Research Case studies
Our Criminal Past
The case-study combines knowledge exchange, heritage and public engagement, and builds on Shore’s extensive body of work and reputation in crime history. It is underpinned by two Arts and Humanities Research Council grants (Our Criminal Past: Caring for the Future, 2015-16; Our Criminal Past: Our Criminal Ancestors, 2017-18). Our Criminal Past has stimulated public engagement with crime history through a combination of interactive workshop events, web-based dissemination, public-facing events, collaboration and knowledge exchange. It has developed new ways of thinking about the presentation of crime history in museums, galleries, archives and heritage hubs, and fostered long-term collaboration with heritage professionals. Through sharing knowledge and demystifying archives, it enables the public to interpret and use historical archives; it has provided our user community with the skills to explore their own rich stories of crime through the lens of social and community history.
The Our Criminal Past: Caring for the Future project worked with museum, heritage and education professionals, and concerned questions of knowledge exchange, collaboration and innovation in relation to the preservation, presentation and transmission of Our Criminal Past. Through three interactive workshops, academics, heritage professionals, archivists and educationalists explored the challenges and benefits of collaboration, knowledge exchange, and innovation. The workshops focused on digitising crime history, the role of crime history in education (museums, schools, universities) and the display of penal history (museums and archives), themes identified as important areas of cross-disciplinary interest that have cultural significance beyond the academy. The Our Criminal Ancestors project worked with project partners Hull History Centre to hold three interactive workshops with members of the public. The workshops focused on knowledge exchange and public engagement, by developing understandings of crime ancestry and history, and imparting skills to undertake historical research. In sum, the Our Criminal Past case-study explores broad engagement with crime history in a range of communities (general public, family historians, heritage professionals, curators, archivists, educationalists).
The initial impact relating to knowledge exchange, collaboration and innovative thinking, was developed through Our Criminal Past: Caring for the Future (AH/K005766/1), an AHRC funded research networking project led by Professor Heather Shore (PI) and Dr. Helen Johnston (CI, University of Hull) between 2013 and 2014. This project directly led to a more substantial public engagement and knowledge exchange project Our Criminal Ancestors (PI, Johnston, AH/P009255/1), awarded Follow-on-Funding from the AHRC between 2016 and 2018. Further impact relates to public engagement, knowledge exchange, and network-building, through Shore’s development of local heritage contacts.
The project both built on existing networks and developed new heritage contacts. Shore joined the Committee of CaP (Crime and Punishment Collections Network) as Secretary in 2015 and was involved in the successful bid to the Art Council’s Museums Resilience Fund (2017-8) aimed at expanding the network and growing both knowledge exchange and broader engagement in the project. The Our Criminal Past website also attracted input from museum curators. A blog from Preston Park Museum led to a significant relationship between Shore and the Museum. Shore has held two commissioned workshops (2017), focused around a law and order collection which was donated in 2014, and has advised on a funding bid for a major project around these resources. Shore and Johnston maintain strong relationships with organisations such as the Galleries of Justice (now National Justice Museum) in Nottingham, Oxford Castle, The Yorkshire Law and Order Museums, Ripon Prison and Police Museum, Leeds Museums and Art Galleries and Preston Park Museum in Teesside. Through the Our Criminal Past network, Shore and Johnston also built strong links to organisations such as the Historical Association, the Schools History Project, London Metropolitan Archives and the National Archives.
At the Our Criminal Past workshops, heritage participants were particularly focused on practice – the presentation of crime history, and creative ways to foster public engagement in the criminal past. It was out of fruitful exchanges about how this might be achieved, that the idea for Our Criminal Ancestors evolved. The aim was to share knowledge but also to collaborate with, and facilitate the public in finding, interpreting and using archival records to trace their criminal ancestors; in other words, to promote creative interaction between academic researchers and the public. The project provided three interactive workshops (2017) for the public themed around crime, policing and penal ancestry, working with the Hull History Centre and taking place in Hull’s City of Culture year. A major output of the project is the interactive and open access website, which will guide, assist and direct members of the public to assemble their own rich stories of family and local history, providing how-to-guides, blogs, mapping timelines, and social media exchange with researchers.
- H. Shore and H. Johnston (eds.), ‘Special Edition: Our Criminal Past: Caring for the Future’, Law, Crime and History, 5/1 (2015), pp.1-151. Online Journal (circa. 57,000 words).
- Our Criminal Ancestors: An Introduction to Crime, Policing and Punishment Records in Hull and the East Riding. Hard copy, also available online via link.
- Advisor (credited), ‘The Secret History of My Family’, BBC/Bare Films, broadcasted March 2016: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b073lqfx
- (Helen Johnston) Interview on BBC Radio Humberside about Our Criminal Ancestors project - July 2017.
- Article in Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine (biggest selling family history magazine in UK), August 2017.
- Article in Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, June 2018