Conference 2018 presentation videos 

Following the introduction of videoing selected speaker sessions in Manchester, the ARA conference committee decided to repeat the exercise for a select mix from the conservation, digital, archives/records and records management strands plus the stimulating keynote addresses from Professor Gus John, Michelle Caswell and Martyn Sibley and new debate sessions. In all, we videoed around 20 or so sessions of the more than 70 on offer at Conference.

The committee has decided to make these sessions free to everyone this year, hoping that this will help stimulate wider and ongoing discussion on the issues raised. So, if you were at Conference and wanted to be at two overlapping sessions, now’s your chance to see the one you missed. Similarly, check below if you want to refresh your memory about a session you attended. And if you were unable to attend Conference but wanted to some snippets of what everyone was talking about, you can now get a feel for it yourself. Who knows, maybe we’ll see you in Leeds in 2019!

The video choices are listed below and the videos can be found at the bottom of this page;

  1. KEYNOTE: Cultural enclaves - Professor Gus John

Gus will focus on what he calls ‘cultural enclaves’ within society that continue to be insulated from changes in the demographic, social, political and economic landscape (what the George Padmore Institute has called Changing Britannia) and this includes the relative invisibility of such enclaves and the people who live in them in our archives and public record offices. So, for anyone concerned with diversity, effective outreach, responding to social change and improving community relevance, this keynote is not to be missed. Prepare to be challenged and to hear new perspectives and new ideas.

  1. KEYNOTE: Now more than ever: community archives and the political urgency of memory work - Michelle Caswell, Professor of Archival Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

Michelle focussed on data from focus groups of users of five different community archives sites and explore how members of marginalised communities view archives as potential means of restorative identity and justice. Research has revealed that users of community archives see them as potential spaces to connect past injustice with contemporary activism and future opportunities and see their own involvement in archives as a way of building confidence and challenging their own sense of oppression. Caswell argues that archivists should support individuals and groups in these communities pro-actively, go beyond the standard archival practice of diverse collecting and inclusive description and become more active agents of change.

  1. KEYNOTE: Improving accessibility to archives and records: the importance of heritage and culture to minority groups and the future of inclusive records management and archiving - Martyn Sibley, Disability Horizons

For anyone seeking to better understand and serve the disabled community, which should be all of us, Martyn was a ‘must-hear’ at this year’s Conference, and we feel fortunate and privileged that he agreed to join us. He peppered us with ideas on how to rethink our approach to disability and how we engage disabled people as individuals and as a community, addressing issues such as accessibility, creativity and inclusion. 

  1. Where does feminism fit in the archive?  Exploring the role of 'activist archiving' at the Glasgow Women's Library - Adele Patrick, Glasgow Women's Library. 

Using examples of innovative work taking place at the Library’s in particular the programme of work surrounding the Library’s own 25th anniversary, GWL co-founder and Creative Development Manager Adele Patrick provides examples of ‘activist archiving’ at GWL to address wider questions for the sector; What does a feminist archivist and archive look like? How might an organisation driven by feminism develop its work with communities and how can these methods be used in the mainstream? How might a radical approach to community engagement be critical to work with archival records?

  1. Panel - People's archives kept by people, for the people.  A Community Archive and Heritage Group (CAHG) panel.

This panel will briefly survey the history and significance of community archives in the UK, outline the purpose and work of the Community Archives and Heritage Group since its formation in 2005, and reflect on attempts to better understand and evaluate the different impacts of community archiving here and internationally.

Panel members are:

  • ​​Andrew Flinn, University College London
  • Jack Latimer, Community Sites
  • Marion Kenny, Qisenta, Talking Syria
  • Alan Butler, Plymouth LGBT Archive


  1. One size does not fit all: accepting the diversity and value of remote records keepers and giving them professional support - Alison Diamond, The Argyll Papers at Inverary Castle

Working in a remote and rural location, professional archivists are conspicuous by their absence. These museums and heritage centres are mostly volunteer-led and hold collections of both artefacts and archives.These volunteers may be unpaid, with limited professional archival skills and, often, retired, but they bring their own set of skills to their roles, often being ‘walking encyclopaedias’ of knowledge about the history of their local communities. The challenges facing record keepers in remote locations are not going to change: we, as professional archivists, have a duty to support them in a way that works for them. 

