Public Speaking is never easy however many times you do it. I’m much more used to giving talks at U3A events raising awareness about Shared Learning Projects and U3A research in general. Earlier this year I was asked to speak at a meeting of the Archives and Records Association in London. The title of the meeting was “Archives and Learning for All”.
The first talk was given by the Special Collections Coordinator from University College, London, whose aim was to create meaningful experiences for non-academic audiences. Interestingly another speaker from London Metropolitan Archives said that Grandparents were the main source of learning in families. We heard about the Marks and Spencer Archive at Leeds University who are working with home educated children and the most entertaining archivist for Girlguiding who have an Archives and Resources Centre near Coltishall village close to Norwich. Members of U3A who have been Girl Guides or Brownies, would, I’m sure, enjoy a visit to the Centre. The Courtyard Centre in Hereford had a very good Adult Participation Manager who was working with care home residents and the Archivist from Islington Local History Centre talked about a cross-generational project called “The Lost Trades of Islington”.
When it came to my turn, I described the U3A movement and told the audience about some of the Shared Learning Projects undertaken by members since they started in 2002. I told them that we know that what our members do when working on these projects is research, but we try not to use that word as we have found it to be rather daunting for someone who has never been involved in research before. But after all what is research but the collection of information to advance knowledge? We know that there are U3A members who do have an academic background, but most do not however once they get started and are guided to the sources, confidence is soon gained and members experience the rewards of finding new information.
The most important quality of a researcher is curiosity and I said that our members certainly have that. Many members have previously had out of work interests and hobbies that they can now spend more time on and take things further in retirement. These are the sort of people who make ideal research partners.
Some time after giving this talk and networking with some very interesting people, I was contacted by the Corporate Archivist for Transport for London, who outlined a proposal for a partnership with them. TfL would like us to look at their Minute Books going back to the early days of transport operators getting together in 1858. These Minute Books have never been transcribed and we would be looking for human interest stories and events of national importance. More information will be available later this year and I will advertise the project as widely as possible as soon as we have made all the arrangements. Another attendee was the Archivist for the Special Collections at Kingston University who has also proposed a new SLP looking at the archive of a Talent Scout called Cary Ellison, who made trips to theatres all over the UK in the 1960s to 1980s and “discovered” some famous names.
So, my talk paid off and more people now know what U3A is all about and what our members can achieve. I’m so pleased that two new projects have come forward from Archivists who attended the meeting and hope to be invited to speak at more events like this in the future
There is a SLP Coordinator or a Research Ambassador in every U3A region you can contact for further information about all forms of research in U3A. If you look at the U3A National website and go to the heading Resources and then scroll down to Research Network, you will be able to find out more.
You can learn more about a new National Archive planned for the U3A movement and an Archive workshop being offered at the National Conference this year sign up to the U3A national Newsletter at https://www.u3a.org.uk/newsletter