Friday, 31 March 2017

Basecamp without the mountain

In this week’s blog, Ruth reflects on her visit to the Skills for the Future trainees’ basecamp held over three days last week in Edinburgh (so no mountain but seven hills instead!).

Samar, our Skills for the Future (SFF) trainee, has been with LHSA since the autumn, and as part of her programme the trainees in the Scotland and England cohorts get together twice over the year to re-group, reflect and participate in some intensive training to set them up for their archive placements (hence the basecamp analogy that the SFF programme has adopted). The London basecamp was early on in their respective traineeships, and the Edinburgh basecamp at around the half-way point.

I was invited to attend part of the Edinburgh basecamp as one of Samar’s supervisors for her traineeship, and I spent an interesting and informative morning at the National Records of Scotland. I sat in on a session about action learning sets: using a particular methodology to utilise a group of people’s shared expertise and support to help each individual in that group achieve personal and/or professional goals or overcome challenges. It’s a technique that I hadn’t come across before and from the relatively short period of time we could experience it in the basecamp context, it looked like it could have real benefit to the trainees for their next steps after their placements.

I really enjoyed the second part of the morning’s session – two previous trainees gave presentations on their placements and what they had gone on to do afterwards, and then a panel question and answer session where the current trainees could find out more. It was inspiring to see what these past trainees had gained from the programme and how it had contributed to their subsequent career paths. And that very different cultural heritage paths can be followed from this shared traineeship experience (a post in a university archive and a PhD on sound archives). I also got some great hints and tips to bring back to LHSA, primarily to help Samar get the most out of the second half of her traineeship but also to contribute to our wider LHSA work (primarily in collecting oral histories and in developing activities that use our collections in new ways).

I didn’t take any photos at the basecamp, but since it was all about Skills for the Future I wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate Samar’s award-winning zine-making workshop pictured below!

Samar is in the bottom left of the image, and I really like that this photo captures a group of women working together with shared purpose in front of one of the paintings in the University’s Fine Art Collection which also shows women working together (but this time beating newly-woven tweed).

Samar ran two of these workshops last month as part of the University’s Festival of Creative Learning and she won the ‘most impact’ award for them. Samar and her workshop participants looked at the under-representation of women in archives and looked to redress the balance through feminist zine making. Samar will be digitising the zines to make them available online soon so watch this space, and you can find out more about zine making in one of Samar’s earlier blogs at

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