Monday, 5 November 2012

Protect and Preserve

Protect and Preserve | Access & Outreach

Richard Daniels, Archivist at the Stanley Kubrick Archive,at work talking about Inspired by Kubrick, a project that opened up the Archive to University of the Arts, London [UAL] students. 

Primary School to Being an Archivist

My entry into the world of archives was pretty much accidental. My first memory of using an archive is a visit to the public archives in Bedfordshire and Nottinghamshire as part of a primary school history project.  At that time I, of course, had no idea that working in an archive was a possible future career option and in adult life, when I was introduced to the idea of archives as a career choice, I had pretty much forgotten my earlier trips to archives.

In 2001 I graduated from the University of Hull with a degree in history and politics and was then faced with that difficult decision all graduates have ‘what do I do now?’ I didn’t want to be a teacher or a civil servant; the usual graduate recruiting organisations [banks, NHS, prison service, military etc] were not appealing. At the time I lived in Hull, and looking through a local paper a recruitment fair in Manchester caught my eye. I booked a place and went along and it was also a good excuse to visit my brother and catch up. I wandered around the fair aimlessly, not particularly inspired by anything until I came to the Manchester Archives and Local Studies table. I spoke to them about the profession of an archivist:  What was it and what did it involve? They told me something that I always repeat to people now when I am asked about the profession: ‘No day in an archive is the same. If you enjoy learning new things and have an interest in this and that then archives is the perfect profession.’ So, that was it. I decided to investigate this profession further and organised to see some archives in action.  These visits convinced me being an archivist was the career for me.

The next step was to find an archive position.  I started to apply for archive assistant jobs. My career started at the London Borough of Brent Archive in a great role where I worked part-time as an Archives Assistant and was funded by the Borough to study an archives post-graduate course at UCL. The Borough’s Museum Service managed the Archive and it already had a reputation for museum outreach and access programmes. My colleagues and I added on to this by involving the Archive in these programmes. The archivists and I worked closely with the Museum’s Education Officer organising innovative events and activities around the Archive aimed at a wide target audience. We introduced events to attract younger audiences and those from ethnic minorities who were not used to using or donating to archives. The belief of the need for archives to reach out to new audiences and the importance of widening access has stayed with me throughout my career.

Alongside working at the Brent Archive and studying I worked on on and off a project at the School of Oriental and African Studies.  The working culture there was very different because it was in an academic environment and academic researchers mainly used the archive.  There, I found that there was less of a requirement for outreach and access to the archive. Instead the role required me to be knowledgeable about the resources available both in the archive and with external bodies. In this particular archive, where the main collections are from missionary societies, I needed to know where other missionary collections could be found, or sometimes family and personal papers of particular missionaries featured in the SOAS collections.

Arriving at the Stanley Kubrick Archive

In 2007 I saw a job advertisement for a Stanley Kubrick Archivist at the University of the Arts, London [UAL] and as a qualified archivist and a major film buff it was, to me, the perfect job. I had read years before about the Kubrick Archive in a weekend magazine piece but at the time of applying for the post I had no idea what it contained in depth and what its function actually was. So, knowing that I was no expert in Kubrick, during my interview I concentrated on my experience of working with archives; opening up access and managing projects. Success… I was offered the job and began in October 2007.

At UAL my colleagues and I are committed to making sure that staff and students across the whole University can access the archive and we work hard to embed archives in course modules. Students being able to use an archive as a research tool or for inspiration is something I feel passionate about.  It surprises me that in Hull, where I studied and where of course primary research is essential, no course module used any of the superb collections held in the University’s archives.  Sadly, it was only after I had graduated and was pursuing my own archive career that I learned about the richness of the archives at Hull. So it is great to work with equally passionate colleagues to make sure that as many UAL students are aware of the archives here and of other archives in general.

In 2008, as part of the commitment to open up access in an innovative way we established an elective course Inspired by Kubrick for 2nd year BA students from many different courses (such as Film and Television, Design for Advertising, Sound Arts and many more). The students were broken up into groups and given a brief to use the archive in a research format to inform and inspire a joint project proposal which they had to present at the end of the course. The elective incorporated lectures by professional guest speakers (David Thorold, curator, Elizabetta Fabrizi, curator, Joy Cuff, model maker on 2001:  A Space Odyssey, John Ward, Steadicam Operator on Full Metal Jacket and Gay Hamilton, actress in Barry Lyndon) who had either worked on projects in the archive or had worked with Kubrick himself. The project resulted in students creating short films, posters, advertising campaigns, sculptures, books and soundscapes all inspired by the Kubrick Archive [see image].  The elective proved to be very popular and grew from 20 students taking part in 2008 to 40 students 2010 and it is always the first elective to be fully booked each year.  Alongside the elective, introductory session are delivered to many other students from across the University and these sessions are also available for external parties: student groups and archive and library professionals.

Question And Archive created in response to the Stanley Kubrick Archive. This student’s artbook uses archive material to answer questions raised in fan letters to Kubrick.

From Protecting and Preserving to Access and Outreach

I often think it’s easy for archivists to learn so much about protecting and preserving objects that we become too attached to the materials themselves. Rather than seeing objects as information sources for users we only see the intrinsic value.  We should never forget our users and the purpose for which we keep our collections.  Like cataloguing, the organisation of outreach events should be informed by the users or potential users. When I train cataloguers I always say the trick is to think to yourself - if I was looking for this what would I write in the search box? When organising outreach events, the target audience must be considered too.  When asked by people what being an archivist entails I often say well, I look after old stuff and get it out for young people’. I like to think that I put as much effort into the latter as I do the former.

If you would like to visit the Stanley Kubrick Archive please contact via email: or telephone 020 7514 9333.

