Having worked in the IHR library for a while, it can be easy, perhaps, to lose sight of how the library may come across to our readers. In an interesting exercise suggested by our graduate trainee, Siobhan Morris, each member of the library staff played the role of a hypothetical reader for a day to see how easy it is to use the library and find any relevant material for their subject.
For a while I have also been curious to see if the library could meet the needs of someone whose primary research interest is not history. So my imaginary reader is a politics student currently studying an MA very similar to the masters in EU Politics currently being taught at the London School of Economic. Besides looking at the coverage in the IHR’s collections relevant for my imaginary course, I will also attempt to get an understanding of how easy it is to use the space and resources within the library and identify any obstacles that may arise.
For my morning session (1st August) I chose to work in the basement since this is where the International Relations collection is currently housed. Although by no means loud, the noise from the reception above and the lift meant that this spot is not as quiet as one might think. Thankfully connecting to the Wi-Fi with my laptop (using Windows 10) was very easy. The main obstacle I did face, however, was the inadequate lighting in the International Relations room – hopefully this can be rectified soon. During this morning session I also used a variety of e-resources from the library PC also in the basement. I did not have any major problems using resources like J-Stor or the Times Digital Archive and, in this instance, there were no problems printing or photocopying.
For my afternoon session (2nd August) I had intended to use one of the reader spaces in the main reading room on the second floor but all were taken at this point; there were still seats free in the smaller reading rooms on that floor but I went across the landing to the North American room, which was empty at this point. Locating the material I needed in the various European history collections was largely problem free, and it was particularly helpful having so many complementary collections on open access (locating local contemporary political works in the Italian collection, for example, with the catalogue alone would have been quite difficult).
Using the catalogue on my laptop I initially did a number of keyword searches using terms such as:
“European Economic Community”
This did result in quite a few hits. Yet this type of search was bringing up a lot of internet resources that were only accessible via MyILibrary, even though I had limited it to an IHR library only facet. The current position of access in the library has been made clear, however on the library page about Electronic resources.
Next I carried out a number of subject searches with the name of a country suffixed with terms such as “politics and government”, “foreign relations”, etc. Therefore the terms I used for France were as follows:
France Politics and Government 1945-
France Politics and Government 1958-
France Politics and Government 1969-
France Politics and Government 1981-
France Foreign Relations 1945
France Foreign Relations Germany 1945-
This might be construed as cheating, slightly, since these terms are Library of Congress Subject Headings and hence something only librarians tend to be familiar with. However it was a useful type of search to employ, giving a useful impression of the strengths within the various collections investigated, and is a strategy I will recommend to new users in the future. Yet no search strategy is perfect, which is why, as mentioned above, my third method for discovering material was just to browse the open shelves.
Throughout the course of my searches the bulk of the material I found for the post-1945 period centred, perhaps unsurprisingly, on Britain, with also significant holdings for France (especially post-1945 international relations) and Germany. A smaller number of titles were retrieved for Italy, Spain and Portugal, and very little, if anything, for the Netherlands and Belgium, Ireland, Austria and Scandinavia. Also the material currently in the library tends to concentrate on the c. 1945-c.1970 period with diminishing returns for later periods. This is something both myself and my fellow collection librarian, Mette Lund, are aware of, and as new works are published about the post-1970 or post-1989 period, which fall into the collection remit of the library, we will acquire them.
Although this exercise did flag-up a few issues regarding collection coverage, overall I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of material that could be found in the library for the hypothetical politics student. Coupled with some of the IHR’s other activities, such as its varied seminar programme, this makes it clear that the IHR and its library is not for historians alone.
This post has kindly been written for us by IHR Digital intern Rebecca Gillard.
Since starting my studies as a History BA student I have become increasingly interested in the topic of crime and punishment. The site Connected Histories proved extremely useful due to its fruitful content. Connected Histories is a collection of twenty five digital resources which contain sources dating from 1500 to 1900 on numerous of different topics. The search can be tweaked to suit your needs, specifying whether you’re looking for a particular person or place.
I searched the keywords crime and punishment in order to test out Connected Histories, and see what resources it would bring up. This search brought up over 300,000 matches across twenty two different resources.
The most useful and interesting sources came from The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online, which provides trial proceedings from one of London’s criminal courts during the late seventeenth century, up until the early twentieth century. When searching through numerous of trials you can see how punishments varied and how certain crimes were viewed differently. One interesting case I found was of a fourteen year old boy found guilty of stealing a milk pot and was sentenced to death in 1806. Another case, in 1678, was a man found guilty of manslaughter and whose punishment was a burn on the hand. This punishment seems a lot less severe than death, especially considering that manslaughter is often seen as a much more vicious crime than theft. The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online provide an interesting insight into the criminal court and how over time the justice system was ever changing.
