On 21 November, we held two simultaneous Wikipedia edit-a-thons in London and Leicester as part of the Being Human Festival. We did a lot of promotion of these events beforehand so we thought we should tell you how they went. An edit-a-thon is an event where editors get together to write or improve articles centred on a specific topic. These particular edit-a-thons were centred on local history and you can read about how we connected our theme with the overall Being Human Festival theme of “Hidden and Revealed” here. You can also read the story of the day via social media.
My colleagues Jessica Davies and Rebecca Read from Victoria County History (VCH), Jordan Landes from Senate House Library and I were all at the London event. Our Wikimedia UK accredited trainer was Edward Hands, and fellow trainer Jonathan Cardy was also there to lend a hand. The wonderful thing about Wikimedia trainers is that they are volunteers, so we are very grateful to Edward and Jonathan for coming along and teaching our attendees to edit Wikipedia. Overall, we were twenty-one people at the London event. We had a great mix of experienced Wikipedia editors and complete novices. The experienced editors were able to help the novices throughout the day.
The first half of the day was devoted to learning how to edit Wikipedia, especially how to make edits that will last—the secret is to provide references for all the additions you make to Wikipedia. Once they’d been trained, our attendees tried their hands at making some edits.
After lunch, VCH editor and training co-ordinator Adam Chapman gave attendees a quick introduction to the VCH, explaining the historical context of the project and how the volumes are organised. I followed by showing attendees how they could use British History Online (BHO) to search and read VCH, along with many other sources of local history. Since providing references is such a vital part to creating strong Wikipedia edits, we wanted our attendees to know about the rich resources that they can rely on when writing and improving Wikipedia articles, especially those resources that are freely accessible on BHO.
Here’s a list of the articles worked on just by the London attendees:
As for the Leicester event, they had ten people in total, including Pam Fisher from the Leicestershire VCH Trust, who helped us organise the Leicester branch. From the feedback we’ve received, it sounds like the Leicester event was just as much fun and just as productive as the London event. Their trainers were Doug Taylor and Roger Bamkin, who both did an excellent job. The only negative feedback we received is that the day should have been longer!
Overall, we all had a productive day, learned lots of new things and met some wonderful people. Thanks to everyone who helped with organisation, promotion and training. And thanks to all our attendees for making it such a great day.
We’ve recently produced a detailed guide to the Institute of Historical Research United States collections. Coverage includes early American colonial history, the Revolution and establishment of the United States, and special themes such as slavery. The core of the guide was written by Benjamin Bankhurst during his time as Postdoctoral Fellow of North American History, and it has been completed with contributions from others.
The guide will be useful for people new to the collections but those familiar with the collection may also discover something new. It complements the Guide to Canadian History produced in 2014.
There is still time to sign up for one of our Being Human edit-a-thons in London and Leicester on 21 November.
As part of the Being Human Festival, British History Online (BHO), Senate House Library (SHL) and Victoria County History (VCH) will be leading two simultaneous Wikipedia edit-a-thons in London and Leicester on 21 November. An edit-a-thon is an event where editors get together to write or improve articles centred on a specific topic. We will provide training in editing Wikipedia and no prior experience is necessary. The theme of our edit-a-thons will be local history, which will involve both editing articles about particular places, but also editing articles about the practice of local history in the UK.
The idea to have a local history Wikipedia edit-a-thon first occurred to us when we had a Wikipedia training session at the IHR way back in March. Our trainer was Edwardx (who conveniently will also be the London trainer for this coming edit-a-thon) and during our session we were amazed at how easy the process of editing and improving Wikipedia articles was after a little bit of training. Jessica Davies and Rebecca Read from VCH were thinking of ways they could improve articles about various aspects of local history, and I was thinking about how to encourage more editors to consult BHO since Wikipedia encourages citing online, accessible materials where possible. Following the session, the three of us agreed that the theme of local history would an interesting one for an edit-a-thon. We envisioned local historians, Wikipedia editors, students and academics all coming together and learning from each other. The Being Human Festival, with its focus on the humanities’ ability to inspire and enrich our everyday lives, seemed like a natural fit for the event we were dreaming up. Jordan Landes, the history librarian at SHL, had organised the initial training for us and kindly offered to help facilitate the edit-a-thon. Soon we were partnering with a team in Leicester, and taking the edit-a-thon beyond our immediate vicinity and bringing it to a national scale.
