Upon the launch of her latest book, Kwame Nkrumah and the Dawn of the Cold War, Marika Sherwood spoke yesterday on the topics of colonialism, communism and the importance of researching black history and activism at an event hosted by the AIU Centre. The talk was followed by an engaging Q&A and insightful discussion with members of the audience who shared Marika’s passion for research and black history.
Marika Sherwood speaking at Central Library 30/4/19
By Damali Eastmond-Scott – History Teacher at Manchester Enterprise Academy, Wythenshawe
Hip-hop as an umbrella for multiple subgenres has always been my number one. Sharing with reggae, a multi-faceted genre that I grew up to; a sound that brings back memories of sunny days in South London, sitting in my mother’s red Ford Orion bopping my head to the popular urban radio station, Choice FM. Hip-hop allowed me to explore social issues that other commercial genres wouldn’t dabble in. However, there was always one theme that caused listeners to question hip-hop and its intentions; forcing people to validate its sentiment and subconscious messages. This stretches as far as turning listeners away from it. The contentious problem is the topic of love and relationships. Continue reading →
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.
Photograph of Congress attendees, 1945 Pan-African Congress. Among the people to attend were George Padmore, W. E. B. Du Bois, Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah. Source: Pan-African Congress 1945 and 1995 Archive, GB3228.34
The majority of our archival material here at the AIU Centre relates to the UK, more specifically to Manchester, emphasising our focus on race relations within our local communities’ history and heritage. However, I have recently taken on the task of getting to grips with the ‘Lou Kushnick Interviews’, which are all the way across the Atlantic ocean from Manchester in their subject matter. While they may focus on US history rather than Manchester’s, there is one quite major connection between the interviews and our city. Lou Kushnick, the founder of The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource centre, came to Manchester from the US in 1963 to study, and decided to stay. He became a lecturer in American Studies at the University of Manchester and these interviews formed part of his various research endeavours, conducted both in this city and back in the US. They now form part of our archive, and can be browsed along with Lou’s various papers and documents.
There are 95 interviews in total, each around an hour in length. Some span over multiple recordings, and some are shorter and straight to the point. The interviewees are mostly American politicians, academics, lawyers, union members and activists. If you are interested in US political and social history, or US racial inequality within housing, employment, education and welfare, the Lou Kushnick interviews will fascinate you. As a past student of American Studies myself, they certainly fascinated me.
Note-taking and brainstorming while listening to the Lou Kushnick Interviews
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.
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.
Last week we said farewell and good luck to our Collections Documentation Assistant Carly Morel. Carly joined the Resource Centre team in 2015 and made a big impact during her time with us. She bravely tackled our backlog of uncatalogued physical archive material, creating in the region of 18 new collections and working in some capacity on countless others, with enthusiasm and sensitivity.
We couldn’t find a good picture of Carly at work, so here she is on holiday! Source: Carly Morel
She has the capacity to be interested in just about anything and to dig out the most obscure and revealing aspects of a collection. Many a time she’d lean over and say ‘Hey Hannah, listen to this’, read something out of the letter / pamphlet / report she was cataloguing, then launch into an analysis of what it means for Trump’s America / Brexit Britain / the Mediterranean migrant crisis, or whatever was happening at the time. All of which made her a great archivist and lots of fun to share an office with.
But perhaps her biggest impact has been on our digital archive work. Carly also works in the digital technologies team at the University of Manchester Library and her expertise in digital preservation came at the just the right time. The nature of our collections means that much of it is born digital, and thanks to Carly we now have polices and procedures to properly care for this material.
Anyone putting together a research project or hammering out a dissertation topic has a lot to think about. What’s the subject? How’s it going to be investigated? What kind of information will be necessary? And where’s that information going to come from?
Here are two reasons why I believe the AIU Centre archive is a resource worth considering for studies covering a wide range of subject areas. It might not be immediately apparent that a Centre making available materials facilitating the study of race relations would be relevant to you, but hopefully by the end of this post its potential significance may have become clearer.
Becki Kaur has recently submitted her PhD, which explores how professionals working in the domestic abuse sector understand, explain, and address ‘honour’-based violence. We’re excited to have her working with us on a six-month project to develop the library’s resources on this very important topic.
I’ve heard some people say that, by the time it gets to the end of their PhD, they’ve fallen out of love with their research topic. In this respect, I consider myself fortunate. Although the nature of my area of research – ‘honour’-based violence – is (to put it nicely) deeply unpleasant, I feel as passionate about raising awareness of the subject as I did when I started my research journey four years ago. So, when the opportunity arose to work with the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (AIUC) to help develop ‘honour’-based violence-related resources, I didn’t have to be asked twice! Continue reading →
Originally posted on Coming in from the Cold : We currently have two postgraduate students from the Institute for Cultural Practices (ICP) at the University of Manchester on a placement with us. They have been investigating the value of historic documents and…
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.
