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e-Help Seminars - Anders Macgregor
e-Help Seminar 3
Students in the archive with a computer...
Toulouse 17-19 February 2005

My presentation in Toulouse 17/2 2005 included an account of an ongoing class/project in one of my courses at Hvitfeldtska Gymnasiet (Upper Secondary School) in Gothenburg, Sweden. The ideas of this presentation was to emphasize the possibilities of using ICT in connection with local history and work in the archives plus the individual an “public” gain of this work.

At Hvitfeldtska Gymnasiet we have a local course called Gothenburg History HI501. This is not an obligatory course which means that you as a student have to choose it out of interest. Our school year is divided into three periods (August-November / November-March / March-June) and this course is only one period long. This means that we usually have between 20-24 lessons of 1 ½ hours to cover the whole course.
The course I presented started in November and is over in the beginning of March. The usual course is mixture of lectures, city walks and visits to the city museum and the Regional Archive. The work produced by the students includes a traditional test, participation in the activities, that they do some basic research in the archives and later publish the results…

Lectures…The ”lectures” are a mix of three parts;
1. Traditional lectures in the classroom with specific themes
2. City walks with specific themes
3. Own preparation by reading assigned papers and articles – this leads to questions and/or discussions in the classroom

Visits in the archives
We visit two archives together;
1. The Gothenburg City Museum. Our city museum is located in the old office of the Swedish East Indian Company (18th Century) and its located 10-15 minutes walk from our school. It’s free for all school classes (and anybody under the age of 20). You can get free guiding for the classes but I usually prefer to do a short guiding of my own students since we are looking for specific information. At the 4th floor is the “Archive Room”. Here our students can find photos from old Gothenburg and different articles (from newspapers and magazines) about the city.
2. The Regional Archive of Gothenburg. In this archive the students can find many different primary sources such as Church Records, Tax Records, Local and Regional Population Census, Land Tracks, School Records, Prison Records, Police Reports, etc…. The Regional Archive is situated just beside our school (1-2 minutes walk!). Here I let an experienced archivist present the archive (this is also part of the city service to our schools so it’s free of charge). The archivist usually have a short introduction where she/he mention the different archives available in Sweden, the organization of the Regional Archives and what specific material that’s available in this archive. She/he also brings some of the primary sources – in November 2004 my students got to see Court Records from 1789(!), Prison Records from the late 19th century (with photos…), records from a Women’s “Work House”, Tax Records from one part of the city and some Police Reports on the legal Prostitution in the late 19th century (the archivist had bookmarked a specific page. Here the students could read about Elizabeth Gustafsdotter who later emigrated to England. In London she became Jack the Rippers third victim… . ). This is a very good introduction for our students.
The students’ research includes going through old Tax Records to establish who lived in a certain house at a certain time. We have started an investigation of the part of the city named Haga and the years we focus on are 1880 and 1900. During these years Gothenburg went through a dramatically change from a more old fashioned ”trading city” to an industrial city. We want to see if we can spot this transformation in the primary sources…
During one or two of the coming lessons I go with the students to the Regional Archive so they have a chance to get my help. They learn how to
1. Find the right material
2. How to order the material from the archivist
3. How to read the material (it’s handwritten and it takes a little while until they get into this way of writing)
4. How to organize and write down the information they received

After the research has been carried out the results are published on the course webpage. The main page for the student has a photo of the house today, some comments about the address investigated and a short conclusion of each year plus finally a comparison. The earlier researches of the local Tax Records are also published… In this way the students get to do some research but at the same time the effort is not overwhelming.

The Result…
The individual gain for the student;
1. This work definitely spur their interest in the topic History
2. It gives the students an insight in the background of historical knowledge
3. They mix practical archive work with theory and carry out different evaluations – with other words they work as professional historians
4. They become aware of the archives (become archive literate)
5. They also become more aware of the ICT possibilities when they publish their results
6. Las but not the least they become pride and usually very satisfied with the published work…

The Result in a bigger context…
The result of the individual effort has a wider gain;
1. The class can compare and contrast their individual results and start to make general observations…
2. The students in the next course benefit from the earlier results
3. The “ordinary” classes gain from students with more awareness of the origin of sources. They can more appreciate and understand the different interpretations of history
4. The subject History becomes more interesting when we add the practical parts to it. This opens for students with learning disabilities. The process makes the topic easier to grasp
5. The school can start similar projects where the results of these investigations can be used
6. The school becomes recognized, not only as a “learning institution”, but also as a small research institution.
7. Other schools become aware of the possibilities and they can establish their own projects (that either continue the research already done or establish new research areas).
8. The Archives also receive some well earned recognition. Some students get very “hooked” but the general public also becomes aware of possibilities…
9. Higher Education gain in different ways. They will receive students with some archive and research experience as well as maybe the possibility to use the results of these investigations…
10. Cooperation possibilities between our school and other schools, Higher Education, other institutions, etc….
11. The project strengthens the cooperation between the school and our archives
12. The general public can use the results (genealogists etc…)

Most of the results above would have been impossible without the publishing process. This is one of many areas where ICT fills a very important function!

Here you can find the project
Gothenburg History Project

and here you can see what the handwritten material look like
Handwritten material from the archive...

Contribute further to the seminar at



Spartacus Learning Online MacGregor is History Historia Siglo 20 Historical Association International School History Sintermeertencollege InnovativeICT.net

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