History seminars at the IHR

Public History Seminar

Convenors: Alix Green (University of Hertfordshire), Anna Maerker (King’s College, London), John Tosh (Roehampton University), Judy Faraday (John Lewis Partnership), Tim Boon (Science Museum), Scott Anthony (University of Cambridge), Kathleen McIlvenna (IHR), Alison Hess (Science Museum), Caroline Nielsen (University of Northampton), Claire Hayward (Kingston University), Ciara Meehan (University of Hertfordshire), Nicola Phillips (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Venue:  Past & Present Room 202, 2nd floor, IHR, North block, Senate House

Time: Wednesday, 17:30

Some podcasts from this Seminar are available online

Autumn Term 2015
DateSeminar details
21 October What is public history in light of the recent refugee crisis?

Prof David Feldman (Pears Institute, Birkbeck, University of London) Prof Peter Gatrell, (University of Manchester), Susie Symes (19 Princelet Street), Juliano Fiori (Save the Children)

As part of a series of seminars addressing the question of “What is public history?”, our first seminar of the academic year will examine the role of history in the context of the recent refugee crisis.

Venue: Wolfson Room NB02, Basement, IHR, North block, Senate House

4 November Homesick for Yesterday: A history of the "nostalgia wave" in the 1970s and 80s

Tobias Becker (German Historical Institute, London)

All throughout the 1970s and 80s intellectuals in the United States, Britain and West Germany complained about a “nostalgia wave”, an almost pathological yearning for a sentimentalised past that afflicted Western societies. Initially they found nostalgia mainly in pop culture’s return to its own past, particularly the revival of the 50s in rock music, film and on TV. Soon, however, the “nostalgia wave” manifested itself in the booming antiques trade, the success of the conservation movement and the popularity of historical books, museums and exhibitions, in short, what Robert Hewison dubbed the “heritage industry”.
My paper looks at the discourse, the manifestations and the contemporary explanations of the “nostalgia wave”. It argues that the nostalgia discourse was partly a reaction to the popularisation and democratisation of history: a means to reinstate the interpretative authority of academic history by discrediting the grass-roots engagement with history and the appropriation of scholarly practices by amateurs. However the popular interest in the past was also indicative of changing concepts of time. Drawing on the works of Hartmut Rosa and François Hartog, the paper understands the “nostalgia wave” as an expression of a new, presentist “regime of historicity” that emerged as a result of accelerated social change.

Tobias Becker is a research fellow at the German Historical Institute London, where he works on the “nostalgia wave” in the 1970s and 80s. Publications include Inszenierte Moderne. Populäres Theater in Berlin und London, 1880-1930 (2014); Popular Musical Theatre in London and Berlin, 1890-1939 (ed. with Len Platt and David Linton, 2014).

18 November Cabinet of Curiosities: Using Museums to Challenge Disablism

Jocelyn Dodd (University of Leicester)

The rich and diverse collections museums hold, display and interpret, give us a sense of what society values and what it chooses not to value. For too long material related to the lives of disabled people has been buried in the buried in the footnotes. Cabinet of Curiosities: using museums to challenge disablism will explore how the material evidence, the history and experiences of disabled people which are part of museum’s collections can be used to engage the public in a reassessment of widely held assumptions surrounding disability and to challenge deeply entrenched negative and discriminatory contemporary attitudes towards disabled people.   The session will explore how museum can re- present their collections to give more informed rights-based understandings of disability.
The session will raise questions of how museum & heritage collections can be used to inform contemporary social issues.
 This session is based on research undertaken by The Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG).  
Jocelyn Dodd is Director of RCMG (Research Centre for Museums and Galleries), School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester.

2 December The Generational Transmission of Memory and Identity through 'Family Heritage'

Anne-Marie Kramer (University of Nottingham)

This paper will explore the generational transmission of memory and identity through a focus on the role of ‘family heritage’. It will analyse what form remembrance practices take, map and problematize the relationship between the family and public archive/history in understanding and interpreting the legacy of the past, and begin to tease out some consequences of these acts of ‘remembrance’. It will therefore ask a number of related questions. First, what forms of ‘value’ accrue to family history and heritage? Second, what does performing ‘remembrance’ mean in this context, and what role are texts and material objects expected to play in ‘remembering’? Third, who and what is remembered, to what ends, and with what effects? Fourth, what role does family history and heritage play in reproducing and/or challenging official histories, and how do such projects imagine the relationship between individual, family, community and ‘nation’? Lastly, how are these practices of remembrance used to re/construct relationships and connectedness in the past/present/future, between and among the generations?

Spring Term 2016
DateSeminar details
6 January The personal heritage research environment in the 21st century

Dr Nick Barratt (Author, historian and consultant for BBC 'Who Do You think You Are)

Drawing upon case studies and examples, Dr Barratt will explore changing approaches to personal heritage – including genealogy, local and social history – over the last decade and a half, arguing that current practice threatens to undermine the evolving research infrastructure.

19 February Pride of Place: England's LGBTQ Heritage

Rosie Sherrington (Historic England), Alison Oram (Leeds Beckett University), Justin Bengry (Birkbeck, University of London and Leeds Beckett University)

‘Pride of Place: England's LGBTQ Heritage’ is a collaborative initiative between Leeds Beckett University and Historic England to explore the relationship between lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) history and the country’s buildings and spaces. The project aims to show that LGBTQ heritage is a fundamental part of our national heritage and to improve knowledge of, and access to, this diverse history. As part of this project we are using crowd sourcing techniques in the mapping the widest range of historical LGBTQ locations across England. A key feature of this initiative is engagement with the community, who are encouraged to identify sites of LGBTQ historical significance including everything from commercial and leisure locations, interiors and outside spaces, national historic sites and even domestic spaces in both the recent and more distant past. When completed the project will include not only the interactive map, but also an online exhibition, guidance packs for heritage and community groups, a teaching pack for use in schools, and other outputs. After the recent success of the iconic Royal Vauxhall Tavern being listed as Grade II on the basis of its significance to LGBTQ history and heritage, we hope to recommend further locations for listing and amend the descriptions of currently listed buildings to identify their LGBTQ historical significance.
Website: historicengland.org.uk/prideofplace
Interactive Map: mapme.com/prideofplace

Co-hosted with the Public history and Digital history seminars Starting at the earlier time of 17:15

Venue: Room S246, 2nd floor, South block, Senate House

16 March Double Helix History: the use of DNA in Popular Genealogy?

Dr Jerome de Groot (University of Manchester)

Genealogy is one of the biggest and most profitable activities on the planet. Generally undertaken via massive gateway websites like Ancestry.com (14 billion family history records; 60 million member trees) it involves investigators around the world formulating their ‘family tree’ and imagining their relationship to the past accordingly.
Increasingly these websites are adding a new tool to the researcher’s armoury: DNA sequencing. The armchair genealogist investigates their past by spitting in a tube. The creation of huge repositories of DNA databases allows for analysis to be undertaken that leads to ‘scientific’ speculation about the ancestry of the individual.
This paper investigates this intersection of genetics and popular narratives of the self/ the past.How is this science represented and understood? How, particularly, is it visualised? What does this mean for privacy, and the projection of the self online? What are the imaginative implications of sharing DNA data? Does DNA render an identity ‘outside of history’? Certainly it seems to allow for entire populations ejected from the archive to find their ancestors – Henry Louis Gates Jr. has claimed ‘we are able, symbolically at least, to reverse the Middle Passage’.