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‘We have to educate ourselves on the past in order to move on into the future’—Rachel Wooley, The Keep, 29 June 2017

My name is Rachel Wooley, and I recently completed a placement at The Keep

I study History of Art and Design at the University of Brighton, and my placement was part of a module my course offers me in which the students can undertake a placement at any of a number of museums and archives across East Sussex. I was particularly pleased that I was granted the placement at The Keep because I am passionate about the way that The Keep stores, protects, and disseminates its material, and the mission of the archive.

I consider myself to be a community-conscious individual, and try to maintain an outward-looking, open-minded approach to all aspects of society. I value projects that attempt to help marginalised groups, and make a difference in the local community. The Keep, in these respects, is absolutely perfect. There are several projects and processes in which the staff engage consistently to help the archive be accessible to everyone, with no exceptions. Often I found staff going to prisons and community groups in order to continue their outreach programmes, and I also found myself engaging in school sessions. There are many facilities and practices throughout The Keep that maintain this incredibly inclusive, accessible approach that is so valuable to those who use the facilities.

Historical objects and documents are so vital to our success as an on-going, progressive community, because we have to educate ourselves on the past in order to move on into the future. They can inspire a passion for history through the reality of touching and seeing real-life artefacts, and can bring new dimensions not only to our research, but also to our imaginations. I was lucky enough to meet two authors (Bethan Roberts and Allie Rogers), who had undertaken research in order to set their novels in a past – set in Brighton – rooted in fact. For me, this cemented the idea that research, especially in archives like The Keep, can be absolutely vital to whatever work it is that you’re producing. The artist in me was continually inspired by the drawings in many of the diaries for Mass Observation, by the beautiful and hilarious descriptions of daily events in the 12th of May day diaries, by the posters and leaflets created for LGBT activism in Brighton’s history, and by the work that others had created with direct inspiration from material at The Keep.

As a student, I often find myself writing essays and seminar papers that need to be centred on original sources, and The Keep offers a plethora of these. There is such an unbelievable amount of material kept at The Keep that it’s extremely difficult to find a topic or word that can’t be found within their massive collection. If you are conducting research on any subject, it is more than likely that you will find something within the archive that will help you. With a dissertation looming on the horizon, I am thankful to know that The Keep has my back; I can use the facilities for free in order to further my research and produce a piece of work that is educated by my contact with original material.

If you are someone who is considering using The Keep, I have some advice for you: go. Go and conduct some research, even if it doesn’t amount to anything. Even if it just involves you looking at some artefacts you find interesting, but don’t intend to do anything with, it is my personal opinion that you should do it anyway. If you want to go but you have no idea what to look at, I would recommend looking at the Mass Observation directive on Eurovision. And if you are someone who works at The Keep, or actively uses the facilities, “Keep” up the good work.’

IMAGE CREDIT: Rachel Wooley, The Keep

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About The Keep
The Keep is a world-class centre for archives that opens up access to all the collections of the East Sussex Record Office (ESRO), the Royal Pavilion & Museums Local History Collections and the internationally significant University of Sussex Special Collections. It is also a centre of excellence for conservation and preservation and represents the new generation of archive buildings in the UK.

The Keep,
Woollards Way,
01273 482349