Using our Collections in your Studies: Introducing the Research Skills Series

cartoon books and globe on shelves

Research Skills Series

Most of us know the basics of using a lending library, and anyone who has studied history will have a grasp of what archives are, how they’re accessed and why they’re important. But seeing all of the possibilities of a collection for your particular area of study takes time; something many researchers don’t have. So we want to give you a few shortcuts, suggestions and an insider perspective, to help you make the best use of our archive and library collections.

Over the coming months our Honorary Research Associate Dr Alison Newby will be exploring the collection and putting together a series of blog posts about how it can be used. She’ll cover practicalities, such as how to use databases and collection information; she’ll highlight some collection strengths, such as studying oral histories; and she’ll also reflect on the issues that a collection like ours raises for research, such as reflecting a diversity of historical voices.

Alison is a historian by training, as well as a qualified coach working in the HE sector. For her, the roles of coach and historian involve using similar skills – including the abilities to see lots of different perspectives, and to pull together reflections based on the ‘stories’ people actually narrate. You can read about her coaching work here. On the history side, she completed her PhD on nineteenth-century American social and political history at the University of Manchester, and has been specialising in focused research projects bringing together race relations themes and materials from cultural institutions in the Manchester area. Having visited a variety of archives of different sizes in the UK and the USA, she is able to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of each.

The posts in this Research Skills Series are aimed at researchers at all levels, so whether you’re just starting out with independent research or a school project, or you’re a seasoned researcher interested in maximising your time at the Resource Centre, we hope there will be something here for you. Check out the series to date (which includes some skills-focused past posts) in the Research skills category.

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Project-Based Collecting: Telling the whole story at the ARA conference

By Hannah Niblett

Last week Jennie (our Projects Manager) and myself presented at the Archives and Records Association (ARA) conference, here in Manchester. Our paper was called:

Telling the Whole Story: Community partnerships and collection development in the Legacy of Ahmed project

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We’ve been thinking a lot recently about the way we work, as an organisation that undertakes both outreach projects and heritage collection work*. Not only do we give equal weight to these areas of our work, the two have a symbiotic relationship: The outputs of community and schools-based projects (such as oral history interviews, teaching resources, donated ephemera, creative works and publications) are accessioned into the library and archive collections**, ensuring that community voices are preserved for the long-term, but also building a bank of resources to support ongoing outreach work – both our own and other people’s.

It’s the reason we call ourselves a ‘resource centre’ rather than an archive or library; our collections have always been intended to have contemporary, active and practical purposes. Continue reading

Bending the Rules: Archiving the Manchester BME Communities collection

Our freelance archivist Heather Roberts has been working her magic on our large, and until now slightly unwieldy, Manchester Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Communities collection. Here she reflects on the process and reveals some of the thinking behind her work:

Arranging the Manchester BME Communities collection was an interesting adventure in flexing the rules. As well as deciding what to keep and what not to keep, organising the remaining material was a bit tricky.

the picture shows a row of archive files with colourful papers sticking out of the sides. the label reads 'refugees and immigration'

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Wednesday Finds: Moss Side News

By Hannah Niblett

In the process of pulling together some exhibition material for the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity’s (CoDE) conference next month (‘Documenting, understanding and addressing ethnic inequalities’) I’ve got completely sidetracked by something in the archive…

Moss Side News Issue 6, September 1969

We have 17 issues of the local community newspaper Moss Side News from 1969 – 1978. They’re not in good condition (so I sadly won’t be taking them to the CoDE conference) but they are fascinating reads, revealing the burning issues of the time, namely housing (‘slum’ clearances were taking place), space for children to play and generally defending Moss Side against the bad press it got in the more mainstream local media.

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Daniella Carrington: My placement at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre & Education Trust

Here are Daniella’s final reflections on her museum studies work placement with us. We’re pleased she gained so much from the experience, and she has been a real asset to us over the past five months. Student placements are a great way for us to bring in new ideas and fresh insights, especially when, like Daniella, students have professional as well as academic knowledge and experience to contribute.

