Using history to build community
'Connecting Histories' was an innovative partnership project led by Archives and Heritage, the University of Birmingham, Warwick University and 'Black Pasts, Birmingham Futures' and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The project ran from April 2005 to July 2007. It aimed to increase access to culturally diverse archive collections, promote learning and community engagement.
Britain today is commonly portrayed as a multi-cultural nation. However, the diverse historical experiences that constitute the story of this 'new' Britain are less well known. The history of the West Midlands in the 20th century is central to this story. Currently the stories that make up this history remain largely hidden in archive collections. 'Connecting Histories' is a significant and innovative project to release the potential of these archive collections, so that connections can be made between the past and the present, and thereby encourage debate about our shared identities, our common sense of belonging and our multiple heritages.The two year project saw them:
- Catalogue and provide access to important archive collections which record the lives of Birmingham and the West Midlands diverse communities through photographs, documents and sound recordings.
- Digitise sound and photographic archives to ensure preservation and access.
- Develop five e-learning packages on a series of linked themes including research skills, Black British History, migration, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The related website features a discussion board and information and advice for communities on a range of issues - from how to care for archives, to how to plan community history projects using archives, photography, oral and video history.
- Establish, train and support a network of archive user and volunteer groups - who helped select material for the e-learning packages, participated in cataloguing, presentation, and interpretation of the collections - and advised on archive policies and practices.
- Train two positive action trainees who qualified as archivists at the end of the project.
The project worked with a range of collections reflecting a number of different communities, groups, individuals, areas of work and interest.
We catalogued and provided onsite and online access to culturally diverse archives, including the collections of: photographers - Vanley Burke, George Hallett and the Ten:8 magazine photographic collective; Birmingham Hebrew Congregation; Charles Parker and Banner Theatre; Birmingham Anti-apartheid Movement; Indian Workers Association, and the Trades Union Resource Centre.
In addition to the collections catalogued, other complementary archives will be used online in the e-learning packages, including: photographers - Sukhvinder Singh Ubhi, Terry Lo, and Paul Hill; Sparkbrook Association; Henry Gunter and the Afro-Caribbean Association, and Birmingham Community Relations Council.
David Lammy MP, Minister for Culture, visited Connecting Histories as part of Black History Month.
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