Visual sources for historians

Course date(s): 
21 Feb 2017 to 20 Mar 2017
Course tutor(s): 
Dr Lynne Walker


This course considers visual sources as evidence in historical practice and provides an introduction to understanding and researching material and visual culture. Drawing on diverse media from cartoons to political portraits, in still and moving images, in print and online, it suggests ways in which understanding visual sources can enhance the study of history by posing new questions and suggesting new answers to thorny research issues with material unavailable elsewhere.

Course Details

Organised around five themes, Local/Global; Visualising History; Representing Historical Subjects; Material Culture and the Spatial Turn; and History and the Media, the course offers lectures, discussion and visits to archives, museums and libraries. Students will have the opportunity to talk in detail to archivists, librarians and curators about their own research needs and find out more about how particular libraries, museums and other archives may be useful to them.

An Introduction to Visual Sources for Historians takes the form of full-day sessions held over the course of five weeks (but please note the different days of the week on which sessions will be held). The sessions will normally start with a lecture, followed by a seminar discussion. After lunch each week, the group will visit a gallery or institution of relevance to the week's topic.


The programme is as follows:


First Session, Tuesday, 21 February: Local/Global

  • 10.45 - 11.30 Welcome and Registration: Dr Lynne Walker. Meet at reception (Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AB)
  • 11.30 - 1.00 Visit: Royal Institute of British Architects: Justine Sambrook, Curator, and Jonathan Makepeace, Imaging Services Manager, RIBA Photographs Collection
  • 1.00 - 2.00 Lunch/travel
  • 2.45 - 3.45 Visit: Black Cultural Archives, Brixton: Victoria Northridge, Collections Manager, BCA
  • 3.45 - 4.30 Visit: BCA Exhibition (TBC)


Second Session, Tuesday, 28 February: Visualising History

  • 10.45 - 1.00 Royal Museums Greeenwich (formerly National Maritime Museum) NB Meet in front of the (former) main entrance of the Museum, which faces the river.
  • Visit Collections of RMG (prints, drawings, paintings), Queen's House: Dr Melanie Vandenbrouck, Curator of Art post-1800, and Dr Katy Barrett, Curator of Art pre-1800.
  • 1.00 -2.00: Lunch
  • 2.00 - 3.00 Visit: Atlantic Worlds Gallery, which uses paintings, prints, and artefacts to depict connections between Europe, Africa and the Americas and addresses themes, such as empire, slavery and resistance: Dr. Robert Blyth, Curator of Imperial and Maritime History
  • 3:00-4:00  The Painted Hall, Greenwich Hospital (now Greenwich University): Dr. Lynne Walker, IHR


Third Session, Monday, 6 March: Representing Historical Subjects

  • 10.45 - 12.30 Visit: National Portrait Gallery (meet in NPG reception), gallery presentations
  • 12.30 - 1.00 NPG Digital Space
  • 1.00 - 2.00 Lunch
  • 2.00 - 3.00 Visit: Heinz Archive and Library, NPG, Paul Cox, Associate Curator (Reference Collection)
  • 3.00 - 4.00 Visit: Photographs Collection, NPG, Clare Freestone, Assistant Curator


Fourth Session, Tuesday, 14 March: Material Culture and the Spatial Turn

  • 10.45 - 12.45 Seminar: Institute of Historical Reseach, Dr Lynne Walker, IHR
  • 12.45 - 2.00 Lunch/travel
  • 2.00 - 4.00 Visit: Architecture and space as primary sources: an architectural walk which will include C18th domestic architecture and its C19th occupation in Bloomsbury, visits to St Pancras station and to the former Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital (now the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery)


Fifth Session, Monday,  20 March: History and the Media

  • 10.45 - 1.00 Seminar: IHR, Dr Lynne Walker, IHR
  • 1.00 - 2.00 Lunch, Travel
  • 2.30 - 4.30 Visit: British Film Institute, South Bank
  • Library, Sarah Currant, BFI, demonstrates how to access the BFI's vast holding useing their powerful computerised system
  • Special Collections, Jonny Davis, BFI, presents examples of pimary source material from Special Collections

The course is open to postgraduates, academics and all who are interested in using visual material for historical research purposes.