Continuity of Care – The Royal Scottish National Hospital

Archives Hub feature for March 2015

The Wellcome Trust is currently funding a project to catalogue and conserve the records of the Royal Scottish National Hospital (RSNH), Larbert. The historical importance of the collection was recognized by its inclusion in the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register in 2013.

The foundation of the Institution

Photo of the the Scottish National Institution c1910

The Scottish National Institution c1910

The background to the Institution’s revolutionary approach lies in its reaction to the prevailing social attitudes of the time. Prior to the Mental Deficiency Act 1913, there was no distinction made between mental illness and mental impairment. If children with learning disabilities could not be looked after by their families the alternatives were the poorhouse or an adult lunatic asylum.

The concern generated by this situation resulted in the foundation of the Society for the Education of Imbecile Youth in Scotland in 1859. The Society supported a small school in Edinburgh but it became clear that in order fully to realise their vision, they needed their own premises. In Edinburgh, according to the first annual report, any negotiations with landlords ended as soon as the purpose of the proposed Institution was known. They had to look outside the city and land in Larbert, with its excellent rail links, was chosen.

Initially the children were admitted on a fee-paying basis. For those whose families could not afford the fee the Institution paid, following the election of suitable applicants by donors to the Society.

Applications for admission

Image of Application for admission, 1865

Application for admission, 1865

This election process created one of the most important parts of the collection: the applications. Around 3000 of these have survived dating from 1865 to the 1940s. Most early applications include a form titled ‘Queries to be answered by Parent or other near Relative personally acquainted with Case, applying for admission’. This form asks for information on the family’s circumstances as well as the child’s health, behaviour and educational abilities.

Usually accompanying the form is a medical certificate signed by a local doctor which classifies the child’s abilities as Class 1 – very hopeful; Class 2 – hopeful; Class 3 – less so; and Class 4 – subject to severe and frequent fits. To ensure the success of its chosen applicants, the Institution makes it clear on this second form that ‘cases of insanity, of confirmed epilepsy, of the deaf and dumb, and of the blind are ineligible for admission except upon payment’.

Electioneering was expected and applicants were often direct in their approach. One letter asks for a list of subscribers so they could be asked for their votes. Another indicates how large a donation could be expected from the locality on the election of the desired candidate. Lobbying on behalf of applicants became such as nuisance that as early as 1864 the Directors voted to ban the use of cards in canvassing as ‘expensive to the parents and an annoyance to the subscribers’.

Many of the applications include correspondence. One early application was for a boy from Saltcoats called Charles McLarty. According to his form he was admitted in 1881 at the age of 15. But the application includes four letters written between 1927 and 1933 presumably from a relative, asking about his health and sending him sweets. At the age of 67 Charlie was still at the Institution.

This issue of adults in what was ostensibly a children’s Institution exercised the Commissioners in Lunacy during their twice-yearly inspections. One wrote in 1876 ‘[it] is no longer as to the detention of one or two exceptional cases, but it applies to a third or more of the inmates’. They requested that the situation be regularised with orders of the sheriff and a paid licence. But given the lack of any suitable Institution to discharge them to, many were kept on as servants in the Institution or were simply paid boarders. It was only with the opening of the Industrial Colony for Adults in 1935 that the Larbert Institution could officially be said to provide all-life care.

Photo of the new Industrial Colony, 1935

The new Industrial Colony, 1935

Life in the Institution

There is ample evidence that the children were treated with kindness. Even in a source as potentially dry as the cash book there are entries devoted to payments for travelling musicians, toys for children and bonnets for boys.

Image: In the schoolroom, c1915

In the schoolroom, c1915

Three and a half hours of schooling were given each day in the early years of the Institution but even training was seen as pleasurable: ‘kindly instructors and happy children’ as one inspector described the workshops in 1927. And there were plenty of leisure activities provided. Picnics were popular as were the introduction of ‘talkies’ in 1936. These were described in the minutes: ‘no innovation has given greater pleasure than this either in anticipation, realisation or retrospect’.

It is easier to understand the medical superintendent’s bewilderment in 1920 when faced with three runaways from the Institution in the one month. One boy had only been in the Institution a week ‘and was home-sick for a garret in a horrible slum in Glasgow…[with] no furniture’.

