Tag Archives: Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives

Report on `Beyond Borders’: the 76th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archivists

Beyond BordersReport on:

Beyond Borders: San Diego 2012 – the 76th Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists

Beyond Borders - Full Programme

Beyond Borders – Full Programme

During early August 2012, at the height of the Olympic glow in the East End of London where I live and work, it seemed almost surreal to be preparing myself for a trip to the West Coast of the United States in order to attend the 76th Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) to be held in San Diego.  I had been very fortunate to receive a bursary from the Section for International Engagement at the Archives and Records Association in order for me to be able to attend the Conference, and several months after originally being approached to submit a panel paper, it was hard to believe that the time to fly had actually come.

My background is as the Archivist responsible for the Refugee Council Archive, located on the Docklands Campus of the University of East London, (UEL).  This represents the archival collection which was developed and maintained by the British Refugee Council from the early 1950s through to the late 1990s.  It was with this association in mind, that I was initially contacted by Anna Marie Mallett, Vietnamese American Heritage Archivist at The Vietnam Centre and Archive, Texas Tech University, to see if I would be interested in forming a panel session for the 2012 SAA conference on the subject of refugee archives.  The conference theme for 2012 was centred around the idea of `Beyond Borders’ which seemed to fit nicely with the work we were all doing in relation to working with archival collections relating to refugee communities.  The conference was scheduled to take place at the San Diego Hilton Bayfront Hotel with the Pre-Conference Programs taking place between August 5, 2012 – August 7, 2012 and the main Conference Datesbeing between August 6, 2012 – August 11, 2012. A full `Beyond Borders’ Conference Program is available for reference.

I will admit to a little apprehension having never previously presented at an international conference, but felt equally this was a unique opportunity to gain and share professional experience within an international archival setting.  Our panel proposal subsequently became session number 509, entitled, “Beyond Resettlement: Overcoming Hurdles to Document the Experiences and Contributions of Refugees.”  It was now down to me to secure the funding to make the trip actually happen and after making contact with the Archives and Records Association; I elected to apply for their International Engagement bursary.  I applied in hope rather than expectation and I was certainly taken by surprise when the award of the bursary was confirmed.

I arrived in San Diego on the evening of Wednesday 7thAugust and after a

San Diego Hilton Bayfront Hotel

San Diego Hilton Bayfront Hotel
© Paul V. Dudman.

long but largely uneventful flight from London Heathrow to San Diego via Philadelphia.  The Hilton Bayfront Hotel is situated on a wonderful location, situated as it is right next to the San Diego harbour.  After a suitably refreshing San Diego breakfast the following morning, it was time to start the conference proper with the first plenary session, which included the keynote address given by John Voss, and entitled Radically Open Cultural Heritage Data on the Web.” 

During the next three days, I was able to attend a number of interesting and informative presentations and in hindsight I only wish I could have attended more of the sessions that were on offer.  The following sessions were particularly noteworthy:

SESSION 102 – Archiving Mujeres: Un Movimiento Toward Greater Indiscriminate and Inclusive Recordkeeping Practices Within Information Repositories.

This panel provided an interesting account of some of the work that is being done in an attempt to record and preserve the diverse experiences of Latinas and to make their testimonies more visible within the archival record.

SESSION 203 – To the Community and Beyond: Engaging Users to Interact with Participatory Archives.
This panel session provided a thought provoking discussion on how the combination of outreach and new social media tools could be used to reach those especially under-documented communities in order to help encourage them to tell their stories and to share their history.  Each of the speakers presented their own approaches to the use of technology within an outreach context to help discover and document those testimonies that may be overlooked by more traditional archival approaches to acquisition and dissemination.

SESSION 509 - Beyond Resettlement: Overcoming Hurdles to Document the Experiences and Contributions of Refugees

SESSION 509 – Beyond Resettlement: Overcoming Hurdles to Document the Experiences and Contributions of Refugees
© Paul V. Dudman.

SESSION 405 – Contesting History in the Archives
This panel session provided the basis for the speakers to consider how the role of history can be contested from within the archives, with a particular emphasis on the growth of women’s studies and also minorities studies.  The panellists reflected upon the need for an increasingly diverse archival collection in order to meet the growing needs of historical scholarship, which is moving beyond the traditional areas of study to examine the roles of previous under-discussed communities within society.  This was a subject close to my own heart in relation to the Refugee Council Archive as the University of East London has been running a postgraduate MA Course in Refugee Studies.  Indeed, I kept being reminded of the 2007 article by Philip Marfleet entitled `Why we must address the past’ in which the author argues, “Why have historians ignored most refugee movements and `silenced’ those involved? Can refugees be re-installed on the historical record?”[i]

