National Archives: Introduction to archival research days

You may be interested in the following announcement from the National Archives which includes information about online ‘Introduction to Archival Research’ sessions.


The National Archives holds one of the largest collections in the world, containing over 11 million historical government and public records. From Domesday Book to the Leveson Enquiry, our records offer students a myriad of untapped research opportunities across a wide range of time periods and disciplines.

With so many options, however, getting started in the archives can be a daunting prospect. Many students have questions which they are too afraid to ask. How will I know where to go? What do I need to bring with me? How do I find records for my research? How do I order documents? Do I need to use gloves? How can I be sure I’m not wasting my time?

This introduction day will explain how to get started with archival research, the importance of knowing the history and structure of a collection to navigate the records, and how to make the most of your time on site.

Our upcoming events

Our next ‘Introduction to Archival Research’ sessions will be held entirely online on the following dates:

Monday 1 February 2021: Find out more and book your place

Monday 8 February 2021: Find out more and book your place

Monday 15 February 2021: Find out more and book your place

Monday 22 February 2021: Find out more and book your place

These sessions are are aimed at third year undergraduate and postgraduate students. Registration this year will be at a reduced rate of £5. While this workshop will be entirely presented online, we hope that students will be able to join us back at Kew for our Skills and Methodology workshops, which will be held in June 2021.

If you have any questions, please email past@nationalarchives.gov.uk. 

Women & the Climate Crisis Symposium

Call for proposals

The Birkbeck Students’ Union Women’s Network, in partnership with the SU Environment Society, the Birkbeck Unison Environmental Representative and the Birkbeck UCU Environmental Officer, is organising a symposium to hear from women researchers on the climate crisis, to be held at Birkbeck in early 2021. 

Proposals for papers from researchers in any discipline are encouraged – we want to hear about the innovative and unique ways you can contribute to this discussion, especially those who are not traditionally given space in discussions about the environment but have meaningful contributions to make. 

Topics

To that end, scholars are invited to submit papers on any subject relating to the climate crisis, with a focus on proactive solutions.  

Topics may include but are not limited to:  

  • Feminism/gender & the climate crisis  
  • Intersectional environmentalism  
  • Politics & the climate crisis  
  • Race & the climate crisis  
  • Climate change & the law  
  • Media/journalism & the climate crisis  
  • LGBTQIA+ issues & the climate crisis  
  • Technological approaches to the climate crisis  
  • Ethical investments  
  • Neoliberalism & the climate crisis 
  • Environmental activism 

Length: Individual paper abstracts should be no longer than 500 words. Papers which require the distribution of pre-prepared materials, such as drafts, videos, podcasts, posters, etc, will also be accepted.  

Deadline

Proposals should be sent to naomi.smith2@bbk.ac.uk, no later than 31 January 2021

LGBT History Month and International Women’s Day

For LGBT+ History Month in February and International Women’s Day in March, the Access and Engagement Department is looking for two Birkbeck PhD candidates or early career researchers to deliver an accessible public lecture or workshop for an audience with little to no experience of Higher Education. If you are interested in doing this please get in contact by 12 February.

Our public lecture series, Get Started: Big Ideas, was previously delivered in Stratford Library, in collaboration with Newham Council. Through the pandemic we have been delivering the talks on Zoom and broadcasting using YouTube live.

The themes this year are ‘Body, Mind, Spirit’ (for LGBT History Month) and ‘Gender Equality in Eudcation’ (for International Women’s Day), so we will be looking for pitches that take these themes into account.

WHO? 
We’re looking for Birkbeck academics, particularly PhD students and early career researchers, whose research touches on topics relevant to LGBT+ History Month or International Women’s Day.

WHAT? 
Our audience consists of people with no experience of Higher Education, or those who have had a long break since their last HE experience. With that in mind, we will work closely with the academic to ensure the lecture is accessible to these audiences. More information on our department’s work.

We are open to pitches of lectures (roughly 20 minutes in length), workshops, virtual walks, or other formats that you feel would be engaging. This would usually be followed by a Q&A.

PAYMENT 
We are able to pay PhD candidates or academics who are not on full-time contracts. The pay is at spine point 31 (£21.15 per hour) and we would usually allow for 2 hours’ prep time and 1 hour delivery. In this case we will also be adding 1 hour to allow for familiarising yourself with any software needed. Please do get in touch if you have a proposal which would exceed the allotted time.

If you have any questions, please drop us a line at getstarted@bbk.ac.uk

Highlighted AHRC CHASE Training Opportunities

The following training opportunities are open to all Arts and Humanities PhD students at Birkbeck.

