Archives, collections and documents of life

This stream focuses on the practical and theoretical challenges and possibilities facing students when using material in both formal and unrecognised archives and collections, or working with diverse ‘documents of life’ such as personal texts, photographs, artefacts and objects, or other forms of material and visual culture. This can include working with discrete collections or material as part of an ESRC CASE partnership or developing methodological approaches to other potential source forms or materials.
This stream will consider how researchers can work effectively with a wide range of archival sources, as well as some of the methodological and analytical challenges of working with textual and non-textual data. This also relates to ethical dimensions of data protection and individual subject knowledge as well as broader questions of knowledge production, consumption and preservation.
Topics of interest to expand upon include (but are in no way limited to) the following:
  • personal experiences of working with archives, collections or other sources of documentary data;
  • the process of creating and curating your own archive as part of undertaking research;
  • the provenance of archives, collections, and documents of life, and how this shapes the ways we imagine and use them as sources;
  • the prospects and limitations of digitisation on engagement including how digital information shapes future sources; and
  • the possibilities of using ‘documents of life’ or other secondary sources in innovative ways to generate new data and insights.

Academic lead for 2022/23: Dr Catherine Oliver:


Dr Catherine Oliver  Catherine Oliver is a geographer and lecturer in the Sociology of Climate Change based at Lancaster University. Her research interests are animals (specifically birds), more-than-human theory, and urban studies. Between 2020 and 2022, Catherine was researching the history and contemporary resurgence of backyard hens and their keepers in gardens and allotments in London. Previously, she researched veganism in Britain, and her book Veganism, Archives and Animals, was published with Routledge in 2021. In 2021, Catherine was also appointed as a Royal Geographical Society Wiley Digital Archives Fellow, exploring their archives for stories of animal collaboration, labour, and conflict. She can be found on twitter at @katiecmoliver, and more about her work is available on her website,