Activating the archive: Rethinking the role of traditional archives for local activist projects

Buchanan, Alexandrina, Michelle Bastian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This article explores the way archival material has the potential to become a core component of local food activism, through an evaluation of an AHRC-funded collaborative research project on the histories of local food in Liverpool.
‘Memories of Mr Seel’s Garden: exploring past and future food systems in Liverpool’ is a collaboration between 4 academics, 2 arts/heritage professionals and 3 community groups, around the theme of local food. The community groups were brought together by their mutual interest in exploring how historical work might contribute to the developing local food movement. The project aimed to undertake research into the history of local food systems, using three different methods: archival research, map research and oral history, in order to develop deeper understanding of food systems, both historically and geographically and to explore what this understanding might contribute to future community activism. The project examined whether undertaking the research changed participants’ awareness of the value of historical research (including the value of different methods); their understandings of the local environment and local food issues, or provided new perspectives on the possibility of future change and their role within it. In short, could historical research assist local activism? The article will describe the methods used and the research findings, which suggest that even ‘traditional’ archival materials, neither created nor selected for activist purposes, have the potential to be valuable resources for activist research, both for challenging simplistic activist narratives about the past and for empowering members of activist communities to develop new narratives for change and communicate these to wider society.
Original languageEnglish
JournalArchival Science
Early online date19 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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