A hiccup and a vision for local history in Kent
Readers of The Journal of Kent History opening the March 2009 issue would have come across this image at the top of page 7. Startling in its directness and simplicity, it had the desired effect, with volunteers quickly coming forward to take on vacant Executive Committee posts.
Not for the first time in recent years, Kent History Federation had to announce the possibility of its imminent demise in order to ensure that it survived. The March 2009 issue of The Journal of Kent History has a story headed 'Is this the end?'. It begins: 'The Executive Committee of the Kent History Federation urgently needs more members, otherwise it will be unable to function in accordance with the constitution. This means that the KHF will fold — and thereby the Journal will no longer be published.' KHF's Chair, Dr Raraty, has been doubling up as Treasurer and Mrs Bloomfield, the present Secretary, has held the post for three years — a year longer than she originally intended after taking on the post. If these two key jobs had gone unfilled at the coming AGM, it would almost certainly have been the end. The appeal for volunteers included the observation that, with over 100 societies in Kent representing over 3,000 members, 'Surely there are people willing to help?' and so it turned out to be. The Federation has been saved again, with two members coming forward to take on the posts at the AGM in June. So, the good news is that KHF has suffered another hiccup and is already on the road to recovery, for it would, indeed, be a tragedy if local history was to lose one of its premier county local history periodicals.
Elsewhere in Kent the focus is also clearly on the future, with the county's Archives and Local History Service publishing a 16 page consultation brochure, Understanding Our Past, Changing Our Future, which outlines the benefits of having strong archival services. This is achieved by presenting readers with lots of examples of the kind of imaginative and exciting work being undertaken in Kent and other places, from local history days and community archives to courses and reminiscence work. The role that outreach work can play in improving lives and community ties is demonstrated in a report on the partnership between Maidstone Museum and Kent County Council Adult Education Service which led to a community history day on the Parkwood Estate which attracted children as well as adults of all ages.
There are plans for a new history centre in Maidstone, which will be at the centre of future service development and deciding what to do next is the 'challenge' which Kent Archives and Local History Service is trying to address. They need improved accommodation for staff and visitors, as well as their collections. They need to redefine the role of both staff and volunteers at a time when technological changes demand new skills and attitudes. Perhaps the best clue about the biggest challenge facing the county is in the sentence which reads: '(We need to) develop new collection policies and partnership agreements in the context of the current local government environment, working in informed partnerships with donors and depositors'. In other words, it's about future funding and creating a service which can best exploit the funding opportunities which will exist in the future. Finding 'partners' in the public, private and voluntary sectors with the ability to provide additional funds or support for services aimed at those sections of society 'most in need of the benefits (archives and local history services) can deliver' is a challenge which archivists and local studies staff everywhere face. Not many have set out their stall as eloquently as Kent, which is offering a vision of the future based on a recent past full of imagination and enterprise.
The consultation period ends on 30 April 2009. You can download a copy of Understanding Our Past, Changing Our Future at www.kent.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/archives-and-local-history (look under 'News from Archives service'). If you would like a printed copy of the consultation document and feedback card, telephone 01622 694267 or email email@example.com.
10 March 2009