Rethink. Reconsider. Review. Reconceive.

The rearticulation of the Archive is our collective agency


UX Feed back at the 2024 Huntley conference
FHALMA, together with a founding project team, The Black Cultural Archives, George Padmore Institute and The National Archives formed ourselves as collective partnership, and began work on a digital pilot project in 2021. We were armed with the fundamental intention of developing sustainable methodologies and approaches that would respect and build upon existing work and research to connect Black history narratives throughout the archive and heritage world. In exploring the opportunities of bringing archive records together, whilst providing reimagined and contextual content, our overarching aim is to create a research portal focused on Black history from anti-racist perspectives and for this to become a visible legacy and an inclusive resource.

We noted a pattern of loss – where narratives are found, shared for a short time, and effectively disappear. Past Black history digital projects and websites often become defunct or expire when project funding stops, resulting in the multiple erasures of marginalised histories. This intentional and unintentional erasure of Black history records, or their inaccessibility due to descriptive practices has created disconnections, absences, and distortions. The fate of projects like CASBAH (2000), which brought resources relating to Caribbean Studies and the history of Black and Asian peoples in the UK, Digital Handsworth, Birmingham Black Oral History Project and the Black and Asian Studies Association (BASA) have significantly influenced our thinking. Those original digital outputs have become mostly or entirely inaccessible. One of our strategic outcomes is to ensure that archival projects like these find a home thereby becoming more sustainable and accessible from the outset. Another outcome is to create opportunities to connect disparate narratives and holdings for students, teachers and researchers.

During the first two phases of the pilot (2021-23), we established a wireframe to test what a Black history portal could look like based on a variety of topics, e.g. arts and culture, education. Although we envision the Black history portal will eventually contain a multiplicity of themes, this prototype is currently focused on a single subject. To further develop and to test our assumptions of what a portal could look like, we specifically chose to focus on the UK Black education movements, working with three researchers, Dr Angelina Osborne, Molly Richards and Sheeren Hunte, to produce a variety of contextual content based on anti-racist education and Black education movements in the 1960s-1980s. During the conference we invite participants to take a look at the initial pilot portal and to share their experience, ideas and observations.

The founding project team, The Black Cultural Archives, FHALMA, George Padmore Institute and The National Archives, has been supported by partners London Metropolitan Archives and Kings College, London and is making plans to develop the project further, inviting other archive partners to take part.