Collaborative approaches between archives and universities

Last Wednesday I went to a conference at the University of Birmingham on Enhancing impact, inspiring excellence: collaborative approaches between archives and universities. It was very well-attended, with a packed programme of nearly forty speakers over the course of the day. 

I attended the sessions that focused on the ways in which archives might encourage a greater use of their resources by both undergraduate and postgraduate students. The emphasis was very much on developing partnerships between archives and course tutors. Although most of the case studies looked at links between history departments and archivists, there was also one from Central St Martins. Faced by the uncovering of a large volume of archival material discovered during their move to the new campus at Kings Cross in 2010, they set up the In Exchange project. For six weeks, BA Fine Art students worked with unlisted archive material relating to famous graduates and changes in the School's teaching methods. They mapped it, ordered it and invited past staff and students back to talk about their personal histories. The experience proved exhilarating, but somewhat chaotic. 

The project has since been further developed into a more carefully managed programme run with their MA Culture, Criticism and Curation students. They catalogue a selection of the material, consider it critically and put on an exhibition of their findings, which is then formally assessed. Going along to the conference has encouraged me to look for opportunities to link our own archival holdings into the teaching programme here at BCU.