What they say about using the AIU Centre


cartoon books and globe on shelves
Research Skills Series

By Alison Newby

I’ve written before about ‘Ways into the Collection’ as well as reasons why it’s a good idea to consider the Centre’s resources when planning for your study and research. But what’s it like actually to use the Centre?

From my experience, using the Centre is like an adventure into the unknown in terms of the richness and quality of the resources at our disposal. Whilst it’s true navigating the databases to find material relevant to one’s particular area of interest can sometimes be tricky, that’s more than made up for in the quality of input and guidance provided by the staff tasked to make our time in the Centre both enjoyable and optimal.

I’m mindful of course that these may just be my own opinions. So I’ve been interested to find out whether other users agree with my assessment by checking out their feedback.* In this blog post, I’m sharing what I found with you.

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The Joy of Photographic Archives: The Elouise Edwards Photograph Collection

By Hattie

For me, photographs are such a valuable aspect of any archive. This is not only because of the stories they tell and the memories they preserve, but also because they transcend any language or literacy barriers and can be appreciated by everyone who sees them. We are lucky enough to have had thousands of photographs donated to us over the years, and they are by far my favourite collections to look through.

The Elouise Edwards Photograph Collection is our largest collection of photographs, featuring everything from sporting events and political demonstrations to photos from the Abasindi Black Women’s Collective and Roots Festivals. Most of the photographs are shot beautifully in black and white, and show members of various communities around Manchester in the 1970s and 1980s, mostly in Moss Side and Hulme. Elouise Edwards is a longstanding resident of Moss Side herself, after moving here in 1961 from Guyana where she was born. Although Elouise was at first unhappy in England, she soon found her passion in the promoting, defending and empowering of her community. If these photographs are anything to go by, she helped make a lot of people happy!

Black and white photo of two smiling children hanging upside down from a climbing frame

‘General 1’. Elouise Edwards Collection, Ref. GB3228.5

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In the Archive: Scientific Racism is Still Racism

By Hattie

While the majority of the boxes in our archive contain uplifting material about the lives and experiences of black and minority ethnic people and their histories, there are inevitably some boxes that are far from uplifting. Though difficult to read and controversial in content, this smaller and lesser-known part of the collection reminds us that racism has always existed and should not be excluded from our collective memory.

This is one of the reasons I decided to take a look in our box labelled ‘Scientific Racism’, a certain type of racism that claims to be backed up by scientific research. The other reason is the unwelcome fact that scientific racism never truly went away, and is once again rearing its head in an increasingly mainstream corner of America, according to several recent news articles. A small group of political scientists is attempting to revive the types of findings that are recorded in our archive, which are then being used to a certain degree by members of the ‘alt-right’ to justify their nationalist and racially discriminatory politics. Searching through the box I noticed that the material in our archive and the claims made in the past few years are alarmingly similar, but so are the methods of scrutiny, backlash and protest against them.  I hope this blog post will remind us that racism never disappeared and is still a threat to racial equality today.

A cartoon belittling scientific racism by depicting Racism with a KKK type figure and Scientific Racism as a mask the figure is choosing to wear, announcing it 'just the thing for the eighties'.

Anti-racism cartoon from Science for the People, Vol. 14, No. 2, March/April 1982

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‘not to do things to local people, nor for local people but with them’: the Hulme Feasibility Study

By Jo Robson

Our archivist Jo Robson reflects on our Hulme Study collection

The Hulme Feasibility Study was undertaken between 1987 and 1990 to formulate proposals with a view to improving the environmental, commercial, employment and social conditions in Hulme and the Moss Side District Centre areas of Manchester.  Professor Valerie Karn of the University of Salford was appointed as an independent chair to the Supervisory group.  The Hulme Study Archive held at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre is made up of the papers collected by Valerie Karn during her time as Chair of the group.

The Study was innovative in its management which was tri-partite being jointly supervised by The Department of the Environment, Manchester City Council and tenants representatives.  The aim of the Study was to provide an independent account of the social, physical and economic conditions on the estate.  In addition it aimed to identify opportunities for improvements and recommend short and long term strategies which the three parties could use to develop an action plan for the area.

Three documents from the study showing housing options

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The Mecca, the Dreamers and the Double-bind: A Book Review

By Jo Manby

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Text Publishing Company, Australia: 2015)

This is a timeless book that will not age, like the works of James Baldwin, Maya Angelou or Toni Morrison. ‘This is required reading,’ Morrison herself has said, in a quote that foots the cover of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ bestseller, Between the World and Me.

Between the World and Me is written in the form of a letter addressed to Coates’ teenage son, a veritable prayer that is drenched in love and born out of struggle. It should make America sit up and take notice.

