Friday, 27 February 2015

Presenting and Performance

I have had an eventful couple of days traveling what feels like the length and breadth of the country to meet archivists!  In fact I have just been to Birmingham and Canterbury but, two days on the trot, it certainly feels like further.

Yesterday I attended and was lucky enough to present at the APAC annual symposium focused on performance collections and their users located at the Muirhead Tower at the University of Birmingham.
Muirhead Tower


There were several presentations throughout the day along with a performance from a group of MA students studying Shakespeare and Creativity, which really hit it home to the whole group that our collections are for inspiration as well as historical research.  The Bristol Theatre Collections again proved that they are leaping and bounding ahead in inter-disciplinary projects, which now span creative technologies and an interactive exhibition case.  They really are doing great work, which, as Jo Ellsworth admitted, challenges the archivists and staff to think outside the box and, indeed, outside of their profession and comfort zone to come up with new ways of engaging with their collections.  This is very admirable and something that we could all be doing with embracing if we want to see our material reaching further afield.

The NT Archive is currently working with students on the MA Curating and Collecting at the University of the Arts London, to create an exhibition piece each (there are around 25 students) on Jocelyn Herbert's working relationship with Samuel Beckett.  These students are approaching the material from a curatorial background, not a theatre or design one so it is really brilliant to hear the questions they are raising and the comments they are making on this relatively new addition to the NT external collections.  It is certainly challenging the archive staff and I can't wait to see their installed exhibitions in Wimbledon Space at the end of March.

A beautiful sunset on the train home made up for a very early start!

I and Myfanwy, presented on the NT's Learning and Archive activities, many of which are HLF funded and coming to fruition this year.  We focused on the Archive Teacher Placements.  This is an HLF funded project, which invited teachers, primary and secondary, English and Drama, into the archive to see what we have and come up with new ways of engaging with it for the benefit of students.  We have had 9 such placements so far and they have worked on subjects as far reaching as the history and architecture of the NT building to children's adaptations to Greek Drama.  As long as they created something vaguely heritage related they could work to quite a broad remit.  They have created resources for their own classrooms as well as for wider dissemination via the NT website and have contributed to Archive Learning Days in the newly opened Clore Learning Centre.  It was great to hear from Myfanwy yesterday as this gave a school perspective on archives which can easily become the domain of university education or higher.

The whole day was a great opportunity to get to know others in APAC as well as those who had attended as users of archives.  This sort of event is quite rare and it was invaluable in considering how we can open up our collections further and, almost more importantly, who else is doing it and from whom I can gain advice!
Canterbury Cathedral with a strategically placed motorbike
Today, I have been on a jolly to Canterbury Cathedral with the ARA South East Region to present at their training day for lone archivists.  I was asked to talk about the NT's records management schedule and how this fits in with my day-to-day archive work and projects.  The answer, of course, is that it doesn't but that we have to make it so!  The other few speakers were talking about other aspects of lone working such as internal advocacy at Transport for London Corporate Archives and the new WWI website at Winchester College.  Both of which were really interesting to listen to and I hope that I contributed to the day as much as they did.

Probably the most beautiful room in which I will ever give a presentation!
I think that, sometimes, it is just good to hear that there are others in the same position as you.  It was a lovely group and everyone was really keen to discuss their work and problems they might be facing.  I have felt over the last few days that my networking skills are getting better and I am glad because it is always a dread of mine!  No-one teaches you networking skills and they are so crucial, especially in this profession, which can be rather lonesome at times.  After a busy few days I am spending the weekend in Canterbury to see the sights and take more pictures like the one below!

Canterbury Cathedral cloisters

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