Research methods in historical studies – via Vimeo

I’ve been building open-access learning materials (open educational resources or OERs) for the Manufacturing Pasts project for several months now. Our plan all along has been to create image-led learning materials which tell their story but don’t dictate conclusions or analysis.

However, through showing our materials to others and asking for comments, one request I’ve been hearing is to provide enough context that any learner can grasp the main message of the material; for example, a brief background story of the factory, a description of why it is significant that this building could not be saved from demolition. One way we will be providing context will be by recording short videos of our history lecturers speaking about the scholarly case for each of the four themes within our project.

Then we realised that the entire concept of using visual primary sources in historical research could use explanation. How does one make valid research conclusions from photos, newspaper clippings, maps and building plans? We decided to ask a PhD student involved in that field to speak to that question. The result is Using Visual Sources in Historical Research, a 17 minute video which we posted on Vimeo:

Using visual sources in historical research from Media Zoo on Vimeo.

We think this is a pretty interesting outcome of this digitisation and open-resources project: the creation of materials which help to inform research methods particular to history but surely applicable in any field.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and SCORE Research Fellow, University of Leicester


Collections update – new items added

I am pleased to say that we have made further progress on both our resource collections.  As I mentioned in my last blog, we decided to split the items we were producing into two collections to enable people to access the type of materials they needed quickly and easily. 

You can now find some of the learning resources we have produced to date in the Manufacturing Pasts – Learning Resources collection.   Some items, such as ‘A new factory in Leicester – Liberty Shoes’ have been released in multiple formats to enable as many people as possible to use and re-use them on different devices, although this has not been possible for all.  Additional resources and some aesthetic tweaks are expected in the next few weeks but we wanted to make available those created to date.

The other Manufacturing Pasts collection is now host to digitised materials from the Records Office.  There are a wide plethora of items, from photographs to employee handbooks, company minutes to letters, reports, brochures and magazines, all relating to the Corah, Liberty or Byford businesses. 

I had no idea how many times the Corah factory had received royal visitors until I saw some of these materials:  King George IV and Queen May (1918), Queen Elizabeth II (1958, Princess Margaret (1972) and Princess Anne (1985). 

For an interesting read, see the twenty-seven page fifty-seven point Corah Employee Handbook from 1954, which includes a one page contract to be signed by employees authorising deductions from their wages for Leicester & County Convalescent Homes Society, the Social and Athletic Club as well as the Save the Children fund.   Other points of note include fines for lateness, the forbidding of ‘unauthorised raffles’ and ‘trespassing’ (wandering from one department to another without a work related reason), and Corah’s ‘well equipped and up-to-date Medical Section’.

Welcome to Corah's Employee Handbook 1959

It is interesting to compare this with the 1959 edition of the handbook, Welcome to Corah’s where a map of the factory is now included, along with a recommendation that employees join a union as it ‘makes for easier and better industrial relations between the Company and its employees’.   An additional deduction for Dr Barnados Homes has been added to the contract of employment, a section on telephone calls is now included, and under-cover parking has become reserved for Management.  I note, however, that the company still provide a full-time attendant to make small repairs to employee’s cycles and motorbikes.  

These new items are well worth a look, so please go ahead, and tell us what you think.