The Vietnam Centre and Archive

The Vietnam Centre and Archive

Our Session 509 took place on the Saturday morning between 8am and  9:30 am in room  Indigo D.  The speakers for our panel session included Anna Marie Mallett, Vietnamese American Heritage Archivist at The Vietnam Centre and Archive, Texas Tech University, Christina Woo, Research Librarian for Chicano/Latino Studies, Linguistics, Women’s Studies, Athletics, and the Southeast Asian Archive in University of California, Irvine (UCI) Libraries, and Thúy Võ Đặng, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of

SEAA Brochure

SEAA Brochure

Asian American Studies at UCI.  For the record, my paper was entitled, “Rescuing Refugee Archives: Preserving the history of the refugee experience, a UK perspective.”  In the preparation for this paper, I had attempted to explore the concept of the refugee as being a traditionally under-documented and under-represented group within the broad remit of the archival record and this was to prove a reoccurring theme throughout all of the papers within our panel.

Thúy Võ Đặng’s paper focused on the collection of oral histories from the local Vietnamese American Community,

The Vietnamese American Oral History Project (VAOHP) at UC Irvine

The Vietnamese American Oral History Project (VAOHP) at UC Irvine

which has provided the basis for the Vietnamese Oral History Project at UCI.  This project began in 2011 with aim of assembling, preserving, digitising, and disseminating the life stories of Vietnamese Americans in Southern California.  Once completed, the oral histories will be preserved at the Southeast Asian Archive  at UC Irvine Libraries. Indeed, the official library website for this project was launched on the 24 October, 2012 with press coverage including both The Washington Post and The Huffington Post.

Christina Woo’s presentation investigated the work being undertaken by staff at the Southeast Asian Archive in attempting to use material from the Archive in their outreach work with local communities.  Anna Marie Mallett, focused her presentation on her work as the Vietnamese American Heritage Archivist at The Vietnam Centre and Archive, in a paper entitled, ` Saving the Voices of Au Lac.’

I found the experience of attending the 76th Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists to be a very informative and rewarding one.    It was a wonderful opportunity to mix and network with colleagues, both from the United States and internationally, to see at first hand the successful and stimulating work that is being undertaken to help preserve the records and testimonies of many communities in many different ways. It has also reinforced the belief that there is still much work to be done in order to understand how archival institutions can best work with refugee and other communities to record and document their voices for posterity.  However, The Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archivesthere is still much left to do and It is perhaps good timing therefore, that we have just witnessed here in the UK, the launch of the Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives which is a campaign dedicated to the preservation of our voluntary sector archives.

A San Diego Sunset

A San Diego Sunset

Before flying home, there is was a little time left to relax and explore the many amenities and places of interest that San Diego has to offer.  Being my first time in the United States, I was curious to experience as much as possible.  My

San Diego Seaport Village

San Diego Seaport Village
© Paul V. Dudman.

last full day in San Diego was therefore spent trying to visit as many places of interest as I could.  In the short time that I had, I was able to visit the amazing beach at Coronado; the shops and restaurants and San Diego Seaport Village; a tour of the city on a San Diego Old Town Trolley, (incorporating a tour of Balboa Park); and the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.  However, as a final footnote to this posting, it was interesting to note that whilst exploring the Maritime Museum of San Diego, I was able to explore the nineteenth-century sailing ship the Star of India.  The Star of India, under her former name of Euterpe. Had spent almost 25 years has an emigrant ship transporting mainly British emigrants from London to the New Zealand and Australia.  After experiencing a very engaging seminar on the issues concerning refugee archives, this just helped reinforce that the refugee experience is always around us and often appears in the places that you least expect it!

The Star of India

The Star of India

[i] Marfleet, Philip. (2007). Refugees and History: Why We Must Address the Past.  Refugee Survey Quarterly, Vol. 26, Issue 3, pp. 136-148.

Report on the Launch of the Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives, House of Lords, Monday 15 October 2012

Launch of the Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives

House of Lords, Monday 15th October 2012

Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives

Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives

On Monday 15th October 2012 I was fortunate to be able to attend the Launch of the Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives, (CVSA) at the House of Lords.  The Campaign launch was sponsored by Baroness Pitkeathley and funded by The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.

