6. Report from the Archive and Study Centre
Craig Fees writes:
Many thanks to volunteers Bob Lawton and Jane Springham, who continue to deepen the ability of the Archive and Study Centre to respond to queries and researchers, and to Trustee Linnet McMahon who has transcribed several David Wills manuscripts from the comfort of her home computer. And thanks to Belinda Boyes and Helen Moore, whose work on cataloguing the Mulberry Bush School records and the Child Care History Library respectively, also supports access to history, and the future learning and exploration of others.
On which: Cherished visits of exploration have come from Ingrebourne psychotherapeutic community/Richard Crocket researcher Tom Harrison, and from members of the Oxford therapeutic environments research team, Peter Agulnik, David Millard, Jonathan Leach and anthropologist Neil Armstrong, as well as a police team working on cases of historical institutional abuse. Our own fieldwork has taken us up to Yorkshire to see David Lane CBE about his books and records, to the Community of Communities Annual Forum in London, and to the Forest of Dean to see the strides being made at the Dean Heritage Centre - if you haven't visited this vibrant museum and inspiring centre of local history and heritage (and nature, and a great little cafe) you should.
With this in mind, I keep coming across past reports, papers and blogs and thinking, "Wow, that's well written," and "Boy, are you right!" - e.g., "Getting it Right, Getting it Wrong" (2013), "An Engaged Archive and Study Centre" (2003); “Insight into an archive specialising in records devoted to work with disturbed, delinquent and distressing people” (2005); "Archive Problems are Fun Problems" (2014. Subtitled: 'A paper presented to mark and celebrate 25 years of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre, crystallising the philosophy, experience and practice of an award-winning archive service'); 2012/13's "A quarter of a century: Thankyou". And more. Who has the time to read these, much less write them?
The contents of reports are more difficult to share, because they often hold sensitive and even confidential material; but they also hold within them many of the dreams and initiatives of the past 30 years, some realised and some unrealised. Resources are the perennial bugbear - resources and Events -: hence unrealised plans to expand the accommodation so that we could offer residential events for more people; or a new, purpose-built 100-seater lecture and events theatre, to amplify our teaching, training and event capacity. There is blue-sky thinking - about new sites for the Centre and what those might look like, and the original dream to build the Archive and Study Centre alongside a working therapeutic community, in order to realise the deep possibilities of bringing together practice, scholarship and the past experience embodied in what we call history.
All this rethinking the future through a wrestle with the past is strangely exhilarating; which means that it is more than a little disturbing, both in the good and the uncomfortable ways. Perhaps that in itself is part of the key to the meaning of a therapeutic community-informed Archive and Study Centre: containing the uncontainable joys and distresses which the archives and the living people and institutions engender, as part of the everyday task of the Archive; and trying to find ways to turn them to positive use for the charity and for others.
Meanwhile, among the tasks at the core of the work of every archive are the accessions - the additions to the collections, library, archive, oral history and museum:
Leaving aside audio, video, and photographic recordings created by the Archive and Study Centre itself, over the past month we have taken in another section of child care consultant David Lane's considerable library and set of papers; further contributions in psychoanalyst Judith Issroff's ongoing digital diaries; a copy of Steve Pearce and Rex Haigh's "The Theory and Practice of Democratic Therapeutic Community Treatment", signed and donated by the authors (thanks, guys); the ten volume hardcopy report of the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry; books from the professional library of psychiatrist David Millard; a beautiful colour photograph of the late Katy Pentith, given by her brother John; further Mulberry Bush School files; and a DVD of Joanna Grudzinska's documentary, "School Revolution 1918-1939", given by the author.