Events Watch enables new professionals to share their thoughts and learning outcomes from events they have recently attended (such as conferences and training) for the benefit of all new professionals.
This time Frances Lund shares her experiences from the Community Archives and Heritage Group (CAHG) Seventh Annual Conference 2013.
On Wednesday the 10th July 2013, the Community Archives and Heritage Group (CAHG) held their seventh annual conference in London, co-hosted by University College London, Department of Information Studies. Around 100 members and non-members alike gathered together in anticipation of what promised to be both a fascinating and exciting conference, the theme this year being Industrial Heritage. As a recently qualified new professional, a member of CAHG and a first time conference attendee (which was slightly daunting!) I looked forward to the experience and to gaining as much new professional knowledge as possible as I hope to become more involved with community archives in my career.
With a packed programme to get through, after a warm welcome from Dr. Andrew Flinn, senior lecturer in Archives and Records Management at UCL, the day’s proceedings began on a high and the upbeat keynote speech delivered by Tristram Hunt MP, set the tone for things to come.
Following talks on the Pioneer Sailing Trust and the Discovery of Independence came the main conference highlight: the presentation of the Community Archive and Heritage Group awards. There were winners across four different categories, including the overall awards winner. Dr Nick Barratt, expert family historian and researcher was on hand to present the awards to the winners, who each clearly demonstrated some key qualities needed for success: initiative, hard work, enthusiasm, and a genuine desire to contribute to and create a positive impact within their local communities via constructive, creative use of archives and local heritage. None of these attributes could have been more accurately illustrated than by the overall awards winners, (also named Community Archive and Heritage Group of the Year), Liam Heatherson and Joe Mander from Canvey Island in Essex who won with their website documenting local heritage entitled, ‘Beyond the Point’.
I think it is safe to say that as a short explanatory film about Beyond the Point was viewed by conference, all of the delegates could not help but be captivated by this impressive and outstanding piece of work which made them worthy winners. It goes to show what can be achieved when creativity, local history and raw talent are all put together.
Attending the conference as a new professional who is always looking for fresh inspiration and new ways to encourage people to become involved with archives, I was especially impressed with Liam and Joe’s achievement not least because what they have done is actually something quite obvious and their original approach was informative but at the same time enlightening – important for attracting a wide audience. I also took particular note of their expert use of IT skills since there is a slowly increasing professional demand for people like them. It has never been more essential to establish and maintain strong professional connections with different skill sets as we never know when they may be of need.
Marie Owens began the afternoon session optimistically by sharing with us some details of the forthcoming new archives campaign ‘Explore Your Archive.’ This served as a reminder not just to myself but to the whole conference that as Marie herself pointed out the campaign is not restricted to local authority archives which may tend to be the only type of archive service the public are aware of. The campaign is for all archives to get involved in and community archives and heritage groups will be no exception, especially when targeting and engaging with different age groups – perhaps their greatest strength.
After the brief AGM the remainder of the conference consisted of ‘show and tell’ from the three remaining awards category winners which was an excellent opportunity to hear more about their respective projects, how they developed to date and in some cases their plans to move the project forward. Two more talks followed, including Rebekah Polding of London Screen Heritage who explained what the London screen archives network aims are.
Overall the conference turned out to be a great success. Everyone left feeling inspired and encouraged by the achievements of the award winners and also motivated by new ideas and information they had learnt. I know that I will take what I have learnt and put into practice wherever I can. As a learning opportunity I would encourage any new professional who hasn’t yet done so to attend an event like this, however overwhelming it might seem. CAHG conference 2013 made me realise the true spirit of community archives and I hope we can all become more involved.
Frances Lund, recent graduate of Archives and Records Management at the University of Liverpool
 You can read more about the awards and this year’s winners here: http://www.archives.org.uk/latest-news/canvey-island-teenagers-win-community-archive-and-heritage-group-of-the-year.html; take a look at Beyond the Point here: http://beyondthepoint.co.uk/