On placement with the Inclusive Archive project

Erasmus student on placement with the Inclusive Archive of Learning Disability History

Martine Grange is an Erasmus student currently undertaking the MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies at the University of Leeds. As part of the course, she has been on placement with the Inclusive Archive of Learning Disability History through the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums Galleries and Heritage (a project partner in the Inclusive Archive project). In this article, Martine talks about the Inclusive Archive and of her MA placement experiences:

The Inclusive Archive is a project that aims to link records and memories about Learning Disability history. A key purpose is to create a safe space in which people can share their stories and exchange experiences and knowledge.

Liz Tilley (Open University), the project’s Principal Investigator, says of the project:

“We knew from the Social History of Learning Disability Research Group that there were lots of stories about learning disability history ‘out there’, but they were hard to find and not very accessible. We started this project to work out how more people with learning disabilities, their supporters and other people could find out about the history and add their stories to it.”

The Inclusive Archive project started in 2014 with a £1m grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Three universities and different local and national organisations are involved in the project including the Faculty of Health & Social Care of the Open University, RIX Research at the University of East London and the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage (based in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds).

The project has also worked extensively with people with learning disabilities throughout, including self-advocacy groups such as Carlisle People First Research Team, the Tower Project and Access All Areas.

The project team will launch the Inclusive Archive on 31 March 2017. It will be a beta version of the archive in which people can upload content such as recordings, videos, photos and documents. The project has ambitions to be the beginning of a new type of inclusive space. The future goal for the team will be to continue to improve the website through working with its users and communities.

Image of different ways of thinking about archivesThe archive works as a social network in which the users share their ‘stuff’ in a safe and potentially controlled way; they can decide who to share it with, when to share it and for how long. The team has spent a lot of time to conceive the best way to involve people with complex needs in the project and has done a lot of work on consent and how the archive can comply with the Mental Capacity Act .

I became a part of the team as a placement student recently because I am extremely interested in the subject: the topic of my BA dissertation was two online French archives. I am an Italian Erasmus student from the University of Verona and I am attending MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies modules at the University of Leeds: the Inclusive Archive of Learning Disability History is part of my MA placement.

Working with the whole team is extremely stimulating for me and it is challenging and interesting to see how brilliantly they conceived the Inclusive Archive of Learning Disability History. It is easy to use and has been designed to enable lots of different people to take part and to make choices about who they want to share their stories with, when and for how long. I am enjoying working with them and it has given me an interesting view of a more inclusive living world.