On Thursday 15th January, 2015 I was able to attend a Sandpit Workshop (albeit sadly no sand or beach) about the Living Archive of Learning Disability History project. Thank you to Gosia Kwiatkowska, a member of the Digital Archive project Team, for the kind invitation to attend this event.
The Living Archive for Learning Disability History project is a newly funded Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) project. The project is being led by the Open University and will be delived in conjunction with the its partner organisations, namely the Rix Research and Media Centre at the University of East London (UEL); researchers from the University of Leeds; the Woodbine Life Story Group from Wanstead, North London; and the Carlisle People First orginastion.
The origins of this new project can be traced back 20 years to the creation of the Social History of Learning Disability Group at the Open University. This Group, formed of people with learning disabilities, their families and supports, and staff and researchers from the Open University, focused their work on starting to collect and dcoument the life stories and histories of people with learning disability. The success of this initial project led to further engagement and contact resulting in a steady growth in the number of life stories being recorded. This resulted in the realisation by the Open University that it would be beneficial if all these stories and histories could be brought together in a contolled space, enabling safe storage combined with enabling accessibility to a broad range of researchers who might be interested in using these materials. This resulted in the successful application to the AHRC for an initial grant to undertake the Living Archive of Learning Disability History project.
The introductory session that I attended on Thursdat was designed as being the first in a series of six sandpit sessions with the aim of bringing together practitioners with backgrounds in technology; training and teaching; archives and libraries; researchers; supporters and self-advocates to undertake a wide-ranging discussion on how best to create a living archive of learning disability history which would be fully inclusive in its design and implementation.
The session was describes by the organisers as being:
A special … event that brings potential users, participants, designers and supporters together to explore and debate a new approach to collecting and sharing the stories that make up the social history of learning disability.
The day itself represented a very thought-provoking and engaging introduction to the project with a mixture of presentations, discussion groups, demonstrations and do-it-yourself activities and workshops. The aim of these was to help facilitate discussion between the practitioners invited to attend the event in the hope of gaining a broad understanding of how a Living Archive of Learning Disability could be invisaged and to consider how it could be made fully inclusive for all of the user groups that may wish to engage with such a digital collection.
There was much debate and discussion amongst the participants throughout the day incorportating a range of discussion topics. These included debate on what should be included within the digital archive and whether a physical archive was also needed to help supplement the digital presence. There was discussion as to the very nature of what constitutes an archive as well as considerationof the organisational form and taxonomes of the digital archive to help facilitate its structure and accessibility.
The day was concluded with a feedback session led by the organisers who are planning to take all of the data collected as part of this initial sandpit session to develop a plan of how the digital archive can be taken forward. These plans will then be fed back to the attendees for further discussion and we certainly look forward to seeing how this very interesting project progresses.
The Living Archive for Learning Disability History project: https://www.klikin.eu/page/view/cat/3407
The Open University Social History of Learning Disability Group: http://www2.open.ac.uk/hsc/ldsite/
Rix Research and Media Centre at the University of East London (UEL): http://rixresearch.org/
The University of Leeds: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/