We’ll admit we were slightly stumped about whether our events would relate to this year’s Being Human Festival theme, “Hidden and Revealed.” But we quickly realised that the goal of revealing is already behind the work that we do.
We believe local history should be cared for and preserved in archives, but it should not remain there. It is our communal responsibility to study history, to learn from it and to share it. With the VCH volumes, authors comb local archives and untangle the history of places in order to present those histories to the public in the form of the VCH red books. What is that if not a process of revelation? They take something that might not be hidden per se but rather, difficult to access, and reveal the history of a parish, a hundred, or a county in a clear, encyclopaedic format.
Similarly, by digitising the red books, BHO further reveals these histories by allowing VCH texts to be freely accessible from anywhere in the world. One of my responsibilities at BHO is to manage our email account, and I love receiving emails like the one from the Australian woman who found the history of the small village where her great-grandmother was born, or from the mayor who learned new things about his own town, or from the homeowners who discovered the rich history of the place where they live, or from the elderly man who is brought back to his schooldays. To all those people and many more, uncovering the history of where they come from is nothing short of a revelation.
And finally, Wikipedia—one of the most visited websites in the world—is driven by a desire to make human knowledge accessible to everyone. Wikipedia relies on source material like VCH, and BHO content is already heavily cited across the site. Wikipedia democratises the construction of knowledge by allowing articles to be edited by anyone from anywhere in the world.
So to us, the revelation of the hidden is about understanding the history of where we come from and sharing that with each other. Our goal in these events is for everyone to feel like they can participate in the creation of their own history. One thing I have learned since being at BHO is that British history is never only British; and local history is never only local. We are connected on a global level and we share a global history, which might begin with the local but it never stays there.
One feature of History day on 27 November is the one-on-one guidance provided by the scheduled research clinics. These clinics will allow researchers to spend time with a librarian or historian to discuss resources, training and research, addressing specific needs. For example, if a researcher would like to find historical research training, the IHR’s Dr Simon Trafford will be available to discuss finding sessions from 10:00 to 12:00. For any researchers who want to locate resources for Canadian Studies in London, Senate House Library’s Christine Anderson will have a table at History day from 10:00 to 12:00. Other sessions include:
Building your bibliography and keeping it up to date with Senate House Library’s Mura Ghosh from 10:00 until 12:00
Locating Caribbean Area Studies Resources with Dr Luis Perez-Simon of the Institute of Latin American Studies from 11:30 until 15:00
Improving your online search skills with Birkbeck’s Aubrey Greenwood from 13:00 until 16:00
Help with American Resources at the British Library with Dr Matthew Shaw of the British Library from 14:00 until 15:00
Using IHR’s digital resources with the IHR Digital team from 15:00 until 16:00
Lastly, Michael Little and the team from the National Archives will be available throughout the whole event to discuss using the collections at the National Archives.
The clinics will be in Beveridge Hall as part of the open history fair. If you have any questions, please just ask!
An exhibition on Albert Gallatin and the politics of the early United States is currently on in Senate House Library until 27 November 2015, and includes books from the IHR and Senate House Library collections. The piece below was written by Benjamin Bankhurst, former Postdoctoral Fellow in North American history at the IHR.
The decades following the American Revolution were a turbulent and transformative time in the United States as the citizens of the new republic wrestled with the meaning of their revolution and attempted to build a society that lived up to its principles. How was this new society going to be structured and how should its government and economy be structured? Should Americans build a fiscal military state and advanced economy that would enable the United States to compete with the great powers of Europe, or should the country strive to become something different, a vast agrarian republic whose security rested on open trading policies?