Witches in Early Modern England also provided numerous results. This resource contained case studies of individuals being trialled for witchcraft, detailing their crimes, victims and verdicts. This would prove extremely resourceful for someone who was interested in the topic of witchcraft, and would present a great starting point. As well as the short description of the event, it also contains the original text from the trail so you are able to read it in more detail, and get a sense of what type of language they used.
The Museum Image Collection Database and the Database of Mid-Victorian Illustration are two other resources which came up when doing when my search, showing how the sources are not just text documents. These resources show how crime and punishment was represented and viewed from 1500 to 1900. There is a wide variety of images ranging from political satire to pictures on the back of playing cards.
Due to the key words the search also pulled up Queen Victoria’s Journals, something which I did not expect to find. Looking through the diary entries I found it fascinating to read about a monarch’s life from their own perspective. The entries are so detailed and outline Queen Victoria’s feelings and thoughts during her most pivotal and also private moments. Even though I did not intend to find this upon my search it still proved a really interesting resource, despite not being entirely connected to my original topic.
Connected Histories is a valuable and useful tool for searching for a specific topic, area, person, or location. It provides numerous different avenues for you to explore, whether you’re searching for pictures or text documents, and allows you to make your own connections as well as look at ones which are already made. Connected Histories is a great resource to use for anyone wanting a wide variety of sources on an area in British History.
We start this week with Jennifer Young’s review of the almost finished Shakespeare in Ten Acts exhibition, and its associated online resource Discovering Literature: Shakespeare, discussed here with the British Library’s lead curator Zoe Wilcox (no. 1983, with response here).
Then we turn to Women’s Voices in Ireland: Women’s Magazines in the 1950s and 60s by Catríona Clear. Catriona Beaumont praises a rich and detailed account of popular women’s magazines in Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s (no. 1982).
Next up is Joseph Chamberlain: International Statesman, National Leader, Local Icon, edited by Ian Cawood and Chris Upton. Iain Sharpe praises an excellent and most welcome addition to the study of Joseph Chamberlain and of British politics (no. 1981).
Finally we have Antoinette Burton’s The Trouble With Empire. Denise Gonyo believes this book opens up fascinating potential new areas for scholarship to further explore colonial subjects’ perspectives (no. 1980).
The IHR Library recently hosted a one day workshop examining emerging research and current trends in Library and Information Science. The event, held in the IHR’s conference suite, attracted over twenty participants and was comprised of two panel sessions – the first examining the ‘Changing Face of Libraries‘ and the second ‘Impacts of Technology.’
The day began with a welcome and introductory remarks from the IHR’s Librarian Dr Matthew Shaw. Following this, Anne Welsh (UCL) opened the series of talks with a paper exploring ‘Cataloguer as Distant Research Collaborator: Implications of the Use of Catalogue Data in Humanities Research.’ Joanne McPhie (Brunel) then presented a paper on ‘The Evolution of the Librarian: developments and experiences at Brunel University.’ These engaging presentations examined how differing aspects of librarianship interact with users and researchers and both presentations drew interesting questions from the audience.
After a brief interlude for refreshments, the second panel session on ‘Impacts of Technology’ began with Tom Pink (City) asking ‘Has the Internet Changed the Way We Think? The effect of the network on user behaviour’. Emily Nunn (Sheffield) then addressed ‘Researching Open Access: thoughts from a LIS PhD.’ Following this, David Phillips (City) presented on ‘Robots in the Library: gauging attitudes towards developments in robotics and AI, and the potential implications for library services.’
Upon conclusion of the presentations, time was then devoted to questions, with the panel members engaged in debate ranging from the practicalities of open access, the effects of Brexit on university libraries and the potential benefits and drawbacks of robots acting as security guards within libraries. In this regard, the workshop was an exceptionally varied and diverse arena for emerging research. The event consequently facilitated crossover between disciplines, topics and researchers, as presenters comprised lecturers, library professionals, PhD candidates and Masters students.
The workshop drew to a close with a few final closing remarks and a heartfelt thanks to all of the presenters and attendees for making the workshop so thought-provoking and engaging. The future of the discipline of Libraries and Information Science very much appears to be ever-changing, richly diverse, and multi-faceted.
For further information, the full workshop programme can be consulted here. An account of the event as depicted through tweets containing the workshop’s hashtag #ihrLIS can be viewed via Storify here.
