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When you embark on historical research do you think much about backing up your data?  Do you have files scattered all over the place with random names that make it very difficult to figure out what is what?  Have you considered how you might make your data available to other researchers in the future?  These are all questions that are discussed in our brand new and free training course with suggestions made as to how to achieve best practice for preserving your data.  After all, the last thing you want is to lose it all!

The IHR are pleased to announce the arrival of another new and free training course, this time on the subject of data preservation.  The course has been developed by the SHARD project (see the SHARD Blog for details) for delivery on the History SPOT platform.  SHARD is a JISC funded project designed to create greater awareness about data preservation.

You will need to login or register for a free account on History SPOT at which time you will gain access to the data preservation modules, as well as handbooks on designing databases, creating podcasts, and using search engines for research.

To take a look at the data preservation course click here or alternatively register on the History SPOT homepage.

 

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Interview
Andrew Foster (Historical Association) and Miles Taylor (IHR)
The IHR – The HQ of History
April 2012

Hello, today we have something slightly different for you.  In April this year Andrew Foster (Historical Association) sat down with the director of the Institute of Historical Research (IHR), Professor Miles Taylor, to discuss the past, present, and future plans of the IHR.  In this two part interview Andrew Foster and Miles Taylor discuss the original and present day objectives and importance of the IHR in the History profession both in the UK and abroad.  In addition, they look ahead to the plans that the IHR has for the development of its library and other spaces in Senate House and the importance of digital to the IHR’s future.   

To listen to these podcasts click here.

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History SPOT will soon be home to training modules from the IHR Digital project (funded by JISC) HISTORE.  This project is developing short modules introducing various digital tools that might be of use to historians.  For instance, I’m currently working on the introduction pieces for a module on Text Mining.  This tool allows historians to search large corpuses of digitalized texts in a deeper and more meaningful way than an ordinary search engine could ever achieve on its own. 

As part of the project the IHR will be holding an afternoon working on Thursday 21 June (2pm to 4.30pm) on the topic of using and learning about digital tools for historical research.  This blog post, then, is an invitation.  If you would like to join us please email Jonathan Blaney at jonathan.blaney@sas.ac.uk.  It doesn’t matter if you have in-depth knowledge of digital tools or whether you are just interested in finding out something about what such tools might offer, we would very much like to have you there. 

There will be several talks followed by a break-out session.  The project team will discuss the work we’ve done to date and there will be more general talks on the topics of semantic markup and text mining.  Attendees are encouraged to bring digital project ideas to discuss during the break-out. There will also be an opportunity to discuss your projects with us one-to-one, if you’d like to.

This workshop is free but places are limited. So again, if you’d like to come to the workshop, or have any questions about it, just drop us an email at jonathan.blaney@sas.ac.uk.

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Containing from my musings about editing seminar live streams and podcasts as video in a previous post  I thought I would discuss a more recent leap in my education on how to film and edit video.

The first video that I was required to design from scratch and to a higher professional standard was placed on my lap in late January and has just been completed and uploaded to the IHR website, Youtube and a few other locations.  This video – an IHR campaign video for our new premises and several other related projects is vital to the future of the Institute.  We are embarking on an ambitious plan of renovation and expansion in times that are far from ideal for the world of academia. 

The first take of the video was perhaps too ambitious to achieve in such a short space of time: we planned to include talking heads from the library staff, one of our research fellows, and one of our members as well as a presentation from the IHR Director, Professor Miles Taylor, and some filmed shots of the Senate House location. It proved too ambitious for a relatively short deadline and the resultant video would have edged towards 10 minutes in length – could we really expect potential donors to listen for that long?  I probably wouldn’t.  So we set up another meeting to discuss the video and reduced our plans.  Miles Taylor rewrote his script to reduce it to less than three minutes and we dropped the idea of talking heads. 

The final video comes in at just over 3 minutes and focuses on our Director as voice over to accompanying images of the IHR past, present, and future.  I think the final product looks fairly good and does the job its intended for. 