Image: Picnic in the grounds, c1937

Picnic in the grounds, c1937

The RSNH on the Archives Hub

The collection description is already available on the Archives Hub. The rest of the collection will be added when the project ends in July this year. It will also be available on the University of Stirling’s own catalogue: http://www.calmview.eu/stirling/CalmView/Default.aspx.

Other highlights of the collection include admissions registers (1863-19880, minute books (1863-1969), annual reports (1862-1948) and correspondence (1881-1965).

University of Stirling collections on the Archives Hub

The university’s collections are as diverse as would be expected but are particularly strong in the areas of film-making, politics, literature and sport. Highlights of the collections on the Archives Hub include Lindsay Anderson (1923-1994) film director; James Hogg (1770-1835) poet and novelist; and the extensive collection of political papers, pamphlets and newspapers of William Tait (1889-1941) socialist labour politician.

Alison Scott, Project Archivist
University of Stirling

All images copyright the University of Stirling, and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

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Europeana Tech 2015: focus on the journey

Last week I attended a very full and lively Europeana Tech conference. Here are some of the main initiatives and ideas I have taken away with me:

Think in terms of improvement, not perfection

Do the best you can with what you have; incorrect data may not be as bad as we think and maybe users expectations are changing, and they are increasingly willing to work with incomplete or imperfect data. Some of the speakers talked about successful crowd-sourcing – people are often happy to correct your metadata for you and a well thought-out crowd-sourcing project can give great results.

BL Georeferencer, showing an old map overlaying part of Manchester: http://www.bl.uk/maps/georeferencingmap.html

BL Georeferencer, showing an old map overlaying part of Manchester: http://www.bl.uk/maps/georeferencingmap.html

The British Library currently have an initiative to encourage tagging of their images on Flickr Commons and they also have a crowd-sourcing geo-referencer project.

The Cooper Hewitt Museum site takes a different and more informal approach to what we might usually expect from a cultural heritage site. The homepage goes for an honest approach:

“This is a kind of living document, meaning that development is ongoing — object research is being added, bugs are being fixed, and erroneous terms are being revised. In spite of the eccentricities of raw data, you can begin exploring the collection and discovering unexpected connections among objects and designers.”

The ‘here is some stuff’ and ‘show me more stuff’ type of approach was noticeable throughout the conference, with different speakers talking about their own websites. Seb Chan from the Cooper Hewitt Museum talked about the importance of putting information out there, even if you have very little, it is better than nothing (e.g. https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18446665).

The speaker from Google, Chris Welty, is best known for his work on ontologies in the Semantic Web and IBM’s Watson. He spoke about cognitive computing, and his message was ‘maybe it’s OK to be wrong’. Something may well still useful, even if it is not perfectly precise. We are increasingly understanding that the Web is in a state of continuous improvement, and so we should focus on improvement, not perfection. What we want is for mistakes to decrease, and for new functionality not to break old functionality.  Chris talked about the importance of having a metric – something that is believable – that you can use to measure improvement. He also spoke about what is ‘true’ and the need for a ‘ground truth’ in an environment where problems often don’t have a right or wrong answer. What is the truth about an image? If you show an image to a human and ask them to talk about it they could talk for a long time. What are the right things to say about it? What should a machine see? To know this, or to know it better, Chris said, Google needs data – more and more and more data. He made it clear that the data is key and it will help us on the road to continuous improvement. He used the example of searching for pictures of flowers using Google to find ‘paintings with flowers’. If you did this search 5 years ago you probably wouldn’t get just paintings with flowers. The  search has improved, and it will continue to improve.  A search for ‘paintings with tulips’ now is likely to show you just tulips. However, he gave the example of  ‘paintings with flowers by french artists’ -  a search where you start to see errors as the results are not all by french artists. A current problem Google are dealing with is mixed language queries, such as  ‘paintings des fleurs’, which opens a whole can of worms. But Chris’ message was that metadata matters: it is the metadata that makes this kind of searching possible.

The Success of Failure

Related to the point about improvement, the message is that being ‘wrong’ or ‘failing’ should be seen in a much more positive light. Chris Welty told us that two thirds of his work doesn’t make it into a live environment, and he has no problem with that. Of course, it’s hard not to think that Google can afford to fail rather more than many of us! But I did have an interesting conversation with colleagues, via Twitter, around the importance of senior management and funders understanding that we can learn a great deal from what is perceived as failure, and we shouldn’t feel compelled to hide it away.

