A virtual tour to compare past and present

At the University of Leicester Centre for Urban History, Colin Hyde has been documenting Leicester’s past and present for many years. Among the photographs Colin has contributed to the Manufacturing Pasts collection are a set depicting Leicester’s Frog Island in 2002 and 2003. Frog Island has almost no residents, but has been home to many industries, most likely because it is flanked by the River Soar and the Grand Union Canal, providing convenient shipping and transportation.

Frisby Jarvis Building in 2002. Photo courtesy of Colin Hyde

Frog Island has an icon: the Frisby Jarvis building, a worsted spinning mill. It is a very impressive building, part of a large plant which also included Farben Works, off Slater Street; it was Grade II listed in April 2003. What makes it the icon of Frog Island is the fact it almost burnt to the ground in 2005 — almost, but not quite. The centre of the building was destroyed, leaving the sides fairly intact. An enterprising car wash now functions quite happily in the burnt-out centre of the building.

Car wash situated in former Frisby Jarvis building on Frog Island. Photo courtesy of weegeebored on Flickr.

The fact that we had Colin’s photos from 2002, well before the fire, allowed me the chance to create virtual tours of Frog Island, one for 2002 and one for 2012. All I had to do was visit the places Colin had photographed back in 2002 and snap them myself. So that’s just what I did, on a sunny Saturday in late August.

But how to create a virtual tour? I decided to try using Prezi. We have received rights to ordnance survey maps of Leicester. So I uploaded into Prezi a 1995 ordnance survey map of Frog Island, then uploaded the photos and placed them as accurately as I could onto the map. I did this for both sets of photographs. I had to use the 1995 ordnance survey map for both sets of photos, because we did not receive rights to any more recent map. The final product can be viewed here on Prezi. Take the tour yourself and tell us what you think!

(Tip of the day for using Prezi: if you click More, then Fullscreen, under the presentation to the right, the images display larger and more nicely.)

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist, University of Leicester

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

Building Shared Heritages and new collections

Last weekend Terese Bird and I presented a workshop at a conference organised by Building Shared Heritages: Cultural Diversity in Leicester, which is a co-sponsored project at the University of Leicester.

There was a good turnout for the conference, and many people signed up for our 45 minute workshop, which we ran twice. 

Following a brief introduction to the project and a demonstration of the Manufacturing Pasts collection on MyLeicestershire History, we asked our attendees to go on and use the collection.  Although the time available was short, we were very kindly given some feedback on the project/collection, which suggested we disseminate information further (ie. via special interest groups and local societies), so we will try and publicise the project using as many avenues as possible. 

All in all people agreed that the resources were very useful and that they could make direct use of them, either in a personal or teaching capacity.  One attendee also said the project was similar to something he was working on, so it’s good to know that more people out there are now starting to think about preserving the historical documents and heritage in a digital format.

The slides for the workshop can be found on slideshare.

In a separate development, we have taken the decision to split the project outputs into two separate collections on the MyLeicestershire History site.  The digitised primary resources will remain on the Manufacturing Pasts collection, but the learning resources (OERs) will now be housed on a new project, entitled ‘Manufacturing Pasts – Learning Resources’.  We took this decision as we felt that the learning resources might get lost amongst the wealth of primary materials in the collection, and we wanted people to be able to locate and access them easily.

Although the new collection has already been created on the site, we have yet to upload the learning resources, so if there are any keen people out there who want to see some now, you will have look in the Manufacturing Pasts collection for the moment.

Copyright hurdles, digitisation considerations and OER discussions: post selection activities

I’m very pleased to report that much progress has been made since the Christmas break and as a result it feels like the Manufacturing Pasts project is fully underway. 

Early in January our Learning Technologist Terese Bird met with Simon and Rebecca to gauge their ideas for and expectations of the OERs produced by the project, some of which she has detailed in her recent blogs Building learning and research materials from image banks and Making Engaging Learning Materials about History, Industry, Sociology…

Coupled with this, three weeks ago Simon and Rebecca finished their initial selection of resources for two of our four themes:

• Conservation and Regeneration – focussing on the Liberty Shoe Factory

• Organisation of the Factory – focussing on the Corah textile factory (with additional pieces about the D. Byford and Co. Factory)

Armed with these lists of resources, Terese and I set about familiarising ourselves with the items selected from the Skinner Archive, held here in the David Wilson Library.  Terese wanted to see what kind of material she could incorporate into the OERs, and I was interested to know whether I could ascertain their copyright status.

Whilst Terese has been making leaps and bounds on her side of things, the © side has been progressing a little slower as many of the resources donated to us have no clear ownership status. We have books focussing on specific companies, which appear to have been created purely for internal distribution, and photographs of people who are not known to us, on top of letters from companies who are long since defunct or who have been taken over numerous times. I’ll write more on this in a separate blog when I’ve finished going through the items.

This progress has also required us to keep an eye on our other ‘work packages’, so we are also keen to get items digitised as soon as possible, so things like adding metadata, uploading content to the web site and creating our final OERs can then kick into gear.

With digitisation in mind, last week I met with our fellow team member Evelyn Cornell, along with the University Archivist Alex Cave, to establish a suitable referencing system for the items.    As we are planning to outsource our digitisation, we were keen to give each item a constant unique identifier which would not only ensure that items can be easily checked out and in again following digitisation, but also enable us to trace the source and holding location of the original of any digitised item, which is something our colleagues in the Local Record Office were keen to be able to do. 

In the midst of all this, we have also had our first steering group meeting. Although I was not in attendance, it is clear from the minutes that the group are enthusiastic about the aims of the project and have some good sound guidance to impart to us. We have a project meeting later this week in which we will discuss some of the points raised and I hope to write a blog about them next week.

Getting started

The project began formally on 1 November 2011.

We are now putting the staffing arrangements in place and had our first project meeting on 4 November.

The project manager, Tania Rowlett, will be in post from 1 December.

Colleagues from the Centre for Urban History, the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland and the University of Leicester Library will now begin to select the primary historical resources that will be digitized from the Library’s Special Collections and the Record Office.

These will form the basis of the Open Educational Resources to be created later in the project.