The video is also available on our own IHR website, Vimeo, and Youtube and if you are interested in helping us reach our targets to ensure a modern IHR for the 21st century please take a look at our website.

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History of Libraries
The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland – Five years on: a review
Peter Hoare (Nottingham)
11 October 2011

Peter Hoare was not there at the very beginning but not long after – in fact he became editor very soon after Robin Alston had decided it was worthwhile doing a history of libraries as well as a history of the book.  Alistair Black was then brought in not long after and then the proposals began.  The title changed various times.  In 1994 for example the publication was to be called A History of Libraries in the British Isles.  Ireland was added in to the title not long after as it was an important element of the work.  Eventually Cambridge decided that it should become one of the Cambridge histories and thereafter it became known as the Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland.

This talk by Peter Hoare himself, looks at the three volumes five years after the final volume was published and gives insights into the creative process, purpose, and also the elements that fell by the way.  For instance, there were various ambitious related activities that never saw the light of day.  At the time ideas were thrown around of joining with the Institute of Historical Research in a similar way to the Victoria County History.  The idea was to produce a continuous series similar to the county histories.  Although that never came to pass the History of Libraries seminar is a partial benefactor of those initial discussions.

There were also long discussions on where divisions between volumes should occur and it was even considered that this should be a 4-5 volume set purely for chronological reasons.  Quite late in the day a 4th volume on statistics and appendices was abandoned.

Volume 1 was worked upon by an editorial group, volume 2 by Robin alone, and volume 3 brought in Giles Mandelbrote around 1996.  In about 1998 Robin Alston decided he had too many ‘irons in the fire’ and felt that he should drop out.  This meant that Mandelbrote was on his own for a while, until Keith Manley was brought on board as a second editor for volume 2.  Volume 3 was easier being edited by Alistair Black and Peter Hoare.

The accolade of being accepted as a ‘Cambridge History’ rather than one of their normal publications was a decision that truly showed the importance and high quality of the work.  The second half of the podcast looks into the process of publication, the costs involved and the commercial success of the history.

Note: Ian Willison and Keith Manley add an appreciation of the late Professor Robin Alston.

To listen to this podcast please click here.

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With the launch of History SPOT the Institute of Historical Research have also launched a brand new handbook written by our own Dr Mark Merry on the subject of designing databases for historical research. Mark is the primary tutor on our various Databases course and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of database structure and function. As such this handbook provides both tuition and guidance for historians on what purpose a database should have and, once built, what can be done with it.

The handbook basically provides an introduction to designing databases for use in historical research; providing an overview of important concepts – both historical in nature and in terms of databases – that the historian will need to consider before embarking upon designing a database. It also provides a number of starting points for overcoming certain design problems that specifically affect historians when they come to wrestle their sources into a database.

So for anyone out there who wishes to make better use of databases, needs a refresher, or would simply like to gain a glimpse at the type of training we can offer on a face to face basis please check out History SPOT and Mark’s Databases handbook.

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Amelia Opie, by John Opie (died 1807). See sou...

Image via Wikipedia

 British History in the Long 18th Century
8 June 2011
Isabelle Cosgrave (Exeter University)
A Quaker convert and the writing of fiction: the case of Amelia Opie

Amelia Opie was a prominent English author who wrote novels, short stories, and poems between 1790 and 1834.  Her output was, however, curtailed when she joined the Quakers in 1825 at the age of 55.  The Quakers believed that all fiction writing was tantamount to lying meaning that Opie was prohibited from her former occupation.  Opie, Isabelle Cosgrave argues, truly believed in the Quaker ideals and that her decision was religiously motivated.  However, Cosgrave makes this argument based on a much wider reading of Opie than has generally been achieved in the past.  Cosgrave focuses on the manner of her conversion and her early radicalism.  She also attempts to explain why Opie’s radical views do not appear in her conservative writings. 

 

Please click the logo for the podcast 

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Franco-British History
19 May 2011
Catherine Hall (UCL)
Troubled Memories: histories of the British slave trade and slavery

An example of the slave trade (Arab slave traders and their captives along the Ruvuma)

Catherine Hall asks and answers a lot of questions about the construction and reconstruction of histories and memory of the British slave trade.  How is the slavery business remembered?  What has been remembered and what has been forgotten?  How was the past of slavery constructed and presented in the present?  And what has been left silent? 

