You might have noticed we haven’t been as active recently on our blog – it has been a busy month for the team. We have been out and about gaining and sharing knowledge and raising the profile of the Find & Connect web resource. This work took us to a archivists’ conference in Hobart, to a Find and Connect Practice Roundtable in Melbourne, and of course you might have also seen us on our Twitter account (@FaCWebResource) as we tried to keep everyone up to date on what we’ve been doing and to share everything we have learned.
The Australian Society of Archivists (ASA) held its annual conference in Hobart earlier this month. Cate O’Neill from the web resource team was part of a panel on the topic of Participatory Archives, which generated a lot of discussion about the records of institutional ‘care’. The session drew attention to the high value of records and archives for people who have been in ‘care’ and the significance of the Find & Connect site in helping to document where these records have been distributed around Australia. One of our newly designed pages Resources – Information about Records was the back drop for Cate’s presentation.
Participatory Archives are basically about changing practice so that people other than archives professionals are involved in the management of records. A key concept is ‘shared stewardship’ of records, where the subjects of the records are acknowledged as having a stake in these records. The panel also talked about how record-holding organisations can provide access to records in a way that doesn’t retraumatise people.
Also on this panel was Dr Jacqueline Wilson from Federation University, who is a former State Ward. She asserted that past providers were not the best organisations to be the stewards of the records of institutional ‘care’. She called for the establishment of a central repository with a single access system to hold all records related to out-of-Home care.
Jacqueline also presented a paper (co-written with Frank Golding), titled ‘What is in the Files and Who Cares Anyway?’ This was a very relevant and powerful session at the conference in which the authors discussed the ambiguous nature of ward records – while these records have the potential to traumatise people, they can also help restore the Care Leaver’s personal narrative.
Another significant presentation at the ASA conference was given by Kim Eberhard, who presented on ‘Records, recordkeeping and Commissions of Inquiry: emerging trends and on-going issues’. Kim discussed the evolution of record keeping issues over the course of 80 inquiries related to child welfare in Australia. She mentioned the Find & Connect web resource as one of the few recommendations coming out of the inquiries to have been actioned successfully.
Kim included the web resource on a slide she had titled ‘How do you find the unknown?’, acknowledging the huge struggles people who grew up in ‘care’ have to find and access their records due to the diversity of places they are kept in.
A final mention we received at the Australian Archivist conference was by Sigrid McCausland who mentioned the website as an example of a project that documents Australian society.
If you want to find out more about what was discussed at this conference, have a look at the Twitter hashtag #asaedge2015.
The Find & Connect website also got mentioned at international conferences this month. We got a mention in Dublin at the Archives & Records Association UK & Ireland National Conference thanks again to Kim Eberhard, who spoke about ‘(Australian) Commissions of Inquiry and Record-keeping: Opportunities to re-think the role of the archival professional association?’. The discussion regarding why archives and records are so important for Care Leavers was also mentioned at the Archives & Records UK & Ireland conference by the National Records of Scotland with the above statement by a Care Leaver really creating a huge impact on Twitter in the archival community.
I would like to thank all the people who have attended both conferences who participated on Twitter, which have become sources of information for this blog post.
The web resource team also participated in the Find & Connect Practice Roundtable early last week which brings together all the different groups that create the National Find & Connect program to have a chance to discuss ideas, what they have learned and to share knowledge. The support services bring their first hand knowledge of the importance of records, the struggles they go to get records, or trace family members, but also the great success stories that remind us all why Find & Connect is so important and valuable to its user group. The Practice Roundtable was also an opportunity for us to get some first hand feedback from a significant user group of the website and some second hand feedback about what their users think of the site. From this we hope to be able to keep developing and improving the site.
Raising the profile and continually striving to improve the services of the Find & Connect program is important because improved visibility can help ensure those who need the services, find them. What the Find & Connect program does is unique, the people who are part of the program hold an incredible amount of knowledge and the web resource is one place of capturing that information.
So if you know people that haven’t seen us, share this post!
Finally we would like to congratulate members of the Find & Connect team on winning a ASA Mander Jones Award for their article “Improving the Archiving of Records in the Out-of-Home Care Sector” in Australian Social Work. They won this in Category 6: article or chapter about archives written by an Australian in journal or newspaper or within an anthology/monograph not primarily intended for archivists or records managers. This article is available for free for 3 months here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2013.856453