Visual sources for historians

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.

Course Programme:

First Session:  Tuesday, February 25th     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

11:30- 12:30 Jonathan Makepeace, The RIBA Photographs Collection

12:30-1:00  Justine Sambrook, Curator, RIBA Photographs Collection, Architectural Press: approaches to a photographic archive


1:00-2:00 : Lunch


2:45-4:00  Visit   :   Tate Archive, Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG

                        Adrian Glew, Curator



Second Session:  Tuesday, March 3rd: Visualising History


10:45-1:00   Royal Museums Greenwich (formerly National Maritime Museum)

N.B. 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 Allison Goudie, 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 which include empire, slavery and resistance.

Dr. Robert Blyth, Curator of Imperial and Maritime History


3:00-4:00  The Painted Hall, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

Dr. Lynne Walker, IHR.



Third Session:  Monday, March 9th : Representing  Historical Subjects


10:45-12:45 : National Portrait Gallery

Meet in NPG lobby by the revolving doors

                        Gallery presentations


12:45-2:00 Lunch


2:00-3:00 Visit: Heinz Archive and Library, NPG

                        Paul Cox, Associate Curator (Reference Collection)


3:00-4:00         Photographs Collection, NPG

 Photographs Curator; Assistant Curator, Clare Freestone



Fourth Session:  Monday, March 16thth :   History and the Media


10:45- 1:00 : Seminar : Institute of Historical Research

Dr Lynne Walker, IHR 


1:00-2:00  Lunch


2:30-4:30 Visit: BFI Library, British Film Institute, South Bank, London SE1 8XT

Librarian Matthew Fletcher demonstrates how to access the BFI’s vast holdings using their powerful computerised system and answers questions about individual student’s research.

Examples of primary source material from BFI Special Collections will also be shown and available for examination.

Storm Patterson, Special Collections Co-ordinator.



Fifth session: Monday, March 23rd   : Material Culture and the Spatial Turn


10:45-12:45 : Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet Street,        London WC1E 7HU

Dr Lynne Walker, IHR 


12:45-2:00    Lunch


2:00- 4:00  Architecture and space as primary sources

We go on an architectural walk which includes 18th century domestic architecture and its 19th century occupation in Bloomsbury, visits to St. Pancras Station and to the former Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital (now the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery).


25 February - 24 March 2020

Fee: £200