Paper Trails: History and Archives in Practice

We were invited to contribute a virtual paper to the ‘History and Archives in Practice’ conference, organized by the Royal Historical Society, the Institute of Historical Research, and the National Archives.

We submitted the following video, outlining what’s involved in our Open Access UCL Press publication Paper Trails: The Social Life of Archives and Collections. The next update is currently in production and we’re looking forward to releasing a new raft of material!

Here is the proposal for the video:

Archives and Paper Trails: Establishing New Communities of Learning and Collaboration

Paper Trails is an open-access, interdisciplinary publication that aims to enable collaboration and offers space for contributions both from practitioners who study the past, as well as those who make the study of the past possible. In this paper, we outline the history and future directions of the project, reflecting on lessons about collaborative interdisciplinary working, open-access publishing, and new ways of engaging with archives. Publications across Paper Trails explore the work and methodologies of educators, librarians, historians, curators, collections managers, and archivists as well as engaging anyone interested in critical histories as well as reflections on practice, sources and materials. The publication is available here:

Paper Trails as a project emerged from object-based learning with undergraduate students using UCL special collections and archives in 2014/15. We explored these further when researchers, academics, education practitioners and students came together in 2017 for a conference and series of school workshops which turned the focus onto our affective relationship with archives and collections and put research stories to the fore. A second round of conference and workshops followed in 2019, and the publication launched with UCL Press in July 2021. This publication of our Paper Trails ‘living book’ continues, most recently bringing together practitioner, academic and student perspectives on issues relating to the mis- and underrepresentation of marginalised groups in historical collections and providing timely insight into contemporary challenges and debates in this area.

This paper includes contributions from the editorial board drawing from their experience as information professionals and academic researchers. In presenting this collaborative and interdisciplinary work, we hope to share our own experiences and reflections on practice, as well as championing new research, and the value of greater appreciation of the past.


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