Photo from Europeana Tech

Europeana Tech panel session, with four continents represented

Think in terms of Entities

We had a small group conversation where this came up, and a colleague said to me ‘but surely that’s obvious’. But as archivists we have always been very centered on documents rather than things – on the archive collection, and the archive collection description. The  trend that I was seeing reflected at Europeana Tech continued to be towards connections, narratives, pathways, utilising new tools for working with data, for improving data quality and linking data, for adding geo-coordinates and describing new entities, for making images more interoperable and contextualising information. The principle underlying this was that we should start from the real world – the real world entities – and go from there. Various data models were explored, such as the Europeana Data Model and CIDOC CRM, and speakers explained how entities can connect, and enable a richer landscape. Data models are a tricky one because they can help to focus on key entities and relationships, but they can be very complex and rather off-putting. The EDM seems to split the crowd somewhat, and there was some criticism that it is not event-based like CIDOC CRM, but the CRM is often criticised for being very complex and difficult to understand. Anyway, setting that aside, the overall the message was that relationships are key, however we decide to model them.

Cataloguing will never capture everyone’s research interests

An obvious point, but I thought it was quite well conveyed in the conference. Do we catalogue with the assumption that people know what they need? What about researchers interested in how ‘sad’ is expressed throughout history, or fashions for facial hair, or a million other topics that simply don’t fit in with the sorts of keywords and subject terms we normally use. We’ll never be able to meet these needs, but putting out as much data as we can, and making it open, allows others to explore, tag and annotate and create infinite groups of resources. It can be amazing and moving, what people create: Every3Minutes.

There’s so much out there to explore….

There are so many great looking tools and initiatives worth looking at, so many places to go and experiment with open data, so many APIs enabling so much potential. I ended up with a very long list of interesting looking sites to check out. But I couldn’t help feeling that so few of us have the time or resource to actually take advantage of this busy world of technology. We heard about Europeana Labs, which has around 100 ‘hardcore’ users and 2,200 registered keys (required for API use). It is described as “a playground for remixing and using your cultural and scientific heritage. A place for inspiration, innovation and sharing.” I wondered if we would ever have the time to go and have a play. But then maybe we should shift focus away from not being able to do these things ourselves, and simply allow others to use the data, and to adopt the tools and techniques that are available – people can create all sorts of things. One example amongst many we heard about at the conference is a cultural collage: zenlan.com/collage. It comes back to what is now quite an old adage, ‘the best innovation may not be done by you’. APIs enable others to innovate, and what interests people can be a real surprise. Bill Thompson from the BBC referred to a huge interest in old listings from Radio Times, which are now available online.

The International Image Interoperability Framework

I list the IIIF this because it jumped out at me as a framework that seems to be very popular – several speakers referred to it, and it very positive terms. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it seemed to be seen as a practical means to ensure that images are interoperable, and can be moved around different systems.

Think Little

One of my favourite thoughts from the conference, from the ever-inspirational Tim Sherratt, was that big ideas should enable little ideas. The little ideas are often what really makes the world go round. You don’t have to always think big. In fact, many sites have suffered from the tendency to try to do everything. Just because you can add tons of features to your applications, it doesn’t mean you should

The Importance of Orientation

How would you present your collections if you didn’t have a search box? This is the question I asked myself after listening to George Oates, from Good Form and Spectacle. She is a User Interface expert, and has worked on Flickr and for the Internet Archive amongst other things. I thought her argument about the need to help orientate users was interesting, as so often we are told that the ‘Google search box’ is the key thing, and what users expect. She talked about some of her experiments with front end interfaces that allow users to look at things differently, such as the V&A Spelunker. She spoke in terms of landmarks and paths that users could follow. I wonder if this is easier said than done with archives without over-curating what you have or excluding material that is less well catalogued, or does not have a nice image to work with. But I certainly think it is an idea worth exploring.

