It is one of the priorities of Edinburgh City Archives to engage more with community archives in the city to meet our mission to preserve, expand and promote the city’s archival heritage. It can be difficult to find the time and capacity to organise events ourselves to engage groups. So when the SCA let us know that a community archives focused event was being held in Edinburgh, we knew it was an opportunity we could not pass up.
On the day it proved to be a great way to meet people from across Scotland who were involved in community archiving – some of whom we already knew but a good many who we had never met before. Despite the variety of groups and communities represented, the event demonstrated through the topics covered and the questions asked that many of the issues they faced were similar. It also helped us see that there was definitely an appetite for local authority archive services providing more local support and advice.
This led us to think again how we see community archive groups and helped us think of ways that we could constructively engage with community archive groups beyond the traditional talk or exhibition. Many of the challenges they face in caring for their communities’ archives are the same ones that we as more formal archives face as well.
The SCA are thinking about running more of these events and, if they do, we recommend that archive services interested in community engagement and heritage should attend where possible. The event helps to break down perceived barriers between us as the the more formal institutional archives and the community archive groups that exist around us. Hopefully these events can evolve into supporting some open discussion around how we can support one another and improve and sustain the community heritage of Scotland.
Ashleigh Thompson, City of Edinburgh Archives