Back at the beginning of May, I attended two events which were interesting not only for their content, but also for the group of people that they brought together. The first of these was an Arts and Humanities Research Council workshop entitled Sharing Knowledge, Shaping Practice. The purpose of this was to showcase some of the interesting work that the AHRC has been funding in the area of Knowledge Transfer, one of our favourite subjects, and to attract more people to the scheme. It was hosted by the School of Education at the University of Birmingham, and featured talks by academics from UoB, De Montfort University, the University of Exeter and Interactive Cultures, and by representatives of the AHRC. Paul Long, our presenter, was accompanied by some of our lovely partners: Jez Collins, of Birmingham Music Archive and Ruth Daniel, of Fat Northerner. I also sat next to him and nodded encouragingly in the afternoon sessions.
The projects represented included a strong heritage theme: Birmingham Stories, Connecting with Community Heritage, and our own serving of music and radio heritage. The event pulled quite a crowd, and this is what made things interesting. Not only did we get to talk to people outside our immediate industry focus about our projects, but we got to revisit these connections later in the week, when Paul and I attended a consultation meeting for the new Birmingham Histories section of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
BMAG invited a selection of people whom they see as being involved in Birmingham History to the consultation, and the meeting included representation from universities, archives and libraries, and the local council, among others. We went for a quick tour of the exhibition space they have in mind, and heard presentations from Toby Watley (BMAG), Catherine Hall of UCL and Catherine Burke of Cambridge University. The task ahead of the museum is clearly a difficult one: to get the entire history of the city, in an accessible format, into what is, against the range of so much information, a modest space.
The striking thing about these events for me was not so much the content, although that was interesting and engaging in itself. Instead, it was the similarities of the audiences at the two events. It was a stark reminder of how closely connected these activities, and the people involved in them, actually are, and how easy we should find it to work together. As one colleague noted, there were people at both events that he’d been trying to arrange meetings with for months without being able to agree a mutually convenient date, and yet he’d now seen them twice in a week. The worry is, of course, that the cycle will continue, and that various pressures will once again mean that this enthusiastic and involved group of people won’t get the opportunity to talk to one another until the next event.