Research to Profession – My First Five Days in the Rylands – Blog Post by Veronica Pizzarotti
The title of this post is actually a lie as, since I started my PhD, I’ve spent much more than just five days in the John Rylands Library. Their Special Collections host in fact the core texts I’ve been using for my PhD over the past three and a halfyears. My research focuses on the translation into English of the Italian epic poem Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto and analyses the authorisation of three translations by looking at the forms and features of the book objects in which each translation was published. One of the reasons I chose Manchester for my PhD was the availability of these texts in their Special Collections Division. I still remember my excitement at the idea of accessing these books in their physical form and after they had been preserved from time and consumption in what soon turned out to be an incredible place.
The Rylands is indeed an incredible place, and through my project I have been using it extensively, but I’ve always had the feeling that, while I was using their books for my own needs, but that was just the tip of the iceberg and there was much more I would have liked to explore, and to know how this Library works behind the scenes. For all these reasons I was delighted to be selected for the Afterlife of Heritage Research Project and I am extremely grateful to Julianne Simpson and the Printed Books Office team for welcoming me.
I am also grateful to every single staff member at the John Rylands Library, as every one of them has added a tile to the mosaic to make me understand the various aspects of this place. These first few days have been like a tour of Wonderland, as I have been guided through every aspect of the organization and had an introduction to how books are just one important part of a jigsaw puzzle, and are complement and enriched by the presence of archives, visual collections and how these collections are used to organise public engagement activities.
In my time here I will be using the primary texts for my PhD to write narratives. These are short descriptions of some of the Furioso editions for the newly adopted Collection Management System. For this purpose I had the opportunity to go and be trained with the other staff members in the use of this new system. This experience has added important information to my knowledge of terminology related to heritage objects and they way to access them. I will be writing narratives for the general public, for academics and more comprehensive ones to try and provide an overview of the book materiality and provenance. In order to write these descriptions I will have to use a variety of resources as catalogues and accessions registers.
The aim of this project is to see how the writing of narratives could benefit the library, for example in having a repository of descriptions that could come at hand in the future . It is a great opportunity for me at present, as going back to my set of core texts with a different purpose in mind means I am having good self-reflective practice on my writing-up, and it is an excellent way to write about my research for audiences beyond academia. I think this experience will be very beneficial for my future, as I will have the opportunity to see how this institution is constituted and how its different parts work together, as well as to think how to apply my research skills and background in similar types of environments and careers.
While looking at the editions I will also plan a public engagement activity in the form of a collection encounter aimed at teenagers, to be part of the Research to the Public strand of this project.
These first five days of my internship have been full of excitement and pure joy, and I am looking forward to see the other fifteen days to unfold, even though I know I will be extremely sad when my last day as an intern of the Rylands comes.
Veronica Pizzarotti – PhD Candidate in Italian Studies