Past Performance

Part 1

In April and May Black Cultural Archives worked in partnership with the Africa Centre on ‘Past Performance.’

The first event took place in April, where we explored the relationships between archives and museums, how they look after our heritage and more importantly, how you can get access to your cultural heritage.

The evening featured speakers from Black Cultural Archives (Hannah, Assistant Archivist and Janet, Learning Manager) who discussed the history of Black Cultural Archives, the learning programme and future plans for the national Black heritage centre.

Sue McAlpine from Hackney Museum discussed their collecting of material from residents in Hackney and the changing nature of the east end. Sue discussed the exhibitions they have put on, and how they work with the local communities in Hackney. Sue is preparing an exhibition on the history of Black history month, so if you have any ideas please get in touch.

Margaret Timmers from the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), Prints and Drawings, highlighted the wide range of posters and prints the V&A houses relating to Africa and by African artists. Margaret explained the process of accessing the material at the V&A.

Last, but not least, we had Ego Ahaiwe and Etienne Joseph. Ego and Etienne are currently studying on the Masters in Archives and Records Management at UCL and are working on listing the archives at the Africa Centre.

Janet Browne, Learning Manager

Hannah Ishmael, Assistant Archivist

Part 2

In May, we hosted the second part of our event. The first part of the evening was inspired by the Antiques Roadshow and we asked members of the public to bring items that they own to have them looked at by our panel of experts. We had Ann Bancroft, paper conservator at V&A; Novelette Aldoni-Stewart, freelance object conservator and volunteer at BCA; Margaret Timmers, curator of prints and drawings at V&A and Hannah Ishmael, Assistant Archivist at BCA.

The members of the public brought a huge variety of material; framed prints from c. 1810, elephant bookends c. 1970, clay tobacco pipes from the period of enslavement in Jamaica c. 1600, a Black doll in a box c. 1900 and West African coins, pre and post independence.The objects were very fascinating, not only in their history and context but also in the discussions around how to care for your materials. The key message that came out of the evening, is that if you have material and would like more information about it, please do contact your local museum or archives.

For more information on preservation and conservation, please contact us.

We also had a number of arts practitioners who discussed the importance of archives to their work, and the lasting legacy.

Deborah Baddoo MBE on her new Black Dancers Archive project, an exciting new project to ensure Black dance is archived in partnership with BCA and discussed the importance of filling the gaps in Black dance and the importance of legacy.

Makeda Coaston recounted an excellent semi-autobiographical story, Mrs. Jones’ Daughter, reflecting on her life as captured through her personal archives. Makeda touched on the importance of heritage activism and the need to keep your own documentation and collecting, to reflect the history of the community.

Melanie Abrahams looked at where archives and performance cross, through representation. Melanie likened her own collecting as found material and the importance of creating a platform to highlight hidden histories.

The last speaker of the event was Dorothea Smartt. Dorothea described the use of archival research in her poems, performing some of her poetry written whilst poet in residence in Brixton and the inspiration she got from looking at archives and photographs in Lambeth Archives. Dorothea also performed some of her poignant poetry from ship shape, which were written using archives from Lancaster on the subject of the enslaved African buried in Lancashire.


L-R: Janet Browne, Dorothea Smartt, Deborah Baddoo, Melanie Abrahams and Makeda Coaston

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