Last time we discussed the importance of the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (AIU Centre) and its collections, touching on some of the realities of archives and archival research, and looking at the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves before engaging with an archive collection. This time we’ll be moving on to begin checking out the ways relevant Centre resources can be identified and accessed.
There are three ways into the collection:
Databases (including subject area resource lists)
Human interface (speaking to the librarian and/or Collections Access Officer) [coming soon]
Serendipity (just going in and browsing) [coming soon]
Which one you start with is very much up to you and your preferred style. This time I’ll be introducing the different database options at your disposal. I’ll be looking at the human interface and serendipity in future posts.
So you’ll be able to dip into this post to find information that’s particularly interesting to you, I’ll be covering these subjects under the following headings:
The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (AIU Centre) is the premier resource centre in the country devoted to making available materials to facilitate the study of race relations. As such, it’s consulted by researchers from across the world. We at the University of Manchester are fortunate that it’s situated down the road from us in Manchester Central Library. The AIU Centre is the University’s flagship representative in the regional archive umbrella group Archives+. That we have such easy access to it is a rare privilege we should all appreciate and take advantage of.
That’s if we know the relevance of race relations-related resources to our studies, and if we understand how to make the most of the collections. A couple of big ‘ifs’.
The blog posts I’ll be contributing are designed to help us think through these issues. I’ll be taking a look at the kinds of resources held by the Centre, and what they have to offer to various subject areas. Hopefully it will become easier for us to use those resources more efficiently and optimally to enrich our studies.
I’m going to start by trying to get to grips with understanding how to make the most of the collections. In this post, we’ll touch on:
some of the realities of archives and archival research that we need to bear in mind
questions to ask ourselves that will help our preparations to engage an archive collection
With the stage set, in three posts we’ll look at each of the three ways into the AIU Centre’s collections:
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.
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.
Three pounds of rice, four duck eggs, a pair of straw shoes, and a lonely trip over the mountains to 1940s Hong Kong. Long hours of labour in food outlets mushrooming on 1960s London high streets. What do these scenes have in common? The answer’s illiterate Chinese migrant Yue Kai Chung.
Get yourself a coffee and sit down. Here’s another intriguing tale behind what looks like an innocent volume parked on the Centre’s shelves…
Have you seen Black ’47. Britain and the Famine Irishby Frank Neal, with its bleak black and white cover and title printed in green? Haunted by the image of a gaunt famine-starved couple with a baby, it doesn’t look a relaxing read. Published in 1998, it appeared during the 150th anniversary commemorations of one of the most catastrophic transformational experiences ever to scar the collective psyche of any community in the world – the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s.
Our Roving Reader has been investigating what happened to the people whose stories and writings she looked at in her journey from Jamaica to England.
Una Marson died in 1965, but she lived for many years in the London Borough of Southwark. In 2005, Southwark Council awarded her a Blue Plaque in recognition of her contribution to literature and broadcasting. If any of you go and see it, let us know. There’s some more information on the Southwark Council website.
Joyce Gladwell is still alive and kicking. HerBrown Face, Big Master was reissued as a Caribbean Classic by MacMillan in 2003. Joyce herself went on to become a successful marriage and family therapist in Canada, whilst her husband became a professor of mathematics. In 2009, a counselling centre was named after her in recognition of her work. One of her sons is the journalist and best-selling writer Malcolm Gladwell, who discussed his mother’s life in one of his books – Outliers: The Story of Success (published 2008). You might like to read more about Joyce and the counselling centre or Malcolm Gladwell’s thoughts on his multi-racial background.
Concerning the Adult Literacy Projects, I don’t have updates about Louise Shore and the individuals who contributed to So This Is England. But you may like to know what happened to Centerprise, the organisation which published Louise’s autobiography Pure Running. A Life Story. It survived as the Centerprise Trust Community and Arts Centre in Dalston, London, until 2012. Unfortunately, its peppercorn rent of £10 per month was suddenly raised by Hackney Council to an impossible £37,000 per year. After much legal wrangling, it looks like it finally closed, to great disappointment all round. It had been open 41 years, and had helped many isolated immigrants in London. If anyone out there knows of any further developments on this matter, we’d welcome an update. You can read more about it on the Radical History of Hackney blog and the Hackney Citizen website.
The fourth instalment in our Roving Reader’s journey from Jamaica to England, through the primary and secondary sources in our library collection.
Louise Shore and Her Literary Ambitions
So far, we’ve learnt from intellectuals Una Marson and Joyce Gladwell, as we travel from Jamaica to England. But are you, like me, asking what our poor underprivileged companions have got to say?
Well, the disadvantaged have historically left few records of their own due to illiteracy, so if we’d asked that question even a hundred years ago, we’d probably have been told, “Not a lot. Hard cheese.”
The third instalment in our Roving Reader’s journey from Jamaica to England, through the primary and secondary sources in our library collection.
Joyce Gladwell Goes to London
Una Marson, through our secondary source, has given our Jamaica-to-England trip some context. Hurray! Now we can get comfortable, kick off our shoes, and learn a thing or two from the reminiscences of our companions. We’re going to thumb through some primary sources.
Primary sources come in many guises – letters, diaries, even old bus tickets, lists and catalogues. Archives are full of such things (often called manuscripts and ephemera), but for our journey, we’re going to look at the published variety; autobiographies – what people have written about themselves.