Dr Simon Trafford, head of research training at the IHR, in his natural environment
Training in research skills for young and aspiring researchers has been central to the IHR’s remit since its foundation in 1921. In recent years, the training programme has expanded and diversified, reflecting both a great broadening in the scope of historical enquiry and also the increasing prevalence of highly specialised approaches that require of their practitioners detailed technical knowledge or computing skills. In the 2014-15 programme, which has just been announced, we have courses covering every aspect of current historical practice, ranging from the very traditional skills of archival use and analysis of written sources through to the currently burgeoning area of historical GIS.
Taught by University of London historians and other expert practitioners from national institutions, the programme has been designed to help students to acquire all the techniques necessary to their research quickly and inexpensively. The Institute’s training will also be of interest to those already established in an academic career but wishing to acquire or renew skills in particular types of specialist analysis. New courses will be announced throughout the year, but please see here for a complete listing of the current programme.
As ever, there’s a packed and diverse programme of training events coming up at the IHR, and I thought I’d draw your attention to some of the highlights.
On 8 May the 2014 Spring School in Oral History, held in association with the Oral History Society, will be taking place at the IHR. As in previous years, there will be a wide-ranging programme covering the theory and practice of oral history in depth, and you can find more details and information on registering here.
If gardens are your thing, then you might be interested in Historic Gardens: Research in Action, which provides an introduction to how archival research findings on historic gardens can contribute to garden restoration, conservation and management. Taught on Tuesday mornings (11.00-13.00), this courseadopts a case-study approach to the exploration of these relationships through a combination of lectures, seminar-based discussions and site visits. See here for full details.
Another long-running and popular course is Explanatory Paradigms: An Introduction to Historical Theory, which starts on 14 May and aims to provide a critical introduction to some of the most influential frameworks of explanation in historical work today. Taught on Wednesday evenings (5.30-7.00) by Professor John Tosh, Dr John Seed and Professor Sally Alexander, Explanatory Paradigms will explore one explanatory approach each week in depth through a combination of a lecture and seminar discussion based on the students’ own reading. Register here.
Finally, our big event of the summer will be the Summer School in Local History 2014: Local History and Heritage, back for a third time after its extremely successful first two years. This year we shall take a theme of Local History and Heritage. The school will introduce you to the most up-to-date methods, sources and successful approaches to the subject through an exciting programme of lectures and workshops.. An illustrious team of experts from the National Archives, the London Metropolitan Archives, English Heritage, the History of Parliament, the Survey of London and the VCH, as well as from universities throughout the UK will explore the historical, archaeological, art historical and architectural evidence for British localities. The school is open to all those keen to expand or update their skills in local history research. Again, more details can be found here.
History Spot has been a much-used and well-liked tool in the two-and-a-half years of its existence and has provided access to training materials and hundreds of podcasts and seminars to thousands of researchers throughout the UK and the world. Now, though, it has outgrown the systems on which it was originally built and we are making some changes which will, we hope, make it easier to find and access the materials which up till now have been available on History Spot.
Everything which was formerly accessible via History Spot has been retained and will continue to be available to researchers, but different types of resource are now to be found in different ways:
1) IHR Podcasts have been merged into the main IHR website at history.ac.uk and can be located and downloaded for free and without registration via the Events menu (under Podcasts: or follow this link: http://www.history.ac.uk/podcasts).
2) Online Research Training Courses can be reached via the Research Training pages on the IHR website (http://www.history.ac.uk/research-training/online). To access chargeable courses an account is still necessary. All the old History Spot accounts have been retained and will function with the new system, but on the first occasion that they are used it will be necessary to reset the password by following the procedure for a forgotten password (to change your password straight away, use this link: http://training.historyspot.org.uk/login/forgot_password.php). All the free and non-chargeable online courses, however, can now be accessed without an account or password by using the Login as a Guest button.
We hope that this will not cause too much disruption and that with the new arrangements even more historians and researchers will be able to use the tools that we provide and that History Spot has helped to popularise.
The IHR is delighted to announce the launch of this new course, which provides an introduction to how archival research findings on historic gardens can contribute to garden restoration, conservation and management. Taught on Tuesday mornings (11.00-13.00), Historic Gardens: Research in Action adopts a case-study approach to the exploration of these relationships through a combination of lectures, seminar-based discussions and site visits.
Researching the history of a garden or landscape is an absorbing and exciting activity that draws together documentation, maps, paintings, horticulture and other information to tell the story of the garden’s development and the people involved in its creation. The results will be a well-referenced report that describes chronological design overlays and planting and may identify the garden as of significant historic interest. This short course takes researching a garden’s history a stage further by a consideration of how these findings can contribute to a garden’s restoration, conservation and management. It also provides a practical understanding of the range of methodologies currently employed in the identification, protection and care of historic parks and gardens in the UK.
Examination of these issues is made through case studies chosen as examples of gardens restored to different historic periods and under different types of ownership and management. Visits will be made to the seventeenth-century formal gardens at Ham House (National Trust), the eighteenth-century landscape garden at Painshill Park (Painshill Park Trust), and the early twentieth-century garden of plantsman E. A. Bowles at Myddelton House (Lee Valley Regional Park Authority). Sources of evidence for restoration and plans for garden management will be studied in both classroom sessions and with expert guides during site visits.
Each year the IHR runs a wide-ranging and extensive programme of training in skills for historical researchers from universities throughout the UK. Using a range of teaching approaches (workshops, seminars, lectures, hands-on practicals and visits), important and specialised skills are explained and explored by expert practitioners. Courses are short (from one day to one term), cover the whole range of necessary skills – from archival use and languages to databases and the internet – and are priced to be within the means of students.