Coventry Alive! with Southam College

We recently had our first school visit for our new ‘Coventry Alive!’ session. A group of fourteen year 9 pupils from Southam College came to spend the afternoon learning more about using archives…

The session began with a tour of the University of Warwick Library, where the pupils were shown the range of materials that the library kept. We observed that the books were mostly secondary sources. The class was also introduced to more unusual forms of resources like microfilm, and were given the opportunity to view the very first edition of The Radio Times in this format. After getting an idea of the sort of resources the library held, the session moved onto the MRC‘s archives.

First off, we talked about archived material and the pupils soon understood that archives could be in any format: paper, audio or digital. It could be either personal or official – from personal diaries to political campaign posters. They learned that archives are records created in the course of normal activities in day-to-day life. Therefore, it was important to consider where the sources came from, who wrote them and why they were made. These are the sort of sources that the historians use to write their books – the books we just saw in the library.

Then the pupils were given the opportunity to be historians for the day, conducting their own independent research, evaluating the reliability of sources and coming up with their own conclusions. This activity really emphasised the difference between primary and secondary sources and the value of first-hand source analysis.

This session focused on the history of Coventry. Each group of students were given a wide selection of resources from the MRC, which related to certain topics. The topics ranged from ‘Women at Work’, ‘Rebuilding Coventry’, ‘Festivals and Carnivals’ and ‘Coventry’s Response to the H-Bomb’. Each group used their sources to put together a poster presentation on their topic, referring to specific sources and what they could tell us about their topic.

The pupils really impressed us with their presentations and came up with some great insights. Each group presented their findings to the rest of the class, using photographs, letters and pamphlets to back up their findings.

hydrogen bomb groups work pupil holding his groups work

Overall, the session was a success! We got some really great feedback from the pupils:

‘We were able to work together in groups and use the real archives to gather information. It’s something we have never been able to do before.’

‘It got everyone involved and was really interesting to actually see & read the sources.’

‘I really enjoyed it and would love to do similar activities in the future!’

‘It has been a really enjoyable and interesting session :)’

‘It was great it was really independent and it was really interesting reading and investigating about the history of Coventry.’

We’d like to thank Southam College for coming in to visit – we really enjoyed having you!

If you are interested in bringing a class in for this session or would like more information please email

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