In the longer term, if the project proves successful and the model of working with volunteers is practical and something from which everyone involved benefits, then we’d like to expand the idea into a much bigger, Zooniverse-style project. For those unfamiliar with Zooniverse, the idea behind the ‘citizen science’ model is to put large quantities of data in the public domain and then ask willing volunteers to help analyse it in some way. This means that it’s possible to get through far more material than it would be we followed the older model of a small research team doing all the work, plus it means that lots more people get to benefit from and contribute to the research.
In terms of railway worker accidents, there are a huge number of relevant documents – including reports produced by the Railway Inspectors, reports produced by the railway companies themselves, union documents, newspaper reports and more. They are currently held across the country – some key sources are found at the NRM, at the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick, and at the National Archives in Kew. This material is ideal for a project like this – particularly those hand-written reports created by the railway companies. So, we want to open these records up and get you involved! Ultimately it might even be possible to replicate the project for accident records in other workplaces, like the mines or the docks.
How can you help? In the first instance, you can email us (railwayworkeraccidents[at]gmail.com) to express an interest in working on the bigger railway worker accident project. We’ll need plenty of volunteers to join us in getting through the work, so we’d love to have you involved.
If you get in touch to comment on this project, do please let us know the value of the work to you – it might be telling us how you would use the information, or how difficult it is to find out more about railway accidents without a project of this kind – or whatever is relevant to you and your interests. We can use this to help make our case for funding, as we’ll need plenty of money to get the images made of the documents, so that we can put them online and get you working on them. This may be a long-term project, but it’s one to which we’re deeply committed.