On November 8th 2013 LJMU held the Nineteenth-Century Periodicals Research Day. Organised by Brian Maidment (English), Val Stevenson (Library), and Clare Horrocks (Media, Culture, and Communication), the symposium generated a forum in which many of the contemporary issues relevant to periodical research could be discussed. In addition the event celebrated ‘Punch Re-Rooted’—the new archive collection and exhibition of nineteenth-century periodicals at the Aldham Robarts Library.
The first speaker was James Baker from the British Library’s digital research department. James’s presentation emphasised the advanced ways in which Digital Humanities enables us to engage with primary source material and how these modern research methods may lead to opening up and crafting a new canon. Next up was Jonathan Canfield (English, LJMU). Jonathan’s study of Arthur Conan Doyle’s work for The Strand Magazine was helpful in evaluating my own approach to archival research. Focusing on a specific period of The Strand’s publication Jonathan identified a transition in the voice of the magazine as it moved from Doyle’s spiritualism towards the scepticism of H. G. Wells. Mike Benbough Jackson (History, LJMU) gave the final talk before lunch. Mike showed us how he was able to recover the images of rural stereotypes within Welsh periodical texts, and how Welsh identities were celebrated and formulated through these periodicals.
After the break Brian Maidment and Clare Horrocks led a workshop on the exhibition ‘Punch Re-Rooted’, where we were introduced to many of the texts in the LJMU collection. Their specialist insight of the printing process illuminated and brought to life the exhibition’s satirical images. Helen Rogers (English, LJMU) and Clare Horrocks gave the final talks of the day. Helen began by giving us an overview of the Working-Class Writing Archive. Helen explained how the project leads directly into her third-year module ‘Writing Lives’ here at LJMU www.writinglives.org. Helen’s students learn to develop practical research skills and by working on archival primary source material they contribute to the digital repository of working-class memoir. Clare introduced us to the new Punch archive, and gave us an overview of her exciting research on the Punch Contributor Ledgers Project http://www.ljmu.ac.uk/HSS/124772.htm. Clare highlighted some of the ongoing practical problems related to periodical research and Digital Humanities, and her talk gave me further insight into how I may be able to gather and collate metadata from my own research.
We had begun the day with the question of where periodical scholarship belongs within current academia. This issue was particularly pertinent to myself being a postgraduate researcher working on periodicals. After listening to the symposium’s diverse array of speakers, and hearing about the exciting and innovative research projects ongoing here at LJMU, it became obvious that periodical scholarship does not belong to any one discipline. The Punch exhibition and this symposium were only made possible through the partnership of different LJMU departments. It is this collaboration that perhaps best demonstrates the interdisciplinary characteristic of periodical research and its potential to transgress traditional academic boundaries.