An investigative workshop exploring what constitutes an archive, and how and why we might use the materials, forms and concepts of the archive to develop creative practice. Working with items from the Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, from the diary of a nineteenth century Bethnal Green midwife to photographs of a bomb-damaged Poplar, we will consider the myriad ways in which an archival item can spawn historic and creative enquiry. We will then consider how archival items can be ‘curated’ to develop associations and links as the basis for alternative histories, imagined histories and other forms of past activation in the present.
- Participants will be prompted with quotes relating to the archive and asked to bring a ‘fragment’ from their practice, research or everyday lives that they feel relates to one or more of the quotes.
At the workshop:
- To start, participants will receive an overview of archival practice and an introduction to the Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives from Heritage Manager Tamsin Bookey.
- Examining items from the Tower Hamlets archives – ranging from self-published pamphlets by community groups, eighteenth century title deeds, nineteenth century pauper examinations, as well as photographic, housing and military service records -- we will explore the different ways in which an item can be approached and the kinds of response or enquiry it might engender.
- Following an overview of some current artistic and curatorial engagements with the form, idea and materials of the archive from Lecturer in Cultural Studies, Ben Cranfield, we will then introduce further items and the participant’s own ‘fragments’ into the workshop and use the items to ‘curate’ a selection of material as the basis for a potential wider artistic project.
Dr Ben Cranfield is the director of the Doctoral Programme in Humanities and Cultural Studies and of the new Mres in Cultural Enquiry, in the School of Arts, Birkbeck and was previously director of the School’s programmes in Arts Policy and Management. Dr Cranfield teaches in areas of post-war and contemporary visual culture, curatorial studies and art institutions, as well as leading seminars on interdisciplinary research. Prior to this he was a consultant, curator and gallerist in the contemporary arts sector; completed an AHRC funded doctoral thesis in 2009 and was a co-director of Birkbeck’s Centre for Media, Culture and Creative Practice 2010-11. In 2010/11 Dr Cranfield was supervisor of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the organisation A New Direction, exploring the methods and practices behind the political rhetoric of creativity at the intersection of educational and cultural organisations.
Tamsin Bookey is the manager of Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives (THLHLA), part of the local authority’s library and Idea Store service. THLHLA hosts regular exhibitions and workshops related to different aspects of East End history at its Grade II listed building in Bancroft Road, Mile End, as well as providing free public access to extensive heritage collections which are used by a wide range of people for research and inspiration.
Graduating ten years ago from UCL with a Masters in Archives and Records Management, Tamsin previously managed and catalogued archive collections at Black Cultural Archives and LSE Archives before joining Tower Hamlets in 2009. She is involved in organising the forthcoming ‘Without Borders’ international LGBTQ+ heritage conference and enjoys participating in queer DIY arts and counterculture through her longstanding Bethnal Green club night Unskinny Bop.
There will be a short break in this session to have a snack, please bring something with you.
If you have any access needs, please feel free to call the Bow Arts office to discuss your requirements.
If you are a Bow Artist and booking a discounted ticket, please bring your Bow Arts card with you when attending.
Bow Arts Members Ticket: £6
General Admission Tickets: £12
Photo Caption: Researching at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives