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The New Curators Project Visit Tower Hamlets Archives

Vicky A Price11 July 2022

This blog was written by Arzama Hossain, a participant on this year’s New Curators Project. The project seeks to offer a cohort of 18-24 year olds from East London the chance to learn more about the cultural heritage sector, receive relevant training and to produce something for a real life heritage audience as part of Newham Heritage Month. In Arzama’s own words, it is ‘a project in which you learn and work’ at the same time. This blog is a reflection that she wrote after visiting Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives.

Visiting Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives

Today I had the great pleasure to visit the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives; I really had an amazing time exploring the place and the vast collection of artefacts they have. One thing I was pleased to learn was that anyone is able to visit them and it’s not an exclusive thing, this is a good thing as it allows people interested in history to be able to research some things at the source.

One of the things I enjoyed seeing was pictures of the local area throughout the year. I think it is important to keep an archive of photos which will allow people to see the history of the place they live. Due to the vast amount of material in the place, it feels like you are able to properly get an idea of local history and how it has progressed over the years. These archives are an important part of history as they showcase the important role of minorities in the history of this country and how they have helped make Britain what it is today.

Three young adults look at an archival map.

New Curators Participants scrutinising an historical map.

Archives play an important role in our understanding of the past, as they showcase some of the hidden aspects of history that many people may not know. Throughout history, only the biggest events got the spotlight while smaller, just as significant stories aren’t told as often. A country should always acknowledge even the bad mistakes of the past as it makes sure they don’t happen again, and keeping an archive of events allows people to learn the good and bad.

I moved to England from Italy when I was 12 and started learning about British culture but not forgetting my roots, seeing my community represented in the Archive gives you some inspiration to be like the people that came before you and made this country what it is. I wanted to learn more about the history of the Bengali people in London due to being Bengali myself and seeing them represented in the archives made me proud of my roots.

Archives are important things to have as they preserve important knowledge which otherwise may have been lost. People should take a trip and visit an archive as they are open for anyone to look at.

Two young adults and an archivist look at an historical map together in grand surroundings.

Archivist Richard Wiltshire shows participants archival maps and plans.

Remember 2012?

Vicky A Price24 May 2022

The New Curators Project is run by UCL Special Collections, in collaboration with Newham Heritage Month.  It is an annual programme for young adults (aged 18-24) who are interested in working in the cultural heritage sector, whether that be the arts, libraries, museums or heritage sites.  It aims to provide the training and experience required for these new professionals to take their first steps on their chosen career path, and to create an opportunity for the group to create work for a real audience as they take their first steps into this field of work.

Each year the cohort create something for Newham Heritage Month’s programme, based on the given theme.  2022’s theme is ‘What London 2012 Means to Us’, and so participants set about collecting oral histories, film footage and photography of the Olympic Park and surrounding area.  This is their first short film, created in response to the theme.

Get to know 2022’s cohort and revisit this page for addition short films in the month of June 2022!

Community Curated Exhibition Tours Newham Libraries

Vicky A Price7 May 2021

The Outreach team at UCL Special Collections have been working hard on a new community collaboration with Newham Heritage Month – The New Curators Project. This project set out to provide 10 young people from East London the chance to develop the skills and experience needed to start a career in the cultural heritage sector. Successful applicants would receive a bursary, training from industry experts and they would create an exhibition and online event for a real-life audience as part of Newham Heritage Month in May 2021.

With funding from Foundation for Future London and UCL Culture, we ran two months of workshop featuring visiting facilitators (who delivered sessions on public history research, curatorship, digital communications and using archivers in historical research). We also worked with the cohort to devise an exhibition and online talk that used resources from (among others) Newham’s archive, UCL Special Collections and personal photography from participants. It was a whirlwind of activity, all leading to Newham Heritage Month programme this May.

While we felt confident that the partnership with Newham Heritage Month would be a hugely valuable one, and we knew the visiting facilitators would provide insightful, exciting presentations, we could not have anticipated how well the participants would work together or how good-natured and multi-talented a group they would be. It has been a pleasure to deliver.

This week, we were delighted to see the exhibition arrive at Stratford Library:

Two colourful pop-up banners stand in Stratford public library.

The first side of the travelling exhibition made by participants on The New Curators Project.

Two colourful pop-up banners stand in Stratford library.

The second side of the travelling exhibition made by participants on The New Curators Project.

The exhibition will spend the rest of May travelling to eight other public libraries in Newham, and the group will be putting on a free public talk (online) on 28th May.

This is just the beginning for The New Curators Project, as we intend to run it annually. In time, we hope to see a growing alumni of past participants finding careers in the cultural heritage sector, and perhaps delivering content on future iterations of this project!

Contributing towards providing accessible pathways into the cultural heritage sector and demystifying roles within the field can sometimes seem an insurmountable task, especially when also trying to address the current lack of diversity in the sector. However, this is a practical step that will now take pride of place in our Outreach programme at UCL Special Collections.  At the same time, the project is an opportunity to strengthen a valuable community partnership with Newham Heritage Month and Newham’s public libraries.