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Historical Collections for Researchers


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Making the most of historical collections and archives.

Delivered by our Academic Liaison Library for History, and our Head of Heritage Collections Education Team

Published in: Education
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Historical Collections for Researchers

  1. 1. Historic collection for researchersSarah Price and Richard Pears
  2. 2. Why use them?“Take away from history why, how andto what end things have been done, andwhether the thing done hath succeededaccording to reason; and all that remainswill be an idle sport and foolery, than aprofitable instruction; and though for thepresent it may delight, for the future itcannot profit.”
  3. 3. Finding material: where to start?• Secondary reading – Bibliographies – Footnotes/references• Tutors• Reference works – Bibliographies – Guides – Online guides
  4. 4. Finding archival materialFinding the right archive• Not organised in the same way as books• Key is the creator or creating body• Remember -not everything has survived - not everything has been kept - not everything is easy to find
  5. 5. Finding archival materialArchive catalogues• Each archive will have own catalogue – Not all online – Not all complete• Durham University Special Collections• National Archives – Search the Archives• Access to Archives• ARCHON
  6. 6. Finding archival materialSearch strategies• Think laterally• Combine search terms – Boolean searching• Use wild card/fuzzy searchesFinding material• Locally held copies• Printed sources• Online sources – many from Library catalogue
  7. 7. Full text online collections
  8. 8. E-books as primary sources
  9. 9. Accessing online resources• Catalogue• Definitive listing• Subject filter for your own subject area for historic resources
  10. 10. 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
  11. 11. 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)
  12. 12. Pathways in archives
  13. 13. Pathways and journeys Diaries Police recordsLocal National Newspapers Parish records Business records
  14. 14. Pathways and journeys
  15. 15. Research tripsContact before visit• Opening times, ID, facilities, advance orderingGo prepared• Paper, pencils, laptop, camera, references• Clothes!Be organised• Check references, take full notes• Ask for help
  16. 16. Understanding archival references HO 42/95 f.375Collection == CollectionHome Office Home Office Division == Division Domestic Domestic Correspondence Correspondence Subdivision == Subdivision part year 1808 part year 1808 Folio FolioHO 42: The National Archives, Home Office,Domestic Correspondence, George III
  17. 17. Archival references: other terms• Folio• Page• Quire• Recto and verso
  18. 18. Copyright• Archival material is still subject to copyright law• Some records are restricted – check!• Normally okay to cite in research without permission• Situation may change if work is being published
  19. 19. Copyright
  20. 20. 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
  21. 21. Useful linksNational Register of 2 Archives