Arts Archives as Catalysts for Change: DWAN collaborate

At the RNCM Archives, I’ve been poking at the idea of arts archives as arts resources. A lot of the collection at the College is either manuscript music, drawings, programmes or photographs. It’s a dream for outreach and engagement because so much of it created specifically to be engaged with. Music is for listening to, art is for looking at, etc..

Arts and politics, social change and protest have all been linked before and there are cultural and heritage institutions that recognise the potential for their sectors to make a difference in the here and now.

This hadn’t been the case so much for the RNCM Archives and I was itching to side-step into it, arms happily laden with politics and archives.

I’d been bringing artists and arty people down into the basement (not as Hammer Horror as I make it sound) for a good 18 months and they’d been loving the collections. Then, the opportunity to jump on the Digital Women’s Archive North Research and Development project was offered last year. It was timely and nicely experimental. Just what the archives needed.

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Mysteries and Nuances: Manchester’s WW1 music research roundup

Check it out! We’ve been published in the Manchester Region History Review. Inside is a summary article about some themes on the project written by RNCM Archivist, Heather Roberts. Browse the fabulous magazine or skip straight to the middle for our article summarising the mysteries and nuances we have been exploring.

via Mysteries and Nuances — Making Music in Manchester during WW1

Outreach and Engagement: Supply and Demand

A few months ago, God actually ages ago by now, I gave a talk to the International Association of Music Libraries (UK and Ireland branch) in Manchester.

I was asked to participate in their conference as the Royal Northern College of Music’s archivist, a fabulously fun job. The conference organisers fancied someone who could talk about outreach and engagement with collections, one of my priorities for the College’s collection. I said yes please and that was that. I was booked.

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Did I drop off the face of the earth? Quite the opposite.

Seriously, I have been so damned busy and it’s been amazing.

I’m going to tell you all about everything in good time but for now here’s a taster:

A couple of other things I can’t share with you yet but will do when I am able because I am SO EXCITED!

So, all these updates are coming up over the next few weeks. Things are moving so quickly and I’m thoroughly enjoying running with it all.

Ever feel damned privellaged to be able to do the work you do? That’s me right now.

Anyway, keep an eye out for updates and as always, feel free to get in touch with questions/comments/just say ‘hi’.


I quacked when I should have clucked.

Recently, I gave a talk about one of my most favourite archive collections: Thomas Baron Pitfield.

Pitfield’s archival legacy is stunning. Not just in the material itself, although that is beautiful (and I mean that in the Kantian sense), but also as an example of an archive. I’d like to share some of thoughts about the collection here.

But first, and this is really important, you need to understand Pitfield. Or at least know a little about him and we can learn a lot about him from his autobiographies.

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Race Relations and Archives

For the past couple of months or so, I’ve been enjoying some consultancy work for the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre‘s archives. It’s been pretty amazing.

A part of Archives+ (a kind of heritage hub in Manchester’s Central Library that is a brilliant idea) they brought all their archives with them when they moved to Central Library. The archives they wanted a hand with were their institutional archives: that of the Centre and that of the Trust. I was thrilled to be brought on board. I adore the Centre and the Trust for the work they do and was more than happy to help.

If you haven’t been introduced to the Centre or Trust yet, here’s the basics.

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I love Halloween and I love archives so it makes sense to me to try and marry the two. At the Royal Northern College of Music, within the collections, there are witches, ghosts, devils and changelings. I really wanted to do something with them.

So, I spent an hour on Thursday taking photos of the all the monsters ready for the big day. On the 31st, I took to @rncmarchives on Twitter. I couldn’t see any plan by any of the big archives to use a particular Halloween hashtag so I made my own: #hauntedarchives.

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Tchaikovsky’s BFF

With some items in archives, you only realise their true historical significance after you’d researched them. You may not recognise the company name engraved into the red-rot spine of the minute book, the photograph may be undated and its occupants anonymous or you may not know to whom or from whom a letter was sent just by its signature.

Those euphoric reveal moments are wonderful and luckily an archivist’s life is full of them.

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