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On 12 December 2013 the University of Hull will be hosting a one day FREE workshop for History postgraduates and early career researchers to help you better manage your data. The event is called History and Data Management: necessary bedfellows? To sign up to this event email Chris Awre (c.awre@hull.ac.uk), indicating your name, Department and University, plus any dietary or other requirements you may have in attending this event. A number of bursaries are available to help with travel costs so please indicate if you are interested in one of these in your email. For full details about the workshop click here.

This is what Chris Awre from the University of Hull has to say about managing data.   

 

Hull History Centre (our venue)

Hull History Centre (our venue)

The recent announcement of the first of three events on history research and data management being held by the AHRC-funded History DMT project offers the chance to understand to what extent these two, apparently disparate areas, are linked.  Research data are more usually associated with scientific disciplines, computers and equipment churning out numbers that can be analysed in multifarious ways.  This image may be stereotypical, if true, but also both hits and misses key points in appreciating the impact that research data has across all disciplines today.

The hit is in the use of computers to produce and store data.  This is not a feature simply of science now, though.  The field of digital humanities has highlighted the value of computing to non-scientific disciplines, and the ability to apply computing to research questions in these areas.  Data centres like the UK Data Archive have long existed to capture 800px-SteacieLibrarythe datasets produced, and have provided valuable resources for subsequent research by others.  Whilst this type of research might have been a specialised niche at one point, computing capability now makes it far more straightforward for data to be compiled by any researcher.  And if computing can be used in this way, the outcomes of that use, the data, will need managing.

The miss is in the definition of data.  Data can be numbers, certainly, but it can also be many other types of material collected together to inform research analysis.  The University of Leeds research data management web pages, whilst recognising the scientific origins of data management, describe well the breadth of what can be considered data.  The materials gathered by historians, be they numbers, images, multimedia, textual or statistical, can clearly fit within this scope.

At the centre of discussing data management for historians though, is not the ‘data’ per se, but more importantly ensuring that any materials gathered, created, or observed by history researchers are well managed.  This ensures they can support and inform the research effectively, and add to the body of knowledge that is generated through research overall.  In raising the bar for managing data, it highlights the value that data has.  Quite often data acts as the Cinderella to the publication that is based on the data; the advent of data publications (e.g., Journal of Open Archaeology Data) highlights this and provides an additional route for research dissemination.

The History DMT project and the forthcoming events are producing materials to assist with managing data when conducting history research.  The AHRC are specifically targeting the work at postgraduate and early career researchers, and all are encouraged to consider how they manage data in their research, either through the events or generally.  Come and join us to discuss and feed into the materials being produced, and ensure that history data gets the respect it deserves.

To register for the workshop please e-mail Chris Awre (c.awre@hull.ac.uk), indicating your name, Department and University, plus any dietary or other requirements you may have in attending this event. If you are interested in one of the bursaries please note this in your e-mail.  For full details of the event check our previous blog post.

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(Shutterstock)

(Shutterstock)

Historians don’t often like to think about data management.  Indeed, it is almost considered an ugly word or a taboo.  Data Management gets in the way of the interesting stuff – the research, the learning.  Nevertheless, it is vital to the work that we do.  History is data.  It is the essential essence of the subject.  Yet, it is so easy to leave your folder system in a complete mess or not to consider issues of preservation or back-up until necessary (or until your hard drive dies on you!).  Stuff that you produce now, for current use is understandable, but 6 months down the line, a year?  Perhaps not so much.

It is for this reason that the Institute of Historical Research in partnership with the Department of History at the University of Hull and Sheffield, as well as the Humanities Research Institute (Sheffield), applied to the AHRC Collaborative Skills Development strand late last year, to undertake a project called History DMT.  The bid was successful and work began in February.

History DMT stands for Data Management Training and Guidance.  We seek to integrate best practice, good principles, and skills of research data management within the postgraduate curriculum and among early career historians through a series of specialist workshops at London, Hull, and Sheffield and through the development of a free online training course dedicated to the research data types that historians are most likely to come across in their research.

Various pathways will enable a hands-on approach to research data management that covers the many types of data which historians generate, as well as the means with which to share that data. These will cover:

  • Textual materials
  • Visual sources
  • Oral History
  • Statistical data

Over the coming months the History SPOT blog will contain various posts about this project as it progresses, so please keep an eye out.

Further Information

This is an AHRC-funded project, as part of the Collaborative Skills Development strand. History DMT is led by the Institute of Historical Research in collaboration with the Department of History, University of Hull and the Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield. The principal grant holder is Professor Matthew Davies (IHR), with Dr Matt Phillpott (IHR) acting as project manager. Chris Awre (Head of Information Management within Library and Learning Innovation, University of Hull) and John Nicholls (Hull) will lead at the University of Hull, and Michael Pidd (HRI Manager, University of Sheffield) and Sharon Howard (HRI, University of Sheffield), from the University of Sheffield.

