The Archives Hub would love to hear from any researchers using the Hub interested in contributing a case study. Please do get in touch with us!
Case Study: Medical Imaging
Hub team member Lisa Jeskins (LJ) interviewed researcher Alison Croasdale (AC) on her use of archives in her research and in particular her use of the John Rylands University Library's Special Collections.
I just find working with archives exciting.
It's absolutely shaped where I’m going with my PHD
LJ: What are you researching?
AC: My PhD is in English, but because I come from a Masters Degree in critical theory, it's the theory side of English, so it’s not necessarily about literature or film. I’m interested in the shift from analogue to digital and imaging and how that impacts on how people see themselves. I’m looking specifically at medical imaging too which is how I came to use the Journal Archives.
LJ: Have you ever published articles or are you not at that stage yet?
AC: I’m not at that stage yet, because my original focus was just on the shift of analogue to digital forms of imaging its taken me this long to be able to narrow it down to a manageable PhD.
LJ: Have you made any new connections or covered new information or new perspectives by using archives materials?
AC: Its absolutely shaped where I’m going with my PhD. Initially I was travelling to London a few times to look at some archives there and my project was still to unfocussed and vague, but with a PhD you have to make an original contribution to knowledge so we thought the best way to do that was to find unique case studies in archives and then I discovered there was a significant medical archive in Manchester, and this has shaped the chapter I’m writing at the moment.
LJ: How do you normally search for archives materials? Do you only stick to UK materials or a particular region?
AC: To begin with I came to start using the archives because I was looking at the history of photography and I found that the Royal Society had loads of stuff by Fox Talbot the British inventor. Then, as my work started to form around case studies, I started looking for archives specifically holding certain kinds of information, so now I’m at the stage where I’m looking for information to do with medical imaging. This means that I’m searching for archive information in several different places that hold large collections of images of things to do with x-rays. So that's one route I’m taking. On the other side, as I’m finding more specific things I’m looking for papers in places which hold papers by specific people.
LJ: As everything unfolds you find more information about it, don't you?
AC: I need to search for archives more generally just to see what they have or more specifically to expand on things I have found.
LJ: Do you do this by going to archives or online resources?
AC: I normally start online and then contact them, which could mean I’m missing resources - perhaps at small local libraries that don't have an online presence - but the internet has enabled me to find things like the archives at the British Library. At the British Library you can establish what they have before you get to them.
LJ: When you heard about John Rylands online, was there a specific thing you were trying to find?
AC: Well I came to find John Rylands due to a lack of funding in my department - I had to find archives outside of London that I could afford to get to so I started focussing on some of the larger libraries in the North West and looking through the special collections so that's how I came to John Rylands.
LJ: Have you spent much time there recently?
AC: I’ve spent 5 days there in the last 2 weeks - at the main library site where the medical collection is held. At the moment I have a deadline, so I’m writing up.
LJ: We have talked about x-rays but is there anything else from the archives that stands out?
AC: Well I’ve been looking at stuff from the Manchester Medical Collection, the Evolution Papers and the Derek Guttery Papers. These have included things like old adverts, newspaper clippings, glass plate x-rays, lights taken from x-rays, slides. Specifically the Derek Guttery papers have been amazing! He seemed to spend his life just collecting x-rays. So the archive is huge, and it was very useful. It’s shaping the second section of my research. I've found specific stuff on a group called Radiation Matters who work with the x-rays and found information on cancers and a lot of material on that [radiation and cancer] which was quite highly intellectual but highly interesting - around how it has come to be used in treatment even though it wasn’t intended.
LJ: Showing how archives have been of value to PhD researchers like you is really important to us.
AC: I just find working with archives exciting!
Interview conducted 18th February 2011.
Case study: African History
Lisa Jeskins interviewed Vincent Hiribarren as part of a study looking at impact. Vincent took part in a telephone interview on 25th January 2010
Vincent is a PhD Student and Postgraduate Tutor of African History at the University of Leeds.
Vincent's research is on 19th century and 20th century Nigeria. He is examining the perception of the boundaries in Northern Nigeria in the English Colonies and the French and German colonies.
"I find the Archives Hub very useful as many of the sources I'm looking for are located in different institutions, for instance, Western African materials can be found at the University of Oxford, SOAS and the University of Birmingham."
Vincent recently used the Archives Hub to search for information on a colonial officer from Nigeria. "I found his name and searched the Hub for it and I had the whole description of the contents of the boxes. This makes my work much easier, as I can see how much information is available before investing in a trip to the archive or repository. Very often you can make such a trip based on an online Finding Aid, but not know the specific items within an archive. The Archives Hub has item-level information for a lot of collections, which is very useful."
"...with a PhD you have to make an original contribution to knowledge so we thought the best way to do that was to find unique case studies in archives."
"I find the Archives Hub very useful as many of the sources I'm looking for are located in different institutions".