The public and the relational: The collaborative practices of the Inclusive Archive of Learning Disability History

Tilley, Elizabeth; Ledger, Susan; Graham, Helen; Ingham, Nigel; Minnion, Andy; Green, Victoria; Headon, Kassie and Richards, Rowena (2020). The public and the relational: The collaborative practices of the Inclusive Archive of Learning Disability History. In: Popple, Simon; Prescott, Andrew and Mutibwa, Daniel eds. Communities, Archives and New Collaborative Practices. Connected Communities. Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 219–234.



This book’s title – Communities, archives and new collaborative practices – raises the question of who or what is collaborating. The reading of the title most immediately available might be that the collaboration is between communities and those that work in archives. Yet we want to focus on another type of collaboration here, one which is equally crucial in developing new collaborative practices for archives. In a recent action research project to develop an Inclusive Archive of Learning Disability History it became clear that in seeking to produce an archive we needed to conceive of collaboration not only in terms of people but also in terms of a collaboration between different political theories. In developing the Inclusive Archive we recognised we needed to seek a collaborative relationship between the political ideas derived from public political logics – public service, public sphere, ‘on behalf of the public’ and for posterity – and those that derive from relational and personal-centred politics. While there was constant debate in the team, with some of us favouring one set of political logic and some the other, we realized that for an archive to be an archive, and for it to be an inclusive one, we needed to develop an approach to archival practice which held both the public and the relational political traditions in dialogue. Both political traditions have a history of being very effectively expressed in the learning disability self-advocacy movement as speaking up and being heard and of arguing for services to start with the individual by being more ‘person-centered’ (Brownlee et al. 2017). The task of our archive was to explore fruitful combinations and collaborations between the two political traditions.

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