The first thing to know about the archive is that it is very extensive; it testifies to the entire forty-year history of Helix Arts from 1983 onwards, and has survived a lot – site changes, huge organisational changes, and a lot of hands. It is being added to all the time.
Since September I have been in and out of the archive cupboard and facing down towering box piles of unknown contents certainly felt daunting at first.
Some of the first big tasks were organising and getting to know the archive include:
- Investigating the archive storage to get a sense of what is there
- Creating a preliminary catalogue of items
- Researching images and documents to reconstruct old projects
- Keeping an eye out for interesting or mysterious things to return to
There is still loads to look through and a lot that’s yet to be discovered.
I’ve found a huge variety of items – photographs, documents, letters, DVDs, cassettes, videos, books, reports, play scripts, paintings – and there’s already been some exciting stories starting to emerge!
I wanted to share some artefacts from two different, but related projects from Helix Arts’ history. One at the village of Quaking Houses in Durham and another at the village of Skinningrove in Cleveland. Both of these took place during the mid-90s to the early 2000s, focused on clearing water pollution from industrial activities through the collaborative and democratic efforts of residents, artists and scientists.