Alan Crosby: The importance of preserving the present

By Jon Bauckham, 29 October 2015 - 12:25pm

The work of local archivists in the wake of the Shoreham Airshow tragedy reminds us how vital it is that we preserve the present, says Alan Crosby

Dr Alan Crosby is the editor of the Local Historian and a columnist for WDYTYA? MagazineThursday 29 October 2015
Alan Crosby
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Shoreham Airshow disaster Peter Macdiarmid Getty Images

The Shoreham Airshow crash resulted in the deaths of 11 people. Already, local archivists have been conserving tributes that were left nearby (Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

I’ve just been reading the latest issue of The Researcher, the newsletter of the West Sussex Archives Society and Friends of West Sussex Record Office.

It includes a most interesting, though very poignant, section describing what is being done to manage and preserve the Shoreham Community Archive, created to record the community’s response to the tragic Shoreham air crash that happened on Saturday 22 August.

The record office has started conserving the cards, tributes and messages that were left on the bridge over the River Adur near the scene of the disaster. It is making memory sticks available to anybody who has photographs or film footage to donate, and is collecting copies of all press coverage and other media material, as well as the original books of condolence.

Wendy Walker, the county archivist, reminds readers that this archive will complement the formal records that document the official aspects of the tragedy, recording for posterity the response of the local community and the general public.

She says that it will be available for all of those involved and people today, but will also allow future generations to see and understand what happened and understand the aftermath of the disaster. The work will continue until next Spring.

Such projects are sad but essential, not only because of the immediate need to prevent the tangible aspects of the spontaneous public reaction from being lost, but also for – among others - historians and researchers in the future. Other archive repositories have similar collections.

The materials collected do present major challenges, both in conservation and cataloguing, and storage, but it’s really good that this work is being done with such commendable promptness.
 

Alan Crosby lives in Lancashire and is editor of The Local Historian. He is an honorary research fellow at Lancashire and Liverpool universities

 

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