Second-year undergraduates from the University of Manchester and Liverpool John Moores University were invited to go digging in the archives on Monday, as part of a new workshop designed to introduce students to conducting original research for their final-year dissertations.
‘Advancing into the Archives’ was a one-day event held at Liverpool Records Office, giving practical advice on how to identify relevant historic material for developing a new project, liaising with archivists to get the most out of your research trip, and learning how to handle fragile documents and records appropriately. Beginning with an introductory talk by Liverpool’s Chief Archivist Helena Smart on the vast wealth of material and resources located at the Records Office (of which only a fraction is currently catalogued), students then participated in a session on tips for planning your dissertation led by Manchester masters student Olivia Havercroft.
They then used letters and press reports from the 1888 Jack the Ripper murders held at the National Archives to think about the nature of the sources available for studying different periods of history, and the way in which different records get preserved. In the afternoon session, students were then able to develop research projects based on handling original archives from Liverpool’s vast collections, including records from the Cavern Club, Liverpool workhouses and Lock Hospitals, child emigration reports, theatre archives, and even historic papers from Everton Football Club.
Here is a selection of some of the feedback received:
‘This helped me to think ahead to 3rd year, especially about what topics might interest me, and what relevant archive materials I should use.’
‘It gave me a much greater understanding of what types of source material is out there to be used, and how broad it is.’
‘Finding what is available made it less scary and gives me an insight on how to begin my 3rd year.’