THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Social Science blog

06 September 2013

Made at the British Library

The British Library has put together a new series of videos which show how different people have been inspired and supported by the Library’s collections. Different areas of the collections such as newspapers, maps and market research reports are shown to enable researchers, educators and creative individuals carry out their work. Alex Hall, a final year PhD student at the University of Manchester has used the British Library’s newspaper collections to undertake research in the history of science. Here is a bit more about his research and how he has used our collections.

History of Science – Alex Hall

Alex Hall is in the final year of his PhD at the University of Manchester, researching UK weather events and the history of the Met Office. He is interested in the way that the Met Office has communicated with the public, and how its role has changed since WWII. His starting point was the Daily Mirror headline after the Great Storm of 1987: ‘Why didn’t they warn us?’ This prompted the question: how did this culture of blame develop?

Alex has used official documents from other archives to research particular events, for example, floods in the 40s and 50s. These sources can tell you ‘what happened’, or ‘what was supposed to happen’, but they often don’t tell you how events unfolded, and how the public responded. He turned to the Library’s unique collections of local newspapers to analyse the public response to the floods. He also used the Library’s international collections to find government documents from around the world, to give a wider context to his work. Particularly useful was a US document called ‘Weather is the Nation’s Business’; he discovered that many British policy ideas had been directly drawn from this report. Alex has spoken at several conferences about his work, in the UK and US, and also writes a weather-related blog. This blog led to him being invited to speak to a group of Chinese meteorologists about his research. He hopes his completed research will prove useful to the Met Office, as his discoveries give insight into the evolution of its role and reputation.

Watch Alex’s short video about his research at the British Library here:

 

In the case of the video failing to play, click here.

Follow Alex on Twitter @Green_gambit and read his personal blog here: http://greengambit.blogspot.com/

 

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