Training Workshop

Remote Access: Conducting Archival Research from a Distance

Remote Access

Remote Access Workshop – Afternoon session

Archival research is an essential, and often overlooked, component of work for many researchers working in areas of the Arts and Humanities. The digitisation of large portions of our cultural heritage has significantly transformed the ways in which researchers engage with archives. As archives move selected materials online, researchers must confront a new set of methodological challenges, whether looking to incorporate digital material, access non-digitised resources or present their archival findings beyond academia. These challenges are particularly keenly felt by the many researchers working at a distance from the major archival centres or resources required for their research projects.

The Remote Access PG Workshop (February 13, 2015), funded by the Scottish School for the Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) brought 23 Postgraduate researchers from 10 Universities across Scotland to the Byre Theatre, St Andrews. The event invited students from an array of disciplines including film studies, anthropology, art history, music, and Scottish Literature – to bring their own experiences to the discussion, whether crowdsourcing historical materials in Glasgow, using limited online archives and private papers or, in one particularly memorable example, organising a research trip to Mongolia.

The workshop was organised in two sessions. The morning session featured keynotes by David Pierce (Media History Digital Library), Maria Velez-Serna (University of Glasgow), Karl Magee (Grierson Archives, University of Stirling), and James Layton (Museum of Modern Art – New York). The speakers offered different perspectives – from that of the researcher to the digital curator – and addressed some of the major practical and methodological issues confronting the archival researcher today. The postgraduate-led afternoon discussion was organised in four groups, reflecting the different stages of archival research:

1. How to Begin: Locating and Selecting materials;
2. How to make the most of your trip to the archive: Planning and visiting;
3. How best to use online archives: Incorporating digital material;
4. How to make the most of your findings: After the archive – what next?

The findings from the day, offering tips and examples of ‘best practices’ for archival research, are collected in the How to Guide.