Doing collaborative research – three vignettes from British Library
Dr. Sarah Evans
My last entry considered some of the resources available to social scientists at the British Library (BL). Here I want to tell you about some of the current collaborative research projects we are working on in order to contribute to knowledge about how research is carried out across different kinds of institution. I hope that describing a couple of these projects might fuel ideas about the sorts of research relationships you might like to develop.
One of our projects, Sisterhood and After (which I mentioned in my last blog), is a collaborative research project between the University of Sussex, the British Library and the Women’s Library. It received funding from The Leverhulme Trust to carry out life-history interviews with 50 of the women who powered the second-wave feminist movement in the UK. The resulting interviews will be archived at the British Library to contribute to the public record of this Movement.
Working collaboratively has brought many benefits to the partners in this project and will ensure diversity in its outcomes. Not only will the project contribute to academic work and knowledge of the Movement, but the archived interviews will ensure that the memories of this group of women are preserved and remain accessible to the public, as well as to future researchers.
Voices of the UK, funded by The Leverhulme Trust, complements an ongoing project at the University of Leeds, Whose Voices?, which is evaluating how public audiences and the media responded to the BBC Voices website. The Voices of the UK project aims to catalogue the 312 BBC Voices sound recordings and produce detailed linguistic descriptions of regional speech in the UK. Every week the team working on this project writes about their ‘recording of the week’ in their blog.
The findings and knowledge of this team of researchers, academics and curators has contributed to a new exhibition at the British Library Evolving English which opened on the 12th November 2010.
Our sociolinguistics curator, Jonnie Robinson, is also involved in a collaboration between the University of Sheffield, the Institute of Education, the University of East London and the British Library. Children’s Playground Games and Songs in the New Media Age will explore the relationship between children’s traditional games and songs, their media cultures and associated forms of play. The Opie Collection of Children’s Games and Songs has been digitized at the BL and new recordings of playground games collected in primary schools in London and Sheffield will be archived at the BL.
All of these projects contribute new material to the archives at the BL, as well as complement existing research material. At the same time, they generate new data for researchers based in universities and enable academics and curators to work in ways which have academic outputs as well as public ones. I hope these vignettes offer some thoughts about how you could work with libraries, museums, universities and other groups in your own research to produce research with multiple beneficiaries.