Held in Manchester in 1945, the 5th Pan-African Congresswas part of a series of seven meetings, intended to address the decolonisation of Africa from Western imperial powers. Set within a new world order of international cooperation during the 1940s, the Congress demanded an end to colonial rule and racial discrimination, as well as the recognition of human rights and equality of economic opportunity for all peoples of African descent.
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collections can date back hundreds of years, so it’s no surprise that within these materials it is possible to find outdated or problematic attitudes and language.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.
Have you ever whiled away an hour or two in the University of Manchester archive? You should try it sometime. You never know what you’ll find.
I was in there one day rooting around trying to uncover the origins of international students who’d come to study in our city over the decades. Imagine my surprise when I saw the following statistic in the 1954 Report of the Council to the Court of Governors: “Stateless …. 1”. What could that mean? Sixty people from India or twelve from France is understandable, but “Stateless …. 1”?
You’ve probably guessed already I was on another voyage of discovery, one which I’d like to share with you…
Don’t think the mass migration of desperate refugees we’ve witnessed in recent years is anything new to Europe. It isn’t. The “Stateless Student” I’d stumbled across turned out to be only one individual amongst the millions of unfortunate souls left displaced and destitute on mainland Europe at the end of World War II. The cataclysm of the war-torn early 1940s had wrecked economies and devastated huge swathes of the landmass, leaving governments and people with insurmountable difficulties.
The Heritage Imaging Team has recently completed a project to digitise 901 lantern slides held in the Christian Brethren Archive. As mentioned in a previous blog post, in the case of many of these slides, we had very little contextual information, or information relating to their provenance.
The creation of a catalogue for visual material without much knowledge of origin or content presents certain challenges and concerns.
If you are unable to identify the origin of the image, and the scene it depicts, the cataloguer may be reduced to simply describing what they can see, and thus descriptions like ‘Man under tree holding stick’ are born. As there were several cataloguers involved with this project, there are further concerns in terms of the standardisation of language, as one person may decide to to describe the same moving body of water as a river, and another as a stream.
What happens to the outputs of community-led heritage projects? Why are they so rarely accessioned into registered collections? Can we create a model for projects that benefits both communities and collecting institutions?
These are the questions that Jennie and myself (Hannah) explored back in November at the National Archives’ annual ‘Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities’ conference (DCDC). We shared the findings of the first phase of our HLF-supported project Coming in from the Cold, and also our experience as a heritage organisation with a more holistic approach to community engagement and collection development.
Another interesting piece from theracetoread blog. This BAME young adult literature timeline highlights some of the key national race related events of the 1980s and 90s, including the founding of our Education Trust!
This week’s blog continues the history of Black and BAME British YA literature. 1981, the year that starts the second half of the timeline, is significant for YA literature. The end of what scholar Anthony DiGesare calls “the long 1970s”, a period when race was the focus for both Black and white Britons from Enoch Powell to future Guardian prize-winner Alex Wheatle, 1981 saw the Brixton Riots bring institutional racism into the spotlight for the first—but by no means the last—time.
YA novelist Alex Wheatle was among the people who experienced the Brixton Riot of 1981.
1981: The Brixton riots erupt as a response to the perceived racist attitudes of police against the Black British community. West Indian Children in our Schools, a government report authored by Anthony Rampton, calls for mainstream literature to better represent the increasingly diverse cultures of Britain. The Rampton report was written in response…
The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M15 6ER
On view until 19 November 2017
As promised, my next review of The Whitworth’s summer exhibitions explores the art of London-based artist Raqib Shaw. His gloriously opulent exhibition is part of the South Asia art and culture programme that marks the 70th anniversary of Partition. The programme is part of the work of the New North & South network which involves ten North of England organisations.
The exhibition is co-curated by Dr Maria Balshaw, Director of Tate, Diana Campbell Betancourt, Director of Dhaka Art Summit and the artist himself.
Some key facts about Raqib Shaw:
Shaw was born in Calcutta and grew up in Kashmir, which he describes as a very beautiful place etched on his memory.
His family are involved in textiles.
Originally he wanted to be a teacher of English literature.
He is totally devoted to his art and lives for his work.
His Peckham studio doubles as his home and is filled with beautiful objects and trailing plants.
The interior of the first main gallery at The Whitworth is transformed, and now has the feel of an exclusive boudoir-style club. Shaw’s newly commissioned wallpaper covers every wall, dark both in colour and theme (it’s available to buy in The Whitworth shop as a limited edition). It is called ‘After A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (see below) and features phantasmagorical beings intertwined with braided creepers and branches over a background the colour of lapis lazuli.
The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M15 6ER
This exhibition was on view until 23rd July 2017.