Albert Gallatin (1761-1849) was at the heart of these debates. A Swiss immigrant who arrived in the country at the closing stages of the revolution, Gallatin played a leading role in the formation of US finance and politics in the early republic and was a central actor in many of the defining events of the period. He was committed to Thomas Jefferson’s vision for the republic and served under him as the 4th Secretary of the Treasury following Jefferson’s presidential victory in 1800. In this capacity he arranged the financing of the Louisiana Purchase in 1802 and helped plan the subsequent Lewis and Clark Expedition into the Louisiana Territory. Gallatin was also the main American negotiator in the peace talks that led to the Treaty of Ghent (1814) and the end of the War of 1812, the ‘Second War of American Independence’.
To celebrate the recent discovery of a portion of Albert Gallatin’s library in the collections of the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House Library and the IHR are proud to showcase items from their collections relating to Albert Gallatin and the history of the early American Republic. Many of these items are unique and bear marginalia and provenance that exposes the extent of Gallatin’s network of correspondence during this formative period. The items chosen for display touch upon major themes and issues from the period, including American constitutionalism, US expansion, the development of the American State and popular politics in the new nation.
Peter Kosminsky series director of the BBC’s Wolf hall will be in conversation with Professor Lawrence Goldman (IHR) & Professor George Bernard (University of Southampton) to discuss the making of the BBC 2’s most successful drama in a decade. The discussion will feature clips from the series and be followed by a drinks reception.
Wolf Hall (an adaptation from the Booker prize-winning novels; Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel) was first broadcast on the BBC in January 2015 and reportedly cost £7 million to produce (Guardian 2013).
The drama series featured 102 characters, took 3 months to film in numerous locations across the UK and attracted 26.33 million viewers across the entire drama series (Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board).
Peter Kosminsky, the director of the series, said:
This is a first for me. But it is an intensely political piece. It is about the politics of despotism, and how you function around an absolute ruler. I have a sense that Hilary Mantel wanted that immediacy. … When I saw Peter Straughan’s script, only a first draft, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It was the best draft I had ever seen. He had managed to distil 1,000 pages of the novels into six hours, using prose so sensitively. He’s a theatre writer by trade (Guardian 2013).
To hear more of what Peter Kosminsky has to say about directing the series, join us in the IHR on Thursday 22 October 2015 at 6pm.
The lecture, screening and reception is free and open for all to attend. to register your place at the lecture visit the registration page.
If you have any enquiries relating to this lecture, please contact the IHR Events Office (IHR.Events@sas.ac.uk).
This post has kindly been written for us by workshop organiser Dr Eliza Filby
Do you suffer from a lack of confidence or nerves when you speak? Are you finding that you spend a lot of time writing conference papers that fail rather than fly? Aspiring historians can make as much impact in what they say than as from what they write – whether it be through teaching, job presentations, media engagement or conference papers and yet we receive very little helpful training in core communication skills. Indeed in the age when students are now ‘customers’ and academics are increasingly encouraged to disseminate their research to a broader audience, it has never been more important for academics to be effective communications.
Most public speaking course however are delivered by ‘external’ coaches who have no understanding of what is required in the academic world. The one-day course provided by the IHR is designed for historians (at any stage of their career) who wish to rid themselves of nerves and inhibitions and to think imaginatively and broadly about how to communicate their work to various audiences. The course is entirely interactive; you will not sit there and listen to ‘experts’ but will be called upon to practise your skills.
Working with a professionally trained actor and an academic, this workshop will take participants through the process of how to write and deliver a speech. In the first session you will cover how to structure a speech for different audiences, the use of appropriate language and imagery, audio-visual aids and how to master the academic Q&A. In the second session, we will focus on your performance. Drawing on acting techniques used in the leading drama schools, participants will discover how to improve their diction, resonance, range and articulation as well as relaxation and breathing techniques to calm nerves. For this day, all participants will need to prepare 150-word punchy summary of their research designed for a non-academic audience (on printed paper) as well as one powerpoint slide designed for an academic audience (on a memory stick). All participants will present their work, be taken through the Q&A and receive individual feedback.
