Digital Archives in Communities: Abstracts and Bios

Dr Jenna C. Ashton is a researcher, writer, curator in contemporary heritage practice and theory, regularly contributing to and leading national and international arts and heritage programming, publications and exhibitions. She is the editor of two volume international publication “Feminism and Museums: Intervention, Disruption and Change” (MuseumsEtc, Dec 2017 & Feb 2018). Jenna is a Lecturer in Heritage Studies with the Institute for Cultural Practices, University of Manchester (from Sept 2018), and Founder and Creative Director of Digital Women’s Archive North (DWAN). DWAN is a Manchester based feminist arts and heritage organisation supporting women’s practice and addressing social inequalities.

‘The Journey of Digital Women’s Archive North:  from idea to application’

The presentation will outline the stages and processes of developing DWAN’s archive, specifically focusing on the processes of embedding sustainable co-production and curation throughout. DWAN is framed within the wider context of mythological net neutrality, and the role of feminist digital spaces in addresing broader social inequalities.

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Alison Bancroft is a project consultant with a range of experience at senior level in town centre regeneration and community development projects. Her work with archives began as an extension of her interest in online communities, and the ways in which new technologies changed what was possible. She is in the process of designing and building collections management systems for a variety of projects including: cataloguing the emerging film industry in Sierra Leone; digitising the British Entertainment History Project’s oral history archive; and collaborating with organisations in Leith on a communal archive. She has recently begun working with Feminist Archive South on the digitisation of their poster collection.

 ‘Where archives meet tech: a rhizomatic approach’

The software used to display collections and archives online matters. Even if funding is available to build a digital archive, decisions already encoded in the software exert a gravitational pull that can be hard to resist. Once created the software can then easily become a monolithic object, unavailable for change, one that interrupts and disrupts narrative control. Four practical examples will be used to explore ways in which a low-cost, reflexive and rhizomatic approach can be used to integrate software decisions more fully with existing or emerging organisational structures and processes – and how an ongoing dialogue between archive and tech can change what is possible at every level.

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Sophie Dixon is a cross-disciplinary artist working with film, sound, real and virtual installations. Over recent years she has worked in different languages, and countries, responding to historical events at the heart of sudden and irrevocable change. From the closure of the French and British coal mining industries, to the exile of an entire Sudeten village in Czechoslovakia, Sophie reframes existing historical narratives and uncovers new ways to look at and experience the past.

Sophie has an MA from the Netherlands Film Academy and in 2017 co-founded Mnemoscene.io. In recent years Sophie has undertaken residencies in the UK and Europe and has exhibited in solo and group shows, including the EYE film museum, Amsterdam and Turner Contemporary, UK.

‘Reinterpreting the archive: Giving presence to the past How can one evoke past memories as present experiences?’

This is the question at the heart of Giving Presence to the Past, the product of a research Master’s carried out at the Netherlands Film Academy.

Falling into ruin following the Second World War, the village of Srbska in the present day Czech Republic now serves as a site of remembrance for a group of former residents who were forced to leave their homes in 1946.
Drawing on the memories of the group, Giving Presence to the Past presents two core experiments exploring how an experience of the village can be evoked through the use of immersive media.

The first experiment, Memory of Loci, is created through oral histories and accompanying online archival media. Its objective is to re-create a place which exists only in memory.

The second, The Chorus , is a Mixed Reality experiment for the Microsoft HoloLens exploring the co-existence of multiple memories in a single place. It is an audio-led experiment where holographic archival objects, video, and oral testimonies can be discovered.

The presentation concludes by looking at a collaborative work currently in progress at mnemoscene.io, where Mixed Reality is being used to reconnect archival objects with their intangible heritage, the people and practices to which they originally belonged.

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Orla Egan has been actively involved with the Cork LGBT community since the 1980s.  She created the Cork LGBT Archive and is the author of Queer Republic of Cork: Cork’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Communities 1970s-1990s.  Orla has delivered papers and workshops on the Cork LGBT Archive throughout Ireland, in the UK, New York and Budapest.  The Queer Republic of Cork Exhibition has been displayed in various venues in Cork and Belfast. In 2016 Orla received a Hidden Heritage Award from the Irish Heritage Council.  Orla completed a Masters in Women’s Studies in 1992, and a Masters in Digital Arts and Humanities in 2014. She has completed 3 years of a PhD in Digital Arts and Humanities but this is currently on hold while attempting to get funding for fees for the final year (open to offers!).

https://www.facebook.com/CorkLGBTArchive/

Twitter: @OrlaEgan1          @CorkLGBThistory

BOOK: Queer Republic of Cork, Cork’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Communities, 1970s-1990s; Published 2016 

‘Out of the Basement: Creating the Cork LGBT Archive’

This paper will outline some of the challenges, and successes, in creating and maintaining the Cork LGBT Archive.

