While genealogists and local historians generally know about archives and happy to make use of them, there is a wider public out there who are missing out on all our lovely documents. One of the interesting challenges for archivists is to find ways of engaging people who may not know we exist, have no idea what we have to offer, or who assume that archives are exclusive and only for “proper” researchers. As we have to do this on little or no budget, we have to be quite creative. Last year, for example, we organised a “treasure hunt”, where people used documents relating to some prominent town centre buildings to solve clues and find the location of hidden treasure on a map. Another current project is a series of workshops at which participants are using archives as inspiration for textile artworks which will be displayed in a touring exhibition.
A quick look around the internet shows the variety of outreach events put on by archives and local history centres. If time and distance were no object you could:
- Construct historical masterpieces with lego at Hull History Centre
- Learn how to look after your family archives at Nottinghamshire Archives
- Take part in a calligraphy course at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies Centre
- Visit a drop-in family history surgery at Tyne and Wear Archives
- Go on guided walks round London’s Docklands with London Metropolitan Archives
If you have an archive nearby take a look at their website – it is likely they will have some interesting events arranged.