We've just held the second of five evening classes, called 'Back to the future: studying history through primary sources'.
We have been trying to make these sessions fun and informative, and they have proved to be a great way of introducing people to the pleasures of studying history using original documents. Every week, we build the session around a selection of documents that we think will interest the people on the course.
The first week was a general introduction, when we looked at the sorts of books and manuscripts we have here in the Caird Library and how you can use them to find out about maritime topics. We focused particularly on battles and life at sea, and talked about how to use logbooks and letters to find out how sailors in Nelson’s navy lived and fought. We showed and talked about some first hand accounts of the Battle of Trafalgar, and how different people had a different view of the event.
The second class looked at how to find out about people. How do you find out what sailors thought about life at sea – and what about their wives? We had letters from the famous – Nelson and his wife – and the unknown – a naval wife stationed at Gibraltar in 1805; logbooks from Lord Lewin’s youth in the Second World War and a letter from a 14 year old who accompanied Captain Cook round the world. We pored over the manuscripts to see whether we could picture the lives and attitudes of this variety of people with different stories to tell.
This week, the class is about travel and exploration and the highlight of the evening will be an opportunity to see some of the museum’s collection of rare charts and atlases. There will also be a chance to find out how Polar explorers kept away the winter blues.
Future sessions will focus on luxury sea travel and the history of Greenwich.
We hope that we will be able to run these classes again in the future. In the meantime, if you have missed out on this opportunity to see some of our treasures at close hand, perhaps you could come along to one of our Archive Journeys sessions in the E-Library.
Update: late bookings (£7.50/£5.50 for individual evenings) are still possible for this course - see the how to book for courses and talks page on the Museum website for more information.
Daphne (Manuscripts Archivist)
Visitor notice: We are pleased to announce that Royal Museums Greenwich is reopening. To find out more about which sites will be open and how to plan your visit, click here.