By Mari Takayanagi, Senior Archivist, UK Parliamentary Archives
The Parliamentary Archives holds the historic records of the UK House of Commons and House of Lords, from 1497 to present day – some 13km of paper and parchment, plus more than 20TB of digital. The physical records are held in the Victoria Tower at the Palace of Westminster – a beautiful but cramped building. Space constraints make it very difficult for us to bring schoolchildren to the archives, so we were delighted to work with Parliament’s Education and Engagement team on ‘Learn Live’!
Aimed at schoolchildren aged 7-14, ‘Learn Live‘ is a series of online educational resources using a mix of interactive video and live Q&A, to explain how Parliament works and how people can get involved with the House of Commons and House of Lords. The session the Archives was particularly involved with was ‘Votes for Women’, exploring the history of the women’s suffrage movement and linking this to present day campaigning. The video included footage of archive documents including the Great Reform Act 1832.
I was interviewed by Education Officer Becca in the Archives search room for the Q&A, using archive documents to help answer questions which had been submitted in advance by schools. The questions were brilliant and thought-provoking: could women vote in ancient civilisations? Why were the suffragettes called terrorists? My favourite question was whether there had been any suffragettes from Yorkshire, which gave me the chance to talk about Mary Gawthorpe, a suffragette from Leeds. We hold a postcard of her, and she is mentioned in one of our police reports on suffragettes in the Palace of Westminster.
Following a pilot session in November 2019, ‘Learn Live – Votes for Women’ was broadcast on 3 March 2020 to celebrate International Women’s Day. There were live audiences of more than 1800 people, with hundreds more watching afterwards on catch-up. Schools participated from across the UK, including from Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as home educators.
The session is now on the Parliament website for anyone to use at any time – particularly helpful in this time of Covid. It was a great way of using archive documents to reach large educational audiences. It was really successful for the Education team too, who were proud to win a ‘Teach Primary’ Award for it.
Dr Mari Takayanagi, Senior Archivist, Parliamentary Archives
You can follow Mari on Twitter @satisfactory20
Links: Learn Live –
View the whole Learn Live series https://learning.parliament.uk/en/outreach/online/
Teach Primary Awards 2020 https://www.theteachco.com/teachawards/winners
UK Parliamentary Archives https://archives.parliament.uk/ ;
UK Parliament Learning https://learning.parliament.uk/ ;