Beyond the Fringe Conference: Archives of Pressure Groups

This is my first ever attempt at a blog and I feel like I'm back at school, which I'm sure is not the point. Last week Sarah G, Sarah W and I attended the British Records Association Annual Conference - Beyond the Fringe: Archives of Pressure Groups, which was held at the Bishopsgate Institute. I just wanted to share some thoughts about the conference.

For me, there were a number of points raised in the presentations which resonated with the work done here at the GPI. In particular the conference made me appreciate more the foresight that John and Sarah had in terms of keeping records of their work and the various campaigns, groups and organisations they were involved with.

Judy Burg from the University of Hull opened the session with a talk about the pressure group archives held at Hull, which include the Liberty archive. Judy raised a number of issues relating to pressure group archives, many of which came up again in other peoples' talks and which seem really relevant to the work of the George Padmore Institute, such as the challenges in terms of space for small political/pressure groups or small community archives; how to appraise documents relating to political activism, political campaigns, pressure groups etc.; how best to catalogue pressure group archives so that researchers can find what they are looking for; the idiosyncracies of pressure group/activist archives and the data protection issues that arise because of a lack of distinction between the personal, the professional and the political in a lot of the material collected; the need for communication and collaboration between different community archives and between community archives and local authority archives; the need to share skills and teach archival skills to community groups. 

It was really interesting to hear more about how the historian Raphael Samuel took notes (one line per piece of paper) in Stefan Dickers' entertaining presentation; to learn what a 'zine'  is in Iderbar Bhullar's talk (a non-commercial hand-made magazine or booklet, in case you are wondering); to find out moer about the collecting activities of the radical 56a Infoshop which is very close to me in south London and sounds like it is definitely worth a visit; to hear more about the origins of the LGBT archives; to hear about David Hoggett who lived in a commune in Wales and was the founder of the Commonweal Archives.

There were also a number of websites and groups mentioned which I want to have a closer look at, including the Network of Radical Libraries and Archives; the Voluntary Action History Society; the UK Web Archive; DANGO (Database of Archives of NGOs) and the Archives Hub.