On March 21st the IHR Wohl library held a Digital Archives event giving a chance for researchers, archivists, historians and anyone with an interest in history to come and listen to three experts showcase how to use their digital archival tools. Each speaker offered a taster session on the different resources available through these fascinating digital tools.
First of all, we heard an interesting talk from Jane Ronson who presented ‘Discovering UK Archives Online’ and showcased what Archives Hub is able to offer researchers. Archives Hub brings together descriptions of thousands of UK’s archive collections – held in a variety of UK repositories, examples included both Cymru1914 and the War Child project as well as a plethora of other collections. The Hub is a free resource, and gives researchers the ability to discover unique sources that are often little-known. Although it does not hold any archive material itself, it does provide the means to cross-search archival descriptions from different institutions. To use it you can search using keywords, such as ‘refugee’ and fine-tune results using a variety of filters. As a continually expanding resource, it is a good idea to visit the site regularly. Jane’s talk and introduction to the Archives Hub displayed just how interesting and a useful resource the Archives Hub can be.
Louise Seaward presented on the different work the Transkribus team have been doing, and the ways in which the Transkribus tool can be used. Transkribus is a comprehensive platform for the automated recognition, transcription and searching of historical documents. This project is part of Recognition and Enrichment of Archival Documents project (READ). Transkribus is another free tool with over 10, 000 users and is a resource that will continue to grow and adapt. Automated text recognition (ATR) enables computers to automatically transcribe and recognise text. The tool processes by line rather than by character so needs to be trained by showing document images and transcripts. The more training data it is able to gain and analyse the more accurate the recognition. For example, you can train a model to transcribe and search documents, such as ‘the Bentham model’ and also to recognise other languages such as Cyrillic, French and Swedish. Although the transcription can have errors measured by the Character Error Rate (CER) – these transcripts can be understood, searched and corrected quickly. There are also a variety of tools that you can use to search documents such as Keyword spotting – detecting similarities in images of words rather than transcripts. These searches can be made with precision or broad searches to find all possible matches. The more users of Transkribus, the stronger the technology becomes. Documents do remain private as do any transcriptions. Louise’s talk and introduction to Transkribus displayed a useful and fascinating resource that will certainly be of use to anyone who is looking to transcribe documents and provide a searchable resource.
Marta Musso, the Communication Manager of Archives Portal Europe, gave an introduction to the fantastic archival resource, Archive Portal Europe. This resource is the largest online portal in European archives and collates archives across Europe to allow researchers to search them at the same time. Previously researchers had to visit various archival websites for their research but this resource allows them to find information from millions of archival materials stored in hundreds of archival institutions in one place – a ‘one-stop web service’. The Portal allows you to search multilingually, to refine your search and to save your searches (you can save them as long as you are signed into the website). The advantages of using this resource are enormous – it gives you the chance to research transnational aspects of European History, to compare isolated European communities and parallel lives and to view historical events and characters as they are narrated by different archives. This wonderful resource allows you to conduct multilingual and qualitative research and allows for different narrations of historical events. Similar to Archives Hub, it is easy to use, to search and you can refine your results to help you find the documents that you need. Marta’s talk and introduction to Archives Portal Europe showcased a beneficial and fantastic resource that all researchers should look at.
We would like to thank everyone who came to this well attended event, their additions to the discussions and for their tweets. We would also like to thank Marta Musso, Jane Ronson and Louise Seaward for their fascinating tour around some extremely useful digital resources. We had an interesting afternoon and we hope all the people who attended the event enjoyed it too!
We are excited to announce that our sixth annual History Day will take place on 27 November 2018. The event is aimed at postgraduate and undergraduate students, academics, early career and private researchers who are looking for advice on how to find and make best use of sources in their historical research. It brings together libraries, archives and other organisations, all showcasing their collections together in one place. It is a great opportunity for researchers to learn about diverse collections and chat with experienced, specialist staff about their research.
Jenna Pateman, a third year undergraduate student, recommended the event for all students of history, writing of History Day 2017, “The fair allowed attendees to speak one-on-one with representatives from these institutions, and discover the many possibilities open to researchers. Thanks to some of these conversations, I have had quite a few ideas for my dissertation as well as new ways to look at my research, and discovered new places where I can hunt for sources.”
Sandra Freshney, archivist from the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences described it as “a really fun day” where “over 200 attendees including undergraduates, postgraduates and established academics ‘shopped’ among the 56 tables”. Claire Titley from the London Metropolitan Archives recommended History Day as “a good chance to catch up with colleagues in other offices and see the range of activities being undertaken across different archives and libraries” and was inspired by the breadth of the collections present.
