Calling students: Travelling Incognito? Help us unmask some anonymous authors of manuscript travel diaries, c. 1790-1830

The Detective by Paurian (Flick)

The Detectuve by Paurian (Flickr) http://bit.ly/1J8I4s3

Oxford History Faculty students are invited to come to the Weston Library on Thursday 11 June to use their detective skills and help us solve some manuscript mysteries.

Over many decades the Bodleian has acquired a very large number of manuscript diaries which together form a vital source particularly for social history. Many of these date from the late-18th to the mid-19th century, and travel diaries are the most represented genre. We have never been able to find the authorship for several of these diaries, and their interest and usefulness for research would increase considerably if we knew who had written them. They were mostly acquired before the Internet began to change the possibilities for research, so now, in the light of the increasing range of information available online, it is time to revisit our anonymous diaries to see if we can unmask the authors.

The inspiration for this idea has come from several successful efforts to establish authorship of recently acquired manuscripts. There is a blog post on the ‘Archives and Manuscripts at the Bodleian’ blog, explaining how the author of one diary was discovered. This will help to give some idea about how the problem can be approached.

So now we need your help! Come and help us to read through as many of the diaries as we can, looking for internal clues as to their authorship – names of friends and family, addresses, marriages, christenings, burials – anything that can be used to bring the vast array of internet resources to bear on the subject.

When

Thursday 11 June, in two sessions 11.00am to 1.00pm and 2.00-4.00pm. We hope you can attend the whole day, but you are free to go when you like! Places are restricted so book your place here. (SSO required; only open to history students.).

Where

Weston Library, Centre for Digital Scholarship (CDS) – meet in the reader Enquiries area (green sofas) on the 1st Floor.

What we will do on the day

  1. Create small teams of 2 or 3 students and allocate a diary to each teams
  2. Read as much as possible of the diaries, and take notes of interesting names, places, events or other information that might help to identify the author, or at least add value to the description
  3. Use the extraordinary range of digitised books, manuscripts and catalogues, academic and family history material to track down names and see how powerful these tools can be if used carefully.
  4. Invite participants to take digital images of pages from the diaries so that they can continue to work on them if they wish and send us further findings.
  5. Invite participants to contribute to the Bodleian blog to highlight discoveries

What you will gain from the experience?

  • This is a chance to meet staff in Special Collections and to use original manuscript resources.
  • To be part of the discovery process, and contribute to the enhancement of catalogue descriptions
  • Learn techniques for reading tricky handwriting
  • Learn about the array of internet resources helpful for historical research, and how to harness the power of Google.
  • Learn about the catalogues of manuscripts in the Bodleian, and the relationship between items and their descriptions.

What you will need

  • Bring your laptop, tablet, i-pad, digital camera or smartphone. We hope to be able to use the resources of the CDS but it is not fully functioning yet.
  • Pencils (but not pens!)
  • Remember to bring your library card and a £1 coin for the Weston lockers.

Any queries?

Contact: Mike Webb, Curator of Early Modern Archives & Manuscripts, Email: mike.webb@bodleian.ox.ac.uk, Tel.: 01865 (2)77164

New: Mass Observation Online Part III – access to post-war sources

MO3Mass Observation enthusiasts will be pleased to know that Oxford has now acquired part 3 of this wonderful resource. The latest addition to Mass Observation Online supplements coverage of the war-years and for the first time includes personal writing material from the post-war years.

Oxford users have access to MOO via SOLO or OxLIP+.

The new content provides opportunities for in-depth research of subjects from an age of post-war austerity and the rise of consumerism and the welfare state:

  • demobilization
  • health and the NHS
  • reconstruction
  • industry
  • sport
  • holidays and leisure

The following new materials are now included:

Diaries, Men and Women, 1946-1950

A full run of diaries up to the end of 1950. You can trace and compare individual accounts of everyday life and events in Britain in the first five years following the end of the Second World War.

Directives, Men and Women, 1946-1947

The complete set of directives for 1946-1947 covers such varied subjects as political parties and policies, reading habits, drinking habits, spiritualism, the cost of living, expectations for 1947, Britain’s place in the world, anti-Semitism, and responses to the Nuremberg Trials.

