Come Together: Developing Collaboration between Archive Services and Higher Education – Alex Healey

Continuing on a theme of Higher Education collaboration, Alex briefs us on a recent workshop looking at successful partnerhsips between HE institutions and archive services.

On June 13th, a particularly wet and windy Wednesday, myself and Laura Yeoman, ALES Treasurer, attended a workshop event run by The National Archives and History UK, as part of the Higher Education Archive Programme (HEAP).

The event was one of a number of regional workshops offered across England and Wales exploring how to run successful partnerships between archive services and HE institutions. The event was open to archive practitioners and HE staff/academics. Many (like myself) straddled both sectors, being archivists or information professionals within Higher Education institutions. The mix of backgrounds and perspectives definitely made for interesting discussion, which demonstrated the existence of diverse and sometimes conflicting strategic priorities and workplace cultures.

A ‘Diamond 9’ priorities task undertaken during the workshop, identifying suggested key drivers for archive services in HE institutions

The workshops also sought to raise awareness of the HEAP’s Guide to Collaboration for Archives and Higher Education, updated and republished in 2018. The guide is aimed at those considering getting involved in a collaboration, and also people who want to develop their skills in ensuring collaborations are successful.

The updated guide echoes what was revealed in our discussions – that different types of organisation are likely to have different drivers, as well as differing opinions of what the benefits of collaboration are (see pages 10-12 of the guide).

Negotiating these sometimes conflicting workplace cultures in sectors which are both struggling with reduced resourcing and increasing workloads, is something that the guide and workshop aim to support -providing guidance and tools which can help take you from an idea, to a successful collaborative project with positive outcomes for all involved.

The Guide is also useful for those of us who already provide and support HE teaching, as well as anyone interested in getting involved in this area. There are 10 case studies in the guide which highlight how HE/archive partnerships have facilitated or incorporated learning activities for students. These are really varied – from interactive workshops using archive materials which enabled first year students of historiography to Explore the Trial of Charles I in an engaging and creative way, to Textile Design students using archives as sources of inspiration, to third year Computing Science students creating a prototype web platform for presenting an archival resource.

As always, one of the best things about the day itself was hearing about all the interesting projects going on elsewhere, and in the case of these workshops, all within the same region. Of particular interest to me was the new Undergraduate History module offered by West Yorkshire Archives Service and Leeds University: Archive Intelligence: Unlocking the Archive.

One final takeaway is that HEAP will be seeking more case studies to include in future publications, so if you’ve been part of a fantastic collaboration involving archives and HE, I’d suggest signing up to the HEAP mailing list (details on the website) to be kept up to date.

Alexandra Healey, ALES Chair

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