Monday, 26 May 2014

Archives for All?

Last week I went to a day's workshop with the Education and Outreach department of the National Archives.

I found it a really useful day, with plenty of networking opportunities with other attendees (especially over a free lunch!), and a range of speakers.

First of all, Krishna Kaur (TNA Equality & Diversity Co-ordinator) talked us through Equality and Diversity at the National Archives, and we discussed the question how does your organisation promote Equality and Diversity across policy and practice?  in groups. I found this really interesting, as I've done Equality and Diversity training in both my current job and my previous one, but wanted to know how to take it to the next step, as it came up whilst I was putting together a funding bid. Not only is it important to remove physical barriers to people using your service, but how do you actively promote it so that a broader range of people use it? We talked about the protected characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage & civil partnership, pregnancy & maternity, race, religion & belief, sex, sexual orientation) and how to actively promote equality and diversity through all kinds of areas such as: providing alternative formats for information (exhibition captions, for instance), positive action at interview (such as the Positive About Disabled People symbol that some organisations use in recruitment), and what events are recognised and celebrated through work at the archives/special collections. We also discussed barriers: time, money, resources, perceptions, listed buildings, conservation requirements.

Then the Outreach Manager, Sara Griffiths, talked to us about the new directions their outreach is going in, to inspire creativity as well as research. Their Caribbean Through a Lens project had made the most of social media, and encouraged participation by inviting comments and contributions, as well as working with community groups.

After lunch we heard about educational resources on the web from the Education Web Manager, Clare Horrie, and a colleague. This focussed on the lesson plans and more that TNA has available on its website, mainly about history and centred on their collections. It looks amazing, although I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount they had available (and how much work it must have taken to get it there). However, the ideas are scaleable. This is their document of the month feature, which is quite relevant to one of the collections I work with... They are also making a lot of use of Pinterest, Flickr, Facebook and Twitter, which is good to hear.

Sarah Hutton, the Onsite Education Manager, with Lizzie Skeaping, the Education Officer, then gave us a taster of various educational activities they offer, including a table full of documents to have a look at, and a Magna Carta lesson where we all got to play with iPads. Did people take Magna Carta seriously? is taught by TNA but the children are in their own classroom back in school. It was fun having a go at the activities, and it also helped to see the range of things on offer, some of which I can imagine using. TNA is moving to a WordPress platform for their online lessons, which is free, so something that could be used in many places.

Finally, Fleur Soper and Kate Wheeler (Collections Knowledge Managers) talked to us about the Archiving the Arts programme (which I've already participated in at work by submitting details of some of our collections), and related areas to support the arts. This included a discussion touching on a range of issues, including funding. It is looking like the introduction of the Archives Accreditation standard means that most, if not all, future funders will expect the recipients of their funding to be accredited.

I really enjoyed my day at TNA. I had several useful discussion over lunch, and also learnt a lot from the speakers and activities. It was an interesting day, that had been thoughtfully arranged to include plenty of networking opportunities and hands on activities. My thanks to TNA for organising it.

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