Archival Science

, 9:71 | Cite as

Whose memories, whose archives? Independent community archives, autonomy and the mainstream

  • Andrew FlinnEmail author
  • Mary Stevens
  • Elizabeth Shepherd
Original paper


Over the last three or four decades in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, an enormous variety of grassroots projects and initiatives have sprung up dedicated to recording and preserving the memories and histories of different communities, often under-voiced and under-represented within the mainstream heritage. The impetus for such projects arose from a range of motivations but in general all were responding to the desire to document, record and preserve the identity and history of their own locality and community. Some custodians and creators of these collections remain suspicious of the mainstream archival profession and are determined to preserve their independence and autonomous voice by retaining direct ownership and physical custodianship of their collections, at least for the foreseeable future. In this context, seeking to ensure that these valuable materials are preserved and possibly made accessible presents a number of challenges and opportunities, including an encouragement to re-examine some aspects of traditional professional practice. By examining independent community archive activity in the UK, and in particular in London, and its implications for community interaction and identity within the multicultural context of contemporary British culture and society, this article seeks to contribute a different but relevant perspective to international debates about contemporary professional archival theory and practice.


Independent community archives Black history Heritage Diversity Professional practice Custody 



This research was supported by a grant from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Flinn
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mary Stevens
    • 1
  • Elizabeth Shepherd
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Information Studies (DIS)University College LondonLondonUK

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