Visual sources for historians

Course date(s): 
21 Feb 2017 to 21 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 yet to be confirmed, but will probably resemble last year's, as follows:


First Session, Tuesday, 2 February: 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,
  • RGS Head Librarian, Eugene Rae, to introduce material in the RGS archive relating to visual and material culture
  • 4.00 - 4.30 Visit: Albert Memorial


Second Session, Wednesday, 10 February: Visualising History

  • NB, late start
  • 2.00 - 4.00 Seminar: IHR. Prof Simon Shaw-Miller (Bristol) discusses representations in art and their relationship to understandinga nd explaining the past. Questions about individual student research to be considered.
  • 5.45 Meet Lynne Walker at the registration desk in the Wolfson Conference Suite, IHR basement
  • 6.00 - 7.30 Lecture: 'Pictures of the Past', talk in the IHR History Now and Then series with speakers: Vic Gantrell, Simon Goldhill, Marion Kant, Simon Shaw-Miller (followed by reception, 7.30 - 8.30)


Third Session, Monday, 15 February: Representing Historical Subjects

  • 10.45 - 12.30 Visit: National Portrait Gallery, 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, 23 February: Material Culture and the Spatial Turn

  • 10.45 - 12.00 Seminar: Institute of Historical Reseach, Dr Lynne Walker, IHR
  • 1.00 - 2.00 Lunch/travel
  • 2.00 - 3.00 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,  29 February: 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.