On Saturday 11th March, myself, Emma Watkins and Eleanor Bland ran a Digital Panopticon stand as part of the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities Showcase at the city’s Millennium Gallery. Reflecting on the day, Emma said afterwards, “Lots of staff, students and members of the public popped by, including both adults and children – there was a great atmosphere and diversity of projects on show”.
Over the course of the day, Emma, Eleanor and myself spoke to approximately fifty members of the public. We introduced the Digital Panopticon project and explained its potential to provide valuable information to family historians, school teachers and policy-makers. We also told people about currently available resources such as The Old Bailey Online, Founders and Survivors as well as books produced by the Digital Panopticon team. We had conversations about a diverse range of subjects including people’s family history, a recent Heather Shore documentary on transportation, local court records and the meaning of the word ‘Panopticon‘.
Speaking of her experience at the Showcase, Eleanor commented:
“I really enjoyed engaging with members of the public about the Digital Panopticon project. In particular, I was fascinated to hear about some of their ancestors’ lives, and suggest how they could use the datasets linked by the project to understand more about their family history. It was also a great opportunity to explain some of the interesting aspects of the history of crime and transportation to members of the public who have perhaps not encountered this field before.”
In addition, a few days earlier, I spoke about the showcase while being interviewed about the Digital Panopticon on the Toby Foster Breakfast Show (BBC Radio Sheffield, 9 March 2017, starts at 40 mins, 30 seconds). This was in response to Toby’s interview with journalist and broadcaster Sophie Raworth (8 March 2017). Fortunately for Digital Panopticon, Sophie’s appearance on Who Do You Think You Are? had heavily featured late eighteenth and early nineteenth century family history!