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EDUCATING ABOUT ARCHIVES? – IT WORKS BOTH WAYS!

North West Film Archive’s Will McTaggart takes part in a Careers Networking Event and feels he may well have inspired some of the next generation about working with archive film.

Will shares his experience:

“It was not without trepidation that I took my seat representing the Film Archive sector at Chorlton High School’s Careers Networking Event in South Manchester on a warm July morning. A large group of Year 8 students had just dutifully filed into the room and were being given some ground rules on how to interact with the representatives of a variety of careers who were sat behind individual desks encircling them. A teacher took the trouble to stress that the questions “how much do you earn?” and “what car do you drive?” were specifically prohibited. I swallowed hard – these kids weren’t going to take any prisoners.

Will McTaggart

The event was set up to encourage a swift exchange of information: four minutes with three pupils to tell them about your job, what you love about it and how you got into it, plus some space to allow them to ask questions. Then a buzzer would go and a fresh trio would appear in front of you.

Conscious that many thirteen year olds may not fully grasp the value and even meaning of film archiving, I’d brought a selection of film swatches plus an iPad displaying the North West Film Archive’s groundbreaking app “Manchester Time Machine” – showcasing our historic footage of the city’s landmarks. These props proved useful to convey the basic functions of conservation and access, but could also be distracting as they often led to puzzled faces and further explanation taking us away from the purpose of the exercise.

And there was so much to tell them; the varied routes that my colleagues had taken to arrive at the Archive, the power of the moving image and the fascinating interpretation of the collection by its many users, the skills that are needed and will be needed to preserve moving images on different formats, the importance of the information professional’s work in the internet age…

I barely touched on any of these topics and with my back to the countdown clock projected on the wall behind me, I ended up leaving little time for questions – something I hope to improve upon if and when I’m invited back. It didn’t help matters that the time was gradually reduced down to three minutes per group without my knowledge – a dirty trick that made me convinced that the delivery of my pitch was just getting progressively less succinct!

The kids themselves were inquisitive, smart, polite and engaged – a credit to the school – and if they did work out how much I earned I was oblivious to their methods. All in all it was a very positive and, let’s hope, mutually-beneficial experience. For me, the challenge was conveying information concisely and using appropriate language (not easy when you have a tendency to use five words when one will do). As kids tend not to disguise their reactions the feedback was pretty instantaneous. Whilst I’m not expecting a deluge of teenagers to beat a path to the Archive’s door this summer, I hope a few have had their eyes opened to the nature and significance of our work.”
Will McTaggart, North West Film Archive

If you are involved in events, particularly with promoting the work of the archives to students, then we’d love to hear more of what you do and share your experience.

Please contact administrator@filmarchives.org.uk