Visual sources for historians

Course date(s): 
2 Feb 2016 to 1 Mar 2016
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 Britain and the Sea; Material Culture and the Spatial Turn; Historical Subjects; 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 (the first three sessions are on Tuesdays; the final two on Mondays). 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 not yet confirmed but will be broadly similar to last year's, which was as follows:


First Session: Local/Global

  • 10.45 - 11.30 Welcome and Registration, Dr Lynne Walker
  • 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
  • 2.30 - 4.00 Visit: Royal Geographical Society,
  • Dr Catherine Souch, Head of Research and Higher Education, RGS
  • 4.00 - 4.30 Visit: Albert Memorial


Second Session: Visualising Britain and the Sea

  • 10.45 - 1.00 Lecture/Seminar: Gallery talk and visit, Royal Museums, Greenwich (formerly National Maritime Museum)
  • NB, Meet in front of the museum
  • Visit: Collections of RMG (prints, drawings, paintings)
  • Dr Melanie Vandenbrouck, Curator of Art, and Dr Katy Barrett, Curater of Pre-1800 Art
  • 1.00 - 2.00 Lunch
  • 2.00 - 3.30 Visit: Atlantic Worlds Gallery, paintings, prints and artefacts which 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
  • 3.30 - 4.00 Visit: The Painted Hall, Greenwich Hospital (now Greenwich University)
  • Dr Lynne Walker, IHR


Third Session: Material Culture and the Spatial Turn

  • 10.45 - 12.45 Seminar: Institute of Historical Research
  • Dr Lynne Walker, IHR
  • 12.45 - 2.00 Lunch
  • 2.00 - 4.00 Visit: Architechture and space as primary sources: an architectural walk in Bloomsbury, which includes C18th domestic architecture, visits to St Pancras Station and to the former Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital (now the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery).


Fourth Session: Representing Historical Subjects

  • 10.45 - 12.00 Visit: National Portrait Gallery. Gallery presentations
  • 12.00 - 1.00: NPG - NPG Digital Space
  • 1.00 - 2.00 Lunch
  • 2.00 - 3.00 Visit: Heinz Archive and Library, NPG, and the forthcoming exhibition, 'Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions'
  • Paul Cox, Associate Curator (Reference Collection) and exhibition curator
  • 3.00 - 4.00 Visit: Photographs Collection, NPG
  • Assistant Curator, Clare Freestone

Fifth Session: 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
  • Special Collections, Jonny Davis, BFI

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