Putting the archives at the heart of activity

What have archives got to do with art and design? Last  week I went along to a conference on Arts and London's Archives to find out more about the kind of activities London-based archives were putting on to raise the profiles of their arts-related collections. 

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One of the most interesting talks was given by two speakers from the Southbank Centre's Archive Studio, Clare Wood and Jess Ihejetoh. Unlike most traditional archives, they're in a very public glass-fronted space in a corner of the foyer next to the ballroom. It's not a search room or an exhibition space, but the working space for the archives team. They'll bring in volunteers from a diverse range of community groups to help with cataloguing and re-packing the collections in open view. Their approach to this is episodic, bringing in material from their off-site storage facility that links to the Southbank's current artistic programme. The volunteers are then invited to help with researching the items and to contribute to displays linked to particular events. Over the last two years, they've put on fourteen different displays, the most recent of which has been A Poet's Guide to the Archive, which continues until 1 December 2017. 

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This display of archival material and new work celebrates 50 years of Poetry International,  a festival established by Ted Hughes and Patrick Garland in 1967 with the aim of bringing poets together as the 'voice of spirit and imagination'. It features rarely seen letters, correspondence, photographs and poems produced over the last fifty years. At the launch, poets Hannah Silva and Victoria Adukwei Bulley led tours of the Poetry Collection and read poems they'd written in response to it. These are now on display alongside the original material. You can hear a podcast featuring lively debate about key moments in the history of poetry as well as poets Victoria and Hannah reading their work on their website.

It'd be good to hear your thoughts on what the Art & Design Archives might do to link in with notable dates and anniversaries for BCU.