Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Sources in Local History

The Sources in Local History series was created by Professor Alexander Fenton, former head of the School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh, and founding director of the European Ethnological Research Centre. His aim was to publish and promote research into the diaries, account books, letters, journals and other ‘ego-documents’ of individuals from all walks of life, but in particular ‘those holding lowlier positions in the world – in other words, the great majority’. Six volumes were published between 1994 and 1997 making available a range of original documents from the diary of an Orkney farmer, 1766-76, to that of a Dundee millwright, 1864-65.

Such documents are a rich source of information for local historians and ethnologists – they not only allow the voice of the private individual to be heard, but also offer information about everyday life not often found in other historical records.

This series is being re-launched as a digital resource and will form an important part of the EERC’s Dumfries and Galloway: A Regional Ethnology project. A selection of full texts and extracts will be made available on the Study website, providing valuable insights into domestic and family life, diet, socialising and leisure activities, prices and commodities, personal religious and political views, working patterns and conditions, seasonal rhythms and tasks, the development of local trade, the impact of the state and national events on local society, dialect and customs, and more.

To achieve this, the EERC is encouraging members of the public to get involved in this side of the Study. Volunteers will have the opportunity to participate in all stages of the collecting and writing process, including identifying relevant documents, researching their provenance, transcribing them, annotating them, and writing introductory essays. They will be welcome to work on a document individually or as part of a team, and to select which aspects of the process interest them most. The documents can be of any length, and so participation can be tailored to suit whatever time the volunteer has available. A transcription of a single letter containing interesting material, for example, will be as welcome as the full transcription of a diary or account book. For sources that are too extensive to transcribe in their entirety or only parts of which contain evidence relevant to the Study, a selection of extracts can be made.

If you would like to get involved, or have any questions, please contact us at:

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