'Co-production and collaboration in the archive', the 2020 Gerald Aylmer Conference

The 2020 Aylmer Conference -- held in March 2020, and co-organised with The National Archives and the Royal Historical Society -- explored the theme of 'Co-production and collaboration in the archive'. How do archivists and historians work best together?

Conference programme

What are the opportunities, and challenges, of working collaboratively with archivists, academics and community groups?

The 2020 Aylmer Conference (held on 11 March 2020) took as its theme ‘Co-production and collaboration in the archive’. Through the day we discussed, analysed, and learned from, a range of collaborative projects—as seen from the perspectives and experience of archivists, historians and community practitioners.

The day was structured around three elements relating to the 'Structure', 'Practice' and 'Value' of co-production and collaborative work. These three areas enabled us to consider the ‘life cycle’ of a range of co-produced projects: from origins and planning, to their operation, to lessons learned, and value added once a project is completed.

In addition to these themes, we posed (and asked speakers and attendees to address) three key questions for the day: ‘what is co-production’; ‘when is co-production most effective’, and ‘what implications does co-production have for the value and ethics of research?’

Conference recording

Listen to 10 speakers from the day's three main panels, discussing the 'Structure', 'Practice' and 'Value' of collaborative and co-productive work.

Panels and speakers

Session 1: Three questions for the day

This opening session poses three broad questions on the meaning, use, and ethics of co-production between archivists, historians, and collection creators. Speakers and audience members will be returning to these questions through the day.

  • Dr Alexandra Eveleigh, Collections Information Manager, Wellcome Collection (Chair)
  • Professor Catherine Clarke, Director of the Centre for the History of People, Place and Community, Institute of Historical Research, University of London
  • Dr Ayshah Johnston, Learning and Engagement Manager, Black Cultural Archives
  • Dr Victoria Hoyle, Research Associate, Department of History, University of York

Session 2: Structures – forms of co-production

This session considers how we approach, structure and begin the work of co-production.

  • Charlotte Tomlinson, PhD student, University of Leeds (Chair)
  • Sara Huws, Cardiff University and Co-Founder, East End Women’s Museum
  • Kristian Lafferty, Content Acquisition Manager, Ancestry

Session 3: Practices – what makes for effective co-production?

This session looks at the practice of co-production based on the experience of archivists and historians. It considers what does and doesn’t work, and how to get the most from collaborative research partnerships.

  • Victoria Iglikowski-Broad , Principal Records Specialist – Diverse Histories, The National Archives (Chair)
  • Dr Errol Francis, Artistic Director and CEO, Culture&
  • Rosa Schling, Co-director, ‘On the Record’
  • Dr Mike Esbester, Senior Lecturer in History, University of Portsmouth and Karen Baker, Librarian, National Railway Museum

Session 4: Outcomes – what is the value of co-production?

The final session of the day explores the outcomes of co-production from the perspectives of an archivist, a historian and a contributor who have worked on multiple projects.

  • Pip Willcox, Head of Research, The National Archives (Chair)
  • Professor Sarah Lloyd, Professor in History, University of Hertfordshire
  • Stefan Dickers, Library and Archives Manager, Bishopsgate Institute
  • Martin Spafford, school teacher and writer