Guest Post: Scott Johnston on Archival Research and the Boy Scouts

Scott Johnston is a PhD student at McMaster University. My research explores The transatlantic relationship between Canada and the United Kingdom in the 19th and 20th centuries. I am beginning a project which examines notions of time and the ordering of time across the Atlantic world and the British empire. He is also interested in public memory and commemoration. My previous projects have focused on the role of youth movements such as the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movements in imperial and international relations.

In the early spring of 2012, I, a graduate student in history from Canada, found myself huddled up in a cold, damp, little tent, pitched on the far side of the Atlantic, listening to campfire singsong while reading copies of century old letters, meeting minutes, and other miscellaneous ephemera with a flashlight. I was at Gilwell Park in Great Britain, the headquarters of the Scout Association, doing research on an imperial migration program which the Boy Scouts had organized in the 1920s and 1930s for my upcoming article in the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth. It was a slightly surreal experience, combining the dirt and wet of outdoor camp life with the usually pristine, climate controlled, bare world of archival research. But Gilwell Park, uniquely, is both an active, busy campsite for the organization’s youth of today, while also being the location of the Scout Association’s archives. I daily jumped between the two worlds, sleeping in my tiny tent at night, and walking across the property to the well maintained archives by day.

Such a contrast profoundly emphasizes how distant academic life can sometimes be from the real, lived lives of the object of study. The past is found by historians in scraps of dry paper, locked away in sterile, colourless rooms. But there are bridges across the gap. Sometimes the sources that truly bring the past to life are those that never see the light of day in published print. These little archival gems can bring out lively personalities. Take, for example, the letter that Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, wrote to his house guest, asking if he had seen his brother’s missing evening shoes.[1] Such humdrum novelties make the figures of the past become real.

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Africa Focus: a Primary Source Collection

Africa Focus: Sights and Sounds of a Continent brings together an array of primary source materials related to the study of forty-five different countries. The collection features still images (photographs and slides) and audio recordings only, providing rich non-written sources for study and teaching. There are two search options: a thematic or subject search and a guided (more advanced) search.

For a complete website review, see Children & Youth in History. The website is available at http://uwdc.library.wisc.edu/collections/AfricaFocus.

Guest Post: Joy Schulz on Mining for Treasures

Joy Schulz, is a member of the History Faculty at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska. She is the recipient of a 2013-15 AHA “Bridging Cultures” grant, studying Atlantic and Pacific influences on U.S. history. Below she talks about her research for a Spring 2013 article in JHCY, and a forthcoming article on the missionary children in Hawai‘i to appear in Diplomatic History (Oxford University Press).

In researching my article on the white children of American missionaries to the Hawaiian kingdom during the nineteenth century, I had the pleasure to travel to the islands for archival research. Some of my colleagues suggested that I chose my topic for that very reason! While the islands are always beautiful, travel to them is expensive, and my time was limited. From a very practical standpoint, my research at Punahou and the Hawaiian Missions Children Society archives took on an extremely frantic pace as I attempted to gather as many documents as I could in a short amount of time. I pass on to my fellow researchers one method that worked well for me.

Punahou Punahou 2

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Ukiyo-e: a Search Engine for Japanese Woodblock Prints

Ukiyo-e is a dynamic research tool where researchers can search through over 213,000 Japanese woodblock prints from 1700s-present. There are two search options: by keyword or by image (upload or paste an image URL). John Resig, the site creator, has created this tool to address the need for “easily finding similar prints across multiple collections simultaneously.” This extends to unifying artist names, which often vary across collections or change, and translating the Kanji names. Resig lists all of the collections (museum, university, library, gallery, and private) that are searchable through the site.

A keyword search for “children” results in 1,183 unique images. An option called “Compare Prints” allows viewers to see different iterations of similar images, a huge help in seeing the changes in renderings over time. The site is clean and easy to navigate, providing as much information as possible about the prints as well as links to the collections in which they are housed.

The site is available at ukiyo-e.org.

Interview with Colin Heywood (Univ. of Nottingham)

Colin Heywood on the recent SHCY conference at the University of Nottingham – June, 2013

Professor Colin Heywood of the University of Nottingham is the author of four books, two of which are particularly important for the history of childhood: A History of Childhood: Children and Childhood in the West from Medieval to Modern Times (Polity, 2001); Growing up in France: from the Ancien Régime to the Third Republic (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007). He served SHCY as host for the 2013 conference in June. On July 22, Patrick Ryan of Kings University College in London, Ontario recorded this interviewed with Professor Heywood about his reflections upon the conference, and for his thoughts about the state of historical research about childhood.

Prof. Heywood Podcast