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Strong Rooms project: Inspiring new artistic developments through archives

  • 13th June 2016

Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service is taking part in a very exciting regional project called Strong Rooms, linking archives with arts. Inspired by the name of the rooms in which archives are stored, Strong Rooms is a collaboration in which artists, youth groups and archivists work together to produce art which will be taken on tour to Rugby, Coventry, Dudley and Worcester. The name is also appropriate as a shipping container will be used as part of the final installation.

The Strong Rooms project is led by Archives West Midlands and is made up of partners from the archive services of Warwickshire County Council, Worcestershire County Council, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and Culture Coventry together with a team of artists, led by artist Mohammed Ali.

Exploring their local area through maps in the archives

Strong Rooms will inspire new artistic directions rooted in identity, sense of place and local citizenship and explore the following question. ‘Can collaboration with archives inspire new developments in the arts?’

Our aims are to:

  • engage new audiences (especially young people)
  • advocate for archive services, which are relatively unknown and used directly by a small number of people,
  • leave a strong and lasting impression in our communities of what archives are, how they are used and why they are relevant
  • create a legacy
  • The Strong Room installation will be used after the project for outreach and festival use.

    Exploring the local area and what the archives can tell us about what they see

    We have already started work in Worcester with young people, using archives with different groups as a basis to inspire them, and then guided by professional artists to help them produce art in response and learn new skills. A film will also explain what archives are and it will focus on engaging young people.

    Many people don’t know what archives are and how they are relevant, and even if they do know they often can be seen as something for just certain people. We aim to challenge that and show that they are full of amazing stories.

    Inspired by the different letter styles on documents the children had a go at creating their own

    The project is funded by Arts Council England, enabling artists to work with the young people. The insights from the artists, many of whom have never used archives, have been great in providing outside voices to bring a new perspective and see fresh connections and stories.

    The art will be used in an installation around the regions, using a shipping container. It will be in Worcester from 8th to 15th August and we will be sharing details closer to the event. You can find out more about the project at www.strongrooms.org.uk

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