Following the success of the workshop and the stimulating debates that it generated, the IHR Library intend to host a similar workshop in the New Year. Details will be posted on the IHR blog, website and social media platforms in due course. If you would like to receive any further information regarding the event, or contribute topics for discussion at future IHR Library Workshop Series events, please contact Siobhan Morris (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Kate Wilcox is Reader Experience and Technical Services Manager at the Institute of Historical Research Library.
The IHR library staff have each been researching a topic, in an experiment designed to improve our understanding of what it’s like to use the collections. I’ve been looking at our holdings for the historiography of women historians, something I didn’t know much about and thought would be interesting. As a starting point I searched the catalogue, using ‘Women historians’ as a keyword and a subject.
The library’s collection policy for works on historiography extends beyond its usual remit of primary sources, so I found secondary works as well as sources. They are shelved either within the relevant geographical collections, or, for more general works, within the historiography section at classmark E.1441. Examples include:
The whole library is reference only, so you will usually find open-access items available on the shelves. I found a couple of secondary works that I wanted to read fully, and because Senate House Library also held them, I was able to borrow them to read on the train home. This was also an opportunity to use a library that I’m less familiar with and think about the experience of shelf labelling and signage.
The IHR library has a lot of specialist bibliographies, but I only located one focussing on women historians, Scritti storici di donne italiane : bibliografia, 1800-1945. The comprehensive online Bibliography of British and Irish History is always a useful resource, though I found it hard to find closely defined search terms for my subject and it was more productive to browse through the results from a wider search. As well as material directly on women historians, BBIH helped me locate material on the wider context, such as women in education.
I also tried a biographical approach. The catalogue search had retrieved a specialist work, American women historians, 1700s-1990s : a biographical dictionary. For the UK, the online Oxford Dictionary of National Biography allows searching by the ‘field of interest’ of its subjects, so by using the drop-down menus I was able to search for ‘Scholarship and research: history: historians (general)’ and filter by gender, finding 103 female historians (compared to 922 male historians). The list of names is an obvious starting point for researching individual careers.
As another way into the topic, I was interested to see how many of their published works are held among the IHR’s collections. As examples, we have works of some of the earliest women historians, including Lucy Aikin (1781–1864), who edited Memoirs of the courts of Elizabeth I and James I, the prolific editor Mary Anne Everett Green (1818–1895) and the pioneering castle archaeologist Ella Armitage (1841–1931).
University records and Histories
Another biographical approach is to think about the educational background of women historians. The library has outstanding collections on the history of British, European and American universities, with many biographical registers. The relevant areas are:
Biographical works, British universities, colleges, schools (B.27)
Histories of individual universities, within the regional collections, for example Oxford under Oxfordshire (BC.76), Scottish universities in Scottish Local collection (BSL), European universities (E.8) and United States universities (currently UF.52, undergoing reclassification).
While invaluable for researching individual careers, the registers are not particularly usable for a systematic review, usually being organised by name, from which gender often has to be deduced. It would be useful to have the data in a more structured format. However many include useful information about parents’ occupations, whether the mother had attended university, and the student’s subsequent career.
Looking for female reviewers and authors in long-running journals and the IHR’s Teachers of history and Theses lists could be an interesting approach. Early volumes of these series often follow a standard approach of using initials for men and forenames for women.
I found that for using the registers and other sources that some background information was essential, such as knowing when history became a separate discipline in different universities, and when women were admitted to study it. The IHR library has useful holdings for researching the background including parliamentary material, collections of letters and diaries and newspapers.
Using the library
I found the library rooms generally a pleasant place to work. There are some noise issues that we are already aware of and trying to address. Although we want to be welcoming, we try to keep the enquiry office door closed so that we don’t disturb readers in the main room, and we ask that when rooms are used for meetings the doors are kept closed. We’ve also been trying to get the landing doors adjusted to stop them slamming.
Like many of our readers, I found it difficult to browse series shelved in the rolling stacks. The reason why the library now has rolling stacks in the largest rooms is to allow more of the collection to stay on open access in what has become a reduced space. When we were planning the new library rooms, it was not possible to use the rolling stacks for the less browse-worthy parts of the collection without disrupting the sequence of shelfmarks and making items difficult to locate. For similar reasons of space, the European university histories/registers are held in closed access, but we are always happy to meet the needs of readers who want to browse runs of closed-access material by bringing them to the library. We are continuing to think about ways of making the rolling stacks less of an issue.
