Manuscripts and Special Collections

A recent graduate writes…

February 7th, 2011 at 10:02

In the final blog in our series of guest-written entries by our two Talent Builder interns, Natasha explains her work on one part of the Portland Collection, the papers of Lord William Bentinck (Pw Je) and urges more students to take advantage of the facilities for research and study at Manuscripts and Special Collections.

Lord William Bentinck

Lord William Bentinck

Admittedly I was no ‘Lauren Conrad’ from L.A.-based reality TV drama, The Hills, (much to my disappointment) but being an intern at the University of Nottingham’s Manuscripts and Special Collections department certainly satisfying and rewarding. As part of the Talent Builder Internship Programme (a government-funded project to help recent graduates gain work experience) I took on a 16 week project to read and catalogue as many Papers of Lord William Bentinck  (head of the Indian Government 1828-1839) as possible, describing them in some detail to enrich the online catalogue as well as writing a 7,000 word report on my findings.

‘7,000 words!’, I cried, ‘That’s almost another dissertation!’. However, my fears were misplaced – the documents offered such a large quality of material that the word count was easily filled (with the aid of an awful lot of footnotes!).

So, how can I sell the wonderful world of archives to any students out there? I would have been grateful to have been more aware of the 3 million documents stored in the archive at Kings Meadow Campus when I was studying for my undergraduate history degree and I wish more students took advantage of the scope of the material. Amongst my year of fellow historians made lengthy and expensive trips to London and elsewhere in order to fulfil the compulsory criteria of producing a primary-source based dissertation. In reality, a ten minute bus ride could offer you access to everything you need to aid your studies. It’s certainly worth a search on the online catalogue to see if anything appeals to you. 

My investigation of a small section of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection offered some interesting material, mostly political correspondence, amongst which I found two plans for the abolition of slavery containing some suggestions which today would quite frankly seem, well, bizarre. Complied by T. F. Buxton (a renowned nineteenth century anti-slavery campaigner) the plans propose emancipating children by buying them from plantation owners for £30, which actually increases to £35/child in the ‘improved plan’ as they feel 7 year old children are worth that little bit extra, and then returning them to the plantation owners at 14 (with education in tow, of course). [Pw Je 1026]. If you wanted to write a dissertation on nineteenth century political figures, the drainage schemes of the nineteenth century fenland region, educational reform in India in the 1820s then the Papers of Lord William Bentinck in our Pw J collection are invaluable – and at 203 boxes of material, pretty extensive.

Come over to Kings Meadow and enhance your studies by having access to original manuscript material. Visit the exhibitions at the Weston Gallery at Lakeside Arts Centre and convince your parents you’re a well-rounded and cultured individual. Volunteer here and increase your chances of gaining that extremely competitive graduate position by having something extra on your CV (it’s so important in this current market – and believe me, I know!). Do not be afraid, the University offers a free door-to-door service in the form of the Hopper Bus from University Park to King’s Meadow Campus.

The biggest surprise of this internship was realising how valuable and useful the resources in the archive at King’s Meadow are, my biggest regret is not having taken more advantage of it when I was a student.

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