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QS 212: Ideas and Expression

Finding Information in Cultural Repositories

While you have become accustomed to using books, articles, and other secondary and tertiary sources for your research assignments, professional researchers also study primary sources located in archives, museums, special collections, and other cultural repositories.  Today, you will have an opportunity to learn more about the Indian Uprising of 1857-58 through primary source documents.   In addition to viewing digitized materials, you will also learn how to search for resources held by cultural repositories around the world.

Part 1: Topic Assignment

Before you start searching for primary resources, take a minute to review an overview article regarding the topic. When you are searching for materials, keep in mind this event was also called the Sepoy Rebellion, the Indian Mutiny, the Indian Rebellion, the Great Rebellion, the Revolt of 1857, the Indian Insurrection, and India's First War of Independence.  For this assignment, your group will be responsible for finding accounts of the Indian Uprising from a particular perspective, including accounts from a:

  1. British civilian in India at the time
  2. British officer in India at the time
  3. Low ranking British solider in India at the time (such as a private or paymaster)
  4. British nobleman in India  at the time (such as a Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, or Baron)

Part 2: Finding Appropriate Cultural Repositories to Conduct Research

It is not uncommon that early career researchers will not be aware of the cultural repositories that contain useful resources in their research area.   With so many resources spread across cultural repositories around the world, it is impossible for even the most seasoned researcher to know where all of the primary resources on his/her topic are located.  In order to help researchers, information professionals have started to create systems that can search across institutions to find useful primary sources.  In this section of the assignment, you will use one of these systems, ArchivesGrid, to discover collections related to your topic.

  1. Open a new browser tab to ArchivesGrid
  2. Conduct a search for the Sepoy Rebellion
  3. Open the Summary View tab at the top of the results screen.  This tab allows you to limit your results by topic, archive location, etc. Under the Places box select "India – Sepoy Rebellion, 1857-1858
  4. In the List View tab, you can browse the collections to identify a resource associated with your topic.  If you can't find a relevant collection, try searching for one of the other names of the rebellion (such as Indian Mutiny).
  5. Find a collection that you believe would provide insight into your topic and click on the “Read More” button.  Record the location of the collection, the collection name, and what is included in the collection.  

Part 3: Searching for Materials within an Archive

While ArchivesGrid is helpful in identifying cultural repositories that have useful resources on your topic, it only represents a small portion of what is available.  Another approach is to consider the cultural repositories that might cover your topic.  In the case of the Sepoy Rebellion, the National Archives of the United Kingdom would likely collect manuscripts associated with the British military and civil service in India.  In this part of the exercise, you will search the catalog of the National Archives.

  1. Open the National Archives Catalog
  2. Conduct a search for the Sepoy Rebellion
  3. Find a record that you believe would provide insight into your topic and click on the title.  Record the description and where the material is held.

Part 4: Using Materials from a Digital Archive

  1. Open a new browser tab to the India, Raj & Empire Collection
  2. In the menu bar, click on Documents
  3. Under Filter Options within Theme, click Indian Uprising 1857-58 and the Apply button
  4. Review the document titles in order to identify a document relevant to your topic (note: you might need to click on a title to learn more from its record).
  5. Once you click on the title, take some time to read the record
  6. Use the sections at the bottom of the record (if available) or click on the page thumbnails at the top of the record to browse the primary source.  Hint: Keep an eye on the dates of letters and journal entries (the Sepoy Rebellion occurred between May 10, 1857 and November 1, 1858)
  7. Write down any discoveries you make about the Sepoy Rebellion from the primary source you are reading.