Author:  Richard Daniels, Archivist, Stanley Kubrick Archive, University of the Arts London

Photographs:  Julie Reynolds

The Real Hustle

The Real Hustle

‘Getting into the museum sector can be tough, but small museums offer fantastic opportunities for early career professionals’, suggests Dale Copley, Museum Officer at The Fusilier Museum London.

‘LMG gets lots of enquiries from people wanting to know how they can get into the museum sector, and as I'm in the early stages of my career I've been asked to share my professional journey in the hope it will help others.

My current job at The Fusilier Museum was created three years ago as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund redevelopment project.

Picture of The Fusilier Museum London, Tower of London (c) with permission Mike Daines Photography

My role is very varied.  Now the new galleries are open, my responsibility is primarily to deliver a diverse range of outreach activities associated with the project.  These include a community curated temporary exhibition programme, an ongoing documentation and collection care improvement project and developing and managing a volunteer body. 

I’ve also had the opportunity to work on our first Accreditation bid, write numerous funding applications, oversee a collection move, answer research enquiries, give tours and write and implement a lot of policies.  Working for a small museum gives you a broad skill set and lets you develop strategic skills much earlier in your career than you would be allowed to elsewhere.  

I had realised quite early on that I might want to work in museums and this really helped. I had already done a lot of work experience whilst studying for a history degree in Cardiff.  On my first day volunteering at the National Museum of Wales, they gave me a car vac and sent me to vacuum a life size model of a woolly mammoth in the natural history gallery.  Admittedly, at the time I didn’t realise there were bonifide pest management reasons for doing it, but the reaction of the visiting public had me hooked. 

Like many people who work in museums, I believe that museums are a force for good in society.  I didn’t want a job which made the rich richer and the poor poorer.  I love history and so having the chance to use my undergraduate degree, and to get my hands on the stuff, really appealed. 

I also loved that the people at National Museum of Wales came from a variety of academic backgrounds – and I have continued to be drawn to jobs which put me in contact with people I wouldn’t otherwise meet.  I am the only person in my organisation who isn’t a Fusilier.  As the LMG Share scheme testifies museums are full of fantastically supportive people. They will help you get into the sector if they can. In my third year at University I wrote to 7 people in the sector asking how I could get a job like theirs.  All 7 wrote back.  

On their advice, I enrolled on the MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies at The University of Manchester.  As I write this, the sector is evaluating the value of the Museum Studies MA and I understand that as tuition fees increase students will have to think very hard about undertaking a further degree, but I believe there is a lot of value to an MA in Museum Studies and I don't think I would be working in a museum if I hadn't done it.

Of course, my MA introduced me to core museum skills. It also made me look at museums critically and underpin my opinions with theory, but it was the practical stuff that has been the most useful in terms of getting work.  Two of my favourite bits of advice; ‘the best way to improve your own practice is to visit other people’s museums’ and ‘if you want to stay employed, you’re going to have to be prepared to move’.  I met some great contacts, but probably more importantly I made some great friends.

An important part of my MA year was the compulsory work placement which we undertook for course credit.  I did my work placement at a Contemporary Arts Centre in Manchester called Cornerhouse.  I didn’t know anything about contemporary art but I could see the placement they were offering was exciting.  I led a project with a visiting Indian artist on a commission, interviewing local women about their experiences of street harassment (Eve teasing) and then creating an installation for the cafĂ©/bar area of the Arts Centre.  It was a concrete project I could put on my CV.  When it comes to any sort of work experience, I think you get further if you worry less about the organisation offering the placement and more about the placement they are actually offering.   

As so often happens, the success of my placement meant Cornerhouse offered me some hours in the office. It was a foot in the door and I was soon working there full time as the Exhibitions Assistant.  Cornerhouse is a dynamic organisation with an 8 week changing exhibition programme, so in my 18 months there I saw six exhibitions from start to finish and it was a brilliant grounding in the basics of exhibition practice.

I left Cornerhouse when the organisation restructured and the equivalent job became more administrative.  I went to a HLF funded start-up at a medieval art centre in Norwich.  I had never been to Norwich, but following that advice about 'being prepared to move' I went for the interview and a month later I moved there.

This was my first experience of being the only 'museum' employee.  I worked directly for a body of Trustees and with a range of external stakeholders including Norwich Cathedral.  It was a huge learning curve.  The centre had very little money and no secure revenue.  At Cornerhouse I had been used to begging and borrowing equipment and expertise to get exhibitions delivered, but it was much harder without the name of an established gallery behind me.  Slowly, the centre became known locally, some events started to work, more people started to visit but as it got closer to the end of my contract it was clear there was not funding to continue the position. 

I never thought I would work in a Regimental museum, but when the Fusilier museum job was advertised I could see that I had relevant experience and there was a chance to expand some of the skills I had been developing.  I was so glad I was broad minded about it.  I certainly hadn’t thought about it before I got the job, but Regimental collections are, at their heart, social history collections.  Only a generation ago everyone knew someone who had served in the army in the World Wars or through National Service, which makes Regimental collections relevant to a lot of people. 

A veteran from the Korean war takes in the new museum galleries following the 2010 redevelopment (c) The Fusilier Museum London

After three years, I probably know more than most about the Fusiliers and their history -a documentation project will do that to you - but what I am most convinced about is the unique and important role that small museums play and what an asset they can be to the sector. So, young museum professionals, small museums need you! And they can offer you so much in return.’

Author, Dale Copley.

NB: This blog was written by Dale Copley as the Museum Officer at the Fusilier Museum.  Dale is now the Collections Manager at the Waterways Museum.  The Museum Officer at the Fusilier Museum is now Stephanie Killingbrook.