View of V&A Speleunker

“The V&A Spelunker is a rough thing built by Good, Form & Spectacle to give a different view into the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum”

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Exhibitions at the Shakespeare Institute: seeing beyond the book shelves

Archives Hub feature for February 2015

Image of poster for 2014 exhibition: Birth in Shakespeare's time

Poster for 2014 exhibition: Birth in Shakespeare’s time (to mark the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth)

The Shakespeare Institute Library holds monthly exhibitions which bring out lesser known aspects of our collections and especially our archive holdings.

Image of poster for 2014 exhibition: Where are we now?

Poster for 2014 exhibition: Where are we now? (Showcasing alumni careers)

These exhibitions were designed as a way to inform our users, predominantly our student body, of the breadth and depth of our holdings. As they have developed they have also enabled us to connect with the students and our local community in other ways: highlighting the careers and output of alumni of the Institute, promoting other collections in the local area, tying in with events and conferences, etc.

All library staff get involved in the researching, formatting, publicising and mounting of exhibitions so, as well as informing our users our staff get an excellent chance for learning more about the contents of the library and to work on areas of professional development – which, of course, can only benefit out users. The enthusiasm of the staff for the exhibitions has helped developed an exciting programme themes which we programme for the year. Work on these is scheduled so that there is a clear picture of when other collections need to be approached. As one is launched the work on the next begins.

Photo of exhibition on Henry V

Exhibition on Henry V (1913) commemorating the boys of King Edward VI School killed in WW1

These exhibitions have also given us the opportunity to collaborate with neighbouring collections. In November 2014 we held an exhibition on the boys of a King Edward VI School (Stratford-upon-Avon) who died in the First World War and performed in a production of Henry V in 1913, directed by Frank Benson.

Image of poster for 2014 exhibition: Shakespeare's Composers

Poster for 2014 exhibition: Shakespeare’s Composers

We’ve also worked extensively with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Library of Birmingham, most recently on an exhibition on Shakespeare’s Composers for which we displayed a manuscript of Vaughan Williams incidental music to the afore mentioned Henry V (1913) and a manuscript of Granville Bantock’s music for a production of Macbeth performed at the Prince’s Theatre, London, 1926.

We also utilise the knowledge of our academic staff in order to develop exhibition ideas, themes and to check over content. When tied in to our curriculum, conference and symposia themes the exhibitions have also proved an ideal way of encouraging students to look beyond the reading list. By highlighting areas of direct relevance they also encourage visiting academics and students into the Library when they are attending events at the Institute. Our library users have really appreciated the opportunity to see beyond the book shelves.

Blogging about the exhibitions has also helped to market our library beyond the University.

Image of poster for 2014 exhibition: Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 (Old Vic, 1945)

Poster for 2014 exhibition: Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 (Old Vic, 1945)

In January 2015 as student came from America to consult the collections at the Shakespeare Institute, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and King Edward’s School after reading about the KES Henry V exhibition online. Now he has had access to the archives for this production he’s started writing a play as well as his MA dissertation. SIL blog address: http://silibrary1.wordpress.com/

Our programme of exhibitions is going from strength-to-strength and their success has been acknowledged by our department in Library Services with the funding of high quality display boards and a glass cabinet in order to facilitate more ambitious projects. This year we look forward to showing off our resources on some fascinating themes, including: Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare, Elizabethan Printing, Comic Book Shakespeare and Shakespeare and the Actor. We hope that they’ll continue to be informative and inspiring to our users!

Karin Brown, Shakespeare Institute Librarian

Shakespeare Institute Library: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/edacs/departments/shakespeare/research/shakespeare-institute-library.aspx

Shakespeare Institute: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/edacs/departments/shakespeare/index.aspx

Related:

Browse the collections of The Shakespeare Institute (University of Birmingham) on the Archives Hub:

Image of poster for 2014 exhibition: Foakes and Hawkes

Poster for 2014 exhibition: Foakes and Hawkes

All images copyright Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

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2014 Features Showcase

Archives Hub feature for January 2015

Woolwich advert, 1945

Woolwich Equitable Building Society advert, 1945 (Barclays Group Archives feature, January 2014).

This month, January 2015, we’re showcasing our features from 2014, with themes including banking, dance, war, peace and educational reform.

