In this blog, Kimberley Beasley describes the Pecha Kucha event held by ARA Scotland and the Section for New Professionals.
Recently the University of Glasgow was host to the ARA Section for New Professionals who were holding a rather exotic sounding Pecha Kucha Night.
Pecha Kucha is a presentation style where there are only twenty slides and each slide can last for no longer than twenty seconds. The unusual name is Japanese, the language of pecha kucha’s birthplace, and means ‘chit-chat’. This fast-paced form of presentation encourages the presenter to be precise and because the slides move on automatically it is important to keep talking!
Throughout the night there were many presentations, exploring the different sides to the profession. Whilst the format proved challenging, the first presentation explaining pecha kucha helped make everyone feel more at ease with it. The night was a mix of experienced and new professionals and everyone came away knowing something new, whether it be the challenges the archivist faces as a keeper of memory or the differences of the role in the setting of a local authority.
After the first introductory presentation by organiser Karyn Williamson, Caroline Brown explained the benefits and fun to be had at the ARA Conference (to be held this year in Newcastle). It was interesting to hear from Craig Geddes, member of the Archives of Scottish Local Authorities Working Group, who explained his role in East Renfrewshire Archives and the work of his group. Then there were two presentations from University of Glasgow Archive Services. One, from Rachael Egan, explained the complex processes behind cataloguing the photographs from the Templeton Carpet Factory and the other from myself discussed the #WFJAlbum (https://twitter.com/search?q=%23wfjalbum&src=typd) social media project.
Such is the efficiency of pecha kucha that the evening was running ahead of schedule and so there was a break which let everyone absorb the previous presentations. To start off the second half we heard from Dawn Sinclair who told us the story of William Collins and gave us a glimpse of some of the archive’s treasures, including a Paddington Bear watercolour. Cheryl Brown continued things in a business vein, explaining her role as Business Archives Surveyor. Karl Magee, archivist at the University of Stirling described the exhibition ‘A Dream of Stirling: Norman McLaren’s Scottish Dawn’, using some of McLaren’s more creative pieces to illustrate his presentation. To round off the evening we heard from Steven Skeldon whose presentation about memory left us with many interesting questions to ponder.
As a presenter, once I’d gotten over the initial shock that twenty seconds could feel like both an hour and a second, I enjoyed the challenge that pecha kucha offered. It allowed me to really think about what was important in my presentation and focus on that. It’s a useful skill to be able to talk about something so concisely but remain interesting. Fortunately as the project I was discussing is based on photo albums I had plenty of lovely images to support me! I also thought that it was a great opportunity, as a new professional, to present to others in an informal environment. The traditional image of an archivist hidden away in a corner is now defunct and it is vital to pick up presentation skills wherever possible.
Over the evening the range of presentations gave everyone there something different to think about. The strength of the pecha kucha is that not only are the presentations too short to ever be boring but also that so much can be fitted into a short space of time. At a normal presentation pace such a range of talks might have been exhausting, however the evening never felt overly long or risked information overload. With an introduction to an exciting new style of presentation, a range of topics covered and opportunities to meet fellow archivists, everyone is looking forward to the next Pecha Kucha Night!