An evening at Lambeth Palace for the 2022 Janette Harley Award ceremony and the 2023 Maurice Bond Memorial Lecture

Last Wednesday I was delighted to travel to Lambeth Palace to attend the 2022 Janette Harley Award ceremony, and to hear the 2023 Maurice Bond Memorial Lecture.

My invitation to attend this British Records Association (BRA) event came about because the AHRC/Creative Informatics project Platform to Platform that I completed last year with colleagues and students from the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University was a runner-up for the 2022 Janette Harley Award. Accompanying me was Bethany Ray. Actress Bethany plays her great-great aunt Lorna Lloyd in the podcast series of The diary of the war, the main output of the Platform to Platform project.

The event was opened by Matti Watton, Chair of the BRA. He expressed his thanks to those involved in organising (and then reorganising) the award ceremony and lecture (on account of the rail strikes that took place on the original date of 16th March). He then reviewed the BRA‘s recent activities and outputs, drawing attention to the BRA’s priority to save records at risk. These include supporting projects with the National Archives, the recent publication by the Liverpool University Press of English archives: an historical survey, and planning the next BRA conference, which will take place on 5th October 2023.

BRA Council member Stephen Freeth then took the podium to introduce the presentation of the Janette Harley Award certificates by Lord Salisbury, Patron of the BRA. Stephen explained the background and purpose of the award, established following the death of Janette Harley in 2015. He welcomed Janette’s brother Ian to the gathering, thanked the 2022 award judges (who reviewed 28 entries, representing the most competitive field to date), acknowledged the support of the BRA officers in the process, and congratulated those who submitted the winning and highly commended entries.

The winners were Dr Janet Weston of the Centre for History in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Charlie Barnes of the Dead Earnest Theatre Their entry comprised two short films and a web site created as the public engagement strand of Janet’s Wellcome Trust funded project Measuring mental capacity.

Three entries were highly commended as runners-up. These were:

  1. The Diary of the war podcast series created for the Platform to Platform project, which I submitted on behalf of three of us: myself and fellow co-investigator Dr Iain McGregor, and Principal Investigator Dr Bruce Ryan.
  2. The article ‘Petitions to the Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes: a new methodological approach to the history of divorce 1857-1923‘ by Dr Jennifer Aston of Northumbria University.
  3. The online talk ‘Gaol files from the Court of Great Sessions in Wales held by the National Library of Wales‘ by Dr Angela Muir of the University of Leicester.

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Following the presentation of award certificates, Dr Andrew Flinn of University College London was invited to deliver the evening’s lecture in memory of Maurice Bond OBE (1916-1983), former BRA Chair, and Clerk of the Records at the House of Lords Record Office.

Andrew spoke about the work of the estimated 700-800 British and Irish community archivists in identifying, preserving, and making accessible community-generated archives and heritage material, their motivations, and the challenges that they face in their volunteer roles. Core to his presentation was ‘Dig where you stand’ (DWYS). This approach to archives was initially devised and promoted by Swede Sven Lindqvist, as ‘Gräv där du står in the late 1970s. Lindqvist’s ideas spawned a movement to encourage public participation in researching local history, especially as it pertains to labour history. DWYS is now part of the lexicon of those engaged in community-generated archives and heritage work, and an important consideration for ‘professional’ archivists and record keepers. At its conclusion, Andrew‘s talk prompted a number of interesting audience questions. These covered topics such as changing attitudes to copyright and data protection, the ways in which community archives are treated in the HE curriculum, and storage constraints experienced by volunteer groups. Then it was time for the drinks reception and an opportunity to take a look at the current exhibitions at our venue for the evening.

Bethany and I particularly enjoyed talking to the other delegates at this event, making tentative plans to follow up the idea of a drama based on Lorna Lloyd’s Diary of the war, and to visit the archive at Girton College, Cambridge to examine some of Lloyd’s other work, such costume designs for theatrical performances at the college in the 1930s. I was also pleased to catch up with my fellow REF2021 panel member Professor Elizabeth Shepherd.

The call for 2023 entries for the Janette Harley Award has just gone live with a deadline date of 31st July, and plans to present awards in early 2024 at the same time as the next Maurice Bond Memorial Lecture. On the basis of our experience, I would encourage those with projects that match the award criteria to submit an application.

Lord Salisbury, Hazel Hall, Bethany Ray, Lorna Lloyd

Lord Salisbury jokes with Hazel Hall and Bethany Ray after the award of the certificates, with BRA Council member Stephen Freeth looking on

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