This year I was fortunate enough to undertake a work placement at Archives+ which is a project in local and family history, based in the Manchester Central Library which organises events and exhibitions to promote Manchester’s lively history to the public. I decided on this organisation as I am a MA history student, and was delighted to partake in a chance to use the archives available to me for purposes outside of academia. The objective of my placement was to create an interactive digital display based on one of the current exhibition themes, Radical Thinking. This was an exciting opportunity for me as I have only engaged with archival documents previously for University work, and so to have the chance to be involved in Archives+ and create my own display was fulfilling.
The topic I researched was the Ancoats Brotherhood, a group founded by Charles Rowley in 1878 which aimed to bring music, art and literature to the working classes of Manchester. During my research I was able to work closely in the archives collection, digitising my findings to include them in my display. This was often harder than I initially expected, as I had to keep the end result in mind, and ensure that the pieces I chose were exciting, engaging and would have a lasting impact on the people who visited Archives+ in the future. The purpose of Archives+ is to educate people about local history, and also to involve them in other endeavours, such as the study of genealogy, or their own personal family history. This is an application of history I feel very passionately about, and the ability to be involved in the promotion of local history was very important to me.
During my placement I learned a number of valuable skills applicable to both my studies as a historian and also potential careers in curating. I initially possessed some skills with using an archive, however I received additional training which, along with instruction in digitising, was incredibly beneficial. This was also my first time creating a public display, so I learned many valuable skills associated with that. Additionally, I was able to engage with the public on a level I do not with academic history work. I had to ensure that my descriptions of the sources were age appropriate and easy to understand, and that even the sources themselves were appropriate. This was a new challenge that I welcomed readily. The project as a whole was a fun employment of some of the skills I have learned as a historian and one I found very personally fulfilling.