Barclays Group Archives

Founded in 1690 by two goldsmith bankers, Barclays PLC now has customers in over 50 countries:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/01/barclays-group-archives/

Be my Valentine

Photo of Barbara Cartland, 1925

© Image is in the public domain: Barbara Cartland, 1925 Barbara Cartland, 1925 (Be my Valentine feature, February 2014).

Love letters, cards and poetry, together with less directly connected ‘Valentines’ descriptions!:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/02/be-my-valentine/

A European Journey: The Archives Portal Europe

The Archives Hub is the UK ‘Country Manager’ for the Archives Portal Europe, a European aggregator for archives:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/03/a-european-journey-the-archives-portal-europe/

250 and counting!

More than 250 UK institutions and organisations now contribute to the Archives Hub! A look at some of our most recent contributors:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/04/250-and-counting/

A Spring in Your Step

Image of couple dancing, 1900s.

Lecon de Cake-Walk, 1900s.
Image in Public domain
(A Spring in Your Step feature, May 2014).

Collections relating to dancers, choreographers and teachers, schools and companies, ballet, contemporary and other styles of dance:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/05/a-spring-in-your-step/

Exploring British Design: An Introduction

The Archives Hub has joined forces with The University of Brighton Design Archives for an exciting new project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/07/exploring-british-design-an-introduction/

The Anti-Apartheid Movement

Image of Free Nelson Mandela rally poster

Free Nelson Mandela rally poster (1980), AAM Archives, ref: po059. (The Anti-Apartheid Movement feature, July 2014.)

Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives held at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/07/the-anti-apartheid-movement/

Swords into Ploughshares

The cataloguing of two peace organisations’ archives at LSE, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Fellowship of Reconciliation: London Union:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/08/swords-into-ploughshares/

Kettle’s Yard Archive

Image of Jim Ede

Jim Ede at Kettle’s Yard – Kettle’s Yard, 
University of Cambridge (Kettle’s Yard Archive feature, September 2014).

Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge, much more than a house, a museum or a gallery:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/09/kettles-yard-archive/

Engineering and innovation during the First World War

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers archives on how the war sparked a technological battle for the best weapons, infrastructure and defences, and what this meant for engineering:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/10/engineering-and-innovation-during-the-first-world-war/

James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth – pioneering educational reformer

Photograph of Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell, c. 1864. Photograph by Alexander McGlashon (James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth – pioneering educational reformer feature, November 2014).

Archivists at The University of Manchester Library recently catalogued the papers of celebrated Victorian educationist Sir James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth (1804-1877), relating to his career, family ties and literary circles:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/11/james-phillips-kay-shuttleworth-pioneering-educational-reformer/

The Twelve Days of Christmas – archives style!

Our feature is (loosely!) based on the traditional folk melody ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. Collections highlighted include those of the drummer Max Abrams, the Swan Land and Cattle Company, Hen Gapel, Llanbryn-mair Chapel Records (one of the oldest and most famous chapels in Wales) and the singer David Cassidy:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/12/the-twelve-days-of-christmas-archives-style/

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Exploring British Design: Research Paths II

We recently ran a second workshop as part of our Exploring British Design project. The workshops aim  to understand more about  approaches to research, and researchers’ understanding and use of archives.

The second workshop was run largely on the same basis as the first workshop, using the same exercises.

Looking at what our researchers said and documented about their research paths over the two workshops, some points came out quite strongly:

  • Google is by far the most common starting point but its shortcomings are clear and issue of trust come up frequently.
  • There is often a strong visual emphasis to research, including searching for images and the use of Pinterest; there seems to be a split between those who gravitate towards a more text-based approach and those who think visually (many of our participants were graphic designers though!).
  • It is common to utilise the references listed in Wikipedia articles.
  • The library as a source is seen as part of a diverse landscape – it is one place to go to, albeit an important one. It is not the first port of call for the majority.
  • Aggregators are not specifically referred to very often. But they may be seen as a place to go if other searches don’t yield useful results.
  • Talking to people is very important, be it lecturers, experts, colleagues or friends
  • Online research is more immediate, and usually takes less effort, but there are issues of trust and it may not yield specific enough results, or uncover the more obscure sources.
  • There is a tendency to start from the general and work towards the more specific. With the research paths of most of the researchers, the library/archive was somewhere in the middle of this process.
  • Personal habits and past experience play a very large part, but there is a real interest in finding new routes through research, so habit is not a sticking point, but simply the dominant influence unless it is challenged.

