I chose the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre and Education Trust for my placement, before even starting the MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies (AGMS) programme. In the first couple of weeks of September 2016, I met the Director, Jacqueline Ould, and a few staff members at a talk they hosted alongside the Black Cultural Archives. I immediately liked their work, which reminded me of what I do home in Trinidad and Tobago, at the Culture Division. Right there, I knew the Centre and Trust was the place for me!
The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre and Education Trust are two organisations with a common goal; to capture the life stories of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities in Manchester. They are named after Ahmed Iqbal Ullah, a Bangladeshi boy who lost his life defending a racial attack on another student in his school in 1986. The Centre has a growing library and archive on race relations and issues, primarily on key events, persons, and perspectives in the United Kingdom and United States. The Trust runs oral history projects, working with communities to document their history and cultural heritage. They also host events, exhibitions, and conduct and develop educational programs and resources.
My supervisor was Collections Access Officer, Hannah Niblett, an AGMS alumna, who helped set my placement tasks within both organisations. I did digital cataloguing; the back-end work needed for front-end library searches. The Centre is part of the University of Manchester and based in the Manchester Central Library, so their material can be found in the online catalogues of both institutions. These access channels broaden their reach, and is beneficial for research, but sometimes nothing beats getting hands on with books and archives. The Centre host visits for library professionals and university students. I got to photograph undergraduate American Studies students from the University of Manchester when they dropped by.
Understanding the scope and use of their collections informed the work I did with the Trust. The Education Trust is an independent charity developing community based projects, and collaborating with similar organisations in and around Manchester, and the United Kingdom. I enjoyed documenting the activities of their latest project, ‘Coming in from the Cold’. The project aims to ‘increase representation of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups in their archive’, in two phases over four years. The first phase is from February to August 2017, and the second phase runs from January 2018 to January 2021.
My focus for the remainder of the placement involved establishing a blog for the ‘Coming in from the Cold’ project, working alongside Research Associate, Jennifer Vickers. The blog is a fun, transparent and engaging way to keep people updated as the project progresses. I had the freedom to get creative, have a go at writing for a blog, and make use of my skills in photography and video editing. Check out their first ‘Coming In’ chat with a staff member of Archives+ here, which I had a chance to shoot, edit, and produce.
I learnt so much, and grown to further appreciate the work of the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre and Education Trust, in representing those under-represented communities in Greater Manchester.