Off the Record: Finding Group Life in the Aberlour Archive

The ARCH Project benefits from the expertise and guidance of advisory groups – one for the Scottish team and one for the German team.  These groups were established to help develop the proposal for the research and they continue to meet to review progress and guide the research teams as they navigate their way through this complex project.  Advisory group members come from diverse backgrounds and bring a wealth of knowledge and experiences that help to shape the project.  You can find out more about the members of the advisory group for the Scottish team here.  

At its last meeting, on 31st January 2022, the group reviewed work already undertaken on Phase One (the past) and discussed the next steps in this phase and the preparatory work being undertaken for Phase Two (the present).

As part of Phase One, Research Fellow Miriam Buncombe has been undertaking a review and analysis of the Aberlour Orphanage Magazine collection to see what it can tell us about everyday group life there between 1920 and 1970.  She has used three questions to focus the analysis: 

  1. How is group identity described?
  2. What was everyday experience like?
  3. How does the group make, keep, and use records?
Miriam showing some of the key themes from her analysis of the magazines.
Miriam showing some of the key themes from her analysis of the magazines

Miriam was able to share some content from the magazines and ask questions of the Advisory Group about what that content says about group life at the Aberlour Orphanage in this part of the 20th Century.  There are some interesting conflicts and discrepancies that come up in historical records like these, and it is important to keep in mind the ‘purpose’ of the magazines (to present a particular view of the organisation). Whose voices and opinions are included and excluded from records like these?

One of the aims of Phase One is to help inform how we can improve record-keeping in relation to everyday group life in residential childcare in the future.  Miriam asked the advisory group some thought-provoking questions at the end of her presentation, some of which you may be interested in thinking about yourself:

  • What makes up group life (whichever groups you are involved in such as family, friends, work, Uni): what would you want included in records?
  • Which parts of life are hard to capture?
  • How can we make group records that are relatable and trustworthy?
  • Which people or perspectives are excluded?
  • How can we make space for everyone in new group records?
  • How can we provide opportunities for everyone (who wants to be) to be involved in group record making?

Project Archivist, Jenny Duffy is currently exploring the possibility of a special exhibition of the Aberlour Orphanage Magazines in collaboration with care experienced students at the University of Stirling.  Keep your eye on our twitter feed and blog posts for more information on this.

Theme by the University of Stirling