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Using archives, developing identities: community histories and social memories. Dr Andrew Flinn, School of Library, Archives and Information Studies ARMReN Research Workshop: Access and impact 13 September 2007, Liverpool Foresight Centre. Using archives, developing identities: some questions.

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using archives developing identities community histories and social memories

Using archives, developing identities: community histories and social memories

Dr Andrew Flinn, School of Library, Archives and Information Studies

ARMReN Research Workshop: Access and impact

13 September 2007, Liverpool Foresight Centre

using archives developing identities some questions
Using archives, developing identities: some questions
  • What are collective and community identities and why are they important?
  • What is the contribution of heritage and in particular archives to the construction and articulation of collective identity?
  • Do we need to consider more deeply secondary & indirect access, and if so how to measure the impact of that access?
cultural identities shared heritage
Cultural identities & shared heritage

Part of our problem is that we do not know our histories; part of your problem is that you do not know our histories. So much of the hostility we face is based on ignorance and we must challenge this.

(Stephen Small, The Politics of British Black History (1991))

Personally, I see no reason why, as a white woman, the history of black people in this country is any less part of my history than castles and medieval churches…It is something we all share, just by being here.

(Deborah Lamb, Director of Policy and Communications, English Heritage (2007))

democratising heritage decolonising the mind
Democratising heritage – decolonising the mind

‘The Heritage inevitably reflects the governing assumptions of its time and context…by the power and authority of those who have colonised the past, whose versions of history matter…

This is therefore an appropriate moment to ask then, who is the Heritage for? In the British case the answer is clear. It is intended for those who ‘belong’ – a society which is imagined as, in broad terms, culturally homogeneous and unified. It is long past time to radically question this foundational assumption.’

Stuart Hall (‘Whose Heritage’, 1999)

cultural disenfranchisement
Cultural disenfranchisement

‘When an individual’s or a community’s heritage is denied adequate recognition within a particular milieu, or is overshadowed by dominant narratives or is simply ignored, the outcome can be debilitating, leading to disaffection and disillusionment, a sense of disenfranchisement and contributing to socio-economic decline’

(Mayor’s Commission on African and Asian Heritage, Delivering shared heritage, 2005: 10)

community identity collective memories history
Community identity, collective memories & history

“Communities…have a history – in an important sense are constituted by their past – and for this reason we can speak of a real community as a ‘community of memory’, one that does not forget its past. In order not to forget that past, a community is involved in retelling its story, its constitutive narrative” (Olick & Robbins, 1998)

‘At the societal level, the way we understand ourselves as communities and nations is through an understanding of broader public stories about where we collectively come from. It is for this reason that the teaching of history and the commemoration of historical events play such a central role in arguments about identity’ (IPPR, The New Identity Politics, 2007)

counter memories community archives questioning the authority of the archives
Counter-memories & community archives. Questioning the authority of the archives

‘a decline in the acceptance of the traditional authorities in authenticating the interpretative and analytic frameworks which classify, place, compare and evaluate culture; and the concomitant rise in the demand to re-appropriate control over the “writing of one’s own story” as part of a wider process of cultural liberation – as Frantz Fanon and Amilcar Cabral once put it “the decolonisation of the mind”’

(Stuart Hall, ‘Whose Heritage…’ 2005: 28)

impact of archives on cultural identity
Impact of archives on cultural identity

“intercultural understanding seems key, though it is contested as to whether museums, libraries and archives merely act to ‘legitimise’ particular (dominant) cultures/heritages, or that they also can help to express ‘hidden histories’”

(BOP, New Directions in Social Policy, 2005)

‘The challenge for archives …is to demonstrate their relevance to society and the public. I believe archives are as relevant today as they have ever been. In part because they teach us about our history and our identity…Individuals and communities across the country need to understand their multiple identities, to combat ignorance and prejudice, and to foster tolerance and understanding.’

(David Lammy MP, Archives Awareness Conference 2007)