  1. Building skills for the future - Audrey Wilson, Scottish Council on Archives

Following the successful delivery of the HLF funded Skills for the Future project, Opening Up Scotland’s Archive, Audrey is now working to build on the project's legacy, widening participation and engagement with archives. Audrey is also working closely with community archives and local history groups, to encourage their sustainability and development.

  1. Talking about sewing machines: oral history, community engagement and #singerstories - Christopher Cassells, West Dumbartonshire Council

This presentation will discuss the process of developing a peer to peer oral history network, the potential for intergenerational engagement such a network affords, the way in which it facilitates the construction of community identity, and the challenges for archivists in preserving these intra-community conversations.

  1. Who should save the soap bubbles of performance? - Erin Lee, The National Theatre

"Erin proposes an approach to expanding collaboration and communication for performing arts archives and look at several projects that the NT is undertaking to develop research and understanding into how a diverse range of people can affect what is kept in an archive and how it is used"

  1. Panel - Widening the circle.  Discussion about independence and support.

This panel will focus on how independent archive collections (such as the Pankhurst's) can contribute to and be a great support to the archive sector as a whole by looking after their own heritage. The panel will look at motivations, methods, challenges and opportunities that these projects and organisations face. The focus will be on the keepers of the records working outside of ARA membership and circles. In what ways they are contributing and in what ways we, as professional archivists, should/could contribute to them.

Panel members are:

  • Heather Roberts, HerArchivist/Northern College of Music
  • Gail Heath, The Pankhurst Centre/anchester Women's Aid
  • David Smith, University of Huddersfield


  1. The people behind the records: launching the early employees project - Helice Koofler, The Shubert Archive

This presentation provides a very brief overview of the Shubert Organization and the Shubert Archive, my presentation will discuss the development of our nascent Early Employees Project, an effort to uncover information about those women and LGBTQ personnel who contributed to the enormous growth of the company in the first half of the twentieth century.  

  1. Why aren't we talking about audiences?  Archive audiences and how to grow them - Janice Tullock Associates (Archive & Heritage Consultant)

Audiences for archives are changing. People want to use archives and get involved with archive services in different ways. Starting from an examination of data on archive audiences this presentation considers who is using archives and why, seeking to identify the recent trends in archive usage. Based on audience research for archive services from across the UK we will consider the barriers preventing people using archive services and how to overcome them. This paper will also explore how people want to engage with archives and archive services and the implications for archivists. Finally, we will consider how archive services have responded to these changes by listening to audiences, changing services and successfully growing audience numbers and diversity.

  1. Brick walls and tick boxes: experiences of marginalised workers in the UK Archive workforce - Kirsty Fife, National Science and Media Museum Bradford & Hannah Henthorn, University of Dundee

This presentation shares the key findings of the research and propose a number of ways in which we can all take action to open up the archives sector. We will also reflect upon our experiences of conducting diversity research and the opportunities that have followed from our first papers. By articulating these shared experiences, we hope to recentre discussions about diversity and inclusion around the lived experience and needs of those currently on the margins of the archive workforce.

  1. Diving in: uncovering the stories of the Arlington Baths - Lucy Janes, Arlington Baths

This presentation looks at the value of heritage to Arlington Baths Club and the successes so far. Lucy will explain which tools the group are using to record and communicate their findings, and the partnerships and links that the Group has forged. She’ll also highlight some of the ideas for future projects and the issues and the challenges for a volunteer group trying to do research and participate in community heritage.  And throughout the presentation she will share some of the fascinating stories of the people we’ve found in the records; people who made Glasgow.

  1. Looking after the people behind the records: vicarious trauma and empathy in archival practice - Michaela Hart, Department of Health & Human Services, Melbourne and Nicola Laurent, University of Melbourne, Australia

This presentation will discuss the need to look after the people who are looking after the records, and the ongoing benefits of doing so for the individuals, users, and the archives they work with. Introducing contemporary literature from other professions, it will explore why we need to acknowledge vicarious trauma, outline symptoms, identify support mechanisms and make recommendations for implementation within archival institutions.

The second part of the paper will introduce the parallel concept of vicarious empathy. This is developed from the understanding that exposure to the stories of others can give us greater empathy and understanding. Discussed together, vicarious trauma and vicarious empathy can inform a more holistic approach to archival practice which will be developed by looking at how these can influence archival practices such as appraisal, description & release decisions as well as the training and support of staff and volunteers, hopefully leading to trauma informed archival practice.