History Day 2018 will include talks throughout the day, detailing to researchers how to work successfully with research materials held by different repositories. We invite researchers and collections professionals to share their experiences and projects in an open call for papers. We are particularly looking for papers aimed at a general audience on broad topics, including cross-repository research, interesting methodologies, or collaboration. The deadline for submissions of abstracts for 15 minute presentations (by individuals or groups) is 8 June 2018.
For the IHR Winter Conference on Home: New Histories of Living we are highlighting some relevant sources in the IHR library. Inventories of furniture and possessions are especially well represented in our large collection of primary printed material, a fascinating way into the domestic arrangements of particular houses and the day-to-day lives of the people who lived there.
The focus here, though, is on the inventories of middling families in the towns and villages of pre-industrial England, typically probate inventories drawn up in connection with the legal validation of wills. Many are published in local and regional record series, either as general collections from a local probate court or as specialist compilations on particular subjects. For comparative research, the IHR library is a good place to access many editions in one place.
Inventories often give an idea of the sequence of rooms in a house, using phrases such as ‘the street parlour’ or ‘the chamber over the hall’. It is interesting to see the changes between early and later inventories. The will of William Robinson, linen weaver of Northallerton (1705), details the rooms and layout of his house as he divided it between existing occupants and allowed rights of access through other parts of the house. (Northallerton wills and inventories, 1666-1719, Surtees Society 220, 2016, p.xxxi and pp.146-8).
The probate inventory of Sarah De Morais, widow (1691), a French immigrant in London, lists the contents of ‘the Daughters Roome’ and ‘the widdows Roome’, both with multiple beds. Artisans usually worked from home, and the inventory of Thomas Grafforte, merchant tailor in St Giles Cripplegate, noted ‘4 weavers loomes, one warpe . . . 2 paire of Vices & a few Bobbins with other lumber’ in his ‘workeing roome’. (Probate inventories of French Immigrants in Early Modern London, 2014, pp.97-9 and 37-9)
Turning from towns to the countryside, Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex brings together probate inventories from two rural parishes, accompanied by a useful introduction which discusses the sorts of furniture and other goods mentioned in the inventories.
The inventory of Theophilus Lingard of Writtle in 1744 has a detailed description of the furniture and items in his house, as well as his livestock, farm equipment (including cucumber frames), produce and crops. The total value was £247. Five rooms contained beds: the best room, the little room, the striped bed room, the garrett and the maid’s room.
The best room included
‘a sacking bottom bedstead with blue mohair curtains lined with India Persian, a feather bed, bolster, and two pillows, three blankets, one quilt, a chest of draws, a dressing table and glass, six cane chairs, one elbow ditto, a stove grate, shovel, tongs, poker and holders, a hearth brush, a pair of window curtains and rod, a looking glass, the paper hangings’.
The maid’s room had
‘a corded bedstead with old curtains, a set of yellow ditto not put up, a feather bed, bolster, one pillow, two blankets, one rug, two old hutches (cupboards), four old chairs, an old trunk, a brass kettle, one small ditto, two old water potts, a pair of garden sheers, a pair of cobirons’.
His house also had a best parlour, pantry (with sixteen pewter plates, fifty-five pieces of Delph and earthenware), hall, cellar, buttery and out cellar. (Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex, 1635-1749, pp.269-70).
By contrast John Day the elder of Highwood in Writtle, carpenter (1726), lived in a much humbler dwelling, with goods worth only £15. His hall was simply furnished, though he owned a clock. Although he had four beds, one was ‘indeferant’, one ‘sorry’ and two ‘very mean’. (Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex, 1635-1749, p.260).
The IHR library collections support a range of study on the subject of architecture, and the new collection guide highlights some of the areas to explore. As well as the obvious parts of the collection, it draws attention to some more hidden sources of information.
