Making Your Archives Work For You
A conference held for charity archives to share learning
On the 14th November 2018, the Leonard Cheshire Archive and Loughborough University hosted an archives conference as part of the British Academy/UCL research project ‘Digitising the mixed economy of welfare’.
It was an interesting and useful day, where charity archives from museums, community groups and heritage organisations in the East Midlands came together to learn and discuss ways to ‘Make Your Archives Work For You’. The venue was the lovely Netherseal Village Hall, built in 1934 for the village and situated across the road from the Leonard Cheshire Archive.
Volunteers from the Leonard Cheshire Archive set up a stand about the work of the charity and its history alongside an exhibition from Junction Arts from Chesterfield about their recent archiving project with Derbyshire Record Office.
In the morning, the conference was introduced by Professor Irene Hardill, representing the British Academy Project, emphasising the value of charity archives and volunteering to both the economy and social change. Stephanie Nield, Archivist from Leonard Cheshire spoke about the hidden labour of archiving, emphasising its importance and the benefits it brings. Leonard Cheshire Archive Volunteer Susan Nield spoke about her personal experiences taking part in a digitisation project and the impact it had on her both in learning new skills and on a more personal level.
After a tea break, Laura Crawford and Dr. Sarah Mills from Loughborough University spoke about academic collaboration and archives, the positives, challenges and benefits for researchers and charities when embarking on such a project. Laura said “I see the archives as a container of traces of past lives that become really vivid” and emphasised the value of everyday records such as newsletters, photographs and correspondence for research.
Finally, Dr Dan Ellin from the International Bomber Command Centre talked about running an oral history programme and digital archive project, including the challenge of collecting stories from around the world and the benefits that volunteers bring to such a project.
After lunch the main focus was sharing lessons learned, with the opportunity to learn more about Records Management and the benefits of Marketing to archives and projects. The Records Management workshop led by Rachel Cooper from the Small Charities Coalition challenged delegates to think about what they would keep if they had a flood, and consider the value of their records and how that should affect the way they are managed.
The Marketing Workshop, led by volunteer Stephen Nield from the Leonard Cheshire Archive talked about the importance of strategic planning in marketing to ensure that services are marketed consistently, appropriately and to the correct audience. As a delegate said during the workshop, you cannot assume that “if you build it, people will come” without telling people you exist!
The atmosphere of the whole day was welcoming and collaborative, with a chance to ask questions and learn about the exciting work happening in the region. Many thanks to all delegates and hosts for organising such an informative day.