Within the Walls: Heritage Values and the Historic City

A Collaborative PhD project in the Historic City of York, UK

Victoria Hoyle

Project Strand: Archives

I am based part-time in the Department of History and am supervised by Dr. Sarah Rees-Jones, Director of the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP) and Richard Taylor at City of York Council.  My strand of the Within the Walls project focuses on archives and the values that are attached to them by archives professionals on the one hand and local communities on the other.  These values are often different and sometimes even in conflict, which limits how communities engage with archives and the contribution archival heritage makes to people’s lives.  I’m especially interested in the social and emotional potential of archives as sources of identity, distinctiveness and sense of place.

Archivists have an identity and sense of purpose that comes from national and international charters, standards and guidance about what archives are and why they are valuable.   I will be looking at these documents and talking to archivists about how they put them into practice.  At the same time I will be working closely with communities in York to understand their definitions of archival heritage and how and why it is valuable to them.

Gaining a better understanding of both professional and community values will allow archivists and local groups to make decisions together about how archives are managed and used.  I will be working with different groups in the city to consider this shift from an ‘expert’-led to a community created archives and develop new forms of hands-on participation with archival heritage.

The most exciting thing about the Within the Walls project for me is the way it brings together researchers from different heritage backgrounds and perspectives.  Edward, Katrina and I will all be looking at similar questions about ‘values’, community and participation but through our own specialisms.  This means we can work together on workshops and pilot projects and creatively share approaches and findings while still retaining our own individual focus.

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