Regenerating interest in primary sources. Greta Friggens and Heather Coleman, University of Portsmouth
We looked under our chairs: what did we find? Well, some of us found nothing, but others, others found ‘artefacts’, protected by plastic wallets and strategically placed during the coffee break! Greta and Heather’s presentation explained that despite living in the digital age, ‘real’ artefacts can help to engage students with the research process, inviting enjoyment and curiosity and encouraging thoughtful written work.
We discussed and categorised the artefacts (photographs, postcards, ephemera) as primary or secondary sources, just as the students of BA2 Interior Architecture and Design did at the University of Portsmouth with items from the rare book collection and archives. The students are encouraged to engage with history in a productive way and to prioritise primary sources as learning resources. The aim is for them to do ‘more with less’ rather than ‘less with more’ and to realise that information needs a context before it is usable. The process is reinforced by study visits to the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Portsmouth Museum and help sheets have been produced to assist in referencing primary sources. A questionnaire at the end of the year evaluates the process and asks students what they have learned. The results were very positive.
Report by Michael Veitch