‘Constructing Histories’: exploring the potential of charity archives

On Wednesday 1 July 2020, the University of Birmingham will be hosting a conference exploring the value of charity archives. The event will bring together academics, researchers, aid workers, and archive professionals. Adopting an inter-disciplinary approach, the conference will examine the unique value of charity archives in exploring new perspectives in a range of disciplines such as the history of medicine, education, post-colonial studies, and humanitarianism.

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Material in the Save the Children Archives includes papers relating to Eglantyne Jebb, one of the founders of the charity

The Study Day aims to provide space for critical reflection of the activities of various charitable agencies throughout the 20th century and towards the present day. Although part of the day will focus on work undertaken by the Save the Children Fund (SCF), we wish to include papers which focus on other charitable organisations, in order to develop connections and identify similarities and differences within the sector.

A call for papers has been issued with a deadline for submissions of 27 March 2020. We would especially welcome paper proposals that engage with aspects of:

  • How charity archives support any aspect of academic research;
  • Diversity, race and inclusion within charity archives;
  • The value of oral history to organisations’ institutional memory;
  • The challenges of managing and accessing charity archives in the digital age;
  • And the wider question, do organisations make enough use of their own history?

 

shelves

Shelves of newly catalogued material in the SCF archive

Papers should be a maximum of 20 minutes in length. Preference will be given to those proposals which stimulate dialogue and debate, and engage with broader topics. Please send enquiries and proposals of no more than 300 words, by Friday 27 March 2020, to: special-collections@bham.ac.uk

This event is being arranged as part of a two-year Wellcome Trust funded project to enhance access to the Save the Children archive which is held at the Cadbury Research Library. The archive comprises 2000 boxes of administrative papers, project reports, publications, photographs, and ephemera. The archive is currently being fully catalogued and preserved as part of a Wellcome Trust funded project to enhance access and discoverability of this incredible resource for research.

We are currently half-way through this project and, so far, over 8000 individual catalogue records have been created in CALM, our archival management system. These catalogue records are rich in detail and comprise metadata which will aid individuals’ research. Over 800 boxes of material has been fully catalogued; re-housed into acid-free folders and boxes; and screened for Data Protection issues. Closure decisions are now clearly documented and accompanied by release dates, thereby providing clarity and transparency to researchers.

When the project is completed in December 2020, researchers at the University of Birmingham – and further afield – will have access to an incredible resource for the study of humanitarianism in the 20th century.

Mark Eccleston

Archivist and Project Manager

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