Thankfully we’re not saying goodbye to Daniella just yet – she’ll be staying with us on a voluntary basis throughout the summer to continue her work documenting and promoting the Coming in from the Cold project.

Institute for Cultural Practices

I chose the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre and Education Trust for my placement, before even starting the MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies (AGMS) programme. In the first couple of weeks of September 2016, I met the Director, Jacqueline Ould, and a few staff members at a talk they hosted alongside the Black Cultural Archives. I immediately liked their work, which reminded me of what I do home in Trinidad and Tobago, at the Culture Division. Right there, I knew the Centre and Trust was the place for me!

Photo for Blog Post 01-02-2017 A photograph of me taken by my supervisor Hannah Niblett

The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre and Education Trust are two organisations with a common goal; to capture the life stories of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities in Manchester. They are named after Ahmed Iqbal Ullah, a Bangladeshi boy who lost his life defending a…

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Celebrating Polish Heritage Day

We celebrated Polish Heritage Day on Saturday. Julie Devonald (our Project Manager) reflects on the experience.

I was delighted to support Eva Szegidewicz and the Kresy Family Polish WWII History Group, hosting celebrations for the UK’s first ever Polish Heritage Day here at Manchester Central Library. This annual celebration has been established by the Polish ambassador to the UK, as a way for the 980,000 Poles living the Britain to celebrate and share their rich heritage with the rest of the country. Continue reading

Exploring archives and ‘Coming in from the Cold’

By Daniella Carrington

For the month of March, my placement duties have shifted focus, from collections to project work. I am assisting with the documentation of ‘Coming in from the Cold‘, the latest project of the Centre’s sister organisation, the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust. I get to do photography, which I always enjoy, and practise blogging, my current interest.

The project team had the idea of using a blog to provide updates and insights into the ‘Coming in from the Cold’ project. I was given creative liberties to revitalise an existing blog for the project. In coming up with a concept, I explored the archives at the Centre for visual content and inspiration. The Senior Library Assistant, Ruth Tait, at one point became an impromptu model while I photographed the Ann Adeyemi collection (more on the blog about Ann Adeyemi here). Listening to Ruth talk about the people and history within the collection, showed her knowledge but also her working relationship with the archives.

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10 steps to binding a book: A lesson in conservation

By Daniella Carrington

As part of my placement, I got a half day to learn about preservation techniques, by getting hands on experience in book binding. Leading the lesson was Nic Rayner, Conservation Officer at Archives+ – the archive partnership the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre is a part of. Nic assists the Centre by assessing the condition of new archival material acquired, and in general advises on preservation.

Getting into the book binding process. Photo taken by Hannah Landsman.

Getting into the book binding process. Photo taken by Hannah Landsman.

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New research: Sikh activism and race relations organisations in Britain

It’s always gratifying to see our collections contributing to academic research and new publications.

Gyani Sundar Singh Sagar, who fought for turban-wearing Sikh men to be exempt from the law regarding motorcycle helmets. Image courtesy of Ujjal Singh

Gyani Sundar Singh Sagar, who fought for turban-wearing Sikh men to be exempt from the law regarding motorcycle helmets. Image courtesy of Ujjal Singh

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Finding my place at the Centre

We’re delighted to have Daniella Carrington, a postgraduate Museum Studies student, working with us over the next few months as Collections and Projects Assistant. She comes to us through the Institute for Cultural Practices placement scheme, University of Manchester, and we’re already making full use of her skills and knowledge. Here she reflects on her first month in post…

It has been (technically) one month since I began a work placement at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre. How time flies! Learning about this rather special place, how they were founded, and the kind of needful work they do, has been an enriching experience so far. I got to know the staff both personally and professionally, peruse the library, and even get an up close look at the archive to understand the scope of work at the Centre and its sister organisation the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust.

In the library. Photo taken by Hannah Niblett of the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre

In the library. Photo taken by Hannah Niblett of the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre

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