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Historic collections for researchers (November 2013)


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This session is delivered and designed by Dr Richard Pears and Dr Sarah Price, Durham University Library and Heritage Collections

Historical Collections for Researchers (November 2013) slides. Delivered as part of the Durham University Researcher Development Programme. Further Training available at

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Historic collections for researchers (November 2013)

  1. 1. Historic collections for researchers Sarah Price and Richard Pears
  2. 2. What are historic collections?
  3. 3. Could also mean…
  4. 4. Could even include…
  5. 5. Why use them? “Take away from history why, how and to what end things have been done, and whether the thing done hath succeeded according to reason; and all that remains will be an idle sport and foolery, than a profitable instruction; and though for the present it may delight, for the future it cannot profit.”
  6. 6. Using historic collections • • • • • • • • Finding printed secondary material Finding archive material – key things to remember Useful websites and portals for archives Finding and accessing printed material Online resources Pathways in archives Tips for using archives Copyright and Freedom of Information
  7. 7. Finding material: where to start? • Secondary reading – Bibliographies – Footnotes/references • Reference works – Bibliographies – Guides – Online guides • Tutors
  8. 8. Finding secondary sources • Catalogues for monographs • Bibliographic databases for journal articles and reviews e.g. Historical Abstracts, Jstor, IBSS • Theses e.g. Index to theses, EThOS • Access by visiting (SCONUL Access) or borrowing (Document Delivery Service)
  9. 9. The archive environment The National Archives Records of central government and the central criminal courts Other Nationals British Library, Houses of Parliament, etc. County Record Offices Records relating to the administration of the historic county and other local material University archives Material collected to support research and teaching and other material related to the administration of the University Specialist archives For example, businesses, charities, churches, organisations, etc. Private and family collections Papers relating to families, individuals, estates etc
  10. 10. Finding archival material • Not organised/categorised in the same way as books – Don’t fall into neat categories – How they have been collected or created is part of their story General Strike • Key is the creator or creating body – Who might have created the record? Where might it be? – Remember to think around the subject Local coal records • Remember… – not everything has survived – not everything is kept – not everything is easy to find County Record Office
  11. 11. Finding archival material Archive catalogues • Each archive will have own catalogue – Not all online – Not all complete Durham University Special Collections Useful sites • • • • National Archives – Search the Archives Access to Archives National Register of Archives ARCHON
  12. 12. Finding archival material Search strategies • Think laterally • Combine search terms – Boolean searching • Use wild card/fuzzy searches Finding material • Locally held copies • Printed sources • Online sources – many from Library catalogue
  13. 13. Online resources • Diaries, manuscripts rare books, newspapers (articles, adverts, images, obituaries), photographs, historic interviews in film or transcription • Digitised as text or, more often, as an image • Varying quality • Varying ability to search – many rely on the record
  14. 14. Accessing online resources • Catalogue • Definitive listing • Filter by resource-type • Subject filter for your own subject area for historic resources
  15. 15. Full text online collections Foreign Broadcast Information Service Times Digital Archive Archival sound recordings MEMSO Full text 19th century periodicals Tudor State Papers Mass observation online House of Commons Papers
  16. 16. E-books as primary sources Google Books ECCO Patrologia Latina Medieval sources online ebooks EEBO The Latin Library Broadside Ballads Gallica
  17. 17. Accessing printed books • Rare books held in archives but listed in library catalogues • Main collections in Durham University Library catalogue and listed on Special Collections pages • Some collections at other institutions in COPAC • Printed collections of sources or translations
  18. 18. Pathways in archives Local events and info News and journals Local politics & govt Local business info Radical Politics Trials and other legal papers National outlook Pamphlets and periodicals
  19. 19. Pathways and journeys Diaries Police records Local National Newspapers Parish records Business records
  20. 20. Useful tips for working in archives Contact before visit • Opening times, ID, facilities, advance ordering Go prepared • Paper, pencils, laptop, camera, references • Wear/take warm clothes Be organised • Check references, take full notes • Ask for help
  21. 21. Understanding archival references HO 42/95 f.375 Collection = Home Office Division = Domestic Correspondence Subdivision = part year 1808 Folio HO 42: The National Archives, Home Office, Domestic Correspondence, George III
  22. 22. Copyright • Archival material is still subject to copyright law • Some records are restricted – check! • Normally okay to cite in research without permission • Situation will change if work is being published (theses count!)
  23. 23. Copyright
  24. 24. Freedom of Information • FOI Act passed in 2000 and came into full effect from 2005 • Information is assumed to be ‘open’ unless one of the specified exemptions applies • Anyone can send in a written request • Is a right of appeal
  25. 25. Useful links National Register of Archives Access 2 Archives ARCHON