New free tools open up historical archives for teaching and learning

Historical Texts aims to become a valued resource for researchers, students and teachers.

Jisc initiative Historical Texts has launched a set of tools to support using nearly half a million primary-source historical texts in undergraduate learning and teaching.  

The new tools aim to make Historical Texts, which brings together four significant archive collections from the likes of the British Library, valuable to more people by broadening its focus from researchers to educators and undergraduates, allowing both to read and use primary source texts.  

The available archives are:  

  • Early English Books Online (EEBO) 
  • Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO)  
  • British Library 19th Century collection 
  • UK Medical Heritage Library (UKMHL). 

The developments to the platform were made after academics at higher education institutions requested new tools to balance the needs of research and teaching.  

In response, the Jisc team formed an editorial board that first created a prototype set of content and is now launching the tools to the wider HE community.  

Students can now access many individual resources, including archives based on ecocriticism and black history. 

Teachers looking for new ways to engage their students can access materials and guidance on using archive texts in the classroom, and guides to creating innovative and engaging forms of assessment.  

There is also a collection of downloadable presentations, which are ready to use but can be changed to suit the needs of the downloader. These resources are free for all to use, although some may contain links to subscriber-only content.  

The Historical Texts team are now looking for users to explore the new tools and help them develop and improve them by providing feedback.  

Paola Marchionni, head of product for Historical Texts, said:  

“The goal of this project is to extend the audience of those for whom Historical Texts can be a valuable resource by bridging the gap between the service’s original focus on researcher needs and the requirements of undergraduate scholars, who are increasingly looking to engage with primary source texts.  

“We encourage users of Historical Texts to explore what is currently available and to provide any feedback they might have on the usefulness of the tools and how we might develop them further.” 

To explore the new tools, check out the learning and teaching pages of the Historical Texts website.