Public history: local history, community engagement, archive digitisation and e-learning

Submitting Institution

Bishop Grosseteste University

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Curatorial and Related Studies, Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

This case study in public history research activity has achieved impact through promoting lay engagement with twentieth-century local history and extending popular knowledge, appreciation, commemoration and ownership of the recent histories of local people, communities and institutions. A particular area of influence has been in relation to informing understanding of the history and heritage of urban council estates. Research has also influenced the development of good practice in digital preservation and archiving, and in the creation and use of historical e-resources by individuals, communities and schools.

Underpinning research

Impact is underpinned by five areas of interrelated research activity advanced since 2008, but reaching back in its origins to 2005: contemporary local history, community involvement, digitisation and e-learning, council-house history, and newspaper history.

Research since 2005 has explored the changing nature of local and regional history through the twentieth century and into the twenty first. This has investigated paradigmatic shifts in local history, and in so doing identified internal influences as well as wider disciplinary, interdisciplinary, institutional and cultural causal factors. The changing volume and character of recent local historical activity has been considered, up to and since the Millennium, as has thought and practice in approaching historical investigation of later twentieth century, or `contemporary', local historical change. A second area of research, and part of the broader interest in the development of modern local and regional history, is a particular focus on modes of community engagement. This has studied the interconnections existing over the last two decades between community history, knowledge transfer activity, the role of higher and continuing education, and public heritage funding. A third area of research has examined the growth of, and advances in, the digitisation of historical archives and related e-learning resources. Research here has investigated the opportunities and challenges that digitisation and e-learning have brought for local history, community engagement, knowledge transfer, and school and continuing education.

A fourth area of research activity has focussed on the British council estate. The study of council-estates has, in part, served to provide case-specific material for contextualising broader investigations of the development of contemporary local history, community engagement, and digitising and web-publishing local historical archives. However, research into council estates has developed a momentum of its own. This has been driven by examination of the striking and distinctive example of the case of Lincoln, the discovery of a rare community archive for a post-war council estate, and local-government initiatives in the city striving to advance knowledge and understanding of its twentieth-century council estates. The fifth and final, impact-bearing area of research relates to newspapers as a source, ranging from provincial publications to community and institutional newsletters. These forms of archive media have been explored in terms of their value and significance for studying twentieth-century historical contexts, for the understanding that they provide of evolving local and organisational identities, and for their potential for forming digitised, public e-resources. Illuminating newspaper material has been utilised from the counties of Devon and Lincolnshire.

These five interrelated areas of research activity are reflected in various research outputs since 2008, including chapters in books published by the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology and The Survey of Lincoln project; articles in Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries, Family and Community History, International Journal of Heritage Studies, International Journal of Regional and Local History, The Lincoln Enquirer, Lincolnshire Past and Present, Rural History, The Local Historian, and Local History News; and academic papers for conferences of the Association of Local History Tutors, British Association for Local History, Centre for English Local History, European Social Science History, and Social History Society.

References to the research

• Jackson, AJH, 2012, `The "open-closed" settlement model and the interdisciplinary formulations of Dennis Mills: conceptualising local rural change', Rural History, 23, 2, 121-36. DOI: 10.1017/S0956793312000039.


• Jackson, AJH, 2010, `Provincial newspapers and the development of local communities: the creation of a seaside resort newspaper for Ilfracombe, Devon, 1860-1', Family and Community History, 13, 2, 101-13. DOI: 10.1179/146311810X12851639314110.


• Jackson, AJH, 2010, `Researching and writing local histories of the twentieth century: an introduction', International Journal of Regional and Local Studies, 6, 2, 7-15. ISSN 2051-4530.

• Jackson, AJH, 2010, `Problems and practice in "community-focused" local history: on the Ermine, a council estate in 1950s and `60s Lincoln', International Journal of Regional and Local Studies, 6, 2, 48-71. ISSN 2051-4530.

• Jackson, AJH, 2008, `Local and regional history as heritage: the heritage process and conceptualising the purpose and practice of local historians', International Journal of Heritage Studies, 14, 4, 362-79. DOI: 10.1080/13527250802155877.


• Jackson, AJH, 2008, `Local history and local history education in the early twenty-first century: organisational and intellectual challenges', The Local Historian, 38, 4, 266-73.

Details of the impact

The impact of the public-history research activity undertaken is reflected in positive influence within three broad areas: in civil society, through forming and influencing associations between individuals and groups, as well as their values and assumptions; in cultural life, by developing forms of cultural capital held by people, communities and institutions; and in education, by influencing the development of good practice in learning resource creation and use. Prominent and tangible types of impact include: preserving, conserving and presenting cultural heritage; contributing to processes of commemoration; and supporting the design of curriculum delivery through the development of IT resources for educational purposes. These three areas of impact and impact types have been achieved through four clearly defined, and public or privately funded, projects and their related engagement activities:

Devon History and Heritage Online project commenced as a pilot in 2006 to mark the 100th anniversary of the publication of the Devonshire Victoria County History. The project, becoming Devon History Online from 2008, was funded by Devon County Council (£25,000), would seek new ways of publishing the county's history through digitising and web-publishing a great volume of primary sources relating to coastal and market towns, held primarily in central repositories based in Exeter. The design of the website encompassed a place-promotional heritage agenda, and also the design of interactive resources for use by schools. Ilfracombe, as the pilot case, and site of state-assisted economic and cultural regeneration, became a particular focus of attention.