We have many secondary works on individual buildings, building types and localities. There is much on studying and understanding buildings as well as their conservation, public interpretation and display, for example in works on using material culture and digital technologies. An 1897 piece in the journal The Antiquary outlines a lecture given at the Society of Antiquaries on legislation in different countries for the preservation of ancient buildings. The Foreign Office had collated the information following the ‘disastrous’ rebuilding of the west front of Peterborough cathedral. (The Antiquary Vol. 33, 1897)
The library has strong holdings of primary sources across the subject. Travel writing and antiquarian histories include contemporary descriptions and impressions of the built environment. Celia Fiennes, for example, wrote about Ambleside in 1698:
“villages of sad little huts made up of drye walls, only stones piled together and the roofs of same slatt; there seemed to be little or noe tunnells for their chimneys and have no morter or plaister within or without; for the most part I tooke them at first sight for a sort of houses or barns to fodder cattle in. not thinking them to be dwelling houses” (Morris, C., The Journeys of Celia Fiennes, 1949, p.196)
Landowners, tenants, architects, policy makers and commentators are all represented in biographies, prosopographies and personal narratives.
Household and trade records give insights into the building trade. For example in the Household Books of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, we learn of the steps taken to dismantle his Colchester house in 1481, store the timbers in a barn and move it to Stoke by Nayland where Richard Tornour, carpenter, “schal rere it and sett yt up there” (Crawford, A., The household books of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, 1462-1471, 1481-1483, 1992, Household Book II, p.121).
Records of government highlight social concerns and the resulting legislation. In an appendix to a parliamentary paper of 1864 we find a description of the history and current state of rural housing in a Report by Dr. Henry Julian Hunter on the House-Accommodation had by Rural Laborers in the different parts of England. He wrote:
“One house, called Richardson’s, could hardly be matched in England for original meanness and present badness of condition. Its plaster walls leaned and bulged very like a lady’s dress in a curtsey. One gable end was convex, the other concave, and on this last unfortunately stood the chimney, which was a curved tube of clay and wood resembling an elephant’s trunk. A long stick served as a prop to prevent the chimney from falling. The doorway and window were rhomboidal.”
(Seventh Report of the Medical Officer of the Privy Council, with Appendix, 1864, 19th Century House of Lords Sessional Papers, 1865: section on Bedfordshire, p.148. From Proquest’s UK Parliamentary Papers).
Alongside the written material there is much accompanying visual material in the form of illustrations and plans. As well as illustrations in mainly textual sources such as government reports and antiquarian histories there are editions of illustrations ranging from monastic plans in The Plan of St Gall, various editions of plans and illustrations of individual architects and places, to The photography of Bedford Lemere & Co.
To tie in with this year’s Being Human Festival theme of ‘Lost and Found’, the IHR Library recently installed a new exhibition focused on the four points of the compass and the library’s resources for each geographical area. I was tasked with ‘south’ – creating a display around the library’s resources on Antarctica.
As a result, to add something a little different to the display I recruited the help of the IHR’s Digital team to create a 3D model of an emperor penguin using the IHR/ICS Digital 3D Printing Lab. As Jonathan Blaney, IHR Digital Projects Manager and Editor of British History Online, explains, “When the IHR Library asked us to 3D-print a penguin for them we were delighted. The idea of the SAS 3D Centre is not that we think of what should be printed, but that we understand what could be printed and then advise (and train) people who come to us with their ideas. We’re not quite at that stage yet, because we are still learning ourselves, but the penguin was an easy request and the Library even sent a link to the file on Thingiverse.
‘Pollard’ being printed in the IHR/ICS Digital 3D Printing Lab
All we had to do was download the file and convert it to the format (called gcode) that our printer uses. We decided to print the penguin using white filament, so that it could more easily be painted later. We set our Ultimaker 3 printing and 30 minutes later … some feet had appeared. It’s a slow process. Although the penguin is only a few inches tall it took about six hours to print the whole thing. While it was printing we put some photos of the lower half on Twitter and asked people to guess what we were printing. A Moomin, a hobbit and Paddington Bear were some of the suggestions.
By the end of the day we handed the white penguin to Siobhan in the IHR Library for painting.”
The painting begins…
The finished model
And so I began the job of painting the model using a combination of acrylic paint, a fine liner paint pen and a highlighter pen. The finished article was then christened ‘Pollard’ by the IHR’s Librarian in homage to the Institute’s founder A. F. Pollard and subsequently installed in the display case situated in the third floor reading room.
More information on resources documenting the discovery and exploration of Antarctica can be found in the library’s Travel Writing collection guide. There are also multiple holdings at the classmark CLE.92.
The exhibition is on display in the third floor reading room until the New Year and is open to all.
The Institute of Historical Research Library will be closed on 21st November 2017.
The University of London is having its Foundation Day which is the annual celebration of the grant by William IV of the University’s first charter in 1836.
