(Multi)Cultural Organisational Archives

Lead Research Organisation: Northumbria University
Department Name: Fac of Arts, Design and Social Sciences

Abstract

The (Multi)Cultural Organisational Archives project aims to begin to catalogue, collect and publicise the dispersed archives of BAME organisations involved in cultural and community development in the North East of England. The project follows on from the Northumbria University AHRC-funded research '(Multi)Cultural Heritage', a partnership with several minority-led organisations in Newcastle and Manchester. That project had two areas of study: the operations of these organisations and their shared issues, and, their ideas about culture, identity and heritage reflected in their work.
One impact of that project was the expressed desire by these groups to continue the conversations past the deadline of the fellowship, take on themselves an uber-organising role to build capacity, leadership and promotion of BAME culture in the North East. They voiced that a first step in this work was to undertake archival collection and preservation of the diverse materials and oral histories or 'living archive' about their organisations' activities in the past.
This archives project will undertake the following activities, over a 12 month period starting February 2020:
1. Catalogue and begin to assemble original and digital documentary and artefact materials, appropriate for archiving, related to the organisational history of BAME-led culture-sector organisations in the North East from the year 2000. Participant organisations will include but not limited to core project cooperators Sangini, Vamos, and NEEACA. Additional materials from a number of other BAME-oriented organisations both currently operating and extant, would be included in the search;
2. Produce interviews and oral histories related to the workers and volunteers involved in BAME-led culture-sector organisations in the North East, from the year 2000;
3. Digitise and release a curated selection of the materials via YouTube, Vimeo, Historypin and Wikipedia, as well as a display at Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM), to achieve a wide public dissemination of the project;
4. Maintain a close partnership among core and broader partners and stakeholders in order to accomplish 1,2 and 3, through a series of workshops, focus group consultations and training sessions every two months;
5. Work closely with TWAM to investigate and generate a sustainable model for hosting, collaborating and cross-pollination between project partners and public institutions for further activities beyond the project to guide future museum/archives policies and processes;
6. Establish a strategy and methodology for assessing impact of the archival materials and distributed media via quantitative and qualitative data beyond the time limits of the project.
One postdoctoral researcher will be hired by Northumbria University to undertake the bulk of the work. All three cooperating organisations (Sangini, Vamos, NEEACA) would receive project funds to enable planning and carrying out the archival cataloguing, assembly and digitisation. Several organisations with archives expertise would be consulted and provide advice and training to serve project needs. Three will form an advisory board to the project, and offer a formal partnership: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM), the Angelou Centre, and Everyday Muslim Heritage & Archive Initiative.
Engagement and Impact will be focused on regional BAME cultural organisations, both the three cooperating organisations, and extended and affiliated groups working in the cultural and heritage sectors. The general public, including BAME publics, will benefit from the web-based curatorial project, which will seek to link to other online public history ventures locally and nationally (for example Historic England's 100 places initiative and ACE's Change Makers site). Policy organisations mobilised through the original fellowship, '(Multi)Cultural Heritage', will also be drawn into the planning and workshop activities discussed above.

Planned Impact

This proposal significantly exceeds the scope for pathways to impact of my original AHRC Early Career Leadership Fellowship research (AH/P008984/1). It creatively engages with an unforeseen call to action from project partners in the course of the original research into minority organisations in relation to heritage. At its heart, this follow-on proposal is an opportunity to seriously engage in knowledge exchange and partnership work in a strongly impactful way that has significant practical applications. It will reinforce and extend the original goals of the Fellowship to expand knowledge about the people and organisations involved in culture & heritage work; facilitate ideas and exchanges among the public and practitioners, and contribute to social justice considerations in relation to belonging in UK society by foregrounding multicultural voices and their public activities.
This project brings together and generates Impacts through two levels of partnerships: small community non-profit co-operators, and institutional. Three non-profits from my original partners will be the primary co-operators: Sangini; NEEACA and Vamos. They will receive material benefits from this proposed project that they never had before, including funds for staff training and development to build capacity in the sector. These are small multi-ethnic organisations which rely on community involvement and mostly voluntary labour. Sangini is an Asian-led third sector women's organisation in South Shields, established in 2002. Sangini uses arts and heritage participation and education activities as the main vehicle to engage with women, and in doing so raises issues related to identity, migration and well-being. NEEACA is a Black-centred community group devoted to celebrating Black history and cultures, organising social, lectures, events, and kids' activities, that has been operating in the region for more than 20 years. Vamos is a multipurpose community organiser in Newcastle, home to the annual VAMOS Festival of Spanish and Portuguese-speaking cultures, established in 2006. The project will also seek to have a ripple effect through its workshops with a network of Newcastle-Gateshead and Tyneside non-profit community groups interested in contributing to the archival call, such as Identity of the Tyne; Women Together for Community; Chinese Festivity Group, and Harambee Pasadia.
The impacts sought here include Change/Benefit to the BAME cultural heritage groups involved in the research through improved representation, empowerment as organisations, raising their own profile and that of BAME organisations more generally, and facilitating greater opportunity for BAME organisations to collaborate with each other and other groups within the culture and heritage sectors.
The project also aims to impact larger organisations involved in archives work. Three who have lent their expertise in archives and heritage as formal partners with Northumbria University in this project: Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums, the Angelou Centre and Everyday Muslim Heritage and Archive Initiative. These supporters will be involved in training and guidance, and their potential to house and maintain the assembled archive will be negotiated as part of the project. We hope that this ground-level involvement with small BAME organisations will lead to changes in the ways that each institution regards and conducts their archival practices.
The project will have good potential to also impact community archives on national and international levels, through the networking that will be generated; from the final 'Whose Archives' symposium; and from the online presence that is the project's ultimate output, which will be connected to community archives and viewers globally.The underlying goal is to change public attitudes, understanding, learning and participation in BAME heritage and incorporate 'difference' and 'change' into how society thinks about the past.

Publications

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