At a time when we are marking our first anniversaries of going into lockdown in the UK, historians and history students are no longer strangers to the vagaries of studying and researching history almost fully online. As collection professionals, we have tried to offer support with our knowledge of library and digital resources. To help those struggling to find resources Senate House Library and the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) joined up to start holding online sessions. The sessions have now become a small series of online events where we explore a different topic and theme within history and give advice on how to do your own research into them.


Researching British History online

In October 2020, for the start of the new academic year, the IHR hosted the online event called “Researching British History Online”. The session was specifically designed to support research remotely when access to collections was still very limited due to Covid-19 restrictions. It featured essential online resources for British history, such as the Bibliography of British and Irish History (BBIH) and British History Online (BHO). It also presented digital resources available at Senate House Library and the IHR Library, which were either accessible with a library membership or completely free. The presenters compiled a resource list of further recommendations for online research into British history and the recording of the event was made freely available. Both can now be found in the IHR Events Archive.


Researching North American history

The first event spawned its second installment called “Researching North American History”, which was hosted by Senate House Library in March 2021. The session was introduced by Dr Sarah S. Dunstan, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the School of History, Queen Mary, University of London. She provided insight into her own research process for the book “Race, Rights and Reform” on the transatlantic connections across the U.S. and the French Empire in the black struggles for rights and citizenship during the 20th century. After the introduction, librarians at Senate House Library and the IHR and the editors of BBIH and BHO gave advice on how attendees could search for resources on North American history, including Canada, the U.S. and the Caribbean. Attended by researchers from the UK and abroad, the session proved useful to those writing essays and dissertations and even an attendee’s research into their own family history. The recording of the session was made available on Senate House Library’s YouTube channel and, like after the previous session, attendees were sent a resource list.


More online sessions coming soon…

Organising these collaborative sessions between librarians, digital editors and academics from across the University of London has been very rewarding. The events showed how crucial expertise from librarians and editors of digital resources was in helping attendees navigate their new research environments. We were really pleased to be able to reach out to a new online audience and to open up new paths for researching history in a year that has been so difficult for many students and researchers. Even as lockdown eases slowly but surely, we are looking forward to creating more online sessions like these.

This post was written by Argula Rublack, Academic Librarian (History) at Senate House Library, University of London.