The artist as changemaker

Challenge

Manchester Histories is a not-for-profit organisation focused on community collaboration to reveal, share and celebrate Greater Manchester’s diverse histories and heritage. In 2019 Manchester Histories worked in partnership with Great Place, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Greater Manchester Libraries and Archives to deliver the ‘Artivist Greater Manchester’ pilot project, which saw archivists and artists collaborate on creative ways to bring heritage collections and archives associated with the Peterloo massacre ‘to life’ to mark the 200th anniversary of this historic event. 

As a result of lessons learnt from this major 2019 event, this project aimed to create a model of best practice to facilitate and inspire co-production projects between heritage organisations, artists and the public. 

Solution

The Research Team developed a mixed methods approach that included research on co-creative processes in support of art practice, heritage collections and archives and primary research on the challenges faced by artists, archivists and the public in the process of creating community-based projects. This was achieved through focus groups, one-to-one interviews and an online survey.

The project created a public resource in the form of a toolkit able to a) Facilitate discussion around challenges and solutions that partners might experience in the collaborative process. b) Provide guides to working with archives for artists and community groups by incorporating experiences and best practice from similar co-production projects. c) Assist archivists and curators, who are largely the project initiators and managers of such projects, with communication between artists, archivists and the public, and ensure projects maximise the potential of historic collections.

Impact

This research offered clear recommendations to support cultural organisations in collaborating with artists and the general public, as a way to maximise the potential of their historic collections.

This was the first toolkit of its kind, offering invaluable support to archivists, artists, publics and institutions who wish to undertake co-production activities for the inclusion of marginalised communities.

Research team 
  • Anna Balazs, PhD Researcher in Social Anthropology (University of Manchester, School of Social Sciences)
  • Jessica Mancuso, PhD Researcher in Sociology (University of Manchester, School of Social Sciences)
  • Hanna Steyne, PhD Researcher in Archaeology (University of Manchester, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures)
  • Euan Winton, PhD Researcher in Design Dementia (Lancaster University, Lancaster Institute of Contemporary Arts)
See more on this project

Collaboration Labs Case Study – University of Manchester