THIS WEEK: Work in Progress from Scholars in the History, Heritages and Archives Cluster

1600-1730 Wednesday 28 March
P424, Parkside,
Birmingham City University

Free registration at this link

Angela English (BCU) – Sequestered Collections: Access and Cultural Value in Moving Image Archives.

This presentation will focus on the early findings of Angela’s recent pilot study into practices around archive film involving interviews with archivists and practitioners. Angela will explore access and cultural value, two areas of concern for participants in the study. The aim of the pilot study and her continuing research is to provide a systematic critique of current use of archive film for public history engagement, what models are being employed and what role is played by film archivists and to relate these insights to the wider context of use of archive film.

Vanessa Jackson (BCU) – The Benefits and Challenges of Video as an Oral History Method

Traditional oral historians, such as Thompson (1978) and Portelli (1979), have favoured audio life history interviews, over video, but video has tremendous potential benefits, as well as challenges. Video provides richer and more complex data for researchers, for instance, the ability to read the mise-en-scene, body language, and facial expressions, but also to take oral history beyond the static long-form interview into the realm of location recording, with the use of visual props such as photographs, and even reconstructions. Video may also result in more engaging materials for a wider audience, which can increase the impact of projects. Additionally there are considerations over aspects such as interviewee performance, which are heightened with video, as well as challenges over participant anxiety, technical proficiency, logistics and editing.

Vanessa has recorded a number of video oral histories with former BBC production staff as part of a community online history project she established: The aim of the project is to document and celebrate the programme making which went on at BBC Pebble Mill in the last quarter of the 20th Century. The illustrative videos in the presentation will be drawn from this project.

Paul Long (BCU) – The Political Economy of The Archive

Questions under this theme emerge from my work as a board member with Media Archive Central England and Vivid Projects. These cultural organisations are faced with a perennial issue regarding funding and sustainability which raise questions for me about value and our contemporary culture of commemoration. To shift the focus to the materiality of archives also involves some appreciation of the labour of the archivist, their motivations and orientation to their work and its purpose. While The Archivist, like The Archive, is often posed in terms of representative enlightenment ideas, of objective professionalism, archival practice is inflected by personal commitments and affective dispositions that bear some scrutiny in relation to the overall sustenance of their endeavour and those institutions devoted to preserving evidence of the past. In exploring the political economy of the archive, and the labour of the archivist, how might these perspectives add to our understanding of the business history, heritage and contemporary memory?

Chris Hill (BCU) – Policing and Protest as Colonial and Anti-Colonial Practice in Post-War Britain: Re-Framing Law and Order at the End of Empire

Policing and protest in post-war Britain were defined by experiences, solidarities and tactics that extended beyond the local and national settings in which engagements between them took place. Just as policing in this period was shaped by the role of officers in the Second World War and colonial counter-insurgencies, protest was shaped by the role of activists in anti-colonial politics and struggles for liberation. Through post-war immigration into Britain, these global dimensions to policing and protest became even more pronounced, with ‘race’ in particular emerging as a key construct in popular engagements over law and order.

This paper focuses on relations between the Committee of 100, an anti-nuclear organisation inspired by Gandhian methods of protest, and West End Police Station in London, where Harold Challenor, a decorated war hero, served as detective-sergeant. In this case, it argues that protestors and police invoked rival versions of the global in order to contest the law as an instrument of identity and values in post-war Britain. In doing so, it demonstrates how engagements between them reflected a crisis of ‘Britishness’, culminating not only in members of C100 breaking the law, but also Challenor and his constables. All of this unfolded at a pivotal time for policing in Britain and the British world, between the Devlin Report on colonial policing in Nyasaland in 1959 and the Royal Commission on Police in 1962.

About the speakers:

Angela English is a 2nd year M3C/AHRC funded PhD candidate at BCU. Her research focuses on how archive film might play a role in public history practice and audience engagement. She has previously worked in film education at the British Film Institute and from 2006-2015, was Research and Development Officer for the London Screen Study Collection at Birkbeck College, University of London and this archive film collection forms a core resource for her research.

Vanessa Jackson is Programme Leader of the BA (Hons) Media and Communication at Birmingham City University, and teaches practical television modules to undergraduates. She has recently successfully defended her PhD, which was supervised by Professor John Ellis, at Royal Holloway, University of London. Before joining BCU in 2008 Vanessa was a series producer at BBC Birmingham, making factual and documentary programmes.

Paul Long is Professor of Media and Cultural History at Birmingham City University. His research encompasses issues of cultural justice and informs his published work on the politics of representation and the past as they pertain to public history, popular music and the archive. He recently co-curated a major exhibition on Birmingham’s music history. His current research builds on these themes in two areas: (i) the political economy and affect of contemporary archival cultures; (ii) the history of student unions and their role in British popular music cultures.

Chris Hill is a research fellow in history, heritage and archives. He has research interests in modern British and late imperial history, with a focus on the history of broadcasting and the press, decolonisation, nuclear weapons and social movements.  His first book, Peace and Power in Cold War Britain, explores the relationship between radical traditions of liberty and media technologies, particularly as it emerged through post-war peace movements and the rise of television.

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