The University presented its first honorary degrees in June 1903. Among the recipients were the Prince of Wales (LLD) and the Princess of Wales (DMus), later King George V and Queen Mary.
Since then, this accolade has been bestowed on a wide range of distinguished individuals from both the academic and non-academic worlds. Their names are recorded in the Register of Honorary Degrees and recipients have included Judi Dench, T S Eliot, Margot Fonteyn and Henry Moore. A video newsreel film (1948) of Sir Winston Churchill being awarded a Doctor of Literature honoris causa at the University of London, Senate House can be watched here .
This e-resource is available through library PCs only.
Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War: Intelligence, Strategy and Diplomacy provides access to government secret intelligence and foreign policy files from 1873 – 1953.
Provides 144,000 pages of British government secret intelligence and foreign policy files sourced from The National Archives U.K. Content which is only available elsewhere by visiting the National Archives in London.
Contains nine file series which span four major Twentieth-Century conflicts – the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War, the early years of the Cold War andtheKorean War. Includes multiple search and filter options and a series of essays written by the resource Editorial Board of academic experts that contextualize the material and highlights key themes.
At the heart of this resource are the files from the Permanent Undersecretary’s Department (PUSD), which was the liaison between the Foreign Office and the British intelligence establishment. These files provide new insights into key moments of the twentieth century.
Another highlight are the original intelligence reports that were intercepted and decoded by the British Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park. These files include reports coming from high-grade cyphers such as ENIGMA. These reports were delivered to Churchill and in a lot of instances include Churchill’s own handwritten annotations in red ink.
Taken together, the nine series included in Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War provide a chance to study the in-depth history of the Second World War – its causes, course and consequences and the early Cold War, from a high level government and secret intelligence perspective.
Secret intelligence has long been regarded as the ‘missing dimension’ of international relations. However, thanks to the Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War project, Britain’s spies, security agents, codebreakers and deceptioneers are no longer missing in action. Denis Smyth, University of Toronto, Canada
Please note: The My Archive and the Document and Citation Download functions are not available on this trial edition of Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War. Documents can be viewed using the image viewer function.
If you have any feedback, please let us know through twitter @IHR_Library, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or come and see us in the Library Enquiries Office on Floor 1.
Life writing in the US collection. Women writing during the American Civil War.
Inspired by my recent reading of Sebastian Barry’s Days without End (borrowed from my local public library) I wanted to check out our holdings for the American Civil War 1861-1865 especially from the point of view of the women that stayed at home. I knew we had some diaries and collection of letters -I should know – being the librarian in charge of that collection but still – I was quite surprised to find out we had that many. I have got about 15 works of diaries and letters on my desk right now and that is not all of them.
They are normally located in the North American room on the second floor. It is a great feeling to just go to the room and browse the shelves to be able do a bit of shelf-cruising as Simon Schama calls it ( check out the Libraries week: Monday Blog ) I did just browse the shelves and found what I wanted but as it turns out all the items have same the class mark – as they should. Thank you to my colleague Michael Townsend for our in-house classification scheme. The class mark is UF.5175 Non-combatant Individual narratives.
And it is surely the individual speaking through these printed sources making them some of my favourite items in the library. Obviously the writers here the women are not all brilliant at conveying their experiences onto paper so if you are looking to be entertained it might not be the case. But the sheer amount of different kind of information these works can provide is staggering. Hidden within the details of for example meals, family illnesses, social gatherings and money worries there is a load of information. For a researcher patience and time are required depending on which issues are being studied. However all the works include indexes and in studying this material something might pop up which turns out to be quite essential for the research and to be exactly what was being looked for.
Not all of them stayed at home we have got memoirs of women working as spies, doctors, nurses and teachers. Women from the north living in the south for example “A Northern woman in Plantation south”, women from the south living in the north. Women travelling. Women writing a diary for themselves, for their children, writing letters to friends, lovers, mothers, brothers and fathers. Come and look for yourself.
Interested in other sources for US history check out the collection guide here.
Finally have a very lovely Library weekend and hope you enjoyed Libraries week!
This post was written by Kate Wilcox (IHR) and Jordan Landes (Senate House Library) during Libraries week 2017.
We are excited that the fifth History Day event will be held on 31 October. The event began in 2014 as a way to bring libraries and archives together in promoting collections and enabling researchers to discover more about them. Information professionals regularly direct researchers to sources in other places, so it seemed a natural progression to bring displays about those collections and the people involved together in one location.
