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Floundering

Very insightful piece into what archival research is like for academic historians. Often boring, but sometimes you turn up a real gem – usually quite unexpected.

Will Pooley

I sometimes wonder what outsiders think archival research is like.

The message blasting from mass culture is not reassuring. From the ‘archaeologist’ Indiana Jones to Dan Brown’s ‘symbologist’ Robert Langdon, audiences are told that archive work is exciting, and dangerous, that it’s ok to lie and steal to get the information, and that men always do it with female sidekicks. If you want to see perhaps the most shockingly outdated embodiment of this, I dare you to look for the recent McDonald’s advert which features a caricatured elderly male professor along with his young female researcher having an eureka moment. Do not watch it unless you are prepared to be angry.


But – and here’s the kicker – archival research is fundamentally quite boring most of the time. In fact, that boredom is part of what makes it exciting. I wonder how many other historians were keen on fishing in their…

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Really good article about doing historical research with fragmentary source material.

Dr Alun Withey

At the moment I’m once again on the hunt for elusive Welsh practitioners in the early modern period. The idea is to try and build up a map of practice, not only in Wales, but across the whole of the country. Once this is done we should have a clearer picture of where practitioners were, but also other key factors such as their networks, length of practice, range and so on.

Working on Welsh sources can at times be utterly frustrating. For some areas and time period in Wales sources are sparse to the point of non-existence. Time and again sources that yield lots of new names in England draw a complete blank in Wales. Ian Mortimer’s work on East Kent, for example, was based on a sample of around 15000 probate accounts. This enabled him to draw important new conclusions about people’s spending on medical practitioners in their final…

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I blogged recently about my productive time at the recent Guild of One-Name Studies regional meeting at Perth, Scotland. I was asked after that event if I could record a version of the talk I gave, and put it online. It’s now online, and this blog post gives more details, as well as the YouTube link.

Cavers One-Name Study Blog

I gave a talk recently about my Cavers one-name study at the Guild of One-Name Studies regional meeting at Perth, Scotland, on 2nd November 2013. I was asked afterwards by fellow Guild members if I could put a version online. I’ve just recorded a new version, slides and audio. It’s just under 16 minutes long, and is essentially the same talk as before. I talked about how my one-name study has evolved over 30 years, including changing techniques, benefits and challenges of digitisation, and moves into social networking. Here’s the link.

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Wonderful blog post, full of photos, about historic Innerpeffray Library in Perthshire.

Bookwitch

Innerpeffray Library

You know when people share their favouritest place with you, and you’re afraid you’ll hate it and that it will cause problems between you and all that? Helen Grant has been going on and on about Innerpeffray Library – almost in the middle of nowhere in Perthshire – for so long, that I thought she might, just possibly, be deluded.

Innerpeffray Library - graveyard

Innerpeffray Library

Dear reader, she’s actually right. Innerpeffray is the place to go (especially if it doesn’t rain) for the library experience with a difference. (Pardon me if I sound like an advertisement.) It’s a beautiful old building, next to an old chapel – with graveyard – in the loveliest of settings; green fields with sheep in, a grassy ‘drive’ covered in tiny daisies, lovely plants along the path there, future nettle soup on the side, and a warm welcome when you arrive.

Innerpeffray Library

The librarian is called Lara, and I have rarely…

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Really insightful article about some of the problems with the planned UK implementation of Open Access.

The Disorder Of Things

This is the text of a document prepared by Meera and me on Article Processing Charges as currently understood and the serious risks we think they pose to academic freedom and funding, broadly understood (previous discussed by severalcontributors toour openaccess series). It is also available as a pdf, and we encourage academics to think carefully about the issues foregrounded, and to act accordingly.


Applegarth Press

Summary

  • The Government is pushing academic publishing to a ‘pay-to-say’ model in order to achieve open access to publicly funded research
  • This ‘gold’ route to open access, which levies Article Processing Charges (as proposed in the Finch Report and taken up by RCUK and HEFCE) poses a major problem for academics in the UK:
    • It threatens academic freedom through pressures on institutions to distribute scarce APC resources and to judge work by standards other than peer review
    • It threatens research funding by…

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