by mattpArchives and Society seminar 23 October 2012 Dr Andrew Flinn (UCL) and Anna Sexton (UCL) Exploring Participatory Approaches to Archives
Andrew Flinn begins the discussion into exploring participatory approaches with a talk that explains why this approach differs from the older model of provision and professional-only working practises, and how this might help archivists and the users of archives work together collaboratively to improve services, knowledge, and capacity. This is about bringing down the walls that separate the user from the provider, but not in a way that would undermine either. It is a method to engaged people much more with the resources and processes in the archives sector.
Anna Sexton takes over the discussion by talking about her own research project. This is the development of a participatory digital archive on the subject of recovery in mental health. Each individual who has had the experience of recovery is asked to develop an archive that is personal to them. This is managed by Sexton and seeks to address issues of injustice and to use social action to solve social problems. In the second half of her paper, Sexton examines criticisms of the participatory approach and compares those issues to her own project. She realises that there are issues in the approach (how representative is it? How collaborative is the process and is it any different than the top down approach traditionally carried out by archives? How sustainable and transformative is it?), but believes it to be a valuable addition and methodology.