The day includes a history fair where libraries, archives, historical organisations and publishers have stands, a one-stop celebration of history collections. Researchers can browse the materials, chat to staff members and discover more about sources for their research. Librarians and archivists can meet users and colleagues and refresh their knowledge of other collections.
The first History Day was held in conjunction with the Committee of London Research Libraries in History, a group of history librarians from around London, and the number of stands has grown steadily from 22 in 2014 to around 50 this year. Organisations range from the large to the small, and cover both general and specific subjects areas as well as networks of libraries and archives such as the Feminist and Women’s Libraries and Archives Network and the Engineering Institutions’ Librarians Group.
Alongside the history fair there will be panel sessions on topics useful and interesting to postgraduate and early career researchers. This year’s sessions are on the themes of Public History, Discovery in Libraries and Archives, and Digital History.
Throughout the year we share blog posts on a range of subjects on the related History Collections website. A special theme this year, given the date of History Day, is ‘Magic and the Supernatural’. Recent posts have covered the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature in Senate House Library, records of witchcraft at the London Metropolitan Archives, and vampires at the UCL School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies.
Free registration is open to everyone. You can also follow and post about the event on twitter using #histday17 and we will be sharing podcasts after the event.
Book Stacks, Book Lifts…and Daleks ?!?: the London Libraries Graduate Trainee Programme
Tomorrow marks the start of another year of the London Libraries Graduate Trainee Programme. As in previous years the day will be marked by an informal gathering of library trainees from the institutes of the School of Advanced Studies (the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, the Institute of Classical Studies, the Institute of Historical Research and the Warburg Institute) as well as those from other London-based libraries and information centres such as the Courtauld Institute, Kew Gardens and the Inns of Court. During this initial session the trainees will get a chance to meet each other over tea, coffee and cake (there’s always cake!) and meet those on the trainee committee (myself included) where we will tell them about such things as CILIP membership, events organised by CPD25 (including the a useful open day, Applying to Library School), the trainee blog as well as what typically happens throughout the programme.
Taken during a visit to Cambridge University Library, 30th June 2016
Designed to supplement the trainees’ work and training at their home institutions, the trainee programme has been run from SAS since 2008 and originally included trainees from the four main SAS institutions but, as already shown, it has expanded since to include a number of diverse institutions across London. The main part of the programme consists of a number of visits throughout the year to a wide variety of libraries and information centres based in London and beyond. Indeed, one of the primary aims of the programme is to give the trainees an insight into how varied the Library and Information sector can be. Given that many of the trainees come from academic libraries with excellent, world-renowned collections, this sector is fully explored through visits to the libraries of the Courtauld Institute, the Warburg Institute, Senate House Library, the Wellcome Institute and the Institute of Classical Studies (to name just a few!). Other sectors, however, are also touched upon during visits throughout the year; many of the trainees currently taking part in the programme are based in legal libraries and information centres (the Inns of Court, the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and the legal firm Slaughter & May) so insights are gained into law librarianship. Other libraries visited in recent years include those based at the Natural History Museum, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Globe Theatre Library and Archive, the BBC Archives Centre, the Guardian Newspaper as well as the Ministry of Justice.
The trainees loved the idea of the book lift at the London Library – 15th December 2016
Besides show-casing the diversity of the profession, the programme also aims to provide a number of practical training sessions throughout the year. In previous years, for example, the library of the Victoria and Albert Museum gave the trainees an introduction to art librarianship while Senate House Library’s senior conservator, Angela Craft, kindly gave the trainees a session on preservation and conservation. Other practical sessions have included introductions to library services for readers with disabilities, held at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Web 2.0 for Librarians given by Colin Homiski at Senate House Library and an introduction to school librarianship held at King Alfred’s School. During the trainees’ visit to my own library, the IHR, our trainee gives them a brief tour, explaining the type of material we collect while I hold a brief session on RDA and MARC21 cataloguing (depending on your feelings towards cataloguing this is either a cruel form of punishment or quite handy…obviously I hope for the latter).
Informally we also hope the programme allows the trainees to just regularly meet up together socially and either discuss their trainee experience, anything else library related or indeed any subject of their choice (I think that’s allowed!). Also by working together the trainees, over recent years, have increasingly taken the lead in organising the visits and training sessions, making the programme each year truly their own.
The trainees during a visit to the BBC Archives Centre in May 2012 – looks like some of the staff can be quite strict there!
If you would like to find out more about the London Library Trainee Programme check out their blog here.