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Archives and Museums: the merging of Heritage roles?

Once upon a time the role of an archivist was very clear, to preserve records for future generations to access. However more recently as I stated in the blog who are we?

“There appear[s] to be a move away from the traditional archivist protector of records and preserver of history with a set of core skills which stood them apart from the museum curator. In their place stands the postmodern archivist who is all things to all men, a heritage professional, throwing open the doors of the archive, engaging with the community and letting go of their control.”

With access becoming more important archivists have to find different ways to show off their collections. In the past this may have been allowing museum professionals to take part of the collection and display them. However it appears that in some cases the archivist must take on the role of the curator and interpret information form their collections making them user friendly and telling a story to the public. I am sure Jenkinson is turning in his grave but as I have said before it is now time for us to move away from the traditional theory and look to a new way of thinking.

One way of providing access to different audiences is to create an exhibition on a particular theme. Currently Royal Voluntary Service’s Compassion in Crisis exhibition is running at Wiltshire Museum until 24th June. The exhibition has taken the theme of WVS/WRVS/Royal Voluntary Services role in times of crisis using objects, photographs, documents, uniform, posters, cartoons and text. The story starts in 1938 and finishes in the modern day. Even though the exhibition tells you a story there are still hallmarks of the traditional archivist as this exhibit doesn’t always interpret the archival information allowing you to come up with your own view on the title Compassion in Crisis. If you would like to know more about the theme you can listen to Coloured Thread on SoundCloud.

Thus while Royal Voluntary Services Archive & Heritage team have strayed into the world of Museums and the world of the post-modern archivist there is still an element of the traditional archivist in their which demonstrates the two roles of archivists and museum professional are still separate and have different elements to them which make them unique. However don’t take my word for it why not interprets this for yourself by visiting Compassion in Crisis.

The Exhibition at Wiltshire Museum will run till 24th June, we hope you will take the opportunity to get a rare glimpse at some of the objects, uniform and records preserved by the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection. If you have children we also have an exciting trail to follow round the exhibit and the chance to build a model emergency cooker.

If you would like to know more about the history of Royal Voluntary Service or WVS in Devizes during World War II there are lectures from Matthew McMurray and David Dawson on 6th and 20th June.


Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 00:00 Monday, 21 May 2018.

Labels: Museum, Archive , Compassion in crisis, Heritage