I recently wrote a post for Historylab+ giving advice to ECRs on how to cope with short-term contracts. If you haven’t read it do check it out. You can find it here.
What readers of this blog post won’t know is that at the time it was published I was experiencing a technology hiccup. My external hard drive had just died on me. This should not have been problem. After all good academics back up; don’t they? Alas I have not been a good academic. I hadn’t uploaded my files on to my home PC or onto my university server. My external hard drive not only included all my teaching files but the recovered hard drive of a laptop that I used during my PhD. This included various chapter drafts and most (if not all) of my archive notes. These files have still not been recovered.
Yet strangely I’m not really upset. I haven’t cried or cursed. I’ve just shrugged my shoulders and accepted that these notes are lost. I think one of the reasons that I’m not upset is that I had already decided that I wasn’t going to turn my PhD into a book. However, losing my files has ironically enabled me to see beyond my PhD. For the first time in 4 years I can actually see a book idea coming together and maybe I needed to be unburdened by my PhD to realise that I could do a national project on the university settlement movement.
My only real stress has come from the loss of my teaching material for a course I ran at Queen’s University Belfast and Swansea University entitled ‘Victorian Cities’, a module that I have loved teaching and adapting over the past three years. I have only just started teaching this module at LJMU. But did I need to worry? Last week I decided I would contact some of my former students and ask them if they had kept their notes for Victorian Cities. I was surprised (and honoured) that after two years of taking this module they had not only kept them but were also prepared to let me have them. I was also delighted that they replied to me within the hour of receiving my rather long-winded Facebook message. So this blog is a thank you note them and especially to Sarah Jones who ‘saved my bacon’. Within minutes of replying to my message she had sent me a Dropbox folder with all her lecture notes and Powerpoints. I cannot say thank you enough. I’m feeling much calmer about my forthcoming lectures.
Professionally it has also been great to see my lectures reflected back at me. I was already aware that Sarah had recorded my lectures but what I didn’t know was that she transcribed them in such great detail. Looking over them now I realise where the last couple of years have gone. I have written and prepared some great lectures and seminars.
But if I have to leave you with one piece of advice please save your files! Don’t do what I did and just assume everything will be okay. For those of you on temporary contracts I would also encourage you to use Dropbox (or another cloud server) in addition to your university server. When I rang Swansea in September to ask if they still had my files I was quickly informed that they had deleted them along with my email. I wasn’t surprised. In a managerial system you and your files are always quickly erased.