I’m a PhD student in the History Department, Faculty of Arts; funded through CHASE (Consortium for Humanities and Arts in the South East)
Supervisors: Dr Chris Williams (History); Dr Susie West (History of Art)
The Material Culture of Murder Files: Police Archives as Texts and Artefacts
As a part-time student, the research period will span from 2014 to 2020. However, the oral history element of the project “Recording crime: the preservation of policing history” will commence in early 2016 and run for a year.
Using a process of survey work with record offices and police archives, as well as oral histories with retired police officers, records managers and archivists; I hope to uncover the material culture of crime files. By tracking their life-cycles I aim to develop a clearer understanding of how and why they survive, or don’t. Police records, particularly crime files, are legal documents with a strict shelf life and unless they “slip through the net”, for example as a retirement souvenir, they are normally destroyed at the end of their working life. In a time of radical budget cuts, police museums and historic archives are disappearing and less resources are being directed at keeping these records beyond their required term. I argue that their destruction will have a long-term effect on the future study of criminal and policing history.
museums of profession – for example collections gathered by the emergency services, the clothing or mining industries, medical or educational institutions; the relationships between organisational culture and heritage; police historic collections and archives; the policies around the retention and destruction of police records; professional souvenir-keeping; the interplay between artefacts and documents; document life-cycles; material culture and artefacts as intermediaries.
I have worked for museums and art galleries for a number of years, so my work has become intrinsically linked to my research and I am always interested in exploring opportunities which bring the two together. I am also an Arts Council England museum mentor, currently supporting Tetbury Police Museum, and a committee member of the Arts Council England Specialist Subject Network Group – The Crime and Punishment Collections Network (CaP).