Shared community memories

On June 27th the first Community Archives Development Group (CADG) conference was held at University College London (UCL). This event was co-hosted by CADG and the School of Library, Archives and Information Studies at UCL.

A wide variety of people attended the event, some to learn more about Community Archives, while others wished to learn how their Community Archive project could get more help. A diverse set of speakers was provided in order for more than one opinion on the role of community archives to be presented to the audience. The Keynote Speaker was the former Labour politician Tony Benn, who since retiring from politics has done much to publicise the importance of archives. Benn stressed the importance an archive can bring to a community and how it can help bring people of different ages, class, and religious beliefs together.

Following Tony Benn was Dr Andrew Flinn from UCL’s school of Library , Archives and Information Studies. Flinn emphasised the protectiveness community groups can feel for their archive and how they are often scared of loosing control of their project once County Record Offices become involved. This point proved to be very important as many members of projects involving Community Archives stressed their reluctance to relinquish control of the work they had done on building their archive.

The afternoon session concentrated on specific Community Archive groups and what help they needed. Jack Latimer, from CommunitySites, gave an introduction on demonstrating how to use the site and what resources it offers. This was followed by presentations from three very different Community Archive projects.

The first project was based in the tiny Welsh village of Cwmystwyth and received support from the newly formed Culturenet Cymru, who aim to help community archives across Wales . Cwmystwyth is a village with less than one hundred inhabitants, despite this they have a thriving group of dedicated people trying to build an archive to represent this communities history before it disappears. The second project couldn’t have been more different! This project was based on the former Bata factory in Essex and the resource centre which is being set up to preserve memories of this work place. This archive demonstrated how paternalistic workplaces used to be, providing both accommodation and leisure facilities for its employees.

The final presentation was based on London ‘s Cypriot community, and how they have managed to cling on to their culture despite the fact that the first Cypriot immigrants are now elderly and frail. The recollections of this older generation have been captured on film in order for their experiences to be preserved for future generations.

The conference ended with a lively question and answer session, with many people expressing interest for a similar event to be held next year.

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