Learning from the past - exploring historical archives to inform future

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Geography and Planning


Learning from the past - exploring historical archives to inform future


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Description Public outreach through the "Flooding and Drought" volunteer project has included a study day, which attracted over forty attendees and sold out and the continued engagement of a group of volunteers for over a year. The study day appeared warmly received and was attended by volunteers, regular users of the record office and other members of the public. The volunteers directly involved in the project reported enjoying it and having developed their knowledge. One particular volunteer had no prior archive experience and developed her palaeography skills during the project. In order to understand the volunteers' experiences of this and other projects, they and volunteers on other projects were surveyed. All volunteers responded favourably about the record office. Comments about "Flooding and Drought" indicated enthusiasm for the project and a view that it might be a format of project that would work well in the future, particularly with funding and staffing constraints. The results of the volunteer survey were written into a report and shared with the Staffordshire Record Office.
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Policy & public services

Title Contributions to the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service catalogue 
Description Using materials produced by the volunteer project, the following contributions have been made to the record office catalogue: - Index terms added to entries for mill leases to aid users in searching for relevant records - A spreadsheet transcription of mill accounts - New/improved a catalogue information for old descriptions that do not match modern standards (ongoing) 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact - Additions to the record office catalogue - although I have not yet been aware of users seeking the specific records in question - Volunteers involved reported enjoying the project and having learned research skills in the process 
Description Historic Flooding and Drought project - Staffordshire Record Office 
Organisation Staffordshire Record Office
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Along with another researcher, I have been coordinating a volunteer research project with the Staffordshire Record Office. This has involved a group of volunteers meeting weekly to examine documents and gather the following: - Data on historic flooding, water shortage, and weather - Data which can be used to improve the online archive catalogue for the record office in order to make it easier for future researchers to find environmental information. For example, one volunteer has been examining leases for water mills, and this has allowed more detail to be added to the catalogue, including index terms for the types of mill in the lease. To achieve these we have had to select material suitable for the volunteers to examine (based on our own knowledge of historical records), and guide the volunteers through the process of data collection, including providing instructions and assistance with paleography.
Collaborator Contribution The Staffordshire Record Office has provided training and facilities that allowed us to complete this project, including: - A two-week introductory placement to familiarise us with the record office, strongroom, and cataloguing software we have been using (CALM) - Ongoing assistance and guidance from record office staff - Access to the archive collection - IT accounts and access to record office computers so that we can access and edit the archive catalogue - Assistance with planning and running a study day (a day of talks relating to the project open to the public), including help with set up and providing refreshments
Impact - Improved catalogue indexing and information for the following records: - Over 200 leases and title deeds for mills c.1550-1750 (miscellaneous document references) - The accounts for grain mills in Burton-on-Trent 1703-1709 (document reference D603/F/3/1/19)
Start Year 2017
Description Paper at the Royal Geographical Society Annual International Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I presented a paper at the Royal Geographical Society Annual International Conference on the subject of the rights over water conferred by the leases for water mills in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. This prompted some interested questions from well-known historical geographers about the subject material.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Study Day - Historic Flooding and Drought in Staffordshire project 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As part of the Historic Flooding and Drought in Staffordshire volunteer project with the Staffordshire Record Office (see under Collaboration and Partnerships), we held a "study day" at the record office - a day of talks on related subjects aimed at engaging with the local community and promoting the work of the volunteer project. It included talks by:
- Both project coordinators (myself and Alice Harvey-Fishenden) on our research "Water in 17th and 18th century mill leases" and "Dry Weather Past and Present"
- Neil Macdonald "Researching Extreme Weather" (University of Liverpool)
- James Bowen "Weather in Parish Registers" (University of Liverpool)
- David Moore "The Story of Clean Water in the Black Country" (Lichfield Waterworks Trust)
The day was fully booked and attracted members of the public, record office volunteers and academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Talk at "Ripples, Leaks and Flows" conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact John Morgan and Leona Skelton organised a small conference for those interested in water histories. This included papers on historical brewing, a history of the River Humber, accounts by nineteenth century lighthouse keepers, and various other topics. The goal was to engage with other researchers with similar interests but from across different disciplines, including environmental sciences, history and literature. I, along with Alice Harvey-Fishenden, was asked to present a paper explaining our project and it's methodology. This sparked some questions about how the methodology might be applied to different disciplines. There will also potentially be a book produced from the conference for which we have each been asked to contribute a chapter.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018