Public History Projects

square with protestor and billboard and yellow building
UCL Anthropocene 

UCL Anthropocene works as an ongoing virtual school by assembling projects, people, courses, and events. It contributes to UCL’s Sustainability Strategy by developing education about the Anthropocene, climate change, and sustainability from the perspectives of the social, geographical and historical sciences. It also provides a focus for collaborative research and education on the Anthropocene across the UCL Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences, Arts and Humanities, and beyond. Its work intervenes in public debates and engages with citizens about climate change, sustainability and the environment through public events, exhibitions, research papers and social and broadcast media. 

Watch recordings of previous events and activities. We run public events with writers, have organized pre-COP26 events with scholars and activists, and have run European summer schools on the environmental humanities in the context of the Anthropocene. It was co-founded and is co-convened by Professor John Sabapathy in UCL History.

Image credit: Kreider + O’Leary, "Parrhesia", Campidoglio, Rome, Italy, September 2011. 

Global Threads researchers Sibia and Megan in the Conversation Space at the Science and Industry Museum.

Global Threads

Global Threads is a collaboration that began in 2021 between the UCL History Department’s Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery, the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, and a diverse team of talented researchers. This public history project draws out new and under-represented stories related to Manchester’s cotton industry, particularly those concerning colonialism, enslavement and global movements of people and goods. 
 Thanks to UCL’s Grand Challenges programme and UK Office funding, a team of seven MA-level researchers gained fully paid public history research and writing experience to craft ten case studies, each exploring a specific narrative linking Manchester’s history to lived experiences of resistance, solidarity, colonisation, enslavement, and industrialisation.

The second stage of the project involved the design and planning of a series of events at the Science and Industry Museum during the Summer of 2022, engaging hundreds of visitors with our research themes and working with a local textile designer, Green Jay Crafts, to create collaborative cloth designs and a mass-participation electro-knitted banner.

We also recorded a series of audio discussions, managed and edited by one of the team, between our researchers and a group of invited experts to explore the content of each case study as well as key issues and challenges in public history work. 

In 2023, the Global Threads team led the historical research for an exhibition titled ‘The Penistone Cloth—Textiles and Slavery—From the Pennines to Barbados and Beyond’ at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery in Autumn 2023 as part of the British Textile Biennial.

Beauty By the Books: Transcribing Early Modern Recipes (online)
 Transcribathon with Wellcome Collection and the Royal College of Physicians

Elaine Leong has organised a three-event transcribathon, timed to coincide with an exhibition about beauty at Wellcome Collection.

1. Wellcome-run virtual seminar, part of their Exploring Research series on Tuesday 14 November 2023, 15:00-17:00.
2. Transcribathon run by Early Modern Recipes Online Collective (EMROC), hosted at the Wellcome Library, featuring manuscripts from the Wellcome and the Royal College of Physicians on Friday 17 November 2023, 11:00.
3. Object drop-in session on Thursday 23 November 2023.

Tablecloth created at Sanctuary Stories event, Being Human Festival 2021, credit: Social Fabric.

A Proud Tradition of Sanctuary? Refugees, Charity and Welcome in Twentieth-Century Britain

Anna Maguire’s current research explores the processes of creating sanctuary for refugees in modern Britain. Drawing on the records of charities, refugee organisations and agencies, and activists, this project demonstrates the shift to a rights-based framework for sanctuary and the importance of local responses. The project has used art as a storytelling tool. Anna is currently developing the second phase of the project with migrant and refugee organisations based in East London.  

Guests at Great Get Together using the Memory Workshop Equipment in UCL East
 UCL East's Memory Bike

Anna Maguire, with the Urban Room and School for the Cultural and Creative Industries at UCL East, is piloting the development of the Memory Bike, a mobile audio recording and broadcasting unit to energise participatory research. In 2023, the bike has been part of the Voices of East Bank project, funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and run by LLDC with UCL East and the BBC as partners. This has included sessions at the Great Get Together and Black Pride in the Olympic Park.

Black and white photograph of windrush cricketers
Windrush Cricket

Michael Collins leads this project exploring cricket's social and cultural importance for the ‘Windrush generation’ that arrived in England from the Caribbean after World War II. The project began in June 2020 with seed funding from Culture Lab at UCL East and support from Hackney Council. The project’s scope now includes the whole of London, as well as Caribbean clubs and communities in Bristol, Nottingham, Leicester, Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester.

In 2023, Michael Collins' work received widespread media interest, both due to the 75th anniversary of Windrush and his role as one of the five report leads commissioned by the ICEC Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket that found widespread discrimination in the modern game

Scene Unseen documentary by Mark Frost UCL History

Mark Frost's film (in collaboration with the Singapore-based filmmakers Panuksmi Hardjowirogo and Michel Cayla), SCENE UnSEEN, traces the history of Singapore’s underground music scene since the late 1960s, which opened a rare window into a slice of Singapore that has largely eluded the public eye. Funding to support the project was awarded by the Dean’s Strategic Fund and other UCL sources. Mark's documentary won at the 2022 Bangkok International Documentary Awards. 

Watch the film trailer

Two women on old phones as part of the Women in the Miner's Strike Exhibition at the National Coal Mining Museum
Women and the Miners' Strike

Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite's project explored the year-long miners' strike of 1984-5 is one of the most well-known episodes of the Thatcher years. The project examined women's experiences of all sorts during the strike but also their whole life stories. The research shed broader light on working-class women's lives in Britain since 1945.

The two-year project ran from 2018-2020 and was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The project gathered oral histories from women in coalfield communities around Great Britain to find out about their experiences during the miners' strike of 1984-5. As part of this project, a series of public events were run across the UK.

Roger Bacon by Michael Maier - Public domain image of medieval doctor doing alchemy
 The Interpretation of Medieval Hospitals

In December 2019, Dr Johanna Dale and Dr Antonio Sennis delivered a talk on 'Hospitals and leprosy in the Middle Ages: Maldon's St Giles ruins in historical context' at the St Giles Leper Hospital Remains in Maldon, Essex. Johanna and Antonio were awarded funding by the Centre for Critical Heritage Studies for their collaborative project, 'The interpretation of medieval hospitals, wellbeing and the historic environment'. The CCHS grant supported the establishment of a historical walking tour in Maldon, Essex - the location of the St Giles Leper Hospital and one of the stops on the tour.

Bewitched is a mirrored glass heart that sits on a traditional black wooden base as if it is a specimen in a museum.
 Magical Thinking Past and Present

Following on from Sophie Page's Spellbound Exhibition, this project supported further collaborative work to continue exploring ideas about magical thinking and the medieval cosmos. 

The image on the left is of the sculpture, Bewitched, created by Katharine Dowson, a mirrored glass heart that sits on a traditional black wooden base as if it is a specimen in a museum. Gazing at its undulating mirrored forms, the image of the viewer is distorted to seem surreal and otherworldly. Read Sophie's full commentary on Bewitched.

Cover photo for the Spellbound Exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum led by Prof Sophie Page
Exhibition: Spellbound, Ashmolean Museum

The Spellbound exhibition ran at the Ashmolean Museum from 31st August 2018 to 6th January 2019 and was curated by Sophie Page. The exhibition examined how our ancestors used magical thinking to cope with the unpredictable world around them. It was well attended by the public and reviewed as "Irresistibly creepy" by The Telegraph, "Bewitching" by The Economist and "Mesmerising" by The Times.