Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Flying Saucer Review: tales of our journal collection

Last month was an unusual change of pace for me as I spent many afternoons mucking in with the big journal move out to our new external store in Nether Poppleton. I have yet to visit this voluminous space, but of course like everyone else I have been imagining that vault from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. For someone who normally sits in front of a computer screen all day it was great fun to get my hands dirty. In this case, quite literally as handling dusty back issues of journals is a rather grubby task!
One of the unexpected pleasures of the task has been having a perusal of the weird and wonderful journals which the library has to offer.

Flying Saucer Review
My favourite so far has been the Flying Saucer Review.

At first I was sure that the enticing name would turn out to be a bit of false advertising but no, this magazine is about UFOs and the possible existence of aliens. I could not help but wonder which department had sponsored the acquisition of these periodicals.

Was it Physics? After all the debate about life on other planets and the possible existence of a technologically superior species has become increasingly scientific, or at least pseudo-scientific in some cases. There seems to have been a whole spate of documentaries in recent years investigating with contemporary scientific understanding a range of previously far fetched notions. I have watched everything from a 'serious' investigation into the viability of the warp drive and other futuristic technology seen on Star Trek, to a proposed theory that aliens are really a highly evolved future variant of the human race which has discovered time travel and now travels back to our present time for a reason or reasons unknown. Personally, that last idea is a bit too Terminator for my liking.

Another department who could be interested is Sociology. Surely if there was intelligent life apart from on earth, the potential questions raised about how we view ourselves as a species would be numerous and contentious. Never mind the problems of a global society, what about an intergalactic one? Would we see a revival of etiquette books? Would racial divisions here on earth lessen as we felt drawn together by simply being human? How would world religions be affected? Oh, the questions are entertaining and  endless :-)

If the Flying Saucer Review has whetted your appetite for journal consumption, then let me point you in the direction of a few more of my favourites which cover a broad range of topics:

1. The Penguin Film Review - Number 3 from 1947 has beautiful black and white stills depicting 'Decor in Recent Russian Cinema' and 'Italian Films since the Liberation'. If you want to annoy your film buff friends by knowing what was written about iconic world cinema when it was actually released then this is the journal for you.

2.Corona: The Journal of His Majesty’s Colonial Service -I opened this volume purely by chance and was surprised to find it an entertaining time capsule from a bygone era. With serious Bond-esque undertones, volume 1 from 1947 gave me a selection of materials all relating to the colonies. The open letters were particularly intriguing including the titles: Experimental Power Surf Boat, Foetid Fragrance, Plea for the Camel and Fortune in a Tanganyika Swamp.

North Riding Pictorial Journal
3. North Riding Pictorial Journal (1858-58) -Stunning prints depicting 'Nest of the Mole Cricket' or a Crochet night cape'. Quaint, Victorian and very charming and even better, located firmly in Yorkshire.

Bad Attitude
4. Bad Attitude: The Radical Women’s Newspaper -who could fail to be intrigued by the article Sodomites and Man-Royals as found in the Autumn/Winter issue 8 1995?

Journals, like our books, are catalogued on YorSearch - and even those that have been moved to the external store can be requested and made available to you.

As a final note, when I was writing this blog I could not (much to my shame) remember which Indiana Jones movie had the scene with the huge storage facility in it and had to turn to Google to supply the answer. As I skimmed the list of results, I spotted the link to this article:
Raiders of the Lost Archives

Of course I had to have a look. In the article John Sutherland, an English professor, recalls his own pre-digital world of research which consisted more often than not of hopping on various modes of transport and hoping that the distant archive/library/collection he was heading to would have what he was looking for. Having completed my own MA slap bang in the middle of e-journals and Google books, I couldn't imagine a more different experience. The article struck a chord with something that I had experienced all through the journal moving process: that wondrous shiver of delight at finding something new. I must admit that I even spotted a few volumes I really wish I had known about when I was writing my dissertation. It made me think that while on-line catalogues, research aids and journal databases have revolutionised how we conduct research and indeed have opened up whole new vistas in information gathering, it is no harm to just go and browse. While you are there, spare a thought for researchers and enthusiasts who have gone before us, one dust-covered, grubby hand at a time.

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