Front cover of the book titled Between the World and Me by ta-Nehisi Coates

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A Vision Long Cherished: Lessons from Nehru’s ‘A Tryst with Destiny’

By Hattie

The 14th November is the birthday of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister since the country became independent from imperialist Britain in 1947. In India, this day is celebrated as ‘Bal Diwas’ or Children’s Day, in remembrance of Nehru’s belief that children should be lovingly nurtured as they are the ‘future of the nation and citizens of tomorrow’.

A close follower of Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru believed in the fight for independence from Britain but also the prevention of religious division. He joined the Indian National Congress and was eventually elected as its president. Nehru worked alongside Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India elected by Britain, and became Prime Minister on 15th August 1947. He is widely considered to be the architect of the modern India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic republic.

To commemorate what would be his 129th birthday, I decided to take a look at Nehru’s inspirational speech ‘A Tryst with Destiny’, a physical copy of which can be found on our Politics shelf here at the AIU Centre.

A collage of two photographs, one showing the front cover and one showing the inside cover of the book called Great Speeches of the Twentieth Century, A tryst With Destiny

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How equal is Great Britain? How far have we come since the Race Relations Act of 1976?

By Hattie

At the beginning of this year we were (and still are!) very pleased to announce that our collection of publications from the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) were made available digitally, meaning numerous pamphlets, reports and policies are now online for you to look at – Click here to view the collection, and click here to read a blog post about the digital process! I have decided that these are especially worth a look this month, as it was 42 years ago in November that the CRE was first created.

One document I came across was the ‘Training Handbook for Social Services Departments’ working in multi-racial areas (see below). The Handbook explains that the CRE was formed under the Act of 1976, with the hope of eliminating racial discrimination within England, Wales and Scotland. This 1976 legislation replaced the previous 1965 Race Relations Act,  which failed to address racial discrimination within housing, employment and the legal system. Almost half a century later, racial discrimination still exists in our society – which causes me to ask: Did the 1976 Act succeed in its aims? How is racial discrimination characterised now in comparison to how it was perceived in the 1970s?

A cropped section of a training handbook called Working in Multi-racial areas

A cropped section of the handbook showing the duties of the commission for racial equality

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The Power of Film: Protest and its Documentation in ‘Generation Revolution’

By Hattie

To kick off our final week of Black History Month events, we screened Generation Revolution, a documentary directed by Cassie Quarless and Usayd Younis in 2016. The event took place in connection with UoM History Department and the Race, Roots and Resistance Collective, and was followed by a Q&A with the directors and historian Dr Kerry Pimblott. Watching the film and listening to the audience’s responses was an incredible insight into race relations in Britain, but also reinforced the necessity and value of our collections here at the AIU Centre.

The photograph shows a female history lecturer interviewing two young male film directors in front of an audience

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A phase of confusion, debate and hostility: Our insights from the IRR newspaper clippings collection

Library Assistants Waqar Younis and Letitia Budu have had some important insights whilst re-organising our Institute of Race Relations Newspaper Clippings collection…
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The IRR newspaper clippings collection focuses on race related matters from the late 1970s until the early 1980s. In the process of reorganising the clippings to make them more accessible, we’ve also been able to understand how far the UK has come in terms of race equality and where improvements still need to be made.

It’s important to look at history to prevent it from repeating itself. Looking back at the past might help us in the future!
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Respectful descriptions of marginalised groups in Archives

Members of our collections team also attended the workshop on describing and managing racially insensitive archives earlier this year, along with Jass Thethi – a colleague (And good friend) of ours over at the John Rylands Library.

In this blog post, Jass uses two concrete examples to explore how archivists might approach potentially insensitive catalogue descriptions and documentation, without ‘white-washing’ history.

John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog

Items within special collections can date back hundreds of years, so it’s no surprise that within these materials it is possible to find outdated or problematic attitudes and language. I am currently researching potential ways to manage this.

In May 2018 I attended ‘Protocols for describing and managing racially insensitive archives,’ a workshop facilitated by Arike Oke and Simon Demissie, from the Wellcome Library,  based on the Master’s Dissertation by Alicia Chilcott. This workshop explored the racial insensitivity in archival descriptions and potential solutions.

In June 2018 I attended ‘Museum Remix,’ a workshop facilitated by Museum Detox at the University of Cambridge. Here, we explored how the use of insensitive descriptions in record keeping can bleed into online catalogues and exhibitions. This spreads misinformation by misrepresenting marginalised groups: an injustice to the educational value of archives and the communities surrounding them.

This blog post will focus on how…

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