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.

The 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collections can date back hundreds of years, so it’s no surprise that within these materials it is possible to find outdated or problematic attitudes and language.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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Project-Based Collecting: Telling the whole story at the ARA conference

By Hannah

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

ARA_presentation_with notes_HN.jpg

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'

Continue reading