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Training strand A: Archives: What you need to know as a PGR

2nd December 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Dr Claire Siviter, University of Bristol

This session is designed to cover the ropes of using archives during your PhD, allowing you to make the most of your archival research, both now and in the future. We’ll cover four principal topics: an introduction to some useful theory about the archive and its holdings; preparing for the trip(s) to the archives; working onsite, including taking good notes and photos; and how to use the sources you’ve gathered, both in your PhD and further down the line. At the end of the session, there will also be time for Q+A’s.

I am a theatre historian working on the longer French Revolutionary period (c. 1789-1815). Archival research in France and the UK was a central part of my AHRC-funded PhD and as a postdoc I worked on a digital humanities project that drew on the holdings of French, Belgian, Italian, and German archives.


Following Claire’s session, Kevin Passmore of Cardiff University will host a short session on the Archives nationales in Paris.

Kevin Passmore, Cardiff University

The Archives nationales, situated at various sites in Paris, conserve the archives of the French state along with those of many private persons of national interest. Besides the technical and legal work of conserving valuable documents (increasingly in electronic form) they promote public understanding of French history and culture since the medieval period. In recent years, the archivists have played a significant role, for instance, in commemorating the Great War, in opening up archives on the occupation, the Holocaust and decolonisation. They organise physical and online exhibitions and conferences (most recently on policing in the Enlightenment) and performance art, along with hackathons to encourage software innovation. In other words, they cater for a wide reange of skills and interests, not only useful for a career in research, but in many other domains.

The Archives nationales are very keen to host placements for doctoral students. They will direct you towards work in conformity with the expectations of the DTP and of your own competences. It is, for instance, possible to work on classification of documents and the writing of research instruments and on specific projects related to your own research. According to your interests and requirements, they will initiate you into the secrets of their various departments – management of collections, conservation workshops, advice to researchers, media activities and so on.