Exploring archives with HOP research volunteers and members of Mencap Liverpool

Training for our research group, and for members of Liverpool Mencap who picked up ideas about how to use their own archive.

Volunteers from the History of Place Liverpool research group are sat at a large (big enough for twenty people!), old fashioned (wood with a leather top) table in the Royal School for the Blind boardroom. They are each looking at various paper based objects like ledgers, newspapers and letters.

We recently delivered archive training in Liverpool for members of the History of Place volunteer research group and members of Mencap Liverpool.

Members of the Liverpool volunteer research group are all sat around a large (seating available for at least twenty people), old fashioned (wood with a leather tabletop) table in the Royal School for the Blind boardroom. They are each exploring text based documents like newspapers, ledgers and letters. On the wall at the head of the table is a framed portrait of Edward Rushon who was one of the origibnal founders of the school.

The Liverpool Volunteer Archive and Research Group

The morning session was for members on the Liverpool Volunteer Research and Archive Group. The training was delivered by the project Archivist Beth Astridge and took place at the Royal School for the Blind, Liverpool. This was the first time the volunteers had visited the school and accessed material from the archive and they were excited to see some of the objects they had heard so much about.

One of the researchers, Jordan, is seated and is reading a newspaper about the founding of the school

Jordan doing research

The school were welcoming and allowed Beth to arrive early and remove key objects from the archive to use in training. The objects Beth had selected included documents specific to our ongoing research so volunteers were able to investigate answers to their own questions plus other important objects such as the ‘our evacuation’ diary, minute books and photographs.

One of our researchers, Anna, is sat at the table looking through a box of letters

Anna looking through a box of letters

We really enjoyed exploring the archives whilst receiving advice on how archives work. The training provided us with a clear understanding of what archives are, what they contain, why they are important and specific understanding of what the school archive contains and its current state.

Jordan and Edward Rushton, one of the founders of the school

The afternoon session was for members of Mencap Liverpool to give them an understanding on what an archive is and help them think about the creative ways they could use their own collection of objects.

Members of Mencap Liverpool are sat around a table

Members of Mencap Liverpool taking part in archive training

The session was designed to give members a basic understanding of what an archive is, some information about History of Place and the Royal School for the Blind, including looking at copies of the material held in their archive, and a craft activity to engage participants with archive material. Members had brought along objects from their own archive such as a banner, photographs, signs and paperwork. Members discussed how offended and upset they were with seeing words like ‘handicapped’ within their archive


An example of the 'personal archive' members created during the training-an A4 poster with text and photographs

Members created examples of their own archive

The group then responded creatively by using some of the material we had brought along to create a newspaper based on the school or to consider what could be held in their own personal archive. The majority of members chose to write about their own archive and lives as a form of expression and memory sharing. Each member read aloud their work and the group asked them questions.

A member of Mencap Liverpool is stood up and reading her work out loud. She is smiling as she reads.

A member reading her archive to the group

We discovered that one of the members had carried the Olympic torch, a couple of members described school life and all shared their interests and information about their daily life. A common theme from within their ‘archive’ was oppression and harassment and how Mencap Liverpool had enabled them to find a safe space, make friends and take part in new experiences. Thank you to the Royal School for the Blind, Liverpool for hosting our morning session and to Mencap Liverpool members for an engaging afternoon session.



A member of Mencap Liverpool is sat holding up the poster he made which includes information and images from his archive which tell us about his life

A member holding up their work





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