Books as Open Online Content: Paper Trails

Laura Sangha

This year I joined the editorial board of a BOOC for UCL press titled Paper Trails, and if you are an academic, librarian, curator, collections manager, archivist, or educator, we want to work with you.

Paper Trails imageThat might need some explanation: a BOOC is a new, fully open access platform that allows for multi-form contributions across time. Living books for the digital age, if you will.

The innovative BOOC format comes with many benefits. It means that Paper Trails can offer space not only for peer-reviewed, ‘REF-able’ academic articles, but that these can be published alongside work by other practitioners who both study the past, and who make the study of the past possible. We thus hope that one of the things our BOOC will do will be to make visible and showcase the work of collection managers, curators, librarians, archivists and educators. The intellectual focus, multi-form content, and the four streams in our Call for Papers are designed with this in mind.

The Paper Trails BOOC therefore presents an excellent opportunity for interdisciplinary reflection on the ways that we construct the past, and on the collaborative nature of that project. In particular it will allow us to consider our relationship with research material more closely and coherently, by juxtaposing critical histories with reflections on practice, sources and materials.

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‘Engaging’ Lead Editor: Andrew WM Smith

Paper Trails is also intended as a means to capture and promote some of the excellent education and engagement work that many scholars are involved in, but which we often don’t get to hear about. We hope that the ‘Engagement’ stream will become a repository of shorter cases studies or think pieces that demonstrate particular skills or techniques, and which can therefore inform broader professional practice. Since creative and dynamic ways of engaging non-professionals with the past are now widespread, the BOOC can be the means to preserve and disseminate the best of this work.

We are also especially keen to hear from anyone who has been involved in projects that resulted in the co-production of knowledge, where non-academic, undergraduate or taught postgraduate audiences collaborated with professionals or members of the public to create new work based on archive collections. As with engagement, there are superb examples of these types of projects out there at the moment, and the outputs from these could img_3998find a more permanent home alongside similar examples within the BOOC’s pages.

I’m really looking forward to reading the first round of submissions to Paper Trails, and to watching how the BOOC platform develops in the future. I hope you will agree that it has great potential – if so please do bring it to the attention of anyone you know who might wish to contribute.

Paper Trails: Call for Papers

The full Call for Papers is below – the deadline for the first round of submissions is 31 January 2020. (But note that the BOOC is an ongoing publication, so you can submit for future releases after that). Please send in proposals for publications in these streams, along with a brief biographical presentation.

For further information, please contact the lead editor, Dr Andrew WM Smith (University of Chichester) a.smith@chi.ac.uk

Often there is more than research inside the books we read. Bookmarks, train tickets, receipts, and menus tucked into pages offer clues about the life of the book itself. Yet the lives of our research material often go unmarked, lost between the gaps in disciplinary boundaries and narrow definitions. The biographies of books and documents can illuminate their contexts, as printed matter that is sold, passed down or abandoned. What happens when we consider the three moments of production, transmission, and reception together with our own research stories? Documents, like people, have births, lives, and even deaths, so what does it mean to investigate the biographies of texts, objects, and archival records? Beyond the formal roles of cataloguing and archiving, what part do researchers play in shaping the emergent archive?

This is not strictly an intellectual history, nor even a material book history, but something more like a social history of ideas, inspired by work such as Antoinette Burton’s discussions of Archive Stories (Duke University Press, 2005), Arlette Farge’s reflection on the Allure of the Archives (Yale University Press, 2013), Lisa Jardine’s discussion of Temptation in the Archives (UCL Press, 2015), and Ann Laura Stoler’s call to read Along the Archival Grain (Princeton University Press, 2009). Indeed, the stories of our research material evolve significantly over their life cycles, as Arjun Appadurai outlined in The Social Life of Things (Cambridge University Press, 1986). Beyond commodities and value, however, this new publication seeks to consider our affective relationship with research material, juxtaposing critical histories with reflections on practice.

The editorial board invite contributors to submit papers to be published in a BOOC (Book as Open Online Content), a fully open access platform with UCL Press described as “a living book”. We are interested in a broad geographical and chronological scope and actively welcome a diverse range of topics and authors.

We will look to publish material in four streams, which will allow us to set fully REF compliant academic work alongside work produced by practitioners for their professional development:

Research Stories (8-10,000 words): We are encouraging a focus on research stories to invite a more reflective methodology, offering a more inclusive and engaged commentary on the work involved in researching, ordering, and preserving the past. This section will consist of double-blind peer-reviewed academic articles.

Co-Production (flexible word count – up to 2,000): Outputs from projects in which non-academic, undergraduate and taught postgraduate audiences collaborate with others (collection professions, academics, members of the public etc) to create new work that is based on research collections.

Collection Profiles (500 words): This stream consists of shorter, descriptive or even narrative pieces, that highlights items or collections of interest.  This may be a prelude to a piece of in-depth research, but it does not necessarily need to be.

Engagement (2,000 words): Reflective pieces that focus on a broad range of engagement activities, from the professional’s perspective.  These can be case studies, or ‘think pieces’ on particular skills or techniques.  They should inform professional practice.

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