  1. The silent dragon: in quest of democratisation of history in community archives in London - Rachel Wong, Independent Researcher

Although community archives bring in diverse history from below and potential positive social impacts, practitioners should problematize the existing power relations reflected in community archives in order to question to what extent community archives could democratize history and why this is the case? In this vein, in what way could heritage be democratized in community archives?  This presentation uses the Chinese Community Archives Collections at the London Metropolitan Archives as a case study to examine the making of the Collections and looks at the boarder context in order to give a clearer picture of how the interplay of forces are in place in the archival process. 

  1. 'Archive anxiety': an introduction - Sarah Hayes-Hickey, Limerick Archives

This presentation will provide an introduction to the concept of Archive Anxiety, which originated from research conducted for a MA dissertation with the Centre for Archive and Information Studies in Dundee.  The main aim is to highlight the preconceptions and feelings which users, (particularly first-time users), of archives have. For example, the view that archives are dusty papers held in a basement which are sternly guarded. It will also explore the triggers that affect those users, such as the security measures imposed in archives.  Looking at these influences, the presentation will offer some solutions that can be introduced by archivists and record professionals to help alleviate archive anxiety in users.

  1. At the touch of a button: case study of Essex Sound and Video Archive's You Are Hear Project example of facilitating user engagement with oral history - Sarah-Joy Maddeaux, Essex Record Office

The funded You Are Hear project enabled greater engagement when we took the recordings out into the county: through an online audio map; touring audio-video kiosks loaded with clips; and especially our listening benches, park benches that play clips of recordings about the local area. By installing these devices in a range of places, we reached a range of people, beyond our typical audience. This presentation will offer You Are Hear as a case study of how sound recordings can be taken out of the archive, but will also raise questions about how to measure successful ‘engagement’.  

  1. Pop up archives: providing access to archives for disabled people and care homes - Stephanie Nield, Leonard Cheshire Disability

From 2014-2018 the Leonard Cheshire Archive worked on a HLF South East funded project to both make their archives accessible through digitization and hold engagement sessions with disabled people living in care homes. This talk is about what the project did to achieve this, including workshop participation, website design and lessons learned.

  1. Mass Observation Archive, Beyond Boxes; engaging people with archives and archives with people - Anthony McCoubrey and Suzanne Rose, Mass Observation Archive, University of Sussex

The first part of this presentation will look at Beyond Boxes more broadly, highlighting how archival projects within the community benefit the archive in diversifying audiences and making archives more inclusive and representative.  The latter part of the presentation, through the use of a case study of outreach at HMP Lewes, will explore the role outreach has in promoting the use of records remotely. In particular, it will draw attention to the experiences and rewards people have when using records and how they can inspire them to record their own lives and history.

Beyond Boxes has shown that people truly do make records and with the right support, such programmes can revolutionise people’s access to and engagement with archives and this in turn can enrich and transform the records therein.

  1. "Equitable partnerships?" - supporting Black and Asian community heritage at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives - Tamsin Bookey, Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives

This presentation describes some of the ways that THLHLA has supported Black- and Asian-led heritage activity in the local community, such as:

  • Skillshare: co-writing a successful Arts Council bid with ceramics artist Basil Olton for an exhibition of his work created to commemorate the trade union and anti-racist activist, East End resident Chris Braithwaite (1889-1944)
  •  Hosting paid full-time traineeships for BAME heritage workers, developing our archive collections through relationship-building with their community
  • Involving BAME community partners in a wide variety of projects, regardless of their ‘theme’


  1. The Big Debate - ‘Today our most important user is not the visitor to the reading room but the online viewer’ – moderated by Karl Magee, ARA Chair

Another innovation for Glasgow 2018, the Big Debate raised issues familiar to recordkeepers in all kinds of roles – accessibility, new audience reach and convenience versus the uniqueness and authority of original records. It also covered less familiar insights and perspectives. Some online participants pointed to the mutuality of online and in-person viewing – this was not necessarily a binary choice. Around 100 conference attendees voted using the app, which recorded a swing in views throughout the debate, ending in a close result. Check out the video to see what your peers and colleagues are thinking; plus the cut, thrust and final outcome.