7, 9, 11, 13, 16, 19) so apart from using Houseparty, Whatsapp etc we have all become penpals, which is taking up a bit of time too. I was always going to exhibitions, galleries etc but what I have been doing is going for 2-4 hour walks (…all my home baking!) There is not a better way to explore London and I have yet to get lost (touch wood), and before Lockdown I spent every other long weekend in Essex where my family are, I miss the sea and the countryside too.

John: I do a lot of drawing, and images from the Conway Library have inspired me. I am also a keen reader of history and like to relate events to what was happening in the arts at the same time.

What would you say to someone who wasn’t sure whether volunteering is for them?

Heidi: When I first started volunteering I was unsure what to expect, I decided to try everything 2-3 times then decide if I wanted to alternate or choose one task. I was drawn to Metadata as working on my own suits me but there’s always help and plenty of advice when I need it, which is often! Metadata can be like a puzzle and I’m a “puzzle foodie”. But by volunteering for the project you get the opportunity to do several jobs, from camera work to research, from group work to individual work but with the knowledge that you will always have a wealth of knowledge and help if you need it from an extremely experienced merry band of overseers. Whether you’re a chatterbox or a bit shy, whether you have an interest in architecture, the arts, or just want to learn something new, I can think of no better way of doing so than in a prestigious environment with a group of like-minded people, not forgetting an awesome common room with ever plenty biscuits, & coffee ;-).

I have been asked to provide a photo if possible, I have been on numerous outings with the Courtauld, amazing places, and when it comes time for the photoshoot I’m the one ducking down at the back  o_O  …. So the one at the top of this post is one of me in the Courtauld lift, if you see me come and say hi!

John: Just try it for a few weeks. You have nothing to lose, you can stop if you wish. Everyone is so friendly and supportive, and they would never hassle.

The Digital Media team are so friendly and positive, always upbeat, informed and interesting, so it is always a pleasure to be in their company, even if only online. They also set a tone for the volunteers, who tend to fall in with this attitude.

Volunteering during lockdown

John: During COVID lockdown I’ve found it is helpful to set a routine of tasks drawn each day from a wide variety of possible activities. Research into aspects of the Conway is a great option, really interesting and stimulating, especially with the online meetings where we can discuss our work and share ideas. I’ve been recording audio versions of blog posts too – which will be ready to listen to soon!

Meet our volunteers… Olivia and Kristiāna

It’s Volunteers’ Week in the UK this week and we wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate our fantastic Digitisation Volunteers. Every day this week we will be sharing their stories and thoughts in our Meet our volunteers series – we hope you enjoy meeting them!

Olivia and Kristiāna

Why I volunteer…

Olivia: I am looking to gain the experience this project has to offer, and I am extremely passionate about digitising and making this collection available for the general public.

Kristiāna: To do something special with my time and to spend it while volunteering for the Courtauld, or more specifically for the Conway Library. I find it quite special to be part of this project.

It’s a pure enjoyment to contribute my time. Learning more about the methods within archives has inspired me to look into an MA. I hope to work full time in archives one day – it would be quite special for me.

What I enjoy most about volunteering…

Olivia: The setting and the pictures – but I really enjoy the process as well. Also, the flexibility is amazing! Most volunteering projects require a set day of the week and a minimum of hours, while this one is super relaxed and convenient.

Kristiāna: I would say that I enjoy everything about volunteering, from the variety of tasks we can choose from to the conversations with other volunteers. But I particularly enjoy the atmosphere and the close observation of the photographs. I find it intriguing and mysterious at the same time and seeing that other people are interested in the processes and the stories of the photographs within the archives makes the whole shared experience quite special.

One of Kristiāna’s favourite images in Capture One.

A favourite photo or moment?

Olivia: I don’t have one yet! But being Italian, I had a lovely time seeing so many images from Italy, a few boxes have been almost emotional to look at, and I really hope I’ll encounter one with pictures from Florence when the Courtauld opens again – I’ve lived there for some years and miss it greatly.

