Ways into the Collection: Databases

cartoon books and globe on shelvesResearch Skills Series

By Alison Newby

Last time we discussed the importance of the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (AIU Centre) and its collections, touching on some of the realities of archives and archival research, and looking at the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves before engaging with an archive collection. This time we’ll be moving on to begin checking out the ways relevant Centre resources can be identified and accessed. 

There are three ways into the collection:

  • Databases  (including subject area resource lists)
  • Human interface  (speaking to the librarian and/or Collections Access Officer) [coming soon]
  • Serendipity (just going in and browsing) [coming soon]

Which one you start with is very much up to you and your preferred style. This time I’ll be introducing the different database options at your disposal. I’ll be looking at the human interface and serendipity in future posts.

So you’ll be able to dip into this post to find information that’s particularly interesting to you, I’ll be covering these subjects under the following headings:

  1. Databases – subject area resource lists
  2. Databases featuring the Centre’s resources
  3. Building up a relevant list of Centre resources
  4. What to do next

Continue reading

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Ways into the Collection: Questions to ask yourself

cartoon books and globe on shelves

Research Skills Series

By Alison Newby

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (AIU Centre) is the premier resource centre in the country devoted to making available materials to facilitate the study of race relations. As such, it’s consulted by researchers from across the world. We at the University of Manchester are fortunate that it’s situated down the road from us in Manchester Central Library. The AIU Centre is the University’s flagship representative in the regional archive umbrella group Archives+. That we have such easy access to it is a rare privilege we should all appreciate and take advantage of.

That’s if we know the relevance of race relations-related resources to our studies, and if we understand how to make the most of the collections. A couple of big ‘ifs’.

The blog posts I’ll be contributing are designed to help us think through these issues. I’ll be taking a look at the kinds of resources held by the Centre, and what they have to offer to various subject areas. Hopefully it will become easier for us to use those resources more efficiently and optimally to enrich our studies.

I’m going to start by trying to get to grips with understanding how to make the most of the collections. In this post, we’ll touch on:

  • some of the realities of archives and archival research that we need to bear in mind
  • questions to ask ourselves that will help our preparations to engage an archive collection

With the stage set, in three posts we’ll look at each of the three ways into the AIU Centre’s collections:

So let’s make a start… Continue reading

Using our Collections in your Studies: Introducing the Research Skills Series

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Research Skills Series

Most of us know the basics of using a lending library, and anyone who has studied history will have a grasp of what archives are, how they’re accessed and why they’re important. But seeing all of the possibilities of a collection for your particular area of study takes time; something many researchers don’t have. So we want to give you a few shortcuts, suggestions and an insider perspective, to help you make the best use of our archive and library collections.

Over the coming months our Honorary Research Associate Dr Alison Newby will be exploring the collection and putting together a series of blog posts about how it can be used. She’ll cover practicalities, such as how to use databases and collection information; she’ll highlight some collection strengths, such as studying oral histories; and she’ll also reflect on the issues that a collection like ours raises for research, such as reflecting a diversity of historical voices.

Alison is a historian by training, as well as a qualified coach working in the HE sector. For her, the roles of coach and historian involve using similar skills – including the abilities to see lots of different perspectives, and to pull together reflections based on the ‘stories’ people actually narrate. You can read about her coaching work here. On the history side, she completed her PhD on nineteenth-century American social and political history at the University of Manchester, and has been specialising in focused research projects bringing together race relations themes and materials from cultural institutions in the Manchester area. Having visited a variety of archives of different sizes in the UK and the USA, she is able to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of each.

The posts in this Research Skills Series are aimed at researchers at all levels, so whether you’re just starting out with independent research or a school project, or you’re a seasoned researcher interested in maximising your time at the Resource Centre, we hope there will be something here for you. Check out the series to date (which includes some skills-focused past posts) in the Research skills category.