Gathering data on public history in York

Posted on 18 April 2013

My placement brief was to work with the History Department and IPUP on a project designed to gather data to develop the understanding of how the public appreciate and respond to history in York.

My role was to direct and support a team of undergraduate students tasked with gathering information about the city's current heritage offer, and how this might be improved. The students were offered this opportunity as a way of developing their research and analysis skills, whilst investigating the public's perceptions of the city's history. The project involved designing and carrying out public surveys linked to events run under the banner of the Festival of Ideas in June.

The overall aim of the project was to provide information and data which would lead towards a greater understanding of the impact of history in the public arena, improve public interactions with history in the city and lead to developing better strategies towards making the history of York more publicly accessible.

I very much enjoyed this project and believe that it has helped me learn much about this form of data gathering and work – not least the time it takes to transcribe and assess information. I really liked working with the undergraduates in the position of supervisor – this was my first real chance at taking a leadership role in this sort of context.

I chose this internship with the intention of developing my ability to interact with undergraduates and provide them with information and experience that would help them in the future. In the end, this is roughly how the placement worked out. However, the apparent lack of organisation and clear definition of the tasks involved meant that much of the work I was doing was rather 'off the cuff' and it took me a very long time to find my feet and understand precisely what it was I was doing and how I was supposed to be doing it. In many ways this is an aspect that could do with being tightened in the future.

I believe that I have improved my communication skills. Between organising and supervising the undergraduates, and communicating with external bodies and management of attractions – such as at Jorvik – I had to work out the best way to talk to people and to convey a particular point or aim as well as I could. I similarly feel that my ability to organise events and ideas has been improved. I have also realised that I need to spend some more time working on time management – a realisation that I believe could be very important for the future. 

This internship has been useful, and while I have stated reservations with the overall organisation of the project, I would suggest that, with a few tweaks, this is definitely something that is worthwhile for students at all levels.

Andrew Foster

IPUP Intern