‘Our Criminal Past’ is an AHRC-funded research network of scholars working in the field of the criminal, legal and penal history of Britain. The network will bring these scholars together with archivists and those engaged in an educational and heritage capacity in museums and prisons over a series of seminars, sustained through this network website and other social media. It aims to bring together scholars, researchers and heritage and penal stakeholders who are invested (academically and/or professionally) in the future of ‘Our Criminal Past’. Thus ‘Caring for the Future’ of the history of crime is fundamental to the network discussions, collaborations and outputs. The creation of the network is in recognition of the growing importance of ‘Our Criminal Past’ not only to academics but also to archives, heritage professionals, educationalists and others in the wider community who have an investment in how the criminal past is to be preserved, presented and transmitted.
The network will explore three inter-related themes: Digitisation, Social Media and Crime History; Educating Historians of Crime: Classroom, Archive, Community and Representing Penal Histories: Displaying and Narrating the Criminal Past. Our intention is to create a dynamic network by developing a website, holding three one-day seminar/workshops and creating and maintaining a database of crime and penal history collections.
The aim is to enable a forum for discussion and debate about future research directions, the sustainability of research in relation to new technology and funding-streams; the role of individuals, communities and institutions in shaping and preserving our criminal past. By bringing together academics from a range of disciplines (history, criminology, education, tourism, cultural studies) with archivists, educationalists, librarians, heritage practitioners, the network and the activities will provide a forum from which to explore ideas that could lead to new projects in and resources for the history of crime. The themes have been identified as important areas of cross and multidisciplinary interest in terms of existing, current and future research and as themes that have contemporary and cultural significance beyond the academy.