A Reflective Archive

A Reflective Archive

Our history in the present, the archive as organisational development.


11 June 2014

Our history in the present, the archive as organisational development.

This second in our series of short films and records of our archival enquires tells the tale of an enthusiastic response from our partners and with this we take the opportunity to update on the project.

The question of where the Tavistock Institute’s archive project is now takes a dynamic turn as we enter the final stage of work in its temporary location. It will be rehoused in the Wellcome Library where it will join other significant collections from its heritage including the Isabel Menzies Lyth and John Bowlby’s papers and organisational archives of our sibling organisations.

It already feels like a long journey from the early phases of this endeavour. From the physical struggles to move 1000s of boxes from an industrial storage site to a project that puts a mirror to the contemporary organisation; from uncovering and re-discovering what the Institute’s practitioners used to do to placing its current workforce’s activities today in relation to the issues and challenges facing us as a society.

The archive offers an opportunity for us to consider the value of our practice in the here and now and to re-evaluate those contributions from our history which can simultaneously illuminate and overshadow our work. Our social scientists, complexity theorists, activists and artists are looking at the methodological innovations needed in policy evaluation; how we can really involve citizens in changing the NHS (and not replicate existing power structures); how we can measure the impact of programmes on disparate and changing communities.   The archive also opens up a field of possibility and reinvention for the material, with wider public access and new disciplinary interactions. Those of us working in the organisation now are gifted with the opportunity to consider our own work as imbued with Freud’s moment of registration, that is the consideration of what we do as richly infused with both memory (live and from the archive) and potential (from what we bring anew to the organisation).  We live with the relationship between our thoughts and acts and we give them value in the way that we inscribe them – in print, in verse, now through technology.1

In July the final appraisal of the material will begin and two student archivists will work with our consultant archivist Janet Foster along with members from our project team, apprentice Pauline Meyer and the project lead Juliet Scott. The purpose is to begin a reflective cataloguing process that informs an innovative and inspiring collection at the Wellcome Library. The full cataloguing will follow with the aim of launching the archive with a symposium of papers, talks and films towards the end of 2015.

In all this we are also turning our minds to how to fund these launch activities and looking further into the future an exhibition. We also continue to invite collaborations and partnerships around this project from our association and further afield. Please be in touch with us if you are interested in supporting the project or becoming involved in its activities.

For further information please email Juliet Scott.

[1] Derrida, J., 1995. Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. University of Chicago Press, p11.

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