Beyond the library collections, the IHR archive is a valuable source of material about women historians. Membership records, seminar registers and correspondence contain useful information for understanding the place of women in the history profession. We are currently fundraising to catalogue the archive and improve access to it. The IHR also hosts seminars in several related fields, including Women’s history, History of Education, and Gender and History in the Americas. There are occasionally other events such as the forthcoming lecture and book launch “Keep the Damned Women out”: The Struggle for Coeducation (31 Oct 2016). All in all, I found the IHR a good place to start research on the topic I’d chosen, and what I discovered here made me interested in finding out more.
Following the IHR refurbishment, the Wohl Library now benefits from a number of bespoke display and exhibition cases which will be used to highlight the breadth of the collections and the range of work undertaken at the Institute.
Recognising the potential importance of exhibitions and public engagement for Early Career Researchers (ECRs), the library team has announced an annual competition for History Lab Plus members, offering the winner the opportunity to curate an exhibition within the IHR. Working with the library team, you will gain experience in exhibition curation, design and conservation, as well as showcasing your subject. It offers the opportunity for ECRs to display their research in new and innovative ways to the diverse range of historians who visit the IHR. No prior exhibition experience is required, and you will work alongside IHR library staff in producing the exhibition.
The winning exhibition will make creative use of the IHR’s holdings and explore a historical topic, theme or area of research in an engaging and scholarly way. It will also be aware of the range of audience that the IHR services, which includes professional historians but also the general public. There are five cases available, suggesting an exhibition list of 20-25 items. The exhibition can also include facsimiles of materials held elsewhere, and can include display boards within the cases (the IHR library will arrange the printing of these). The winning exhibition can be complemented by an online version of the exhibition hosted on the IHR website, and should also have outreach or launch event as part of the exhibition programme (for example a workshop, lecture or curator’s tour).
We start this week with The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century by Jon Grinspan, as Mark Power Smith and the author discuss a gripping, fascinating and provocative book (no. 1979, with response here).
Then we turn to Isabella Lazzarini’s Communication and Conflict: Italian Diplomacy in the Early Renaissance, 1350-1520. Catherine Fletcher believes this book makes a substantial contribution to the lively new history of communication, archives and letters (no. 1978).
Next Stan Nadel reviews two major contributions to the historiography of Europe in the first half of the 20th century, as he takes on Ian Kershaw’s To Hell and Back: Europe, 1914-1949 and Enzo Traverso’s Fire and Blood: the European Civil War 1914-1945 (no. 1977).
Finally we have Going to the Palais: A Social and Cultural History of Dancing and Dance Halls in Britain, 1918-1960 by James Nott. Claire Langhamer enjoys a book which beautifully explains why dancing was so loved across this mid-century moment (no. 1976).
You can’t help avoiding Shakespeare and the celebrations for the 400th anniversary of his death, especially when entering Senate House and its ceremonial staircase. Each morning I am greeted by the playwright’s staring eyes and, each morning, I think I ought to write a post. So here goes.
Knowing I loved my books, he furnished me / From mine own library with volumes that / I prize above my dukedom.
Senate House Shakespeare celebration
Shakespeare has 1860 references on BBIH, surpassing Elizabeth I (1158 references), Winston Churchill (1273) and Geoffrey Chaucer (650). But, as I alluded to in my title, there is more to Shakespeare than drama.
A Person as subject search for “Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616″ brings up the aforementioned 1860 references. However if I add in Subject tree “Representations of politics” there are over 200 references.
One of the most important and unique aspects of the IHR Library is the quantity and range of works available on open access. Over the course of the last year, the IHR Library has been able to have forty books specially repaired and conserved due to generous donations to the IHR Library Conservation Fund, in particular from the Friends of the IHR and American Friends of the IHR. These invaluable donations have helped support the work of the Library in ensuring that volumes can be specially treated, repaired and where necessary, rebound. This work enables the volumes to be quickly returned to the library’s collections and also ensures that they are preserved for years to come.
A selection of the works that have been repaired in 2015-2016 due to money received by the IHR Trust Conservation Fund are listed below.
We start this week with Liberty or Death: The French Revolution by Peter McPhee, as Marisa Linton and the author discuss a book set to become a standard work on the subject (no. 1975, with response here).
Then we turn to Charity Urbanski’s Writing History for the King: Henry II and the Politics of Vernacular Historiography. John Gillingham remains unconvinced by a book which stays too long on narrow and well-trodden paths (no. 1974).
Next up is The German Right in the Weimar Republic by Larry Jones. Colin Storer surveys a collection that does much to enhance our understanding of the diverse nature of right-wing politics in the Weimar Republic (no. 1973).
Finally Sean Ledwith reviews Ballot Battles: The History of Disputed Elections in the United States by Edward Foley, a study of exhaustive scholarship and powerful argumentation (no. 1972).