Coming up in CHASE Essentials

Copyright and Creative Reuse
Thursday 17 November | 1100-1215

Finding and Using Audiovisual resources in your research
Training is over 3 days – 8, 9 & 15 December | 1000-1230

See full CHASE Essentials programme

Working With Marginalised Communities: Towards an Ethical Practice for PhD

This webinar takes place over two dates – 12 & 13 November 1500-1700 each day

A growing number of PhD students and Early Career Researchers have shown interest in pursuing research with and for communities who have traditionally been viewed from an abstract distance if, indeed, they have been viewed at all. The scope of these projects is wide and includes researchers working with women in domestic violence refuges, teenagers in socio-economically deprived areas of London and Afghani refugee communities caught in the limbo of the Aegean islands.

What these projects all have in common is that they bring academic scholars into contact with individuals and communities that are likely to have experienced trauma as well as disempowering if not explicitly violent interactions with institutional and state authorities. High levels of professional and personal sensitivity and ethics are essential if the researcher is to avoid replicating the participants’ experiences of marginalisation and creating an abstract rather than rich, nuanced picture of their lives and experiences.

This is a two part webinar series delivered by Fred Ehresmann, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health at the University of the West of England and Dr Jade Lee, director of Aurora Learning and UK Programme Lead of School Bus Project, an NGO that supports educational programmes for young refugees in Europe.

Register here

The Liquidity Cohort

A group of researchers who work with various notions of liquidity from the body (in the broadest sense, human and otherwise) to material infrastructures. We are interested in “liquidity” as an immersive experience of being-in-the-world and its implications for practice; questions of how to write from states of immersion, how to work from the body immersed in experience. We are also interested in hydrological and technological infrastructures and their impacts on the body and its worlds.

Current workshop dates below:

Session 1: Saturation Epistemologies and Oceanic Media


Wednesday 18 November | 1700-1900 | Online

In this session, Melody Jue will discuss saturation epistemologies in her book Wild Blue Media: Thinking Through Seawater and the forthcoming collection Saturation: An Elemental Politics (co-edited with Rafico Ruiz).

Register here

Session 2: Liquid Gold

Wednesday 25 November | 1500-1700 | Online

For this session Melanie Jackson and Esther Leslie will present a performance reading that draws on thematics from their recent collaborative works Deeper in the Pyramid (2018) and The Inextinguishable (2020).

Register here

Session 3: Bodies that Weather: Hurricane Katrina and ‘Viscous Porosity’


Wednesday 2 December | 1500-1700 | Online

Christina Sharpe writes in ‘In the Wake: On Blackness and Being’ (2016) of the climate of anti-blackness that black bodies continue to weather.

Register here

Session 4: Liquifying Selves: Toxicity, Tales and Transindividuation

Wednesday 9 December | 1500-1700 | Online

As the pandemic forces us to adopt new hydro-hermetic praxes, we will examine some other ways in which liquid has already presented counter-ontologies to those of the Cartesian self.

Register here

The Liquidity Cohort was initiated by Dr. Bridget Crone (Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths) in 2018, and is open to researchers from CHASE institutions.

Material Witness

Fake! The role of watch forgery in the making of the modern world

27 November 2020 | 14:00 – 16:00 | Zoom

This talk will explore how the objects history leaves behind can be used to explore the world they existed in. Using forensic analysis to look for hidden clues inside early C18th mass-manufactured watches – practising-watchmaker Rebecca Struthers will reveal the moment access to portable time started its journey towards democratisation. By weaving the physical evidence in with archival sources, this talk will explore the transformative social impact watches had in the UK during the Industrial Revolution.

Register here

2020 Annual Cumberland Lodge Dialogue, Arts and the Union (Online)

6pm on Thursday 5 November.

Birkbeck students and staff are invited to join the virtual audience for the 2020 annual Cumberland Lodge Dialogue, Arts and the Union, taking place on Zoom from 6pm on Thursday 5 November.

In partnership with Goodenough College, London, this public panel discussion examines the cultural bonds that unite the UK’s four nations and the role that the arts can play in building social cohesion across the British Isles. The panellists will explore topics such as: how national identities are expressed within the rich artistic heritage of the UK; the role of the arts in building bridges within and across communities; and how the power of the arts might be harnessed to bring the four nations closer together.

Clarivate Web of Science webinars

Colleagues in the Birkbeck Library have highlighted the following 2 sessions which are part of a series of training sessions and webinars provided by Clarivate.

Kick off your academic year with the Web of Science essential tools for researchers

SEPTEMBER 29 AT 11:00 AM BST

Whether you’re an early-career or well-established researcher, the suite of integrated tools from the Web of Science will supercharge your workflow, making every stage of your research journey a smart one. Learn how to make the most of the Web of Science platform and start off the year on the right foot.