In celebration of the diversity, innovation and influence of academic books, the first ever Academic Book Week is being held from 9 to 16 November 2015. A range of activities and events are being organised throughout October and November, tackling subjects such as ‘Curious books’, the trustworthiness of Wikipedia, the future of the English PhD, and the role and history of the university press (see http://acbookweek.com/events/, for more information).
On Tuesday 10 November, the School of Advanced Study, University of London is hosting a debate focusing on how the evolving technology(ies) of the book have affected the ways that we read. A panel of six speakers – Professor Sarah Churchwell (School of Advanced Study, University of London), Professor Justin Champion (Royal Holloway, University of London), Dr Martin Eve (Birkbeck, University of London), Dr Stephen Gregg (Bath Spa University), Professor Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of East Anglia) and Pip Willcox (Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford) – will consider the many different kinds of books which are read in an academic context, from text books to edited collections, from monographs to scholarly editions, from novels to handbooks. There will also be plenty of time for audience discussion, beginning with formal responses from early career researchers for whom these questions will be of enormous importance in years to come.
This event is being organised as part of Opening the Book: the Future of the Academic Monograph, an international multi-centred debate. Academic Book Week itself is the centrepiece of this year’s activity on the two-year AHRC/British Library Academic Future of the Academic Book project (http://academicbookfuture.org/).
The Deana & Jack Eisenberg Lecture in Public History 2015
More than just a good day out: Bringing History to life in the National Trust
Wednesday 7th October 2015
Wolfson Conference Suite 6pm
A public lecture on history in the National Trust by Dame Helen Ghosh.
Dame Helen joined the civil service from Oxford University, where she read Modern History. She has worked in a number of government departments, starting off in the Department of the Environment, and returning to environmental issues when she became Permanent Secretary at Defra in 2005.
In between, she followed her interest in providing public services to local people with jobs in the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs and the Government Office for London. She has also worked at the centre of Goverrnment, with two spells in the Cabinet Office. Most recently, she has been Permanent Secretary at the Home Office.
She is a long-term member of the Trust and of her local Wildlife Trust in Oxfordshire. She is married to an academic and has a son and daughter, who are in their early twenties. She lives in Oxford, and includes family life, looking after her allotment, walking and watching ballet among her relaxations.
A series of six new public seminars on current issues raised by the study of the past.
Wolfson Room I, IHR
Seminar: 6-7.30pm Refreshments: 7.30-8.30pm
Welcome: Lawrence Goldman Chair: Daniel Snowman
14 October 2015: History, history, everywhere… The apparent paradox that, alongside the recent growth of popular interest in history, many people also seem to lack a sense of the continuity between past and present. Panel:Ronald Hutton, Paul Lay, David Reynolds, Pat Thane
11 November 2015: History as Heritage: The preservation, distortion and commercialisation of the past. Panel:Roger Bowdler, Robert Hewison, Anna-Maria Misra, Simon Thurley
9 December 2015: Does the ‘Real’ Past Matter?: The history and function of historical myth. Panel:Peter Burke, Justin Champion, Adam Sutcliffe, Simon Dixon
13 January 2016: Rewriting the Past: The need felt in each generation to reconfigure the past. Panel: Penelope Corfield, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Ian Kershaw, Jonathan Steinberg
10 February 2016:Pictures of the Past: How far can artworks provide a pathway – or a stumbling block – towards understanding the past.? Panel: Vic Gatrell, Simon Goldhill, Marion Kant, Simon Shaw-Miller
9 March 2016: Uses and Abuses of the Past: History as ideology, consolation, nostalgia, vindication, identity, revenge. Where does ‘History’ go from here? Panel:Anne Curry, Peter Hennessy, Paul Preston, Donald Sassoon
Registration for this seminar series is required. Tickets are £5 per session. Free for the Friends of the IHR.