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AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) studentship – Every record tells a story: understanding and supporting user engagement with potentially sensitive family history records.

Subject areas:

Culture, Media and Creative Industries MPhil/PhD (Full-time) or (Part time).

Funding type:

Research Training & Support Grant. Stipend. Study costs.

Awarding body:

Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC).



Fully funded collaborative doctoral studentship from Oct. 2024 by King's College London (KCL) and The National Archives (TNA) under the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Scheme.

Award details

King's College London (KCL) and The National Archives (TNA) are pleased to announce a fully funded Collaborative doctoral studentship from October 2024, under the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Scheme.

The aim of this studentship is to explore users’ emotional responses to archival records from the perspective of family historians consulting Ministry of Defence (MoD) records. The outcome of family history research is usually highly positive; however, it can also be unpredictable, especially when unexpected or difficult information is unearthed. Through research with family history groups, the studentship explores the potential for MoD records to elicit complex emotional responses from those consulting them. The studentship will ultimately enable better custodianship of archival records by considering how best to support user wellbeing in digital and physical spaces.

The studentship will be jointly supervised by Dr Anna Woodham (Culture, Media and Creative Industries, KCL) and Dr Elizabeth Haines (Collections Expertise and Engagement, The National Archives). The student will be expected to spend time at both KCL and TNA. As part of the project, the student would commit to undertake relevant training activities offered by both organisations to support their research activities and personal and professional development.

Project Description

Through qualitative research with family history groups, the studentship explores the potential for Ministry of Defence records to elicit complex emotional responses from those who consult them. In order to enable better custodianship of these and other archival records, research is needed to explore how best to support user wellbeing in digital and physical archival spaces.

Compared to WWI military service records, which were often less detailed and abundant, access to WWII records is increasing rapidly. This means that many individuals will be able to access information about their own parents (rather than grandparents or more distant relatives). As records open, information that has the potential to be upsetting (e.g., disciplinary, mental and sexual health records, or citing previously unknown siblings) may become available. Some records are from colonial contexts or reflect histories of forced migration. Individuals are often accessing documentary accounts of wartime histories that were untold by their relatives. This brings sharply into focus the possibility that users will have encounters with records that evoke a traumatic response.

Trauma informed practice is an area of growing interest in the archival sector; however, existing research tends to focus on records which have clear links to human rights abuses and discriminatory or damaging policies. Less attention has been paid to records which may, on the surface, appear more benign, and where users and archival staff are less prepared to be confronted with distressing content. The MoD records therefore provide an unprecedented case-study for innovation as a substantial set of records of demonstrable high interest that have not yet been considered through a trauma-informed lens. The study is timely as this topic that will only become more pressing as the volume of records in the public domain increases.

Although the exact research design will develop in the initial stages of the studentship, we anticipate that the studentship will involve a qualitative study with family history user groups. The student will spend time exploring the range of materials within the MoD records and the potential for these to elicit complex emotional responses. They will also consider how archival organisations can meet the emotional needs of these users and what steps might prepare users for what they discover. The MoD records provide the framing and empirical focus of the study, however there is scope for the student to refine the research questions, data collection and analysis according to their interests and professional development needs. For example, the student can draw out themes of interest, including gender, class or specific racialized groups, or the impact of different research settings and practices.

Indicative research questions include:

  • What range of emotional responses could be triggered by the release of more contemporary MoD records?
  • How can archival institutions support the family history user’s emotional needs at different stages of their research journey?

The successful applicant would become part of the Postgraduate Research Community in the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries (CMCI) and the wider cohort of CDP funded students across the UK, with access to CDP Cohort Development events.

Award value

CDP doctoral training grants fund full-time studentships for 48 months (4 years) or part-time equivalent.

Stipend: A stipend / maintenance allowance of £21,237 per annum (academic year 2024-25) - please note the stipend is tax free, including £2,000 per annum London Weighting Allowance (LWA).

Tuition fees: The award pays tuition fees up to the value of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) full-time home rate for PhD degrees. The indicative fee level for Research Council studentships for 2024/25 is £4,786. KCL will make up the difference in fees for an international student.

Other (please outline): There is also a CDP maintenance payment of £600/year.

Further details can be found on the UKRI website.

The student is eligible to receive an additional travel and related expenses grant during the course of the project courtesy of The National Archives worth up to £1000 per year for 4 years (48 months).

