When we were first told a few weeks ago that we would be conducting historical research at an archive in East London for our Magna Carta 2.0 project, my initial impression was, 'Uh how boring is that!'
I always imagined an archive to be full of – archaic items! Old fashioned books in an old fashioned building. Not the most appealing location for your average tech hungry teenager.
But as I entered The Bishopsgate Institute with the group, and walked along the corridor through to the library itself, my superstitions began to fade away.
I was obviously looking forward to the task at hand and something about the inspiring quotes on the walls about race somehow put my job for the Magna Carta 2.0 project into perspective.
Once inside, we were given a tour by our guide and archive expert Stef who enthusiastically showed us around the books, journals and items associated with the history of London. One piece that stood out was a picture taken in 1938 of King George VI being saluted by a right wing organisation with the Nazi salute! It was surprising that such an occurrence could take place, especially around the Head of State.
The actual task at hand was to use the resources archived to delve deeper into a particular issue, such as protest and education in London, both of which I chose to study about. We were given two hours per topic to look at, study and analyse the items provided in order to provide us with a framework for potential clauses in the Magna Carta 2.0.
Right away, I was amazed at the various type of items in the collection - it's not all books! A pair of pyjamas, a saucer & teacup AND a swimsuit were amongst the items we saw! These items belonged to one Trenton Oldfield – Aussie campaigner, author and boat race 2012 interrupter. He was sentenced to six months in jail and wrote a book documenting his experience as a well known inmate.
The fact that such obscure items were collected was quite mesmerising and added some vitality it the whole research experience.
The Bishopsgate Institute’s focus on London as the centre of protest and change, especially over the last century, provided us with many ideas about what to include in Magna Carta 2.0. The rights and freedoms of those who were marginalised in the past (and to an extent still in the present day) must be the number one priority of all citizens.
The archive was able to shine a light on those groups such as the LGBT community and the back community who have struggled time and time again to gain true equality.
I know I speak for the entire group in saying that the exclusive access granted to us is set to have such a profound effect on the outcome of our project.