I had been invited to be a part of a panel on the Saturday morning of the conference entitled, `Beyond Resettlement: Overcoming Hurdles to Document the Experiences and Contributions of Refugees,’ which fitted nicely within he Beyond Borders conference theme. The panel was a collaboration with Anna Marie Mallett (Texas Tech University Archives) `Saving the Voices of Au Lac’; Christina Woo (University of California, Irvine), `Archive to the People: Taking Materials from the Southeast Asian Archive to the Community’; and Thúy Võ Dăng (University of California, Irvine), `Resisting Historical Erasure: Oral History and Out-reach in the Vietnamese American Community.’ The online session recording is still available to download from the SAA12 website (and we have also backed up a copy on the Living Refugee Archive). My paper was entitled, `Rescuing Refugee Archives: Preserving the History of the Refugee Experience, a UK Perspective.’ The paper focused on my experiences of working with the Refugee Council Archive at UEL and many of the ideas outlined in the talk have gone on to inform our archival work and our engagement and outreach activities. Issues discussed in the paper included the importance of refugee archives in helping to document under-represented communities and voices; the importance and history of the Refugee Council and its Archive – especially important at the moment as 2021 marks the seventieth anniversary of the both the Refugee Council and the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees; barriers to the use, re-use and engagement with the Archive (issues we are again exploring in light of the COVID-19 pandemic); and issues of digital access and sustainability combined with issues of collaboration and community-archive approaches; and the role of the Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives in helping to safeguard and preserve third-sector archival resources.
In hindsight, the SAA2012 conference proved to be a turning point for me both in terms of my own personal development and self-confidence; but also for the Archive as well enabling a new direction focusing on wider collaboration and participatory methodologies we would undertake to enable the Archive to be more representative and empowerment to the communities and helping to focus on helping to document and underrepresented voices and narratives of displacement. Issues that continue to dominate our work to this day. For reference, my conference paper slides in PDF format can be downloaded here.
See My Virtual Exhibition of San Diego here: www.paulvdudman.org.uk/exhibitions/san-diego-exhibition/