Archive Testbed Fund – 1920s projects

Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre

Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre (WSHC) has historic collections relating to gardens and gardening from its eight miles of archives. These collections will be used to promote and encourage physical and mental wellbeing through gardening.

WSHC hope to encourage people to spend time in their garden or allotment where possible, and will soon be installing a community garden in their grounds. Activities will include talks and workshops on historic gardening, information on growing heritage vegetables, ‘starter garden’ packets of heritage seeds, and information on historic culinary uses of plants and vegetables. With the 1921 Census now available for family and local historians, the project will particularly look at 1920s gardens and planting schemes.

Councillor Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council and Cabinet Member for Heritage, said: “This funding will be used to promote the many physical and mental wellbeing benefits of gardening through a variety of interesting and exciting ways, and we’re very much looking forward to working with the community on it – from experienced gardeners to budding beginners looking to learn more.”

Hampshire Archives and Local Studies (with Wessex Film and Sound Archive)

The Archives Testbed funding will enable a pilot of two strands of work. One strand concerns family history, with volunteers recruited by BAME colleagues investigating their family history in Hampshire Archives and Local Studies’ (HALS) collections. HALS hope this will will encourage contact from communities who may not currently see themselves reflected in the archives and also help archives staff to become more confident in answering enquiries.

Through this engagement, HALS are looking to build networks with communities to ensure ongoing engagement and deposit of material in future. The other strand focuses on increasing the visibility of early women filmmakers in our collections. Their newly-acquired cinefilm scanner will help to open up collections for further investigation and to improve their knowledge and cataloguing of amateur film footage.

HALS believe that the results of this pilot may provide ideas for other archives looking to tackle uncertainty and gain understanding of how to unlock archives and shape future work. It is also hoped that it will demonstrate how catalogues and collections can be revisited to surface new information and challenge traditional assumptions.

The University of Leicester

The University of Leicester’s (UoL) project, ‘A century of student life’, will pilot the use of ‘micro-volunteering’ to engage a wider range of students with their 1920s University Archives.

UoL’s project will test and evaluate how ‘micro-volunteering’ can reduce barriers to engagement with archives by creating a series of ‘bite size’ opportunities to connect with our collections. Through focus groups and workshops, UoL will co-design activities tailored to the interests and availability of students, making use of in-person and remote options. UoL will explore how this approach can improve how archives are preserved and discovered, and how it can enhance and diversify our archives through creative activities such as life-writing, photography, or vlogging.

Dr Simon Dixon, Head of Archives and Special Collections, stated that “we were founded as a ‘living memorial’ to the First World War, opening to our first students in October 1921. A century later we are excited to have this opportunity to use the grant from The National Archives to engage our diverse student population with our archives from 100 years ago. If successful, our project will offer an alternative model for engaging new audiences with archives that requires less time commitment than traditional volunteering.”

Wigan and Leigh Archives

The National Archives has awarded a funding grant to Wigan Council to support a project from the Wigan Youth Cabinet. The project is supported by Archives: Wigan & Leigh and will mark the centenary of the Leigh School Children’s Trip to London. Using records from the trip, the Youth Cabinet will create a display in Leigh Town Hall that examines life for young people in the 1920s and compares this with their lives now.

The National Archives’ funding will allow the display to be expanded to include a film, as well as an interactive element in the display and a dedicated webpage. The Youth Cabinet work is also being supported by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, which provided Archives: Wigan & Leigh with £1.3 million to revamp its facilities at Leigh Town Hall.