As soon as I opened the ‘Adventure Play’ folder of the Elouise Edwards photograph collection I knew I wanted to write about these pictures. Although the folder also included photos of children horse riding, ice skating, river-wading and bouncy castle-jumping, the photos of the adventure playgrounds are what had me hooked. I have so many questions! Who built them? Where were they? Were they safe? Did that even matter?
The photos show enormous wooden and metal structures, usually near a large housing block or in large empty space, with children leaping, hanging and balancing on the various platforms, slides, planks and ropes – smiling for the camera as they go. It struck me just how different playtime was for children in the 70s than it is today – not a screen in sight (just dizzying heights and a couple of splinters instead).
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!
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.
Anti-racism cartoon from Science for the People, Vol. 14, No. 2, March/April 1982
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.
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?
Library Assistants Waqar Younis and Letitia Budu have had some important insights whilst re-organising our Institute of Race Relations Newspaper Clippings collection…
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! Continue reading →
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.
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.
Another great post based on our archives from the Archives+ Digital Journalist Volunteers – Louise Da-Cocodia and the Windrush Generation’s vital contribution to the NHS.
The summer of 2018 sees the 70th anniversary of two key moments in British history – the first wave of post-war mass immigration with the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush on 22 June 1948 and the establishment of the National Health Service (NHS) on 5 July 1948. There would appear to be no obvious connection between the two, and yet, in its days of infancy, the NHS heavily relied on many of those who stepped off of the boat in Tilbury, their children and also the thousands who arrived in the years to come – all dubbed the ‘Windrush generation’.
When the Windrush docked in Tilbury, she brought with her approximately 492 people – most of whom were men, but also women and children – from the Caribbean, mainly from the islands of Jamaica and Trinidad. Invited by the British government to help ‘rebuild’ Britain after the destruction of war, the…
The Archives+ Digital Journalists have been delving into our oral history collections to learn about experiences of the Windrush Generation here in Manchester. Here’s an insight into the life of one of the many ordinary/extraordinary members of this generation; Euton Christian.
You can learn more about Mr Christian in the Roots Oral History Project collection and the Exploring our Roots Collection.
This year marks seventy years since the Empire Windrush set sail from the West Indies and docked in the UK on June 22nd 1948.
Originally sent to bring servicemen who were on leave from the British armed forces back to the UK, because of the size of the ship, hundreds of others were offered the chance to join them on board to fill up space, for a £28 fee. These men were attracted to the idea of life in Britain for a variety of reasons; including the high unemployment rate in Caribbean countries, and Britain being presented throughout the education system as the loving mother-country filled with opportunities.
The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre in Manchester Central Library has an extensive collection of material relating to those who came over on the Windrush from the West Indies and settled in Manchester, including several oral history projects. It was…