In previous posts, we’ve discussed the importance of the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (AIU Centre) and its collections, touched on some of the realities of archives and archival research, and looked at the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves before engaging with an archive collection. We’ve also delved into the two main ways into the collection:
In a previous post we looked at the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves before engaging with a resource such as the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (AIU Centre), and we learnt that there are three ways into the collection:
This time I’ll be looking at the ‘Human Interface’.
The ‘Human Interface’ with any library or archive comprises those individuals whose role is to take care of the collection, answer questions from users, find information, or give advice regarding the materials the library or archive contains. In relation to the Centre, subject area resource lists and databases can produce raw data about materials which might be relevant to a topic, but interacting with a knowledgeable human being (in writing or face-to-face) opens up a whole new level of insight. Such an individual can give guidance tailored to what you in particular want to know.
In this post, I’ll be giving insight into who the Centre’s human interfaces are and how they can smooth our way into the Centre’s resources. So you’ll be able to dip in to find what’s particularly interesting to you, I’ll be covering the subject in the following sections:
This month marks a new departure for us at the Resource Centre, as we spread the word about our first open-access digital collection: A (very nearly) full set of the Commission for Racial Equality‘s (CRE) publications.
541 pamphlets, reports, guides, etc etc, covering all aspects of race relations policy, practice and debate in the UK, from 1976 to 2007. These publications can be accessed free, by anyone, through the University of Manchester Library’s digital collections database. We invite you all to browse the collection and spread the word!
As we wind up for our Christmas break (until Wednesday 3rd January) we’re reflecting on what an action-packed year 2017 has been for us. We’re not very good at shouting about our successes, but our colleagues and stakeholders at the University, in the city council and in the community often comment on how much we achieve for such a small team.
So, in the spirit of giving ourselves a well-deserved pat on the back, here are our 2017 highlights:
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
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 →
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.
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.
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.
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
Documentation Assistant Carly Morel is currently pulling together various bits of American Civil Rights material to create a new open-ended archive collection. She highlights a couple of interesting items for us:
With US politics so much in the headlines at the moment, I thought, what better time to tackle our US Civil Rights material?
Over the past 18 months we, through our Education Trust, have been working on our HLF funded Legacy of Ahmed project. The project is now drawing to a close and I’ll be sharing some of the outputs on here over the next few weeks. First up, these wonderful anti-racism posters created by young people from our project partner Ananna: Manchester Bangladeshi Women’s Organisation.
An interesting post from Hatful Of History on activist archives and digitisation, with some interesting comments. These are issues that we’re tussling with here at the Resource Centre, as we look at how we can make our holdings more accessible, whilst managing issues around copyright and political and personal sensitivities…
I have been in discussions with various people over the last few months about how movements ‘remember’ themselves and how they engage with their ephemeral history. I am interested in how these movements have often self-archived their materials and what they have done with these materials – are they open to researchers and people interested interested in the history of these movements? Some organisations and movements (as well as certain individuals) have donated their historical papers to various university archives or museums. These are valuable to researchers, but still privilege those who can gain access – usually academics and independent researchers who can afford to do archival research on site.
However some organisations and enterprising researchers are overcoming these obstacles by scanning and digitising the materials of the various progressive and left-wing movements across the Anglophone world. Sites such as the Marxist Internet Archive have been scanning many American, Canadian…
We’ve recently done a little conservation and access work on our Institute of Race Relations (IRR) Newspaper Clippings collection. It really is one of the gems of our archive – a vast collection of race-related stories from provincial UK newspapers, covering the short but intense period of September 1977 to April 1984.
The collection has been in need of some TLC for a while. It takes up 49 lever arch files, in varying states of dilapidation. We’ve only been able to replace the ones that were most severely falling apart, but we’ve also relocated a whole box of orphaned pages and moved the more fragile sheets to separate storage. With the detailed content summaries we now have for each folder, this is starting to feel like a much more accessible collection, ready to have its hidden depths explored by intrepid researchers….
It’s an experience most people who work in archives have had: you find a box of intriguing-looking papers at the back of the archive, but there’s no paperwork with it, nothing to identify what the material is or where it came from and no-one else in the organisation knows anything about it. So you put it back and forget about it.
Nigel de Noronha has been our Researcher in Residence this year, working on the Tandana Collection; a large archive of material about the Asian Youth Movements (AYMs). Nigel was a member of the AYM in Manchester in the 1980s, so this project has been of personal as well as academic and professional interest for him. In this post he reflects on the process of re-engaging with his own personal history through working in the archive.