Register here

All the ways to save and export your findings in the Web of Science

SEPTEMBER 30 AT 10:00 AM BST

Discover the various tools that will help you save your searches and results and export data outside the Web of Science platform in multiple formats.

Register here

In times of Pandemic

A BGRS Blog post by Nicola Clarke (PhD History)

I am a mature student, just beginning the second year of my PhD in Early Modern History, so I am currently preparing my first research chapter for my upgrade from MPhil to PhD. My research focuses on accuracy and the value of accuracy in seventeenth-century English news sources, with particular reference to the period between 1649 and 1685. It was always work that was going to have some resonance in the 21st century; “fake news” is very definitely not a modern invention.

One of my main topics looks at the 1665 Great Plague and the Fire of 1666. I am interested in whether both producers and consumers of news approached accuracy any differently when dealing with natural disaster as opposed to news about political, civil and military strife, of which there was a good deal in the seventeenth century. When I decided, with my supervisor (Dr Brodie Waddell), to make this my first research chapter, neither of us had any idea that I would be working on it during a 21st century pandemic and a national lockdown….. and that archive access might be a bit trickier than normal. So many thanks are due to Brodie for advice on how to deal with that and to all the archives and their staff that have re-opened in the past few months.

At the start of lockdown in March 2020 I decided to keep a “Covid journal” prompted by a number of academics I follow on twitter. I used to be a journalist and I am trying to be a social and cultural historian, so I figured that keeping a diary might give me some insight into those diary keepers, commonplace book authors and letter writers whose news consumption habits I was trying to understand.

Historians should be rightly cautious about making comparisons between the past and the present, so I am very careful about drawing direct comparisons.

However, despite the considerable advance in medical science and news technology in the last three hundred and fifty years, the search for reliable information and the debates about how to act on that information have a familiar ring.

People in seventeenth century London tracked the weekly Bills of Mortality, as we have all followed the graphs at the daily government news conferences. The efficacy of shutting people up in their houses once a case of plague was discovered was debated from the street to the medical journals. News came at the seventeenth century citizen from a huge range of sources, orally from neighbours, business partners, customers, from Authority – the King, Parliament and the City Authorities, from newspapers, which as well as editorial content, ran huge numbers of adverts for all sorts of plague cures and preventatives.

Those citizens of seventeenth century London, who remained in the city, had to juggle a lot of conflicting information, with the need to maintain daily life and work, and if I have learnt one thing in the last six months it is to have considerable respect for how they managed to do that.

Bob Woodward & the Case for Rethinking News Values

A BGRS blog post by Naomi Smith (PhD Film and Screen Media)

Naomi is also the Birkbeck Student Union Women’s Officer

Legendary American journalist Bob Woodward has a new book out, another deep dive into the inner workings of the White House, including extensive interviews with President Donald J. Trump in which he admits, on tape, to having deliberately downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 virus in early 2020. These interviews were conducted between December 2019 and July 2020, but the revelation that Trump was aware how deadly the virus is and deliberately sought to conceal this information from the American public wasn’t published until recently, when CNN obtained a copy of the book ahead of its 15 September release.

The revelations immediately led to recriminations against Trump from all sides – politicians, journalists, members of the public on social media – and, more surprisingly perhaps, against Woodward. Fox News, for example, questioned his decision to hold onto this information for so long if it was so important. So why did Woodward choose to withhold those interviews until now? And was the decision to do so inherently unethical? Some suggested that Woodward was motivated solely by profit and the desire to sell more books on the strength of the revelations, and others even alleged that he has “blood on his hands”. In response, Woodward argued that he could not verify the information at the time and wanted to investigate further, and that Trump’s attitude to the virus was already public knowledge and was not, therefore, immediately newsworthy on its own. Erik Wemple, the Washington Post’s media critic, argued that Woodward was following standard practice for writing a book and that his sources would have had an “implicit understanding” that they would be interviewed multiple times until he could “stitch together something authoritative, in book form”. If he were to have published “daily dispatches”, then it is unlikely that he would have kept getting those rare on-the-record interviews with Trump. In Wemple’s eyes, the decision was not whether to publish in March or September, it was whether to publish in September or not at all.

When analyzing decisions regarding news selection, we often talk about news values, a theory developed by two Norwegian researchers in the 1960s, which describes a set of criteria that form a definition of newsworthiness. The more of these criteria are satisfied by an event, the more likely it is to be reported on by the press. The results of that Norwegian study have been reviewed and updated over the intervening years, particularly in the context of the rise of digital media but rarely challenged outright. And despite satisfying several key news values – surprise, negativity, conflict, etc – the revelations in Woodward’s book went unreported for seven months.