Kristiāna: I don’t have a particular favourite photograph but I enjoy seeing different travel photographs especially after my own travels to Italy. It was very interesting to see photographs of the places that I visited that were taken years back, and to notice the differences in the atmosphere and people within them.

What do you do when not volunteering?

Olivia: I’m working as a visitor assistant at the British Museum and as a tour guide over the tourist seasons, but I’m also volunteering at the Royal Society of Sculptors. During this pandemic, I started working on a PhD proposal. I want to progress in experience and keep working in museums and galleries, so volunteering at the Courtauld is very related to what I do and it’s giving me an amazing experience!

Kristiāna: Unfortunately I lost my job due to the coronavirus in April, I used to work as a Creative Team Assistant for an Icelandic artist. But since then I have been helping my partner with setting up his business. I am quite crazy when it comes to details and organisation, therefore I have found the tasks at the Conway Library very related to my personality. Volunteering here really trains your attention to detail and organisation skills.

What would you say to someone who wasn’t sure whether volunteering is for them?

Olivia: Just try once – the place and the people you meet are lovely, and it’s so convenient and easy to fit around any schedule, that you’ll keep coming for sure.

Kristiāna: I would say that they should try before deciding it isn’t for them. There are a variety of tasks that we can choose from, but you can develop your favourite and if you don’t like others you can stick to that one. I didn’t have any particular expectations when I started but I knew it would be incredibly interesting and that I should take everything as it comes.

 This experience has been an eye-opener for me as I have decided that I want to do a postgraduate in archives and records management (hopefully in the near future) and to develop this as my profession. Being a part of the project has not only helped me to realise my future career goals but it has also been feeding my curiosity. 

Volunteering during lockdown

Olivia: I’ll admit I had a lot of ideas and wanted to get much more involved in so many things, including volunteering, when the pandemic started, and then I slowly started to feel the pressure of the situation and ended up doing way less than what I originally planned (as a lot of people, I guess). However, the team came up with lots of little projects, challenges and fun ideas for volunteering from home, which was lovely! I tried the “pass the pencil” challenge which was a really fun and easy way to break the pandemic routine, and I look forward to trying out the other tasks.

Kristiāna: I haven’t been volunteering at home that much due to personal and family reasons, but I am willing to find more time to focus on the tasks as I really enjoy being part of the project that is particularly photography related. I appreciate the opportunity to do the volunteering at home, it can shift your mind from this rather weird time in our lives now. 

Meet our volunteers… Muny and Shawn

It’s Volunteers’ Week in the UK this week and we wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate our fantastic Digitisation Volunteers. Every day this week we will be sharing their stories and thoughts in our Meet our volunteers series – we hope you enjoy meeting them! 

Muny and Shawn

Why I volunteer…

Muny: Having worked in a stressful office environment in architecture for all of my professional career, in London and internationally, after starting a family I decided not to go back to that industry on a full-time basis.

Once both my children started school I decided to volunteer as a way of building my self-confidence and doing something for myself that I enjoy which would fit around school hours so I can bring up my children.

Shawn: I volunteer to gain experience working in the archival library, as well as to familiarise and better myself at data entry. I often volunteer on the accession task, typing up the names of photographers from each photograph.

Shawn often chooses the attributions task

What I enjoy most about volunteering…

Muny: The Digital Media department’s enthusiasm for the project and making each volunteer valued is a strength to this project. I really enjoy the different aspects of the roles, every shift is unique depending on the tasks that are carried out each week. I also really enjoy meeting and working with different volunteers every week who all have enriching diverse backgrounds and I’m fascinated to hear how they came about volunteering too.

Shawn: I enjoy making new friends, and discovering place names of unheard landmarks locally or internationally. Most importantly of all, I enjoy trying new skills in whichever task provided by the digitisation team.

A favourite photo or moment?

Muny: Hands down, Italy, especially Ravello and various images of Tomar in Portugal and Leptis Magna in Libya.