The Whitworth has some fantastic exhibitions on over the summer, I’m especially excited to see the gallery’s contribution to the New North and South programme, bringing the work of South Asian artists to prominence. But before I talk about the current exhibitions (watch this space next week) I want to reflect on another piece we saw there recently that had a profound effect on me: Vertigo Sea, a three-screen film installation by the artist, filmmaker and founder member of Black Audio Film Collective John Akomfrah.
The welcome was magnificent, unexplainable. Not just our first steps off the plane at Manchester Airport, but also the processing of all the refugees. And yes, it’s true, the English removed the rags of oppression and truly brought smiles for the first time to our kids’ faces – our kids, who had seen nothing but violence, burnings and killing.
Oral histories are a significant feature of our collection. We currently have in the region of 400 interviews covering a range of experiences, from the life stories of Windrush immigrants to recollections of the 1945 Pan-African Congress.
People disappear from history all the time. No written records, no treasured belongings handed down as heirlooms, no-one still around to remember… There are lots of reasons. But one of the most successful film-makers of his era? That’s unusual…
Jo Manby has taken a break from reviewing books to find out about self-portrait artist Samuel Fosso.
On a recent city break in Paris, we came across the privately run Galerie Jean Marc Patras. It was a cold February morning in the Marais – an area known for its arts and culture – just down the way from the Picasso Museum. In the windows of the gallery were two imposing works from Samuel Fosso’s Emperor of Africa series. These showed the artist gazing into an indeterminate, glorious distance, his face made up to represent the Chinese leader Mao Zedong, his figure dressed in Mao Zedong’s uniform-styled outfits.
For the first phase of our HLF-supported Coming in from the Cold project (#ComingIn) the project team are visiting Greater Manchester archives and collections to map out BME-related material held in the region. Here Jennie highlights an interesting find at Wigan and Leigh Archives.
Check out the project blog for more about the project and subscribe for updates!
Photo of Jennifer viewing publication, taken by Daniella Carrington
In order to gather research for Coming in from the Cold, Marzuqa and I have been contacting representatives from cultural and heritage organisations across Greater Manchester. Some have responded to a questionnaire by post or by email, providing background information on lists of projects we have already identified. Others have met us in person, to tell us about further initiatives we have missed, or to discuss issues with their service which may have impacted on delivery. We’ve also been trying to assess the scope of BME-related material in historic collections, in the hope that some items may inspire further project work.
We’re excited to be hosting a new exhibition here in Manchester Central Library: Family Ties – The Adamah Papers Project. Last Thursday was the exhibition launch; a large audience, delicious African cuisine, thought-provoking speakers and lively conversation.
We love what the good folk at Archives+ did with our Christmas Cards from Around the World collection at their Christmas Extravaganza at the weekend! Take a look below….
On Saturday, Central Library hosted their annual Christmas Extravaganza. This event is the start of the festive season for many local residents as one comment from the day suggests, ‘Choirs in the library and meeting Father Christmas has become part of our annual Christmas experience for the whole family, lovely.’
This year we included the magic of a Green Screen, with our National Archives Trainee Jane on the activity. Using colourful Christmas cards from around the world, provided by the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre, Victorian Christmas cards from the archives and film footage from the North West Film Archives; we were able to take some wonderful pictures and record Christmas messages. All of the photographs and messages were tweeted on the @archivesplus Twitter account on the day.
For a photograph, each family chose which image they would like to use and then posed in front of…
Like countless individuals before and after (especially women), Daisy Makiwane has all but slipped into the uncharted shadows of history. Although we now know she was a significant player in transmitting the funds for Tennyson to travel to the UK, we have to admit that little survives concerning Daisy herself.
Come with me on a journey of discovery into the bowels of the University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library on Deansgate! Armed with our AIU Centre roadmap of race relations insights, let’s astonish ourselves amongst the wealth of treasures just lying there waiting to be discovered!
Feast your eyes on the image below. You, I and some intrepid Heritage Imaging adventurers are the first people to clap eyes on the contents of this amazing lantern slide for possibly eighty years or more… And you saw it here first – thanks to another of those incredibly kind archivists.
A couple of weeks ago I took part in ‘The Future of Women’s Pasts’ at the University of Leeds, a one day conference that brought together archivists, researchers and activists to reflect on women’s archives and the archiving of women’s histories.
In her third guest post based on her fascinating PhD research into British student activism, Sarah Webster looks at Manchester student involvement in anti-apartheid campaigning.
Anti-apartheid activism at UoM offers an insight into how student activism has changed across the twentieth century. Tactical choices by anti-apartheid activists demonstrate that protest becomes a more acceptable method for expressing student discontent and dissent, particularly after the sixties.
