Where do you go to find out if there are standing buildings and monuments linked to social movements in England? How do you find out about the traces left in the environment by social changes in the past? English Heritage might not be your first thought, but it has resources that can illuminate many under-represented histories at local or national level. Rachel Hasted and Rosie Sherrington, who are the Social Inclusion and Diversity team at English Heritage, explain.
English Heritage publishes widely on all aspects of the historic environment, on line and in print. The National Monument Record, Swindon http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/national-monuments-record-centre/ is a major archive holding ten million photos, reports, plans, drawings and other resources for studying the historic environment.
While English Heritage has an established reputation for expertise on archaeology and architectural history, its holdings have not always been recognised as a great resource for social and cultural history.
A whole series of existing publications on everything from the history of lidos to pubs, from the design of shops to hospitals already exists to document the historic environment by building type. Further research publications look at the history of areas such as Anfield or Manningham. All of these can be found on the EH website at http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/book-and-buy/online-shop/
Now, EH is increasingly seeking to reach new audiences by telling the story of buildings that preserve the history important to groups that are often under-represented in public history. Examples include:
Sites of Memory (www.english-heritage.org.uk/abolition): a series of resources identifying buildings and monuments relating to the British slave trade and its abolition. The resources include a short film on the life of Dido Belle at Kenwood House (now an EH property) as well as the locations of monuments to enslaved Africans, abolitionists and slave traders, their houses, businesses and public buildings.
Following a successful conference on “Slavery and the Country House” in 2009, we will shortly be adding research papers on four EH properties and their links to the slave trade and abolition movements to this site.
Women’s History (http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/people-and-places/womens-history/): a collection of pages highlighting links between women and the historic environment, including “Visible in Stone” a partnership project with The Women’s Library and the TUC Library Collection at London Metropolitan University with original research by Dr Cheryl Law looking at locations associated with women’s rights campaigns, women and public space, women and housing in the C19th and C20th.
Other resources cover everything from women at sea to healthcare. We are adding new pages regularly and welcome suggestions.
We are now scoping a research project to identify and publish web pages on disability history and the historic environment. The aim is to go live in late 2012. Likely areas of coverage are institutional buildings from the medieval period to the twentieth century, the history of inclusive design and the disability rights movement, buildings and monuments associated with prominent disabled people. Again, we are keen to link to other projects and would welcome news of related research.
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