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Frieda Midgley, archivist
Looking back over a year in the life of the Kettle’s Yard archive has been an excellent opportunity to reflect on some of the things that archives can do. Here are just a few of the things that ours has enabled over the past year:
Art Ambassadors from North Cambridge Academy explored the considerations that shape a building and the way people live in that space, through letters, photographs, architectural articles, and extracts from our Oral History archive. This helped them to think about how they influence the design of their new building, and how they plan their own oral history project.
Our Circuit group (a peer-led programme for 15-25 year olds) spent an evening discovering more about the life and work of the artist Henri Gaudier Brzeska, as part of their research for Grace and Speed, the exhibition they curated in Helen’s bedroom.
We were very pleased to celebrate the huge contribution that our volunteers make at the inaugural SHARE Volunteer awards, and particularly delighted that our long-standing archive volunteer, Claire Daunton, was highly commended in the Behind the Scenes Volunteer category. Her dedication to the Archive, on both a practical and strategic level, has been instrumental in ensuring that that this important collection is now properly managed, preserved, resourced and made accessible. The Archive is increasingly well integrated into the Kettle’s Yard programme, and everything that we are now doing with the Archives builds on foundations that Claire has laid.
Emma Smith, our first Open House artist in residence, has been collaborating with local communities to develop a new performative artwork, exploring people’s restorative pastimes. Her inspiration for Variations on a Weekend Theme is Jim Ede’s extensive account (by the same name) of how he and Helen welcomed servicemen from Gibraltar on weekend leave to their home in Tangiers. Emma has created a contemporary repository of restorative activities and home remedies, exploring this process through public workshops and events supporting people to share their activities and offer invitations to others to try something new.
Our year has been dominated by the process of planning the finer detail of our new building development, which will include a purpose-built archive store and research/project space, and imagining how we will function in the new space. Jamie Fobert’s design is very sensitive to the principles of the existing building, as he explains in this presentation, with the aid of some fascinating archive images.
In the process of moving out of Kettle’s Yard to allow the builders to move in, we had a very comprehensive sort-out. Archivists reading this will not be surprised to learn that we became better acquainted with our basement than we had ever anticipated, an in the process unearthed some forgotten treasures, including this vintage poster – part of a fairly comprehensive collection that will now be taken into the archive.
Being offsite for two years has strengthened our relationships with a number of our partner organisations in Cambridge and beyond. Wolfson College have kindly agreed to host the archive collection for us while Kettle’s Yard itself is closed, which means that we can continue to work on the archive and make it available to researchers.
Throughout the year, our colleagues in the Learning team have been carrying out research for an excellent new online resource, showcasing key works from our collection of modern and contemporary art. A Handful of Objects unlocks some fascinating archive material, so look out for it when it goes live in the new year.
We held a number of Open Archive sessions over the year, but the absolute highlight has to have been our busiest ever Castle Hill Open Day, held on our closing weekend in June. As the building project was so much on our mind, we focussed on the architectural development of Kettle’s Yard, the homes that preceded and prefigured it, and how the latest developments resonate with the existing architecture.
Not surprisingly, a year running from November to November began and ended with consideration of the Great War and its ongoing impact. It started with a series of sessions for adult learners on War in the Archive, and David Jones, and it ended with the arrival of this thoughtful article on Jim Ede and the Great War , by Paul Shakeshaft, who visited Jim at Kettle’s Yard as a student.
A photo posted by Kettle’s Yard (@kettlesyard) on
So that was the year that was, and we’re very happy to be able to say that thanks to the generosity of the Newton Trust, we will be able to continue explore, exploit and enjoy sharing our archive for a further two years.