Between the 1780s-1830s slavery was intensely debated in Britain.  The focus of historical discourses was on the process of emancipation, such as the ‘heroes’ who had brought it about (e.g. Wilberforce), and the glorification of British liberalism.  The objectionable history of slavery itself is only more recently being debated and discussed properly.  This is where the Legacies of Slave Ownership Project  fits in.  Catherine Hall talks about memories and silences connected to those that directly or indirectly benefited from the slave trade.  Using the key examples of the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) and the 1st Baron Macaulay, Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) who was also an English historian, essayist and politician, Hall demonstrates how compensation given to owners of slaves upon abolition could have a significant impact on the individual and collective whole and has helped to shape Britain today.   

Please click the logo for the podcast and also look at the

Spotlight link for biographies, opinion pieces, and further details

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I have been waiting to write that title for well over a year now.  After a delay of over 5 months History SPOT is finally ready to launch!   

Research Seminars, Lectures and Conferences

History SPOT is brimming full of podcasts from IHR seminars, conferences and lectures from 2009 to the present.  In addition to our extensive archives you will have access to all new podcasts from the IHR in the coming months and have the opportunity to discuss, comment upon and debate their content online.   

SPOTLight

In addition to the podcasts themselves History SPOT contains an archive of SPOT Newsletter reviews and abstracts which have thus far appeared on this blog along with various other additional resources.  The SPOT Newsletter will be growing over the coming months adding opinions, additional facts and information, and mini bibliographies.

Historical Research Training

History SPOT presents to you for free and for the first time material from our research training courses and from our expertises as a research institute.  Initially we have provided two research handbooks: one on the subject of Databases for Historians and another on podcasting.  More will follow soon.

Interact

History SPOT is not just a place to search for content it is also designed so that you can interact with the subject matter.  When you listen to one of our podcasts let us and other users know what you think.  Is there something that you disagree with or do you have something to add to what our speakers discuss? 

In addition you can create your own profiles, take part in social networking through Groups and Friends and create basic web pages.  You can also write your own blog posts and discuss our activities with each other in various group forums. 

Click below to access the site

 

 

History SPOT will be in Beta Mode for approximately one month while we iron out the final glitches and errors, however we would very much appreciate your feedback.  Do you like the new site?  Is there anything that you don’t like?  What could we do better?  Is there anything missing?  Please do let us know at History.spot@sas.ac.uk or through the Contact UsLINK option on History SPOT.

At some point soon I will write up another blog post here about the road to launch but in the meantime please do register for History SPOT, have a look around, and let us know what you think.

I hope you enjoy the site!

Matt

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At our workshop held in June on Developing Online Research Training and Course Delivery the issue of user support and the role of the tutor came up as a complex problem for the online environment.  Here is a summary of what was said on the subject:

It is important always to place any individual resource or part of a training course into the overall intellectual/educational/historical context of the theme or subject – in other words so that whilst the student is dealing with a detailed aspect of the course, they are aware of the wider significance of that aspect.  A substantial support effort will be required for any online course, tutor-led or otherwise. The support would not simply be to provide technical assistance to students having difficulty accessing the material, but would need to be offering help with the content.

But how do we provide user support?  It is not enough to provide forums as students need synchronous/asynchronous help.  Although ‘chat’ can be one way to deal with this problem it requires someone to have the chat regularly checked and not all people know how to use chat effectively. 

There is also a related problem here in the role of the tutor.  How do you avoid the problem of the tutor being viewed as having all the answers (i.e. students go to the tutor for answers rather than work it out amongst themselves)?  This is a difficult problem which is obviously not restricted to online teaching, but nonetheless presents particular problems for this format.  A tutor needs to find the right balance between having an overbearing effect on a class and avoiding the trap of neglecting the class.  Clear rules of engagement therefore need to be set out.

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