Sunday, 20 October 2013

An Archive Day in Hull

This week I went on a jolly to Hull for the annual training day of the Film, Sound and Photography special section of the ARA.  The National Theatre Archive have not attended this section before but I felt that our collections were exactly the sort of thing that this section focuses on.

Humber Bridge from the train

With the sun shining stunningly over Hull, we all piled into the beautiful Hull History Centre for a day entitled 'Archivally Sound'.  The focus was on oral history; its creation, uses and preservation concerns.  we heard from various speakers, who are all working on local oral history projects and using them to open up collections as well as to instigate the creation of more oral histories.  There are many uses of oral histories that had not occurred to me such as dialect studies and actor training.

There are concerns surrounding oral histories such as bias, mis-remembering, relationship between interviewer and interviewee and this is why there has been a dip in the practice.  In history, oral tradition was strong but with the improvement of literacy and film, there has been a decrease in its use.  Where oral history is special is in its ability to portray the process of history - what someone has chosen to remember of forget demonstrates how we make sense of history.

Hull History Centre
The rest of the day was focused on the vast variety of media that we all hold in our archives and how we go about digitising.  Max Communications were sponsoring the event and we had some good discussions surrounding digitisation and HLF's policy of funded digitisation projects placing the material in creative commons.  Archives are stuck in the middle when the material is not under their own copyright and it is difficult to see how this will be resolved.  Access cannot exist without preservation and now access is fundamental for funding applications.  But that preservation and access can only occur with the agreement of the copyright holder.

All in all it was a great opportunity to meet others in the profession with similar collections and discuss topical issues.  Meanwhile, back at the National, we have launched our Google Cultural Institute Exhibit on Greek Theatre and our free 50 Years of the National Theatre app - feel free to explore!