My placement at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre and Education Trust, based in Manchester Central Library, has been both an enriching and rewarding experience. As part of the University of Manchester’s Institute for Cultural Practices placement scheme, I have had the pleasure of working with the fantastic team at the library and archiving some extremely valuable resources along the way. Looking through some of the Centre’s archive collections, such as the Legacy of Ahmed project was a great way to get started, giving me a chance to learn about how this incredible organisation was founded and the crucial work that they do.
My official title at the Centre is Sound Archive Assistant, which involves working with programmes like Audacity and Sound Cloud to upload important clips for public use. So far, I have been working on the Pan-African Congress 50 Years On digital archive project, clipping interviews and making them easily accessible as part of the Centre’s oral histories collection. This kind of work is essential in preserving the amazing archives which the Centre has accumulated over the years, deepening our understanding of Manchester’s rich cultural history and ensuring that the BAME community is not forgotten.
Before I began working on the archive, I did some background research on the Centre and Trust, getting to grips with how the organisations work together as well as the various community and education projects that have taken place. The Pan-African Congress 50 Years On is just one of the many oral history collections which can be listened to on request at the library, along with transcripts and summaries of each interview. Donated by Robin Grinter, the Pan-African collection contains six audio interviews created in 1995 to mark the 50th-anniversary celebrations of the Congress in Manchester 1945. My job was to pick out important extracts based around certain themes and discussions, which could then be uploaded to Sound Cloud as part of a digital archive. With the aid of physical archive materials such as pictures, documents and books, I had the pleasure of learning about this remarkable event and what it means for the black community in Manchester. The editing process was long but worth it!
Before the project goes live, there are some important ethical considerations which must be addressed. As most of the interviewees have passed away, permission is required from living relatives confirming that we are allowed to release the interviews into the public domain. Even though this project is fairly low risk, it is still essential we follow the correct procedures! The last stages of the project will be the most fruitful; promoting the sound archive on the Centre’s website and other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. Writing for the Reading Race, Collecting Cultures blog is a quick and fun way to endorse the project and you can check out my blog post on the importance of the Pan-African Congress here.
Overall, my experiences so far have been hugely rewarding and informative. I have had the chance to work independently and as part of a professional team, get to grips with different areas of the library, and improve my digital, research and marketing skills.
Holly Randhawa is a postgraduate student studying Music at the University of Manchester.