The idea for the Campaign originated with the Voluntary Action History Society (VAHS) who have long been aware of the importance of the Archives of charities and voluntary sector organisations, both large and small, the importance of helping to preserve these collections for future generations.  Indeed, a survey conducted by the VAHS in the 1990s of larger voluntary organisations indicated there were significant issues faced by these organisations in continuing to preserving their archives and to make them available for researchers.  Similar issues were involved in relation to some of the refugee archives we look after here at the University of East London.  We were fortunate to be able to secure the long term future for the archive of the British Refugee Council and we also hold several smaller collections of charitable organisations who had been working in the refugee sphere but are sadly no longer in operation.  These collections are currently awaiting cataloguing.

The Campaign was therefore born out of the genuine concern for the need to preserve, make accessible and to save from neglect the archives and records from across the voluntary sector.  As the VAHS so eloquently argue, “We cannot write the history of Britain without recourse to the records of voluntary organisations.”[i]   There is currently very little legal protection for charity archives at present, as they are covered by the same legal protection as public records, which will normally be deposited within the protection of the National Archives at Kew. In addition to the legal issues relating to voluntary sector archives, the VAHS has been aware of a several ongoing issues for voluntary sector organisations in relation to the continued preservation of their archives, whether it is issues pertaining to knowing which records to keep; a lack of resources, especially within smaller organisations, in being able to maintain their archives and the new challenges faced by these organisations in relation to born digital records.

The result of this concern in relation to voluntary sector archives resulted in

Campaign Launch at the House of Lords

Campaign Launch at the House of Lords.
© Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives.

the agreement to establish the Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives.  An initial action group had met in October 2011 at the British Library, and this had included representatives from both national charities like the Red Cross and the Children’s Society, and `trusts and foundations including The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and Barrow Cadbury Trust, together with academics, librarians and archivists from a range of bodies including the British Library, The National Archives, London School of Economics, British Records Association and the Charity Archives and Records Management group, (CHARM).’[ii]

After much planning, preparation and organisation, the invite-only Launch of the Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives took place at the House of Lords on Monday 15th October 2012.  The launch event consisted of both an afternoon and an evening progamme.  A full programme of all of the speakers in both sessions is still available online.  The afternoon session took place in  Committee Room 3 of the House of Lords, with a welcome and introductory speech by Baroness Pitkeathley to begin.  This was followed by two panel discussions, the first being on `The Business Case for Archives of Voluntary Organisations’ which included short presentations from Matthew Hilton, Professor of Social History, University of Birmingham;  David McCullough, Chief Executive, WRVS; and Judy Burg, University Archivist, Hull History Centre.  After questions and discussion, this was followed by the second panel session on the complimentary panel session on `The Role of Trusts and Foundations’, which included presentationsfrom Diana Leat, Board Member, The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund; Carole Souter, Chief Executive, Heritage Lottery Fund; and Anna Southall, Trustee, Barrow Cadbury Trust.  The evening session took place in the River Room at the House of Lords and featured presentations byhistorian and MP Tristram Hunt, Chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes Ruth Bond and Oliver Morley, Chief Executive and Keeper of The National Archives.

In an attempt to avoid re-inventing the wheel, an excellent summary of the main points raised by each of these speakers has been included in a blog posting on the VAHS blog entitled, `Launching the Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives’ by Dr. Georgina Brewis, who is one of the organising committee behind the CVRS campaign launch.  One of the core aims of the Campaign is to seek to involve a wide range of stakeholders to actively support voluntary sector archives and to help support this; a new website and Listserv were also launched as part of the event at the House of Lords.  Further information on the aims and objectives of the Campaign can be found on the website at www.voluntarysectorarchives.org.uk.  Without wanting to take to much of the credit, I was asked by Brenda Weeden of the Campaign organising time if I would be prepared to set-up the CVSA Jiscmail Listserv in order to help support the Campaign.  I am please to say that this is now up and running and further details can be found online here: https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A0=VOLUNTARY-SECTOR-ARCHIVES



As a final note, the Voluntary Action History Society are currently in the process of planning for their 2013 annual conference.  Voluntary Action History Society Fifth International Conference to be held at the University of Huddersfield, between 10-12 July 2013.  Further details on this Conference and the Call for Papers can be found on the VAHS website at:  http://www.vahs.org.uk/events/conference/

For further information background articles, please refer to the following links and resources:

Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives:  http://www.voluntarysectorarchives.org.uk/

Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives Listserv:


Voluntary Action History Society:


A slide show of images is available at: http://www.voluntarysectorarchives.org.uk/events

A list of write-ups is at:  http://www.voluntarysectorarchives.org.uk/press

[i] Voluntary History Action Society  (2012).  Archives.  Available at: http://www.vahs.org.uk/archives/  (Accessed: 6 November 2012).

[ii] Voluntary History Action Society  (2012).  Archives.  Available at: http://www.vahs.org.uk/archives/  (Accessed: 6 November 2012).