Topic Collections

Thirty new Topic Collections from the war and post-war years are being added, more than doubling the Topic Collection digital holdings of the existing resource. These include:

  • Propaganda and Morale, 1939-1944 (including material on public opinion, propaganda theory, Beaverbrook campaigns, government advertising campaigns, and Ministry of Information exhibitions)
  • Conscientious Objection and Pacifism, 1939-1944 (including surveys of pacifists, and materials on cultural and legal aspects of pacifism)
  • Press, 1938-42 (including analysis of the press, newspaper placards and cuttings)
  • Police, Law and Invasion Preparations, 1939-1941 (including police reports, accounts of crime and accidents in the Blackout, and Invasion Leaflet Questionnaire Replies)
  • Reconstruction, 1941-1942 (including regional reconstruction surveys, plans, and progress reports, and material on the Housing Centre and the National Council of Social Service)
  • Coal Mining, 1938-1948 (including surveys of mines, miners and mining towns)
  • Industry, 1940-1955 (including industrial and war factory surveys and material on strikes and industrial disputes)
  • Sexual Behaviour, 1939-1950 (including reports on sex in and outside of marriage, sexual morality, questionnaires, and material on contraception, ‘Lonely Hearts’ clubs, and venereal disease)
  • Health, 1939-1947 (including surveys of health, the National Health Service and chemists’ shops)
  • Family Planning, 1944-1949 (including family surveys and matrimony questionnaires)
  • Live Entertainment, 1938-1948 (including fairs, the theatre, pantomime, music hall and concerts)
  • Sport, 1939-1947 (including cricket, football, golf, rugby, darts, dogs, and sport in wartime)
  • Holidays, 1937-1951 (including the Beveridge holiday questionnaire, holiday camps, holiday transport and activities)

Watch the ‘Mass Observation Online’ video overview on YouTube


Largely taken from http://www.amdigital.co.uk/m-collections/collection/mass-observation-iii/.

Related Links

What else in the Mass Observation Online? See my blog post of 24 June 2010.

Other useful resources:

New: Queen Victoria’s Journals (1832-1901)

Sample from a journal page in Queen Victoria’s handwriting

Queen Victoria’s Journals is a website which reproduces every page of the surviving volumes of Queen Victoria’s journals (including draft volumes and copies made by Lord Esher and Princess Beatrice). It provides full transcriptions and keyword searching of the journal entries covering the period from Queen Victoria’s first diary entry in July 1832 to 13 January 1901. In total 141 volumes of her journal survive, numbering 43,765 pages.

As well as detailing household and family matters, the journals reflect affairs of state, describe meetings with statesmen and other eminent figures, and comment on the literature of the day. They represent a valuable primary source for scholars of nineteenth century British political and social history and for those working on gender and autobiographical writing.

Queen Victoria’s sketch of the children

This website reproduces as high-resolution colour images, every page of the surviving volumes of Queen Victoria’s journals, along with separate photographs of the many illustrations and inserts within the pages.

Each page is also being meticulously transcribed and re-keyed, allowing for journals to be searched. At the time of launch, only a portion of the transcribed text will be available. More transcriptions are being added regularly as the project progresses.

The project to digitize Queen Victoria’s Journals has been undertaken in partnership with the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, the Royal Archives, London and Proquest. The release of Queen Victoria’s Journals has been timed to coincide with the celebrations to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II – the only British Monarch other than Queen Victoria to have reigned for 60 years.

The Queen Victoria’s Journals website is mobile-compliant and can be viewed from all iPhones, Blackberry and Android phones.  The website is supported by a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/queenvictoriasjournals and Twitter at @QueenVictoriaRI.

Oxford users: it will shortly be added to OxLIP+.

Related websites:

Bodleian Libraries news: HM the Queen launches online resource of all Queen Victoria’s Journals 

BBC: Diamond Jubilee: Queen Victoria’s diaries go online (with little video clip)

The Independent: Queen Victoria’s diaries to go online

The Guardian: Queen Victoria’s private journals published online