The BBC website currently has some great coverage of some Edge Hill research, concerning ‘a species of sedge growing on the west coast of Scotland that had never before been seen in Britain.’ You can read the article yourself, sedge fans, but what struck me wearing my PR hat was the care taken by the BBC to construct the story – which feautures a picture, links to the University website and to a page appealing for help in ‘Searching for Saltmarsh Sedge‘. Some of their page is presumably generated automatically (eg links to other stories with related keywords) but a real live human person has assembled the bulk of it – so hats off to them.
It’s particularly nice to get mentioned on the BBC site as the stories are widely used on other sites (sucked there by RSS feeds I believe.) So Paul Ashton‘s sedge (as I think of it) is invading the internet even as you read this.
The task of promoting Edge Hill was a lot simpler in the late 19th century. Rummaging in the archives, I once found a little document (around A5 size with four pages) which served as a Mission Statement (‘Educating a better class of schoolmistress…’), prospectus (listing all the courses available, i.e. one) timetable and schedule of fees. Today this same job involves hundreds of pages of print and thousands of web pages backed up by databases, with the occasional CD-ROM thrown into the mix.
The archives (in the LRC) are fascinating and deserve to be put into order. And they shouldn’t let people like me randomly access them, with my greasy lunchtime fingers and casual disregard for order. There are photos, decades worth of College magazines documenting the institution’s passage through the events of the twentieth century and its own evolution, records of past innovations such as the arrival of ‘Men’ and Swedish Gymanstics. And, most bizarre of all, a pair of gym knickers in the official College green.
1885 seems like a good starting point, the year Edge Hill was formed. I once wrote that ‘Our history spans three centuries…’, but putting it that way seemed like a dirty textual trick, as if I was trying to fool the hasty reader into thinking that we are 300 years old. Universities sometimes vie with each other to seem as old as possible; you see a lot of things like ‘Formed in the Paleozoic era with a mission to educate the first amphibians, University X has a long history of academic excellence…’ if you read as many university publications as I do. And although Edge Hill is quite old and proud of its tradition, we don’t want to play that game…
But 122 years isn’t a bad age. Reading about 1885 on Wikipedia (this is just a blog, what do you expect me to do – proper research?) it seems like a markedly different world. The first ever appendectomy was performed and local anaesthetic was invented (just in time for the appendectomies – phew.) The roller coaster was patented (perhaps symbolic that Edge Hill shares a birthday with this thrilling device.) Huckleberry Finn, The Mikado and Good Housekeeping magazine all appeared for the first time. Professional football became legal (so no more furtive games played indoors with the curtains closed.) In Liverpool, a new kind of higher education institution was formed – starting a chain of events which has lead, among other things, to me writing this.