Asian Youth movements (AYMs) emerged spontaneously in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s. The AYM was active in anti-deportation campaigns in Manchester, connected to other AYMs and supported their campaigns against racist discrimination and racial violence. I joined AYM Manchester in 1982. We adopted a black political identity. Many young Asians witnessed racist and fascist violence, state discrimination from the police, schools, housing and immigration authorities, and discrimination in the labour market.
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.
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…
On 11 February 1990 Nelson Mandela was released after spending 27 years in South African prisons, most of them on Robben Island, where he and other African National Congress members were sentenced to hard labour. It would be another 4 years until a democratic election, open to all South African adults for the first time, resulted in him becoming president.
The Labour History Archive & Study Centre at the People’s History Museum houses many photos of the anti-apartheid movement in Britain, as well as a wide range of pamphlets from South Africa, Britain, and elsewhere, including a few in support of Britain’s economic links with apartheid South Africa. Anyone is welcome to come and look at them and much more. See our website for visiting information.
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.
Occasionally I come across a single issue of some journal or periodical on the shelf that appears to have no real relevance to race relations. This happened today when I spotted the October 1975 issue of The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress (Washington DC, USA) in a pile of items waiting to be catalogued.
I’m a big fan of throwing things out – not the best attribute for someone who works in an archive you might think, but it doesn’t make sense to keep things that don’t contribute to our mission or that duplicate the holdings of other collections.
It was a lovely looking journal though, The Life and Age of Woman, highlighting the stories of ordinary and extraordinary women that can be found in the Library of Congress. So before I dropped it in the recycling bin I had a flick through.
This week, as it’s the Manchester Histories Festival and we’re here in our new home at Central Library, we’ve been taking advantage of the handling table in the Ground Floor Archives+ exhibition area.
On Tuesday afternoon Ruth and I pulled together a selection of items from the Steve Cohen archive, which is a large collection of anti-deportation campaign memorabilia from the 1970s, 80s and 90s, donated by the Manchester activist and community lawyer Steve Cohen. There are more than 70 campaigns represented in the collection but we decided to focus on the case of Viraj Mendis.
It’s all hands on deck here this week as we get ready for the reopening of Central Library, incorporating us and our Archives+ partners. No time to write a proper post this week, so I thought I’d share this from the Archives+ blog – a few sneaky peak pictures from inside!
It’s our last week here in the University of Manchester’s Sackville St Building. The shelves are emptying, boxes are filling and we’re all overcome with bittersweet emotions; the excitement about our future in Manchester Central Library mixed with the melancholy of leaving somewhere we’ve called home for the past few years. I get terribly sentimental about buildings I’ve inhabited – it’s as if I leave a little bit of myself behind every time I move on somewhere new.
But if these walls could talk they’d have more interesting things to talk about than my short stay here.
Just been reminded of this great post about the Centre, based on an interview with our founder Lou Kushnick. It was written in 2011 by Arwa Aburawa for the always-interesting Manchester’s Radical History blog.
Read about our humble beginnings and the Lou’s vision!:
With the Centre closing to the public on 6th December and the movers booked for mid-February, our move to Central Library (as part of the Archives+ partnership) is starting to feel very real. We keep trying to imagine what it will be like having so many more visitors into the library every day… it’s going to be amazing, but we need to think about how we balance the demands of greater access with preservation of the collection.
There is a tendency to see the history of Black people in Britain as a 20th Century history, and certainly the post-war period saw a large number of West Indian (not to mention African, Asian, European) migrants arrive here, what we call the ‘Windrush Generation’. And this period is the focus of our own archive – a repository for recent histories and living memories.
But a trip to the Lancashire Archives (for a CILIP Black History day school) has really put this into perspective for me.
I imagine if you came across the Asian Youth Movements in Manchester, Bradford and other towns and cities during the 1970s and 80s they would have made quite an impression on you. I knew very little about this fascinating bit of recent history until earlier this month when we welcomed author Anandi Ramamurthy to launch her new book Black Star: Britain’s Asian Youth Movements.
In a nutshell, during the 70s and 80s young Asians joined together to protest against the racism and inequality they experienced in their communities and from the government. These grassroots organisations held rallies and marches, protested against deportations and produced leaflets, newspapers and posters to spread their message.
Since taking up my post at the AIU Race Relations Resource Centre back in June, people keep telling me what an important collection this is.
A couple of quiet summer months gave me an opportunity to explore the library and build up my own picture of why this place is so unique. That’s one of the reasons I’ve started this blog – to share interesting ideas and items from the collection as I uncover them. But for now here are a few initial thoughts…