Ermine Estate e-Archive project is the result of a partnership with St John the Baptist Parish Church, Ermine, Lincoln, from 2008. The project has been concerned with collecting, collating, preserving, conserving and publishing a rare and unusual council estate community archive held at the church on behalf of the estate. The content of a neighbourhood newspaper, the Ermine News, has been identified as being of particular significance. The work of the project and on the archive has marked the 60th anniversary of the start of the construction of the estate, and the 50th anniversary of the building of the church. Outputs of the project partnership have included the digitisation of the entire archive in 2009 (funded by the Skills for Sustainable Communities Lifelong Learning Network, £15,000, and Diocese of Lincoln Quarry Trust, £1,000), the public hosting of the material in an e-archive on the church's website, the production of a new local history of the estate and church, local exhibitions in the library and church, and the production of learning resources for schools.

The Lincolnshire Cooperative e-Archive was created to mark the 150th anniversary of the Society. A project was commissioned by the Coop (£15,000) in 2009 to conserve and preserve the original copies of a substantial part of the Society's archive. The project also digitised and webhosted those archives for public and popular access, given their significance for the lay and professional study of the development of Lincoln and Lincolnshire in modern times, and for the history of the cooperative movement nationally.

The Survey of Lincoln commenced in 1999, and is a project part-funded by the City of Lincoln Council, and bringing together local government officers, academics and local historians. The tasks of the Survey team are primarily to produce a multi-volume set of publications of the history and heritage of the city aimed at a general and popular readership, with supporting talks and events. An important agenda item has been that of producing histories of twentieth-century districts of the city, off the heritage trail but subject to environmental decline and regeneration. This author is a committee member and has been responsible for producing chapters on three of the city's council estates in 2009, 2010 and 2013.

Progress made by the four projects, and related underpinning research, has been reported through various media aimed at general, popular and professional audiences and readerships from 2008. Public lectures have been given to the Association for Local History Tutors (2008), Branston U3A (2012), British Association for Local History (2010), City of Lincoln Council's Historic Environment Advisory Panel (2012), Ingham History Group (2012 and 2013), Lincoln Book Festival (2009), Lincoln Rotary Club (2012), Lincolnshire Heritage Consortium (2009), Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology (2010 and 2012), The Lincolnshire Archives (2010), The Survey of Lincoln (2009 and 2010), Sleaford Museum Trust (2009), and West Lindsey U3A (2012). In addition, two national events were staged to mark the work of these projects. In 2010 a conference was organised in partnership with the University of Lincoln, British Association for Local History (£1,000 grant funding) and Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology on `Researching and writing local histories of the twentieth century'. In 2011, a conference was organised in partnership with the University of Lincoln, `The history and heritage of post-war council estates: exploring landscapes and culture', attended by academics, and officers of local, central and non-governmental agencies. The work of the projects has also been disseminated through a number of published outputs aiming also at a general and popular, as well as an academic, readership: chapters in books published by the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology (2011) and The Survey of Lincoln project (2009, 2010 and 2013); and articles in Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries (2008), Family and Community History (2010), Lincolnshire Past and Present (2012 and 2103), Local History News (2012), The Lincoln Enquirer (2012) and The Local Historian (2008).

Sources to corroborate the impact

Quantitative indicators (public and private funding):

  • Devon history online (Devon County Council, £25,000), 2008-11.
  • Ermine estate archive project (Quarry Trust, Diocese of Lincoln, £1,000), 2009.
  • Ermine estate community archive e-resource (Skills for Sustainable Communities Lifelong Learning Network, £15,000), 2009.
  • Ermine News indexing and publication project (Lincoln Record Society, £1,000), 2012.
  • Lincolnshire Cooperative Society archive digitisation and web-publication (Lincolnshire Cooperative Ltd, £15,000), 2010.
  • `Researching and writing local histories of the twentieth century', conference of the British Association for Local History/Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology/ Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln/University of Lincoln (BALH, £1,000), 2010.

Public engagement:

  • Jackson, AJH, `Devon History Online: Brights Intelligencer - a year in the life of Ilfracombe, 1860-1, Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries, 2008, 90.4, 104-12.
  • Jackson, AJH, Interview on community history, council estate history and the Ermine estate project, Siren FM, 16 March 2009.
  • Jackson, AJH, `150 years of history: on using the digitised, open-access archive of the Lincolnshire Cooperative', Lincolnshire Past & Present, 2012, 89, 9-10.
  • Jackson, AJH, `Approaching the local history of the twentieth century: problems and possibilities', Local History News, 2012, 102, 12-3.
  • Jackson, AJH, `Read all about it! The Ermine News: the Ermine estate's community newspaper, 1957-65', Lincolnshire Past & Present, 92, 19-22.
  • Lincolnshire Cooperative, `History meets high-tech: how Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln has helping to preserve our precious records', Esprit, Spring 2011, 20, 26-7.
  • Lincolnshire Echo, `Journey through time highlights rich history: latest book in series covers 2,000 years of uphill Lincoln', 23 November 2009, 12.

Independent testimony:

  • Hoy, Fr Stephen, Incumbent, St John the Baptist parish church, Ermine, Lincoln, letter to the Principal, Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln, 28 September 2010.
  • Saxby, John, Bishop of Lincoln, `St John, Ermine — digitisation and e-learning project', letter to the Revd Stephen Hoy, Ermine, Lincoln, 5 August 2008.
  • Skills for Sustainable Communities Lifelong Learning Network, The Story 2007-2010. University of Leicester: SSCLLN, 2010.