Two weeks ago I was part of an initiative to invite a small group of arts professionals to The National Archives for a pilot Archives for Artists showcase. This came out of our national Archiving the Arts campaign, and the aim was to start conversations: to ask what artists need from us, what they would find useful and how can we make archives as accessible as possible to arts professionals.
As it’s currently Creative Industry Week, what better week to share our recent experience in trying to open up our archives to the creative sector?
We are currently trying to engage with new audiences and also find new ways for people who don’t use archives to be inspired by some of the incredible things we hold.
We want to use creative processes to open up, reinterpret and re-present the records we hold. The possibilities are endless, from using creative outputs to make our onsite space more engaging, to using arts workshops to open up our collections. As you can probably imagine there is a lot of potential!
One of the questions we opened the event with was: ‘Why are archives so brilliant?’ We are obviously very biased here but even after two years working here I am continually amazed by some of the records that we hold. Unlike a library, which generally holds printed materials, the documents on our shelves tend to be unique, one-off records. As a government archive we don’t just hold records of well known people, there are constantly stories to be found about unexpected or ‘ordinary’ people otherwise written out of the historical memory.