Shawn: I enjoy everything at the Courtauld, but what I loved most was the Italian architecture dating back to the early twentieth centuries. I’ve never been to Italy, but seeing those photos got me interested in Italian culture and heritage.

What do you do when not volunteering?

Muny: Alongside my background in architecture, I have always had an interest in heritage, arts and photography and this led me to volunteer on the digitisation project at the Courtauld. The volunteer programme has been very well organised and there is a degree of flexibility in the hours and shifts which works perfectly around my busy family life with my children.

Shawn: I’ve been spending time trying to find other volunteer positions similar to Courtauld, but most of the time I do fun stuff such as baking, knitting or fixing up statues for the nativity scene at the local church in Warlingham where I live.

What would you say to someone who wasn’t sure whether volunteering is for them?

Muny: For me personally, I’m hoping that working hard as a volunteer will open new avenues and roles where there’s more flexibility in terms of hours. I am gaining confidence in myself slowly and learning so many new skills. I’m also gaining an invaluable and niche insight into the collection. I would highly recommend volunteering to others, to gain personal confidence or learning new skills. You have nothing to lose and it’s a welcoming environment in such a beautiful setting! Win-win situation!

Shawn: You don’t need prior experience to volunteer at the Courtauld because you’re here to learn, gain a new set of knowledge and skills, and to make friends.

Ravello. Photo by Muny Morgan.

Ravello. Photo by Muny Morgan.

Ravello. Photo by Muny Morgan.

Muny recreated Henry Moore's sculpture by taking a picture of her family dressed in white and lying on the lawn.

One of Muny’s submissions to Art Club.

Meet our volunteers… Celia and Erva

It’s Volunteers’ Week in the UK this week and we wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate our fantastic Digitisation Volunteers. Every day this week we will be sharing their stories and thoughts in our Meet our volunteers series – we hope you enjoy meeting them!

Celia and Erva

Why I volunteer…

Celia: I enjoy keeping busy and helping out. This was a project I thought worth supporting. 

Erva: By volunteering, I contribute to both myself and other people around me. I focus on what brings me joy and what I can do to make a difference in other people’s lives, and as a result of that, I feel happiness in my own life. Also, different projects enable me to gain a new perspective and take stock of what I like, what I don’t.

I love to create. I’m passionate about editing and making it fun. My dream is to inspire others through my art (esp. photographs and films!). Time goes by in the blink of an eye, and I want to capture every moment. When it comes to the digitisation project, it allows me to deal with photographs and a variety of collections. That’s why I know what works for me. I become happier when I come across street and portrait photos.

What I enjoy most about volunteering…

Celia: I feel privileged to be a part of this project and to work with the amazing works in the library. The very positive and welcoming behaviour that volunteers get from all members of the Courtauld staff has been the unexpected bonus.

Celia is always in the camera vaults. Photo by Erva Akin.

Erva: The building and the environment of the Courtauld itself are very quiet and silent. I like the way we focus and dedicate time to our tasks with such commitment. I like the volunteer managers’ efforts to make us comfortable (biscuits and tea are great!). I remember many times staff encouraging us volunteers to take a break, I really appreciate that.

Erva opeerating Capture One in the Digitisation Studio at the Courtauld.

A favourite photo or moment?

Celia: Among many others, I really enjoyed the photos of church ruins in Turkey and early 20th German folders: @CON_B04367 etc

CON_B03844_F004_011. The Conway Library.

Erva: I don’t remember the box number, however, I really liked the Syrian woman portrait displaying in Hermitage Museum, Russia.

What do you do when not volunteering?

Celia: I am a Team London Ambassador, one of thousands of volunteers linked to the Office of the Mayor of London. I am a member of the Older People’s Advisory Group (OPAG) of Age UK Camden and participate in many of the age and or disability-related meetings and conferences in London. I love to walk and take photographs wherever possible.

