Archive Making: Material Stories of Migration

Dr Veronica Barnsley, University Teacher in the School of English, tells us about her project which has received funding from the Engaged Curriculum initiative.

The project is a creative exploration of narratives of migration that begins with objects (real or imagined) that have a particular resonance for participants and therefore form part of a mobile ‘archive’ around which stories can be made. The aim is to explore whether it is possible and valuable to create archives that explore, connect and preserve the experiences of asylum seekers and refugees in Sheffield.

Participants who have experienced forced migration will  join students in workshops led by artists affiliated with the Arts on The Run network. We hope that creative mediums will include painting, photography and poetry. The project will culminate in a final event on 25th June at which the artworks or written pieces can be shared and students and participants can reflect upon the project as a way of representing stories of forced migration to Sheffield as a City of Sanctuary. The project will have a digital home on the Storying Sheffield website.

Currently I am in the process of discussing the project with students and arranging a training session around cultural awareness, about which one lesson has already been learnt: the working title of the project was ‘Archive Making: Material Stories in Refugee Communities’ but to account for sensitivity around the term ‘refugee’ and avoid giving the impression that there is one identifiable community of asylum seekers and refugees in Sheffield it has been altered to ‘Archive Making: Material Stories of Migration’.

I have been discussing the practicalities of the workshops and the final exhibition with ASSIST and Conversation Club and have visited Conversation Club to talk to attendees about the kind of creative activities that they would find appealing. There is already a writing group running whose members may be interested in our project and there was enthusiasm for having work displayed both physically and digitally. It’s been wonderful to find people so willing to hear about the project and offer me their thoughts and much-needed advice. I look forward to being able to publicise the project in the next few weeks, we just need to get workshop dates in the diary and artists on board.

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