The Cork LGBT Archive was created to gather, preserve and share information about the history of the Cork LGBT community. Cork has a long and rich history of LGBT activism, community formation and development. Yet this community, like many other LGBT communities worldwide, has been largely invisible in historical accounts and its contribution to social and political change and developments largely unacknowledged.

There are various aspects to the Cork LGBT Archive, including a physical collection, a digital archive, social media, as well as an exhibition and a book. The archive is largely unfunded and the work done on a voluntary basis. This poses challenges in terms of development and sustainability. The paper will discuss successes and challenges in engaging with mainstream Heritage organisations and having LGBT history recognised as an important part of Irish history and heritage.

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Kelly Foster is the founding organiser for AfroCROWD UK, an intiative to increase the numbers of African-descended people contributing to Wikipedia and other open knowledge projects and to improve the content about the African Diaspora. She was named UK Wikimedian of the Year 2017. Kelly is an accredited trainer with Wikimedia UK and has delivered training for a wide range of organisations, from the Royal Academy of Arts and the British Library to local libraries and voluntary organisations.

Her work as a London Blue Badge Guide and public historian uses oral histories and archival research to deliver tours that delve into the social history of London’s neighbourhoods. She regularly works with Black Cultural Archives, Lambeth Archives, the Museum of London, Black History Walks and London Walks. Kelly has a background in working with independent archives and oral history. She delivered the ‘Oral Histories of the Black Women Movement’ project while at Black Cultural Archives and has advised a number of other oral history projects including ‘Do You Remember Olive Morris?’ and ‘The GLC Story’. She is currently part of the team developing the archive of Rita Keegan, the artist and archivist who founded the Women of Colour Index (WOCI).

Kelly is a founding member of TRANSMISSION, a collective of archivists and historians of African descent.

‘An Afterlife for Community Archives?: Wikipedia and the Commons’

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Abira Hussein is an independent researcher and curator specialising in Somali heritage, digital archives, migration, and health. In recent years she has worked with the British Museum, British Library, London Metropolitan Archives, Refugee Council Archive and Somali Week Festival, to deliver a number of projects and workshops engaging with the Somali Community. In 2017 she created the VR experience ‘Coming Home’ – in partnership with the British Museum and funded by Brighton Digital Festival.

Abira will be speaking alongside Sophie Dixon about their work with mixed reality and digital archives.

Twitter: @AbiraHussein

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Jack Latimer has worked with community archives for around 20 years. He has set up websites and online catalogues for over 150 community archives. Jack is on the committee of the national Community Archives and Heritage Group, which supports community archives in the UK and Ireland.

Jack’s first involvement in community archives was as a volunteer, running several pioneering projects in his hometown of Brighton, including founding the www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk website. Jack set up the www.communityarchives.org.uk website, which was the first attempt to map and connect community archives around the UK and Ireland. He also wrote the national Community Archive Cataloguing Guidelines.

Jack’s work has won several awards, including a Gulbenkian Museum Prize and two international ‘Museums and the Web’ awards. His company, www.communitysites.co.uk specialises in setting up community heritage websites in the UK and abroad.

‘Community Archives: The Ways things go Wrong’

Jack will survey the landscape of community archives over the last twenty years. Over that time, he’s been closely involved with many archives, as an advisor, a software provider and – originally – as a volunteer.

Based on his experience, he’ll take a candid look at a range of issues that affect sustainability: from funding to human factors, from technical bad habits to the collapse of key software providers. He’ll also discuss how changes in society and technology have affected community archives, particularly the rise of social media.

As well as looking at what goes wrong, he’ll discuss how to avoid the common pitfalls, and propose some areas for research and development.

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Kevin Long is digital archivist at the Digital Repository of Ireland. His focus is on workflow and policy development for the management, curation and preservation of data. He works with DRI members to support the ingestion of their collections, and the further development of the DRI’s metadata standards. Originally a librarian, Kevin has a background in broadcast media archives and post production, and has previously worked for BBC Archives.

‘From our side of the table: a digital repository’s experience of working with community archives’

The Digital Repository of Ireland is Ireland’s national trusted digital repository, with a mandate to preserve and make accessible Ireland’s cultural heritage. Working with a variety of different member types, such as universities, government bodies and private organisations, we have also attempted to engage with smaller, independent community archives. This presentation will look at some of the challenges and opportunities the DRI has had in working with smaller community archives.

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Jan Pimblett is the Principal Development Officer at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) managing outreach programmes and activities for all ages and interests. Since 2003 LMA has hosted the annual LGBTQ History and Archives Conference. In 2016 LMA, along with the Bishopsgate Institute and Westminster University, hosted the international Archives, Libraries, Museums and Special Collections (ALMS) LGBTQ conference. LMA works with community members to develop projects, including the HLF funded Speak Out London – Diversity City oral history project.  LMA has just received further HLF funding to work with Haringey Archives and Museums Service on BAME LGBTQ history, 1980-2000.