Erva: I moved to the UK and I have been living in London for 8 months since September to study abroad. I am a law master student at Istanbul University, however, I hope to study filmmaking in the upcoming years in London. Since moving to London, I have participated in many volunteer activities such as London Short Film Festival (volunteer photographer) and Charing Cross Library (leading the English speaking club) while I am working on my LLM thesis. I like photographing and filming. I took an introductory documentary filmmaking course at UCL.

What would you say to someone who wasn’t sure whether volunteering is for them?

Celia: As I seem to espouse to everyone, even people I meet in the cinema, this project is a lovely mixture of art and technology. Anyone who wants to look at amazing photographs, or learn more about cataloguing, processing, or digitisation will find something to interest them. 

Erva: Volunteering at the Courtauld involves learning the technical and theoretical details of digital visual products which I focus on the intellectual property law side during my LLM at the university. Through these activities at the Courtauld, I am trying to build an interdisciplinary approach to the field. I would say “if you value art and photography and you want to feed your sense of beauty with aesthetically beautiful pieces of art, that’s the perfect place for you!”.

Volunteering during lockdown

Erva: I lose track of time in the time of coronavirus, so working on lots of different things at the same time is really difficult. Still, I find doing a little volunteering helps my mental wellbeing.

Celia during the lockdown.

Meet our volunteers… Dora and Ellie

It’s Volunteers’ Week in the UK this week and we wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate our fantastic Digitisation Volunteers. Every day this week we will be sharing their stories and thoughts in our Meet our volunteers series – we hope you enjoy meeting them! 

Dora and Ellie

Why I volunteer…

Dora: Because I want to learn new skills – or use my own skills – related to the conservation of artefacts, to contribute to the project!

Ellie: Having graduated last July, I started volunteering at The Courtauld in order to gain experience working in archiving. I am also very passionate about photography and the Digitisation Project provides me with a perfect opportunity to enhance my photography knowledge.

What I enjoy most about volunteering…

Dora: I enjoy being part of a team and being appreciated for my contribution. I like discovering interesting photographs especially in remote parts of the world where also the inhabitants have been captured. The Conway files sometimes are like opening a time capsule.

Ellie: I love speaking with the other volunteers and often meet new people every week!

A favourite photo or moment?

Dora: These two are my favourite images so far.

The Conway Library. CON_B02929_F003_009.

The Conway Library. CON_B03845_F001_063.

Ellie: I spent a number of weeks working on images of churches across Italy, and would have to say that this has been my favourite part of the collection thus far. The detail on the religious engravings is unbelievable! I also found it particularly interesting when we would come across images of completely different churches that would have almost identical engravings and sculptures. 

What do you do when not volunteering?

Dora: I am a fine art artist, a painter, I love art, art history and especially contemporary art, so working for the Courtauld Connects digitisation project is great. When I do not paint I love cooking, reading books, visiting the latest art exhibitions, theatre, cinema.

Dora painting

Ellie: I love photography, particularly film photography, and am often photographing my friends in my spare time. I love to use a Canon T50 and just recently brought a flash which is proving to be so much fun to play around with!

Ellie Coombes, self-portrait

What would you say to someone who wasn’t sure whether volunteering is for them?

Dora: There is a lot of categorising and processing photographs digitally. It is also a treasure trove for photographers and historians. I like the environment that the staff has created for the volunteers – it is great to work with them, they are supportive and encouraging.

Ellie: I would definitely recommend volunteering. There are various different aspects of the project that you can participate in and I am certain you would find something you enjoy. It is also a great opportunity to meet new people. 

Volunteering during lockdown

Dora: I am very grateful to be part of the team as I was given the opportunity to volunteer some work during COVID19. I personally liked researching buildings for the Layers of London and it fitted perfectly with my life at home. As a volunteer, it is important to keep the connection open and alive during this time. I enjoy the support of the staff and the creativity that drives this project in an unusual way at a distance.

Ellie: I have really enjoyed being able to volunteer whilst self-isolating because it has helped to keep me busy and has been a great distraction tool. 

A painting by Dora Williams