The IHR’s People, Place and Community seminar and embedding knowledge exchange in historical research.
Dr Ruth Slatter joined the IHR in May 2023 as Lecturer in Historic Environment and Knowledge Exchange. As part of the IHR’s Centre for the History of People, Place and Community, she is responsible for convening the Institute’s People, Place and Community seminar series. In this blog post she discusses the 2023-24 seminar series’ focus on the theme of co-producing histories of place and how this contributes to the IHR’s vision for embedding knowledge exchange within historical research.
The IHR’s People, Place and Community seminar series is run by the Centre for the History of People, Place and Community (CHPPC). Over the past five years, this seminar series has established a community of scholars interested in place-based histories. And, like all the wonderful seminars hosted by the IHR, it has created a space for them to share new ideas, reflect on and debate these ideas, and engage in an intergenerational network of like-minded researchers. Now, reflecting the CHPPC’s commitment to engaged and innovative research into place-based histories, the People, Place and Community series will also act as a hub for knowledge exchange around the CHPPC’s interest in localised, micro-historical, and site-specific research into rural and urban locations from the parish to the metropolis.
Research England defines ‘knowledge exchange’ as activities that Higher Education Providers undertake with partners (ranging from businesses to community groups) with the aim of using the knowledge developed within the Higher Education sector to benefit the economy and society. This very broad definition embraces a range of practices including (but by no means limited to) public engagement, participatory research practices, interdisciplinary research, community-led research, and enterprise. It also implies that while knowledge exchange will always be in the interest of everyone involved, the principal beneficiaries of such practices are the partners beyond the Higher Education sector and ultimately the general public through the contributions that knowledge exchange will make to the economy and society.
The CHPPC engages in various knowledge exchange practices, but many of its long-term projects are particularly focused on co-producing histories of place with public partners. For example, for over 120 years the Victoria County History (VCH) has mobilised researchers, heritage professionals, and members of the public to engage with and contribute to understanding and writing place-based histories. A crowdsourced project well before ‘crowdsourcing’ was ever a concept, the VCH’s publications, projects and events are now regularly co-produced with members of local communities and make considerable contributions to the development of local sense of place and identity. Another example of co-production within the CHPPC is Layers of London, which provides an ever-growing digital space for people from all backgrounds to upload resources about specific places and areas in London. This freely accessible resource is contributing to important new understandings and interpretations of London and its histories.
Building on the CHPPC’s expertise in co-producing histories of place, during the 2023-24 academic year the People, Place and Community seminar series will specifically focus on this theme of co-producing histories of place in three key ways.
Firstly, many of the speakers in the seminar series will discuss and reflect on their own experiences of engaging in the process of co-producing histories of place. The seminar series has been curated to include speakers from a range of backgrounds, who have engaged in knowledge exchange from different perspectives to create an open forum for reflections on the benefits, challenges and potential future avenues for co-producing histories of place. For example, the IHR’s 2023 Practitioner in Residence, Adam Knight will reflect on his recent experiences of co-producing histories of Kensal House in west London, while members of Historic England’s Communications and Public Engagement Group – including some of their youth researchers – will discuss aspects of their most recent co-production projects, such as their High Street Heritage Action Zones.
Secondly, while designing this seminar series we have committed to making it the product of collaboration and co-production. As a result, many of the seminars in the series have been developed in collaboration with partners (including academic partners, a local Victoria County History Trust, a start-up, and heritage institutions) and will be co-hosted by these partners and the CHPPC. This is a process we want to continue beyond 2023-24 and we are currently working with various partners to co-produce seminars that will be of equal interest and value to all of our networks. This might include panel discussions around particular themes and topics, collection visits, field trips, and in-person engagements with regional communities. If you would like to be involved in this process, do get in touch.
Finally, we also want this seminar series to be a space where new relationships and partnerships can grow and eventually lead to new co-production projects and practices. All our seminars are free to attend, most will be entirely online or in a hybrid format, and the speakers and topics included in the series have been specifically chosen to appeal to a broad audience well beyond academic researchers. This is all intended to help make the seminars open and inclusive spaces, where everyone interested in place-based histories and making place-based histories is welcome and during the seminars we will encourage all who attend to network and develop new relationships that will hopefully spark future co-production projects and practices.
The full schedule for the 2023-24 People, Place and Community seminar series is included below. The Term 1 schedule is now complete and you can find more information about specific seminars and book your free place at each via the seminar events page on the IHR website here. More information about the seminars in Terms 2 & 3 will be added to the IHR website in due course and we anticipate that several extra events will also be added to these schedules over the coming months. You can keep up to date with the latest announcements by signing up for our events bulletin here and following @CHPPC_IHR on X (Twitter).