Research Café V: violence in Darfur, maker education and special collections

Research magnifierWe had an interesting mix of topics for Research Café V in Avril Robarts Library on 18th February.

The first speaker for the afternoon was Dr Chris Vaughan from the School of Humanities and Social Science. Chris’s talk, Histories of violence in Darfur educated the audience on the complex background of the conflict in Darfur.

The media have portrayed the atrocities quite simply as Arab militia killing Black Africans. While this is in essence what has happened, the on goings have been stripped of history and context and Chris was able to give a more complete picture of the situation.

Darfur was incorporated into Sudan in 1916 by the British and remained under colonial rule until independence in 1956. During this period those in power regularly armed militia against the wider population. When one group were deemed to be too strong another group were armed and set against them. And so the violence seen more recently did not emerge from a vacuum but rather a century of local practice, endorsed and funded by ruling governments.

Violence in Darfur, as in other parts of Sudan continues as the Sudanese government persists in using unlawful force on its own people. Sadly this is unlikely to change or end soon.

Dr. Mark Feltham, School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, spoke next, through his talk, Maker Education: The Next Wave of Teaching and learning Innovation? Mark introduced us to the maker ethos explaining what maker education and makerspaces are and why we need them in higher Education. Using examples of how ‘making’ is increasingly being used in educational settings to encourage new ways of learning Mark argued that this more kinesthetic approach to learning provides a fantastic opportunity for creative cross-curricular collaboration.

Makerspaces (or hackerspaces) are physical locations where people gather together to share resources and knowledge and work on projects, network and build. From an educational perspective they provide a place for designing and constructing projects. Hands-on, project-driven, self-directed learning zones with an emphasis on learning by experimenting, using resources and tools (laser cutter, 3D printers, digital routers, Arduinos, Raspberry Pis etc) made available at the space. An ideal vehicle for providing students with creative opportunities to engage in a more  enquiry-based, problem-solving style of learning in which they choose the direction they wish to go and we ‘mould’ the elements of our curricula around them.

Mark highlighted DoES Liverpool a makerspace in the heart of the city. (

In a change to the original bill for the afternoon Emily Parsons from Library Services highlighted the Special Collections and Archives held at LJMU in her presentation: Research Uses of LJMU Special Collections and Archives.

Emily gave a broad introduction to the Archives held at LJMU and outlined how they have been used both internally and externally as part of exhibitions and research projects. Current items from the archive are being exhibited at the Museum of Liverpool (, in the past archive items have been exhibited in Switzerland, Germany, New York and Chile.

Full details on the collections held at LJMU and reading room opening hours are available on the website

Our next Research Café is this afternoon in Aldham Robarts Library, Seminar room 1 at 2.30pm – come along to find out more about the research going on at LJMU. More details here

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