IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


IOE project examines what charity archives can teach us about responding to today’s challenges

19 June 2020

Work by UCL Institute of Education (IOE) academic Dr Georgina Brewis is being featured as part of the British Academy’s virtual Summer Showcase.

Archive. Image by Chris Stermitz from Pixabay.

The free online festival, which takes place from 19-20 June, aims to provide intellectual nourishment to the ‘confined but still curious’, drawing on research in the humanities and social sciences.

Dr Brewis’s project looks at what we can learn from the histories of charities in Britain.

Through looking at charities’ archives, Dr Brewis argues that their records hold many clues to how charities addressed major challenges in the past, from domestic crises to humanitarian disasters. By examining these they can help influence how voluntary organisations respond to challenges now and in the future.

The research highlights the work of the British Academy Research Project (ARP) ‘Archiving the Mixed Economy of Welfare’, a collaborative, interdisciplinary project that promotes the preservation and use of the archives and records of charities, voluntary and community organisations.

The Summer Showcase brings together new research from history, music and literature to psychology and behavioural studies. Other activities from the event include:

  • Baking a pie fit for the royal court of George III;
  • Experiencing the fantastical cults of medieval saints;
  • Tracing the history of the keyboard in a tour of unusual vintage typewriters;
  • Reading experimental poetry written by women in inner-city Johannesburg;
  • Brewing authentic Arabian coffee while listening to stories of refugee home making.

Dr Brewis said: “I’m delighted that this project features as part of the British Academy’s Summer Showcase, at a time when the need to understand the voluntary and community sector’s contribution to British society is never more needed. Charities and community groups are on the front line of the response to the COVID-19 crisis, as is evident in the formation of a nation-wide network of mutual aid groups and the largest ever peacetime mobilisation of volunteers.  But the sector is facing unprecedented challenges as organisations are deprived of their usual income streams whilst being asked to offer more services. This places their already vulnerable records and archives at greater risk.

“The British Academy has committed to at least ten years of support for this Academy Research Project (ARP) ‘Archiving the Mixed Economy of Welfare’ which works collaboratively to promote the preservation and use of the archives and records of charities and voluntary organisations.  The showcase also marks the launch of the project’s new website with a range of case studies and resources."

Dr Brewis will also be talking about ‘Charity Archives in a Time of Crisis’ on Friday 26 June in an event run by The Social History Society.



Image by Chris Stermitz from Pixabay