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UNA Students Get Behind-the-Scenes Look at British History

Jul. 18, 2019



Michelle Eubanks, UNA, at meubanks@una.edu, 256-606-2033 or 256-765-4392 

 

FLORENCE, AL – University of North Alabama students participating in the study abroad program through the Centre for British Studies had a unique experience as part of the research and learning. They went behind the scenes during their private tours of the Royal Archives and the Archives of the Chapel of St. George at the Royal Collection Trust at Windsor Castle just outside London. 

“The students found their day at Windsor to be the best experience of their trip to the United Kingdom,” said Dr. Jeffrey Bibbee, the director of the UNA Centre for British Studies. “They enjoyed the hands-on nature of the time in the archives, working with the rare books at St. George’s Chapel and the time with the learning team in the state apartments.” 

As part of their experience, students were able to handle original 12th- to 18th-century documents from their founding charter as a chapel to the first letter in which King George writes of the possible loss of the American colonies. In the Rare Books library, they viewed the original medieval manuscript of the New Testament by John Wycliffe, the very first copy of the Bible in English, and the first book every printed in England using a printing press. 

Gordon Ferguson, the Windsor Castle Learning Manager, said the goal was to deliver a unique learning experience for students interested in high school history education. 

“At the Royal Collection Trust, we believe a student who sees, touches, and smells historical relics, ancient artifacts, and original sources of text becomes motivated to learn more in-depth when he returns to the classroom,” Ferguson said.” 

Study-abroad experiences such as this allow history to come to life for students, he said. 

“Memories of educational trips are among the most prominent of our formative years, largely because they are a welcome break in the routine for both students and teachers,” Ferguson said. “While it is possible to learn some basic historical concepts in lessons, there is no substitute for real experience in the wider world, such as at Windsor.” 

As part of the GPP, scholars are working on a crowd-source transcription effort to make each of the handwritten documents key word searchable and accessible to all types of learners and researchers. Dr. Bibbee has been charged with developing the teacher engagement strategy for the GPP so that these materials will be used in school classrooms around the world. 

“The students who have been part of the GPP transcription project were able to meet the leaders of the project and share their experiences of working on the database,” he said. “As the only university in the world to offer that experience as a credit-granting course, they were able to show how to integrate teaching and scholarship brilliantly.” 

The learning aims included: 

  • Looking at original GPP material in the Royal Archives and other materials in the St. George’s Chapel Archives. 
  • Showing students why and how to use archival materials that bring history alive in the classroom and where they might go to find these resources. 
  • Getting students to think about the potential power of a trip to a historical environment with the support of a Learning Team such as at Windsor Castle. 
  • Drawing upon the range of experiences throughout the day and the expertise of the people around them to plan meaningful takeaways. 
  • Inspiring students to incorporate all the little things around them into classroom practice – be it an anecdote from a warden, a photo of an information sign, describing the steepness of a walk-up to a castle, or a source that blew their minds in an archive. 

This access was possible because of UNA’s support of Dr. Bibbee’s faculty development leave with the Georgian Papers Programme. The GPP is a multi-million pound effort to digitize the papers of the Hanoverian dynasty in the Royal Archives and provide them free to the public. 


About The University of North Alabama 

The University of North Alabama is an accredited, comprehensive regional state university offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs through the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Human Sciences, and the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professionals. Occupying a 130-acre campus in a residential section of Florence, Alabama, UNA is located within a four-city area that also includes Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia. UNA Athletics, a renowned collegiate athletics program with seven (7) Division II National Championships, is now a proud member of the NCAA Division I’s ASUN Big South Conference. The University of North Alabama is an equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate in the admission policy on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, disability, age, or national origin. For more: www.una.edu and www.una.edu/unaworks