The social and cultural transformation of the city offers a great deal of opportunities. Some of these opportunities are easily observable in the daily lived lives and experiences of the different groups, and the many ways in which groups of all kinds interact. This is indeed a strength and makes Birmingham the progressive city it is today.
Importantly, this transformation leaves us with a number of challenges to think about. These issues affect or concern many of us, right from local and grassroots level through to society at large. The challenge for us as a service is how we respond to an ever-changing world. How we might consider our place in the picture of a growing and even diversifying city – a city in which there is still much work to do in terms of social inclusion. We know that no matter what the time, decade or moment, there will always be such challenges to overcome.
Birmingham Archives & Heritage has been engaging with these issues with a view to understanding how the service can play its part in the progressive development and empowerment of different groups in the city, to work to engender practical responses to social justice issues, and ultimately, become more reflective of the world in which it is immediately located.
The need to be more reflective has a very real and direct relevance to issues of integration (which may be understood as social exclusion and inclusion), cross-community awareness, understanding and even participation (often cited as community or social cohesion). Put another way, we might say that what we see in our collections – as they stand – helps us to understand the degree to which we have progressed as a society and as a city towards better, broader representation.
These issues have been the driving force behind the service for many decades. The fantastic work we do today sits as part of a strong tradition and history of direct engagement; one which has always been placed in quite a direct social context. The history and tradition of that work can be understood in perhaps three different phases: The Early Years; then Connecting Histories (2005-2009), and finally; Present and Future.
For The Early Years, we will draw on the experiences of a highly regarded former colleague, Richard Albutt. For Connecting Histories we will draw on the experiences of Birmingham Libraries and Archives’ Head of Collections, Sian Roberts, and University of Birmingham’s Professor Ian Grosvenor (with whom the service has over time built a key relationship). For Present and Future we will draw on the experience of a number of our colleagues across the service.
Look out for these upcoming blog articles over the next 3 months; we hope you find them informative, enjoy them and that they contribute to supporting and strengthening our commitment to working towards being ever more relevant and leading the way in a continually transforming world.