The only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated was Spencer Perceval, and The National Archives has marked the 200th anniversary of this event, which occurred on 11 May 1812, by digitising two key documents about the murder.
TS 11/224 (Former Ref: 947 Part 2)
Among the papers of the Treasury Solicitor is a fascinating plan showing the House of Commons lobby which is where the assassination occurred. It shows all the ‘key players’ at 17:15 on 11 May 1812 by means of a coded system – circle no 1 is Spencer Perceval, having just entered the lobby, and circle No 2 is the assassin, John Bellingham, a merchant from Liverpool with an obsessive grievance against the government. This plan, which is part of the trial papers for John Bellingham, looks strangely ‘modern’ in a sense. Dotted lines show the routes that the assassin took immediately after shooting Perceval at point-blank range: Bellingham returned to the bench where he had been lying in wait earlier, making no attempt to escape. Continue reading »
If you take a look on our website you’ll see that we have a number of boards and advisory groups that work with The National Archives.
One of those groups is the Forum on Historical Manuscripts and Academic Research (a bit of a mouthful). This particular forum is a subcommittee of the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives.
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We’re always keen to hear from people about ideas for collaborative working. We regularly hear from academics who want to talk about new and interesting collaborative research projects. Usually, after lots of meetings, phone calls and emails, ideas are firmed up and a detailed proposal is put together.
But, obviously, we have limited resources and, therefore, can’t say yes to everyone and everything and that’s why we have a formal process to sift through the proposals, this is known as the Grants and Academic Support Panel (or, GASP). The Panel, which meets fortnightly, has representation from each of The National Archives’ Directorates (all at Head of department level) and is Chaired by the Head of Research, Dr Valerie Johnson.
There are few topics likely to induce an eyes-glazed-over response more quickly than the words ‘environmental standards’ for heritage collections. I am pleased to report that the just published ‘Specification for environmental conditions for cultural collections (BSI: PAS: 198)’ marks a significant departure from the usual, and is well worth a read.
The National Archives has taken a lead in developing a new environmental standard for the cultural sector, in part-response to a statement issued by the UK National Museum Directors’ Conference that, ‘museums need to approach long-term collection care in a way that does not require excessive use of energy, while recognising the duty of care to collections.’ There was general agreement that it is time to utilise the research undertaken in the last ten years, and to shift policies for environmental control, loan conditions and guidance given to architects and engineers from the prescriptive advice to something based on the sensitivity of the objects, the expected life of the collection, and local priorities. This isn’t about relaxing environmental standards, its about making informed decisions for a collection.
Regular readers of this blog will have seen Ruth Roberts’ post last week about The National Archives’ research strategy. One current research priority is to find out more about The National Archives’ users, particularly in online contexts.
I am one of the research students currently being sponsored by The National Archives, and I’m hoping that you can help me out with this work.
My research focuses on participatory culture in archives, specifically on the kinds of online contribution initiatives we’ve seen piloted by The National Archives over the last four or five years: wikis, social tagging and commenting, and collaborative online volunteering or ‘crowdsourcing’. If you are a user of The National Archives’ website (whether or not you visit The National Archives in person) and have an opinion about participatory archives, I’d be pleased to hear from you.
The research will be carried out in two parts. The first is a very brief online survey. It would really help me if readers of this blog and visitors to The National Archives’ website could fill this in. There are just 7 simple tick box or yes/no questions, plus a couple of opportunities for you to submit comments. It should take you no more than a couple of minutes to complete.
You can complete the survey anonymously, but it also asks you to leave your name and a contact email address if you would be willing to take part in a follow-up interview.
The book ‘She-Wolves: England’s Early Queens,’ has been made into a three-part television series and the final episode was shown on BBC 4 last night. The series takes a look at the reign of seven queens of medieval and Tudor England and their struggle in a male-dominated monarchy.
In her book, Dr Helen Castor includes an illustration of the rear side of the Great Seal of Philip and Mary I, an original copy of which can be found attached to document DL 10/422. In this final episode Dr Helen Castor made a visit to The National Archives to take a look at this seal as it depicts Mary I in a more authoritative position than Philip.
The term ‘Great Seal’ is given to seals used by monarchs to authorise official documents, which were held in the custody of the Chancellor. A new great seal was made for each reign, with old seals ceremonially broken up once the reign had ended. This particular seal is 454 years old and is available to view at our reading rooms in Kew for any visitor with a valid readers ticket.
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As you’ve probably picked up from the themes of the blogs over the last few weeks, the work of The National Archives is extremely varied. In the Research Team we are keen to support new thinking across a range of topics from history and conservation to new technologies and digital preservation.
The Research Team consists of two people – myself and the Head of Research, Dr Valerie Johnson. In autumn last year Valerie and I started thinking about the organisation’s research strategy for 2012/13. We decided to ask the Executive Team’s help in shaping some strategic research priorities to feed into our new strategy. With no constraints or instructions from the Research Team, the Directors were asked to simply come up with the four key questions that they wanted answered within the year. The kind of questions that were keeping them awake at night. They came up with the following:
- What is the nature of the digital archival record?
- How has digital changed the needs, expectations and nature of research and user behaviour?
- How can we develop and exploit digital information extraction tools to help support digital selection and digital sensitivity review?
- Can we develop Open Data models to provide better-quality, authentic and trusted data for use and re-use?
My first post is very timely – the day after this year’s hugely successful Gerald Aylmer seminar.
Everything is associated with a place: people, events, objects, even emotions, so this year we settled on the theme of ‘Locating the Past’. Speakers were asked to consider the changing interface between history and geography and how their field of expertise is being transformed by new approaches and technologies. We heard about everything from the mapping of teddy bears to the mapping of rural land in the South Downs, all in all, a very wide ranging subject.
Do you have a question about our records? Are you searching for something but can’t find it on our website? Are you stuck with your research and need quick and easy advice on the next steps to take, but you’re unable to visit the archives? If so, our live chat service may be the answer.