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***PLEASE NOTE THIS WORKSHOP IS NOW ON TUESDAY 4 SEPTEMBER 2012 NOT 5TH AS ORIGINALLY ADVERTISED**

 

The IHR Seminar in Digital History would like to confirm a special event. We are sponsoring a workshop to kick-off the Autumn 2012 seminar series that will be hosted by William J. Turkel, one of the most interesting and innovative digital historians working today. This event will allow digital humanists, historians, and anyone with an interest in the changing meanings of historical analysis and discourse in the twenty-first century an opportunity to approach these issues through both demonstrations and discussions.

Title: ‘Doing History in Real Time’

Host: Professor William J. Turkel (University of Western Ontario)

A workshop sponsored by the IHR Seminar in Digital History

Tuesday September 4, 2012

5:15 PM (BST=GMT+1)

Venue: G35 Bloomsbury Room, Senate House

The workshop is open to all and there is no need to book ahead.

Workshop Description: In A New Culture of Learning (2011), Thomas and Seely Brown argue that the traditional view of teaching and learning ‘presumes the existence of knowledge that is both worth communicating and doesn’t tend to change very much over time’. In this workshop we explore the degree to which either assumption is valid now. We also discuss some of the new kinds of computational tools or instruments which historians may want to construct and use. These have the potential to make us better navigators of our contemporary (digital) world, and will allow us to continue to assert that a nuanced knowledge of the past is the best guide to present conduct.

Bill Turkel is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Western Ontario and Project Director, Digital Infrastructure for the SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster NiCHE: Network in Canadian History & Environment. He does computational history, Big History, STS, physical computing, desktop fabrication and electronics. He programs whenever he gets the chance, and is experimenting regularly with analog electronics. There is more information about his work on his personal website.

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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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Just a quick advertisement for our upcoming workshop specifically designed for up and coming authors of historical fiction: How to Get the History Right in your Historical Fiction: A workshop for authors

As you may be aware, last year the IHR hosted a conference entitled Novel Approaches: From Academic History to Historical Fiction which was also produced online in the form of a virtual conference.  Both events were hugely successful so we thought we would go one step further by running a workshop on getting the History right when writing historical fiction.  We will have various experts at hand including the published novelist Elizabeth Chadwick, an expert from the Geffrye Museum and medieval historian and research training officer at the IHR, Dr Simon Trafford.  The basic blurb is below so please do join us!

Getting to know other times and other places well enough to describe them convincingly is one of the great pleasures of writing historical fiction, but also one of its greatest challenges. Anyone can achieve a basic feel for an age by reading published histories, but to go beyond this, to enter the mental and physical world of the inhabitants of another age, to see through their eyes, to touch the objects that they knew and to speak with their voices, requires detailed knowledge and the understanding that can come only from autonomous research. Above all, it helps to know and understand contemporary source materials, but to find and use these requires specialised skills.

This one-day workshop aims to encourage writers to develop their abilities as historical researchers, introducing the tools and techniques employed by academic historians, and showing how to get the most from libraries, archives, museums, art galleries and, of course, the internet. Teaching will take place in an informal format with participants actively encouraged to discuss the problems they encounter and to share their own experiences.

Date: 26 April 2012
Time: 10.30-1700
Location: Senate House, London
Cost: £100

For further information and the application form please click here.

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At our workshop Developing Online Research Training and Course Delivery it was generally agreed that many historians were hesitant to use blogs and wikis although different age groups vary in this.  The age cohort is worth bearing in mind when setting up a course – often a younger age group will be able to cope and understand new technologies better than older groups (although this is not always the case and must be approached cautiously).  Whilst Google has transformed searching on the internet it is a paradigm for online teaching.  People tend to think that they already know how to search when they actually don’t.  Plus library catalogues are beginning to lose functionality to appear more available to the ‘Google-generation’. 

The issue of ‘googleification’ in library catalogues has been discussed somewhat in-house.  Established librarians and historians don’t generally like it (that at least seems to be the consensus).  I find myself in agreement here.  The loss of functionality seems to be a backward step especially if it is just to pander to those who want something familiar and are unwilling to learn.  That said, there is a fine line here between unwillingness to learn and the necessity to learn.  I recall a discussion held in another workshop that I attended at the IHR recently on digital editing projects.  It is very easy for those of us who work in the realm of e-learning and digitalisation to just assume that everyone knows what we are talking about.  We sometimes forget that we only learnt these things because it was part of our job to do so.  It took time.  The question, then, is how do we create training resources that students can understand and relate to whilst at the same time feed into that process some of the more complex digital knowledge that they may one day require?  No easy task!

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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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