The Importance of Archives – Preserving the Past and Contextualising the Present

Finnish National Archives

│By Torsti Grönberg, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki│

Historian Jo Tollebeek once wrote that increasing “scientification” of history at the end of the nineteenth century produced a new kind of archival-fantasy: a belief that all relevant documents from the past could be gathered. Nowadays it is vital to comprehend and take into account the diversity of an archive. Every archive is bound not only to its history and context but also the demands of the current era. At the end of the day, an archive is in of itself an intellectual problem and a cultural artefact to be studied. Historian Natalie Zemon Davis has also made the important point that, even though the world of archives has encountered many changes, the most important aspect is still the same: when you read documents in an archive you have a physical link to the past in front of you that connects you to people long dead and strengthens the researchers attempt to tell about the past as honestly as possible.1

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How Gale Digital Scholar Lab Could Support Alternative Research Methods

Online working

|By Rob Youngs do Patrocinio, Gale Ambassador at University College London|

Academic research has evolved drastically in recent years, with new technology revolutionising research methods. One impact is the growing influence of quantitative analysis within the Humanities and Social Sciences. This has impacted research and student curriculums. I am currently a third-year student at University College London (UCL) studying History and Politics of the Americas with languages. Last year, my course included a ‘Research Methods’ module. The quantitative section of this module introduced me to the value of digital humanities (DH), particularly R-Studio which we took time to practise and utilise in our university projects. My institute’s different DH workshops were useful in that they enhanced the module and enriched my course as it presented a new approach to social scientific research. This challenged me to further question the complexities of QUAN vs QUAL/mixed-methods research, and to what extent they are mutually inclusive/exclusive in different research contexts.

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L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque nationale de France – A Student’s Perspective

|By Rob Youngs do Patrocinio, Gale Ambassador at University College London|

Gale’s rich and exciting archive collection L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque national de France, which is part of Gale’s Archives of Sexuality and Gender series, holds an impressive assortment of approximately 2400 printed works, published mostly in French. Enfer quite literally translates into English as “hell”. The name is remarkable and has certainly contributed to the collection’s historical infamy. When it was opened, the collection was classified and unavailable to the wider public due to its obscene and outlandish nature, and the perceived vulgarity of the content – but perhaps unsurprisingly this only roused interest and curiosity in the collection! Students of today will undoubtedly be equally curious to explore this historically “out of bounds” collection.

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Declassified Documents Online: Twentieth Century British Intelligence, Monitoring the World

Declassified Documents Online: Twentieth Century British Intelligence, Monitoring the World

|By Clem Delany, Acquisitions Editor, Gale Primary Sources|

It is now common knowledge that the German Enigma codes were broken during the Second World War in huts at Bletchley Park, and that this feat helped sway the tide of war in the Allies favour. Most people are also aware that Alan Turing was there, that early computers were being developed, and that after the war these codebreakers and the hundreds of people employed at Bletchley Park vanished into obscurity until the 1970s. These details have become part of popular culture: the shabby huts in the middle of a quiet countryside where great and secret things were happening providing the setting for the book Enigma by Robert Harris, or The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch in tweed, and even a BBC Radio sitcom, Hut 33.

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Tracing the Young Women’s Christian Association through ‘Women’s Studies Archive: Female Forerunners Worldwide’

YWCA in Gale's Womens's Studies Archive

|By Rachel Holt, Acquisitions Editor, Gale Primary Sources|

Rachel is the Acquisitions Editor managing Gale’s Women’s Studies Archive series.

This month Gale is proud to announce the launch of the fourth module in its multi-award-winning Women’s Studies Archive series, Female Forerunners Worldwide. Publishing in March 2022 this latest edition to Gale’s Gender Studies programme coincides not only with International Women’s Day but with Women’s History Month, hopefully giving scholars of women’s history, social history, and gender studies much to celebrate.

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How Gale’s Archives Supported My Thesis on the Politics of Contraception in South Africa, 1970s–80s

Contraception plus archive article images

│By Nonkoliso Andiswa Tshiki, Gale Ambassador at the University of Johannesburg│

Having to complete my Honours research paper in the era of Covid-19 left myself and many other students feeling stranded so far as to how to obtain valuable and relevant academic resources. Access to digitised resources quickly became vital to one’s success in academia and I am happy that I came across Gale Primary Sources when I did because they contributed greatly to the completion of my thesis. This blog will show how I utilised Gale’s Archives of Sexuality and Gender, and Women’s Studies Archive collections to explore my thesis topic – the Media and Technologies of Contraception in South Africa between the 1970s and 1980s.

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Lesser-Known Narratives and Everyday Histories in Archives Unbound

Archives Unbound screenshot

│By Ellie Brosnan, Gale Ambassador at Durham University│

Studying archival material has been one of the most fascinating aspects of my History degree so far. Local libraries often host regional collections which provide a fascinating avenue into engaging with local histories, and being a student at Durham University in the north-east of England has allowed me to engage with primary sources from this area. During my time at university, for example, I have been lucky enough to see letters from servants at Durham castle from centuries past. Archives hold all manner of sources and uncovering new information is always rewarding, both physically and digitally. Delving into Gale’s online resources has also illustrated how digital archives can offer as much, if not more, compared to their traditional physical counterparts.

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Tracing the Legacy of William Blake with British Literary Manuscripts Online

| By James Carney, Gale Ambassador at King’s College London |

William Blake is widely considered one of Britain’s finest artists of all time. From painters of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood to writers of the Irish Literary Revival, Blake’s influence permeates the artistic tradition. Therefore, it can come as a surprise to many that Blake’s work passed largely unrecognised during his lifetime. It is only posthumously that his legacy as we know it today has developed. This can be extensively explored using Gale’s British Literary Manuscripts Online: c. 1660-1900 archive.

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Classified Before the Fall of Saigon: Exploring U.S. Declassified Documents Online

Classified Before the Fall of Saigon

│By Torsti Grönberg, Gale Ambassador at the University of Helsinki│

On August 30, 2021, the United States Armed Forces completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan. History rarely repeats, but it does rhyme. The fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the following airlift of allied personnel out of the city reminded me keenly of the Fall of Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City, to the North Vietnamese on May 30, 1975. The parallels between the ends of these armed conflicts seem endless and the images of desperate Afghans crowding the Kabul airport bring with them a sense of déjà vu. In this blog post I will showcase the usefulness of Gale’s US Declassified Documents Online archive and examine the trail of breadcrumbs left by declassified US documents dated shortly before the Fall of Saigon, during the Vietnam War. What was the US government focusing on? Who was President Gerald Ford writing to? What kinds of reports and memos were landing on Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s desk?

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