Archives West Midlands protect region’s rich past

Preserving the region’s heritage and helping more people access theirfamily history online are amongst the aims of a new organisation launchedon 24 June.

Archives West Midlands launches to protect region’s rich past

AWM Logo2Preserving the region’s heritage and helping more people access their family history online are amongst the aims of a new organisation launched on 24 June. Archives West Midlands is an organisation of universities, local authorities, cathedrals and businesses that will work together to protect the region’s heritage and history.

Made up of over a dozen West Midlands archive services, the charitable trust will ensure that historical records from across the region are made accessible today and protected for future generations to enjoy. Providing increasing online access to rare collections, delivering projects in local communities, getting more volunteers involved along with driving up standards are amongst the organisation’s aims.

Janene Cox is Chair of Archives West Midlands and the Commissioner for Culture and Communities at Staffordshire County Council.  Janene said:

“Archives West Midlands is keen for people to see the power archives have to really engage with people in local communities. This initiative will bring together lots of archive services from right across the region.  We are very much looking forward to working together. We will be able to share best practice, and raise support and funding for projects that will really help to showcase archives in the region.”

Volunteers already play a vital role in many of the region’s archive Services.  Around 500 volunteers currently work in West Midlands’ archives and gave over 42,000 hours in 2014/15. The new organisation will look to attract more volunteers into the sector and increase the number of volunteering opportunities.

One volunteer said:

“It’s a big thrill being given responsibility for caring for 400 year old documents. Also I’m very grateful to be learning new skills and ways of working.”

Over 26,000 people also attended one of 900 learning events across West Midlands archive centres and over 100,000 people visited to pursue their own research. AWM aims to increase community engagement by delivering collaborative-funded projects.

Find out more at https://archiveswestmidlands.wordpress.com/  or follow on Twitter: @ArchivesWM or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Archives-West-Midlands .

Notes to Editors:

Current members of Archives West Midlands include:

Birmingham Archives, Dudley Archives & Local History, Herefordshire Archives, Media Archive for Central England, Shropshire Archives, Staffordshire Archives & Heritage, University of Birmingham Special Collections, Walsall Local History Centre, Warwickshire

Record Office, Wolverhampton City Archives, Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, Warwick Modern Records Centre, & associate members across the West Midlands

Some example projects being delivered across the region:

-       “Strong rooms”, is a project led by Archives West Midlands, is made up of partners from the archive services of Warwickshire County Council, Worcestershire County Council, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and Culture Coventry. This is a touring installation that explores archives through the eyes of the artist. This Summer 2016 the installation will open to the public for a limited run in Rugby and Coventry from 4th-18th July and Dudley and Worcester from 1st-15th August.  Find out more online: http://strongrooms.org.uk/

-       “Staffordshire Appeals” is a Heritage Lottery Funded project led by Staffordshire & Stoke on Trent Archive Service. The project is opening up access to rare archives that shed light on conscription during World War One. The records are of military tribunals held to hear cases of men who refused to be conscripted into the armed forces. The records should have been destroyed at the end of the war, but an oversight meant that Staffordshire's collection has survived. This treasure trove of information featuring over 20,000 individuals cases have revealed invaluable insight into the lives of Staffordshire men called up to service and the stresses and strains that were placed on work and family life. Find out more online: https://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/leisure/archives/Staffordshire-Appeals-Tribunal-project.aspx