‘Working in Partnership. How Formal Institutions Can Support LGBTQ+ Community History’

Since 2003 London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) has worked with a wide range of LGBTQ+ community history projects. The purpose of that work is to build effective practice which serves to protect history for future generations and to share skills and approaches with community members to enable this important work. This talk explores the different working relationships which exist with community groups, the opportunities and challenges these present and some of the new ideas emerging from this important public engagement programme. This work not only informs the world of LGBTQ+ community archives but sets benchmarks for new practice in archives, benefitting our 21st century users.

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Lisa Redlinski has worked as a Rape Crisis Counsellor in Chicago, as a caregiver to a hemiplegic person, as a translator on behalf of Polish immigrants in the City, and is currently managing an academic library for the University of Brighton. Lisa is hellbent on opening up libraries’ collections which have the most relevance to establishing an accessible archive of progressive public discourse.

The values of the Left – a respect for public spaces; care for the vulnerable; fresh water and air; opportunity; fairness – these values are integrated into many places in Britain and Europe. The histories of how we built better societies is the history of how Lefties have won public debates. Yet very few of our institutional archives frame these collections in terms of the wider moral values they represent.

‘Radical Brighton’

The Radical Brighton blog gathers together ephemera printed in Brighton in the Sixties and Seventies. It includes poetry, illustration, news reporting, and fictional narratives created by ordinary people, all of which give us an archive of a burgeoning lefty public discourse. Comparing the mimeographed papers of the counter-culture to the popular press of that time provides a sharp contrast in represented values. Women’s Liberation, Gay Liberation, the Consciousness Movement, Anti-racism, Environmentalism, Spirituality (as a rebuke to materialism), these are just a few of the social movements whose formative public discourses are printed in these papers. As cognitive scientist George Lakoff writes “frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world. As a result, they shape the goals we seek, the plans we make, the way we act, and what counts as a good or bad outcome of our actions. In politics our frames shape our social policies and the institutions we form to carry out policies. To change our frames is to change all of this. Reframing is social change.”

In Brighton the hippies, nuisance freaks, and radicals produced a range of progressive papers such as Attila, Brighton Voice, Mole, Librarians for Social Change, FLY and a host of others, and across Britain hundreds more titles were printed. She will speak about archiving social history with non-academic sources and how to help and support it, and see where we miss opportunities. In publishing Radical Brighton, Lisa Redlinski lucked out by an alignment in the stars where she connected rapidly, randomly, and in succession with people who participated in these Radical Brighton scenes and shared their stories with her. We can thank them for the preservation of the papers, for the first draft narratives of lefties, for having suites of values, for fighting against fascist groups in Brighton, and for much more. Personally, she thinks they saved her from the enchanted snowglobe version of Brighton.

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David Sheppeard is the co-founder and producer of The Marlborough Theatre, transforming a dilapidated room above a pub into ‘a refuge for cutting edge performance’ (The Guardian) and an internationally recognised home for LGBTQ+ performance. In the past ten years he has delivered high-profile projects across, arts, heritage and community development in diverse contexts varying from disused shops to concert halls with an emphasis on work made for unusual spaces.

‘Queer in Brighton’

From 2012 – 2014 Lesley Wood and David Sheppeard developed and delivered the Queer in Brighton project, a wide-ranging oral history project producing a digital archive, an anthology, exhibitions, a short film and a series of events, involving more than 100 contributions from local LGBTQ+ community members. More recently they have begun the Brighton LGBTQ+ History Club a monthly event at Brighton Museum and Gallery investigating little known queer histories of the city.

In this talk they discuss the rewards, challenges and responsibility of collecting LGBTQ+ heritage materials in a place with as deep queer roots as Brighton & Hove and what you do with the stuff when you have it!

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D-M Withers is a Research Fellow at the University of Sussex, working on the Leverhulme funded project The Business of Women’s Words. D-M’s research is concerned with archival theories, practices and pedagogies, with particular interest in how these intersect with feminism and the digital. D-M has published widely in academic and popular contexts. Their most recent book, The Feminist Revolution: the Struggle for Women’s Liberation, was published in 2018.

‘Speculative Pedagogy: Re-imagining the archive as an institutional and social location in digital societies’

This talk will reflect upon speculative pedagogical exercises that formed part of the 2017 project, Re-Imagining the Feminist Archive South. Across a number of educational sessions, we transformed the archive into social context where technical literacies or ‘digital grammar’ could be acquired through collaborative meta-data writing. These activities were framed by theoretical questions about how we might re-imagine the archive an institutional and social location in digital societies. The key inspiration was the legacy of grassroots feminist archives of the 1970s which used archival practices such as collection building and information science to support the transmission of feminist knowledge and realise community self-determination. What knowledge, techniques, imaginaries and capacities are required to enable people to practice similar degrees of self-determination within societies deeply embedded within digital archival infrastructures? Through speculative pedagogies, that enable participants to learn within and practice the digital archive differently, we can begin to think through these questions.