The Roving Reader has been out and about exploring other archives in Manchester. This week she’s been to the People’s History Museum and discovered tantalising new evidence of how one of the most significant participants in the early UK anti-apartheid movement came to Britain.
This post was going to be about the discovery of a touching migrant story. African woman lives in 1950s London and begs clergyman for money to bring brother to UK. Clergyman phones contact to get funds and cheque is sent off. Thank you note penned, good act done, brother home and happy. Not all migrant stories end so well, but it symbolises tales of separation repeated thousands of times in a world of war and economic deprivation…
True, this story features a clergyman, a sister, a brother and a benefactor. But when I say that these are Canon John Collins, Miss D Makiwane, Tennyson Makiwane and the Secretary of a UK Labour Party-linked fellowship, some of you out there might start jumping around shouting “Whoopee! Now we know who paid for Tennyson’s travel ticket!
In the second in her a series of guest posts based on her fascinating PhD research into British student activism, Sarah Webster looks at Manchester student involvement in anti-deportation campaigns.
In October 1982, the Manchester University Students Union affiliated to Workers Against Racism, an anti-racist campaign organisation run by the Revolutionary Community Party to fight deportations during the eighties. The affiliation is formal recognition of student anti-deportation activism across the decade. Under Thatcher, immigration rules were significantly tightened. Even those with long standing ties and who had not personally committed infractions faced deportation threats. Motivated by anti-racist sentiment, Manchester students supported many anti-deportation campaigns. They were particularly active in local campaigns, supporting many Manchester based families.
This is the first in a series of guest posts by Sarah Webster, based on her fascinating PhD research into British student activism since 1945.
Manchester has a reputation as the home of radical politics and ideas. That history includes protest and activism by the city’s university and college students. These blog posts will outline examples of race-related activism by University of Manchester (UoM) students in the twentieth century. Their activism has encompassed opposition to racist regimes in southern Africa, anti-fascist activism and campaigns on global poverty. This first post focuses on activism and support for international students in Manchester after 1945.
Where do our ideas about foreigners come from? Why do we view them the way we do?
I’ve often wondered about this and concluded it’s partly due to ‘cultural inheritance’. What do I mean? Well, the other day I nearly fell over when visiting the Special Collections archive at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). Nothing to do with the staff. Just that there on display were two images that almost throttled me with the force of what they communicated about inherited attitudes to foreigners. Due to the kindness of the archivist, you can see them too.
An interesting series of events is taking place at the moment in Warwick, the Warwick Open Education Series: ‘After Talk Must Come Action: Racial Resistance and Remaking’.
In this blog post the Modern Records Centre at Warwick University Library talk about their recent event ‘Why is my Curriculum White?’, which ‘examines and unravels the ideologies behind the existence of syllabuses that fail to reflect global experience and thought’.
Take a look – there’s a video of the panel session and a list of related resources in their collection.
The first event in the Warwick Open Education Series, ‘After Talk Must Come Action: Racial Resistance and Remaking’ was “Why Is My Curriculum White?”, which explored the limited syllabuses in UK institutions…
This interesting post popped up on the Archives+ blog this morning, highlighting the Fifth Pan-African Congress that took place in Manchester in 1945. Have a read!
If you’re interested we have material relating to the Congress in the Resource Centre; a couple of really comprehensive books, a small archive collection of original material and a series of six interviews created in 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Congress. The interviews are with those who were living in Manchester in 1945 and some who attended the Congress, including Sam Nelson and Alfred Gaisie.
Looking through the photographs held at the Central Library I came across a truly interesting image. From the 15th to the 21st October 1945 Manchester played host to an event, largely ignored at the time, which would have huge significance for the future of an entire continent. It was at Chorlton-on-Medlock Town Hall that 90 delegates from across Africa, Europe and North America came together to hold the Fifth Pan-African Congress to discuss the future of Africa.
1945 was a momentous year in world history, the Second World War had ended the previous month and many of Europes’ colonies looked towards the prospect of finally gaining independence as a reward for their immense sacrifices. Pan Africanism was a political ideology developed by African intellectuals to challenge the artificial division of the African continent by the Colonial powers when they had scrambled for territory. Its ultimate goal was to unite…
As a race relations collection we inevitably have difficult stories to tell – of oppression, violence and inequality. How can collections such as ours do this both respectfully and powerfully?
Last week I went along to a talk given by Dr Richard Benjamin, Director of the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool. If anyone knows about telling difficult stories respectfully, he surely does. Based in Liverpool, once a major port of the transatlantic slave trade, and looking out over the dry docks once used for unloading slave ships, the Museum is already an emotionally charged piece of history, even before we think about its objects and exhibitions.