Cultural commissioning seminar

I’ve been experimenting with Storify recently to help me quickly capture an experience or a journey – partly as a reflective tool, partly to process what I’ve seen/heard/learnt/experienced.

Here’s the report of my attendance at the Cultural Commissioning seminar this week:

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Child abuse inquiries

First, go and read Lawrence Serewicz’ blogpost on Jimmy Savile, the Shaw report, and England’s archives.

After Scotland and England, this week the focus widens again to encompass Wales as today Home Secretary Theresa May announces a new police investigation into allegations of child abuse in north Wales in the 1970s and 1980s.

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Appr[a]isal

Better the rudest work that tells a story or records a fact, than the richest without meaning.
John Ruskin Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849) ‘The Lamp of Memory’ sect. 7

Substitue “record” for “work”, and I think Ruskin himself could summarise the value that many historians, alumni, archivists and others place on the student records of former students of Ruskin College destroyed in the “Ruskin archive scandal” (see round-up of principal links to follow the story so far)

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Archives without Borders/Archivos sin Fronteras

In 2010, KVAN, the Dutch association for archivists, and VVBAD, the Flemish association for archivists and librarians, organized the international congress Archives without Borders/Archivos sin Fronteras in the Peace Palace in The Hague, the Netherlands. This conference focused on the importance of archives for good governance in an international context, in order to emphasize that archives are not only important from a cultural point of view, but from the perspective of efficient management practices as well.

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Ruskin College records

Over the last couple of weeks a storm has blown up over the “destruction of Ruskin’s archives”.  Starting with a blog post by former Dean of Ruskin and followed by a number of other blog posts on history workshop online, several discussion lists including local-history and archives-nra , other online fora The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and the College itself have all contributed both smoke and fire.

I’d like to examine a few of the issues that Ruskingate opens onto for records managers and archivists.

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Justice and accountability, 23 years on?

Yesterday (12th September 2012) the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel was published.  Ninety-six men, women and children died as a result of the Hillsborough Disaster on 15 April 1989 – still the most serious tragedy in UK sporting history.  Half of those people were less than 21 years old.  Thousands suffered physical injury and/or long-term psychological harm. Twenty-three years later, the Panel has negotiated the disclosure of documents from those involved and published its analysis in an in-depth Report.

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“Researchers of tomorrow” ignoring archives in future?

The UK’s largest study to date on the research behaviour of Generation Y doctoral students (born between 1982 and 1994) was commissioned jointly by JISC and the British Library in 2009.  17,000 doctoral students from 70 universities and numerous disciplines were involved at various stages in the project.

One of its key findings is a marked dependency on published secondary sources as the basis of students’ own original research,  rather than on primary sources (eg. archives, datasets).  This marks a significant change in the nature of doctoral research from only a decade ago, with potentially significant implications for doctoral students’ experience of finding and using primary research sources.

The good news for archives is that the study found that “Generation Y doctoral students are sophisticated information-seekers and users of complex information sources. They are not dazzled by technology and are acutely aware of critical issues such as authority and authenticity in research and evidence gathering.”  Unlike the Google Generation covered by a previous study [another blog-post to come!]. Continue reading