The British Library recently held a one day symposium titled Archives in the Future.

In partnership with the AHRC and their ‘Care for the Future’ strand the symposium covered topics such as community archives, performance archives, digital archives and informal personal archives. The event was also in support of the launch of two major research projects ‘Performing the Jewish Archive’ (University of Leeds) and the ‘Antislavery Usable Past’ (University of Hull).

The day started with a series of presentations in the form of provocations that we were to discuss in breakout sessions.

Fluer Soper and Louise Piffero, The National Archives opened the day asking why should we archive the arts? In their presentation they highlighted the breadth and range of arts organizations and their collections and talked of the archive aiding sustainability of arts orgs, of their significant historical importance and the story they helped construct of the Nation’s cultural memory.

Rodney Harrison, UCL, when introducing the project ‘Assembling Alternative Futures for Heritage’ asked the audience to think about the reasons why and how we create archives in the present, and what impact this may have on how heritage is passed on and understood in the future. The UCL research and its findings will be interesting to follow as it develops.

John Oldfield, Hull University, spoke of the gaps and fragments in archives and collections and issues of selection and whether the gaps were an intrinsic element of any archive. John was interested in how, or if, there were solutions to these questions in the digital environment and the role of user participation and collaboration, something I’m looking at in my research of online popular music archives.

The morning provided some fruitful, and substantial, questions for us to ponder as we broke into our group workshops. Unfortunately I don’t think the structure of the workshops helped in trying to answer these questions (it was a bit like speed-dating and so you’d strike up a conversation with someone and then have to move on, looking longingly over your shoulder!). They did however provide some fantastic contacts, one in particular that I’m hoping will turn into a research project.

Birmingham Centre For Media And Cultural Research

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