My research asks whether – especially given that our current conception of news values did not predict and does not fully explain the actions of a veteran news reporter – we can continue to use a one-size-fits-all taxonomy, rethinking the concept of news values as one that can be generalized across different formats in multiple markets, using American broadcast news as an initial case study.

Reference

Galtung, J & Ruge, M.H., 1965. The Structure of Foreign News: The Presentation of the Congo, Cuba and Cyprus Crises in Four Norwegian Newspapers. Journal of Peace Research. Vol. 2, No. 1. Pp. 64-91.

Starting my PhD during a Global Pandemic

A BGRS blog post by Swathi Kumar (PhD Biology, Cancer Biology, ISMB)

I’m now in my second year of the BBSRC LIDo PhD programme. The first year was composed of two 4-month rotation projects, the first of which was based at both Birkbeck and UCL and is now my full-time PhD project. Like many others, March 17th was my final pre-lockdown day working in the lab and I was one month in on my second rotation project based at Barts Cancer Institute. The rest of the summer was a blur with days spent teaching myself to use command-line interfaces to run bioinformatic tools in an attempt to produce any data whatsoever for my project that had then become wholly computational. I managed to complete a coding course covering MATLAB, R and Python which was a mandatory part of my first year and a useful skill to learn as a biologist. All that remained was to return back to my old lab and officially start my PhD.

My first day back in the lab was July 27th – 4 and a half months post-lockdown. I had fastidiously read all the ‘returning to work’ documentation and was prepared for Birkbeck to look quite different to how I remembered it. Sure enough, the corridors were filled with COVID-19 safety measures and a 2-metre rule had been implemented. Luckily, I was already trained in the microbiology techniques I would need for the first month of my PhD thanks to my rotation project last year. My PhD researches the pathogenesis of the Kaposi Sarcoma-associated Herpes Virus with a particular focus on a viral oncogene it produces called vFLIP. I am interested in cancer biology having done a master’s degree in it, and my interdisciplinary PhD combines structural biology and virology. Overall, the majority of my PhD is wet lab based.

Being supervised while adhering to social distancing rules vaguely resembles a Quickstep dance. The 2-metre rule was recently relaxed to 1-metre with masks on at all times, which made it significantly easier for my supervisor to teach me how to use structural biology equipment. Later this month I will be demonstrating these techniques to undergraduate summer camp students and supervising an undergraduate placement student – both firsts in my career. Apart from eating our lunches at desks spaced 2-metres apart, the daily work routine is becoming relatively normal. I do look forward to the day we can attend seminars and lectures in-person rather than online. However, I will say that the switch to online talks gave me the courage to try a new profession – teaching! Overall, I’m thankful that my transition from working at home to experimenting in the lab has been smooth. I hope my story encourages others who may have some anxiety about returning to work to not be afraid and to believe in themselves!

Meg Kiseleva tells about founding the Birkbeck PhD Network

A blog post by Meg Kiseleva (PhD Organizational Psychology)

I joined Birkbeck as a PhD student in January 2019. Being one of the few people who started halfway through the traditional academic year, initially I found it quite a solitary experience. Luckily, the BGRS were very supportive when Alex Leggett and I decided to start the Birkbeck PhD Network within the Students’ Union to help PhD students meet, network, and find information and support.

For a typical Birkbeck student – busy, juggling many responsibilities, often in employment alongside their studies – finding ways to connect with others may be an overwhelming experience. While the BGRS training events are a great opportunity to meet other PhD students across College, the networking is usually done within the constrains of a workshop: you may chat with someone or even have a coffee together during the break but then usually just rush off to your next appointment.

Within the PhD Network, we are trying to provide an informal space for meeting others, socialising, discussing our experiences as PhD students, and supporting each other on the PhD journey. While we cannot physically meet while the COVID-19 restrictions are in place, we are trying to make up for it with our WhatsApp chat, which you can join by dropping us a line at SU-PhD-Network@bbk.ac.uk, and Facebook group.

Our aim is to bring together people from different departments, different backgrounds, and with different experiences to enable a deep multidisciplinary conversation. Besides, talking to people from other disciplines sometimes opens an unexpected perspective on your own research (and meetups with other PhD students provide an opportunity to practise your “elevator pitch”!). Serious talk aside, we also try to make sure everyone has a comfortable space just to discuss anything the PhD community can provide support with.

On top of that, the Network frequently acts as a point of contact between the PhD community and the BGRS since we can collect comments and queries and bring them up with the BGRS via email or at PGR reps meetings anonymously.

Please use the links above to get in touch and we look forward to welcoming you to our community.