Photograph of pin board in showing many examples of photographic work and promotional materials from exhibitions and events

Animating Archives Workshop 3: Archivable

Friday 4th March 2022, 16:00-18:00

Birkbeck, University of London

In person, with an option to move online. If held in person, numbers will be very limited. A waiting list will operate, and will be used to invite participants if it goes online.

We are pleased to share the details and open bookings for our third workshop entitled Archivable. Led by Beth Bramich and Hatty Nestor, this session aims to introduce PhD researchers to a range of creative approaches to working with materials held in the Jo Spence Memorial Library Archive. There will be a short presentation by archivist Charlene Heath, who oversees the Jo Spence archive at the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) in Toronto, Canada. Please register via Eventbrite.

This workshop asks: How can we creatively engage with materials that may fall outside of standard definitions of what can be catalogued as an archive? To explore this question, material from the Jo Spence Memorial Archive will be used as a case study. This Archive is made up of material both from and about the life of British writer, educator, photographer and ‘cultural sniper’ Jo Spence (1934-92), compiled and then generously donated to the History and Theory of Photography Centre at Birkbeck University by her former collaborator, Terry Dennett. The Birkbeck collection holds most of the Jo Spence material in London, while the largest repository of Spence’s memorial archive was donated by Terry Dennett to the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) in Toronto, Canada.

The workshop will be divided into two one-hour sessions. In the first hour we will be working directly with archive material within the collection to create associative routes through the archives, making intuitive connections between photocopies, print outs, personal notes, collected magazines and pamphlets. Through this exploration, participants will create their own catalogue entries and maps of the archive to demonstrate alternative modes of relating to, and displaying the material, with a particular focus on situating items that might fall outside of traditional archiving practices.

The second hour will take the form of a reading group, discussing a translation of a text by Charlene Heath ‘L’image militante et son institutionnalisation. La Jo Spence Memorial Archive’ (2020) that explores the radical nature of Jo Spence’s practice and in particular how the over one-hundred high-quality colour photocopies, consumer-level digital printouts, and digital files now held in the collection at the RIC function as extensions of Spence and Dennett’s political project, which prioritized dissemination and the rhetoric of their photographic messages over and above all else. Please note that the text will be sent to registered participants in advance of the session.

This workshop is open to all, although aimed in particular at PhD researchers who are working creatively and politically with archival material. Spaces are limited, please register via Eventbrite. We encourage participants to take a lateral flow test before attending and to observe guidelines on face covering and social distancing. Any questions can be sent to Beth Bramich or Hatty Nestor.

Further information:

Animating Archives is a project between the Women’s Art Library and the Jo Spence Memorial Library Archive at Birkbeck University, which keeps materials belonging to Dennett and Spence as well as a collection of books relating to Spence and a section of Dennett’s personal library.

Charlene Heath is Archives Assistant at the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) in Toronto, Canada and a doctoral candidate in the joint program in Communication and Culture at Ryerson/York University in Toronto. She holds a BFA in Photography from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and a MA in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management from Ryerson University in collaboration with the Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, USA. She has written reviews and articles for BlackFlash Magazine, Photography & Culture, Aperture Blog, Revue d’art canadienne/Canadian Art Review (RACER) (forthcoming), and Transbordeur photographie (forthcoming). Through an analysis of the now dispersed Jo Spence Memorial Archive, her forthcoming dissertation considers the enduring legacy of political photographic practice in Britain in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Reading Group Text: Charlene Heath, ‘L’image militante et son institutionnalisation. La Jo Spence Memorial Archive’, Transbordeur. Photographie histoire société, no. 4, 2020, pp. 104-117. [English translation]

Image description: Research display at the Jo Spence Memorial Library, 2020. Photo taken by Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe

This workshop is generously funded by CHASE Doctoral Partnership.

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