Archive for December, 2012

hollyWith Christmas just around the corner updates for History SPOT are pausing for a few weeks.  We have a host of podcasts waiting for you, and these will start going up again from Monday 7th January (although there will be blog posts before then).  We are also excited to be able to have a line up of two brand new live streamed seminars for the start of January.  I’ll post more details about each of these nearer the time but for now here are the basic details:


Gender and History in the Americas
7 January 2013, 5.30pm
Althea Legal-Miller (Independent Scholar)
Mistreated and Molested: Jailhouse Violence and the Civil Rights Movement
Digital History seminar
8 January 2013, 5.15pm
Stephen Robertson (University of Sydney)
Mapping Everyday Life: Digital Harlem, 1915-1930

In 2013 I will talk a little more about our online research training materials, which have now become quite substantial.  We have two new courses launching – one a comprehensive course for historians wishing to build and use databases for their historical data and a second course working through all aspects of Paleography (called InScribe).

In the meantime, as project manager for History SPOT, I wish you a happy Christmas/holiday and New Year.

Best wishes,


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Palaeography header 72 RGBIn this blog post I would like to introduce you to our latest research training module on History SPOT.  InScribe is an online course for the study of Palaeography and Manuscript Studies developed by several of the institutes within the School of Advanced Study (Including the Institute of Historical Research and Institute of English Studies), with support from Senate House Library and Exeter Cathedral library.

At present we have only released the ‘introductory’ module in a test mode, and we would very much welcome any feedback on how we could improve it.  This module describes what the course is about, gives an entry point into palaeographical conventions and processes, and gives you the chance to transcribe text from a selection of actual manuscripts (well, digital scans from those manuscripts at least).  More modules will follow sometime in the new year offering various pathways on subjects such as codicology, illumination, and diplomatic.

The view has long been held at the IHR that paleography is one subject that translates well into the online format.  Although we would hesitate to suggest it in any way as a replacement for skills learnt in a classroom (or even better with actual copies of the MSS themselves) we believe that learning and practicing palaeographical skills online works well if the tools are in place to aid the student.

Example of a page from InScribe

Example of a page from InScribe

It is hoped that InScribe will increasingly fill this role in the future, providing palaeographical training at a postgraduate level.   At present, however, InScribe is in its infancy.  We have initially launched the first module in a test-mode, by which I simply mean that we will be seeking feedback about what works or doesn’t work, and what we might be able to improve upon.

The Transcription Tool

The Transcription Tool

To have a look at InScribe please log in or register to History SPOT for free and follow this link to the InScribe course.

InScribe: Palaeography Learning materials

Alternatively, for further information about the course look at the research training page on the IHR website.

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Archives and Society seminar
6 November 2012
Kirsten Ferguson-Boucher (University of Aberystwyth)
Computer-Assisted Review


computer (shutterstock)Kirsten Ferguson-Boucher talks about Computer-Assisted Review (also called content analysis amongst other things).  There is a lot of detail here about the variety of elements that make up archival practices and the increasing need to rely on computers to aid in this task.  The issues surrounding Big Data – including volume (amount of data), velocity (the increasing flow of data), Veracity (preservation issues), and value (what do we gain by saving and managing this data for the future?) – are all vital elements in the Information governance and insurance agenda.

Ferguson-Boucher works here way through the complexity of the subject and makes comparisons between the UK and US approaches and legal variations.  She concludes that computers enable archivists and lawyers to reduce the error in their work, but this is by no means a replacements.  Computers need to be used in conjunction with human investigators to assess and analyse materials.

To listen to this podcast click here

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Archives and Society seminar
23 October 2012
Dr Andrew Flinn (UCL) and Anna Sexton (UCL)
Exploring Participatory Approaches to Archives 

shutterstock_60840838[1]Andrew Flinn begins the discussion into exploring participatory approaches with a talk that explains why this approach differs from the older model of provision and professional-only working practises, and how this might help archivists and the users of archives work together collaboratively to improve services, knowledge, and capacity.  This is about bringing down the walls that separate the user from the provider, but not in a way that would undermine either.  It is a method to engaged people much more with the resources and processes in the archives sector.

Anna Sexton takes over the discussion by talking about her own research project.  This is the development of a participatory digital archive on the subject of recovery in mental health.  Each individual who has had the experience of recovery is asked to develop an archive that is personal to them.  This is managed by Sexton and seeks to address issues of injustice and to use social action to solve social problems.  In the second half of her paper, Sexton examines criticisms of the participatory approach and compares those issues to her own project.  She realises that there are issues in the approach (how representative is it?  How collaborative is the process and is it any different than the top down approach traditionally carried out by archives?  How sustainable and transformative is it?), but believes it to be a valuable addition and methodology.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Sport and Leisure History seminar
22 October 2012
Dr Chris Stride and Ffion Thomas (University of Sheffield)
Football Statues: Honouring Heroes by Branding in Bronze?