Eligibility criteria

This studentship is open to both Home and International applicants and can be studied either full or part-time.

To be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have settled status, or
  • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter

Further guidance can be found on the UKRI website.

Minimum Entry Requirement:

Applicants should ideally have or expect to receive a relevant Masters-level qualification or be able to demonstrate equivalent experience in a setting involving knowledge of and critical reflection on relevant topics, such as (but not limited to): the management of archival and other collections, family history research, emotional engagement with heritage. Suitable fields of experience are flexible, but might include cultural heritage, community heritage engagement, heritage professions, arts management or work with veterans or military history.

  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate an interest in the archives sector and potential and enthusiasm for developing skills more widely in related areas.
  • As a collaborative award, students will be expected to spend time at both the University and The National Archives.
  • All applicants must meet the UKRI terms and conditions for funding.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

This studentship is a partnership between King’s College London and The National Archives.

King’s College London aims to be an inclusive organisation, reflecting the diverse needs and aspirations of employees and researchers and promoting equality of access for all. We are committed to tackling barriers to participation by creating a culture that encourages respect and values difference. For more information please read our EDI policy 

The National Archives is part of the Civil Service. The Civil Service is committed to attract, retain and invest in talent wherever it is found. To learn more please see the Civil Service People Plan and the Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

Application process

Applicants should apply via the KCL Apply portal: Login - King's Apply (kcl.ac.uk)

Select either Culture, Media and Creative Industries MPhil/PhD (Full-time) or (Part time) and complete the online application form.

On the form, please clearly mark your application “CMCI TNA Collaborative Doctoral Partnership project” at the top of the Research Proposal box and enter “CMCITNACDP24” in the funding section of your application.

Applicants will be required to give the details of one referee who is able to provide a relevant reference to support their application. Once the application is submitted, the referee will be contacted by the KCL Admissions Team and will have 7 days to complete their reference.

Applicants are not required to include a full research proposal, but should upload as part of their application, a Personal Statement in the form of a Word document of up to 800 words (maximum) containing the following information:

  • A statement explaining how their background and experiences makes them a suitable candidate for this project.
  • Their reasons for applying.
  • Which aspects of the project particularly drew their interest and how they might explore these through the studentship.

Please ensure all necessary application documents, including documents for all qualifications at Bachelors level and above, are attached at the point of application. If your application is reviewed and found to be incomplete, this may impact your eligibility for consideration.

For informal enquiries, please contact Dr Anna Woodham (anna.woodham@kcl.ac.uk) or Dr Elizabeth Haines (Elizabeth.Haines@nationalarchives.gov.uk)

Shortlisted applicants will be notified by email of the arrangements for the online interviews. All applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application via the KCL Apply portal.

Reasonable adjustments and support for applicants

Should you require any reasonable adjustments or support throughout the application process, please contact Dr Anna Woodham or research@nationalarchives.gov.uk. 

Support or adjustments may include (but are not limited to):

  • Opportunity to speak with supervisors about the project and the process.
  • Opportunity to speak with contacts within King’s College London and/or The National Archives regarding institutional support systems (e.g. Neurodiversity, Racial Diversity and LGBTIAQ+ networks, mental health support, support for carers, and more).
  • Access to interview questions and insight into the interview process.
  • All interviews will be held online, however there is the opportunity to visit KCL’s Strand Campus as well as access on-site guidance (demonstrating accessible routes and/or familiarity with building layouts for example).
  • Opportunity to speak with active CDP students to ask questions regarding student experience as part of the CDP scheme.

Application deadlines:

  • Closing date - 17th June 2024 (by 11.59 am UK time).
  • Reference deadline – 24th June. Following the application deadline, it is a requirement that references are provided within 7 days. Please contact your referee to request they submit their reference within this time frame. Applications that are not complete 7 days after the deadline may not be considered.
  • Interviews – week of 15th July (online).

Contact Details:

For informal enquiries, please contact Dr Anna Woodham (anna.woodham@kcl.ac.uk), Senior Lecturer Museum & Heritage Studies, Culture, Media and Creative Industries (CMCI) or at The National Archives Dr Elizabeth Haines (Elizabeth.Haines@nationalarchives.gov.uk)

Name of the Funding Provider: 

AHRC (TNA CDP4 funding scheme).

 
 

Academic year:

2024-25

Grant code:

CMCITNACDP24

Study mode:

Postgraduate research

Application closing date:

Contact us for details on when to apply