Students were surprised to learn that archives are not just bits of dusty old paper, in fact many hold terabytes of digital data. They realised that they had often already used online archive resources through databases like Early English Books Online. Learning to use archive catalogues online, and knowing where to find digital material from the National Archives and other repositories provided additional core transferable skills which will be valuable both for postgraduate study and in future employment contexts.
If you can’t travel to a particular archive you can often order copies of documents for private study or educational use.
- Cornwall Record Office provides a research service and document copy service (charges apply). http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=14710
- University of Exeter in Cornwall and University College Falmouth Joint Special Collections Service provide a remote enquiry service and document copies (charges apply). http://library.falmouth.ac.uk/135/archives-special-collections/how-to-access-archives-and-special-collections/category.asp
- The National Archives has an online shop where you can download certain documents on demand (charges apply). http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline
- The Old Bailey Online has the full proceedings of London’s Central Criminal Court from 1674-1913 online. Access is free although there are copyright restrictions. http://www.oldbaileyonline.org
- BBC Archive. You can watch but not download this vast archive footage. http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive
Hands-on object-based-learning works well with archives which, unlike most museum collections, are not under glass. While fascimile copies can often be ordered from repositories and are great for writing activities, nothing beats handling original material. During the university archive sessions Sarah got out a range of material for students to look at, and they were able to touch, read, and experience the original documents. This sense of the original was important and exciting to them, exemplified by the apple stickers and coffee stains in Patrick Gale’s notebooks.
Students were also able to get their little white gloves on at the Record Office and handle original material. Here though, it was the historical content of the items that would prove useful for plot, character, and setting. Students here are working on 19th century Bodmin Gaol registers, and a World War 2 civil defence map marked, ‘top secret’.
This activity was designed to enhance students’ understanding of the writing process. Working with a range of material from an author’s archive enables students to identify, understand and discuss stages of the writing process and product.
Students were given facsimile copies of business letters, drafts and treatments from Darke’s archive. Their task was to organise the material in chronological order,which proved more diffficult than it initially seemed. Working with the materials enabled students to begin to develop the high-level interpretative research skills that much archival sources require.
The activity highlighted the collaborative nature of screenwriting itself, which involves co-writers, editors, agents, producers. It also gave the process of writing, which for students is often just in the classroom, or in their lone garrett, its industry context.
You don’t need huge amounts of material to start generating ideas for writing. Sometimes the smallest, apparently least significant item in a collection can provide a stimulus for work. It is also interesting to challenge students’ expectations of what might be found in an archive collection.
This icebreaker activity was used at the beginning of the university archive sessions with students. Students were given a facsimile copy of a scrap of paper from the Darke archive which describes finding a pair of false teeth on the beach.
Transcript of Activity (combined from 2 separate sessions)
Sarah C Jane: Were any of you surprised to see this torn scrap in the archive?
Students: Yes. Why is it in the archive? What does it mean? How did it ‘survive’? Where is it from? Students are surprised but approve of its being preserved.
SCJ: Explains provenance of fragment. It is kept because archives can document the process of writing and creativity - this fragment is part of that. Sarah then talks about Darke’s passion for ‘wrecking/beachcombing’ – this fragment acknowledges that passion. In Darke’s house there are numerous pairs of teeth, and other beach finds; the fragment can be linked speculatively to Darke’s play ‘The Wrecking Season’; finally, the speech replicates the Cornish voice, highlighting Darke’s concern to do this accurately.
SCJ: What ideas for might this fragment inspire for you?
- Reminded me of my granddad – teeth and voice
- I imagined this as overheard pub conversation between some old blokes
- Kids on a beach daring each other to try false teeth they have found
- Where had these teeth travelled from, whose were they, how were they managing without them, how did they lose them, what creatures were now living in them?
- My idea was about an eccentric couple living in a beach hut making a skeleton from beachcombing finds, and the teeth being used in that
- I found myself imagining joke teeth
- Pensioners bathing in the sea and losing teeth in waves
- Pensioners speed dating
- Surreal comedy of the fragment itself and in it The Three Stooges trying the teeth and them not fitting
- Imagining Nick Darke asking his wife what to do with the teeth/fragment, and her response
- Who lost the teeth, and how? Like the one shoe one always finds on a beach
- Mystery story – discovery of body with/out teeth
- Imagining the conversation as being between a dog and a cat
- False teeth as surreal in themselves
- If teeth, what other objects might there be?
- Imagining finding dressing gown, slippers … and reassembling Granny
Screenwriting students taking part in the project will be able to enter their work in a competition judged by Jane Darke, the widow of Cornish playwright, Nick Darke. There will prizes of £50 Amazon Vouchers each for the best Screenplay and the best Essay which engage with archives in the most interesting and innovative way.
To enter the competition you need to bring an extra hard copy of your essay or script to the final hand-in at the academic office. Remember to remove your name from the work, so as to preserve anonymity for the judging process. You can attach a brief explanation of how you used archives or excerpts from your notebook showing the process of your ideas, if you wish.
The University of Salford’s 6th Education in a Changing Environment Conference, Creativity and Engagement in Higher Education, will explore and discuss international best practice in teaching and educational research in higher education. Through themes of Social Media; Learning, Teaching and Assessment; Networking and Partnerships, the Conference will identify creative models for engagement in a shifting educational landscape.
Niamh and Kym will be off to Salford in July to present a Pecha Kucha presentation at the ECE 2011 conference. Find out more about Pecha Kucha here. Our paper has been accepted subject to minor amendments, so we will post the abstract once the final version has been confirmed.
Sarah will be presenting a case study of the project at the International Council on Archives Conference, University of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, 12-16 July 2011
Addressing Conference theme Four, this proposed ICA (SUV) presentation will provide an evaluative case study of a pedagogic research project which investigates the value of using archives to enhance the student learning experience in the field of Creative Writing. This six month project undertaken from January 2011, and funded by a University College Falmouth Learning and Teaching grant, seeks to address the fact that while the value of using archives to inspire learning in primary, secondary and lifelong-learning sectors is well established, there has been little research on the pedagogic value of archives in Higher Education. The project theorises ‘the archive’ and ‘the university’ as two “communities of practice” which through sharing expertise and knowledge have the potential to strengthen existing and influence new developments in pedagogy and practice in both sectors. The proposed Conference presentation will suggest a that a new shared community of practice should be established, and will evaluate the success of this project in embedding the use of archives in the teaching and research practices of University College Falmouth (as opposed to pre-existing inreach methods). In particular, this presentation will address the success of this approach in establishing the University’s Archive Service as a resource for non-traditional users, namely creative arts students, and based on the research findings of the project will go on to make recommendations for future work.
This gallery contains 6 photos.
On Monday 28th February both screenwriting groups visited Cornwall Record Office to look at archives relating to Cornwall’s history, find out more about archives online, and take a behind-the-scenes tour of the strong rooms. Archivists, Tamsin Mallett, and David Thomas were … Continue reading
During our first sessions with the screenwriting students we asked them to complete Personal Meaning Maps. Personal Meaning Mapping is a research methodology used mainly in museums education contexts. PMMs are designed to measure how a particular learning experience, like visiting an archive, affects a learner’s process of making meaning. We wanted to find out about student perceptions of ‘the archive’ as a concept. The two maps shown here were made by a student who had not visited an archive before, and another who had visited both the record office and the university archive on a previous field trip. We will ask the students to revisit their meaning maps when they have finished the project.
Reference: Adams, M., Falk, J., et al. “Things Change” in Researching Visual Arts Education in Museums and Galleries: An International Reader (London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003) 15-31.