Statue of Bobby Moore (Source: wikimedia commons)

Statue of Bobby Moore (Source: wikimedia commons)

Since the 1990s football clubs have erected numerous statues to past and present heroes as memorial, promotion, and recognition of greatness in the world of sport.  This is a relatively new phenomenon which Chris Stride believes is partly fulfilling a need that had previously been taken by the minute silent (which, Stride argues, is over-used making something else necessary for those truly special) and as a statement of brand and ownership.  Stride notes that greater commercialisation has led to a certain blandness and sameness found across the country and erecting statues is one method to localise a place and bring identity back to its lost uniqueness.

Both Chris Stride and Ffion Thomas are working on the sporting statues project based at the University of Sheffield.  As Thomas explains the project attempts to gather all information regarding sports statues together into one place to allow comparison and analysis which would otherwise be very difficult to achieve.  They see the development of sport statues as a modern phenomenon, and one that speaks of our shared heritage and culture.   They ask why we choose to erect them, which designs are chosen and why, and what reception these statues receive: are they read differently by different people?  Do the statues provide multiple messages?

 To listen to this podcast click here.

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Public History seminar
Negotiating the past: Collaborative practice in cultural heritage research
Professor Alison Wylie (University of Washington)
7 November 2012
English: Native American girl

English: Native American girl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Archaeology has seen a major sea change in the last few decades as any number of stakeholders, especially Indigenous, Aboriginal, and First Nations descendant communities, demand accountability to their interests, their conventions of practice and conceptions of cultural heritage. What are the implications of this for archaeological practice? Internal debate in North America has been dominated by anxieties about the costs of response to these demands: the focus is on high profile examples of research opportunities lost and professional autonomy compromised by legal constraints and by intractable conflict. All too often this obscures local initiatives that illustrate what becomes possible when practice is reframed as a form of intellectual and cultural collaboration. In the case of collaborations with Native American communities, the archaeologists involved describe innumerable ways in which their research programs have been enriched, empirically and conceptually. I explore the legacies of community-based collaborative practice in archaeology, focusing on their implications for procedural norms that govern the adjudication of empirical robustness and credibility. I argue that conditions for effective critical engagement must include a requirement to take seriously forms of expertise that lie outside the research community.

Respondent: Dr Laura Peers
Pitt Rivers Museum and School of Anthropology, University of Oxford

To listen to these podcasts click here.

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Digital History seminar
An Ecology for Digital Scholarship
Jason M. Kelly (IUPUI)
Tuesday 4 December, 5.15pm (GMT)
Twitter tag: #dhist

Location: Bedford Room G37, Senate house, South block, Ground floor, 5:15 pm (GMT)


Tonight’s live stream:

digital history
In 1969, Marshall McLuhan wrote that ‘the literati find the new electronic environment far more threatening than do those less committed to literacy as a way of life. When an individual or social group feels that its whole identity is jeopardized by social or psychic change, its natural reaction is to lash out in defensive fury. But for all their lamentations, the revolution has already taken place.’  This talk takes McLuhan’s comments as its starting point to frame a discussion of digital history as both an intellectual discipline and a socially embedded practice. Kelly argues that the ‘digital turn’ demands that historians reconstitute their discipline—not simply because of its methodological challenges, but because digital history exposes fundamental weak points in the academic system. Kelly focuses on the intersection of technology, cultural capital, institutional knowledge, and systems of social power to critique historical scholarship—both in its analogue and digital forms.


Jason M. Kelly is the Director of the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute (IAHI) and Associate Professor of British History at IUPUI.  He is the author of The Society of Dilettanti: Archaeology and Identity in the British Enlightenment (Yale University Press and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2010) and has published articles on the history of eighteenth-century masculinity, art, and the Grand Tour in the Journal of British Studies, the Walpole Society, and the British Art Journal.  He is the webmaster for the North American Conference on British Studies and a co-editor of H-Albion. With Tim Hitchcock, he edits History Working Papers.  He current research includes the Rivers of the Anthropocene project, an comparative environmental study of international rivers systems since 1750, and a study of the early history of civil rights movements in the Transatlantic world.

To watch this live stream join us at 5.15pm on History SPOT

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