For the second workshop, the first exercise asked participants to document their likely research paths around a topic.

flip chart showing research paths for a topic

Research paths of two researchers for the topic of Simpsons of Piccadilly

 

We had four pairs of researchers looking at different topics, and we left them to discuss their research paths for about 45 minutes. The discussions following the exercise picked up on a number of areas:

Online vs Offline

We kicked off by asking the researchers about online versus ‘offline’ research paths. One participant commented that she saw online as a route through to traditional research – maybe to locate a library or archive – ‘online is telling me where to look’ but in itself it is too general and not specific enough; whereas the person she was paired with tended to do more research online. He saw online as giving the benefit of immediacy – at any time of day or night he could access content. The issue of trust came up in the discussion around this issue, and one participant summed up nicely: “If you do online research there is less effort but there is less trust; if you research offline there is more effort but there is more trust.”

Following on from the discussion about how people go about using online services, there was a comment that things found online are often the more obvious, the more used and cited resources. Visiting a library or archive may give more opportunity to uncover little known sources that help with original research. This seemed to be endorsed by most participants, one commenting that Pinterest tends to reflect what is trendy and popular. However, there was also a view that something like Pinterest can lead researchers to new sources, as they are benefiting from the efforts, and sometimes the quite obsessive enthusiasms, of a wide range of people.

There was agreement that online research can lead to ‘information dumping’, where you build up a formidable collection of resources, but are unlikely to get round to sorting them all out and using them.

Library Resources

The issue of effort came up later in the discussion when referring to a particular university library (probably typical of many university libraries), and the amount of effort involved in using its databases. There was a comment about how you need to ‘work yourself up to an afternoon in the library’ and there seemed to be a general agreement that the ‘search across all resources’ often produced quite meaningless results. When compared to Google, the issue seems to be that relevance ranking is not effective, so the top results often don’t match your requirements. There was also some discussion around the way that library resource discovery services often involve too many steps, and there is effort in understanding how the catalogue works. One participant, whose research centres on the Web and the online user experience, felt that printed sources were of little use to him, as they were out of date very quickly.

Curating your sources

One researcher talked about using Pinterest to organise findings visually. This was followed up by another researcher talking about how with online research you can organise and collect things yourself. It facilitates ‘curating’ your own collection of resources. It can also be easier to remember resources if they are visual. Comparing Pinterest to the Library – with the former you click to add the image to your board; with the Library you pay a visit, you find the book, you take it to the scanner, you pay to take a scan…although it is increasingly possible to take pictures of books using your own device. But the general feeling was that the Web was far quicker and more immediate.

Attitudes towards research

One participant felt that there might be a split between those more like him who see research as ‘a means to an end’ and those who enjoy the process itself. So maybe some are looking for the shortest route to the end goal, and others see research as more exploratory activity and expect it to take time and effort. This may partly be a result of the nature and scope of the research. Short time scales preclude in-depth research.

Talking about serendipitous approaches, someone commented that browsing the library shelves can be constructive, as you can find books around your subject that you weren’t aware existed. This is replicated to some extent in something like Amazon, which suggests books you might be interested in. There was also some feeling that exploring too many avenues can take the researcher off topic and take up a great deal of time.

Trust and Citation

The issue of trust is important.  A first-hand experience, whether of a place you are researching, or using physical archive sources, is the most trustworthy, because you are seeing with your own eyes, experiencing first hand or looking at primary sources first hand; a library provides the next level of trust, as a book is an interpretation, and you may feel it requires corroboration; the online world is the least trustworthy. You will have the least trust if you are looking at a website where you don’t know about who or what is behind it. There was agreement that trust can come through crowd sourced information, but also some discussion around how to cite this (for example, using the Harvard system to reference web pages and crowd sourced resources). This led on to a short discussion around the credibility of what is cited within research. Maybe attitudes to Wikipedia are slowly changing, but at present there is generally still a feeling that a researcher cannot cite it as a source. There are traditions within disciplines around how to cite and what are the ‘right’ things to cite.

[Further posts on Exploring British Design will follow, with reflections on our workshops and updates on the project generally]

 

 

 

 

 

 

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