30th August – 1st September 2017 – ARA Annual Conference, Manchester
Two members of the Special Collections team recently spoke at this year’s Archives and Records Association conference in Manchester (http://conference.archives.org.uk/).
The Archives and Records Association is the lead professional body for archivists, archive conservators and records managers in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The conference, held at the Hilton Deansgate hotel, brought together around 300 archives professionals from across the UK and beyond to discuss the theme ‘Challenge the past, set the agenda’.
Our Paper Conservator, Louisa Coles, and Capturing the Energy Project Development Officer, Joe Chapman, each spoke as part of a busy programme of presentations and workshops during the 3-day event.
Louisa and her counterpart from the University of Glasgow, Lou Robertson, revealed the findings from research they’ve undertaken about the changing roles and responsibilities of conservators within archive institutions. For example, there’s an increasing emphasis on direct engagement with the public, sharing of activities via social media, and contributing to exhibitions. Digitisation and the development of imaging technologies have also changed the way many conservators work with collections. The conference presented an ideal opportunity to share experiences and explore potential solutions.
Meanwhile, Joe’s presentation explored the implications for archives of the growth of online search and social media as sources of information, and the resulting changes in expectations and behaviours of those conducting research. Joe gave his perspective on this ‘democratisation of knowledge’ and challenged the profession to reach beyond its traditional audiences, but concluded that archivists have a potentially vital role given their reputation for integrity and expertise.
Louisa and Joe thoroughly enjoyed their time at the conference – both presentations were very well received, with lots of interest and excellent feedback, and the rest of the programme provided lots of ‘food for thought’ on a wide range of topics relating to archives and records, conservation, and digital preservation.
Highlights included an opening keynote speech on efforts to use historical records to reveal the truth about the Battle of Orgreave during the 1984-85 miners’ strike, an interactive session discussing the links between archives and museums, advice on new standards related to buildings, care, and planning for archival and library materials, a case study of collaboration between neighbouring heritage institutions in Greater Manchester, and a practical workshop looking at the characteristics of 19th-century photographic processes. Next year’s ARA Conference will be held in Glasgow, also at the end of August.