Sunday, 19 July 2015

ARLIS Conference, Cardiff day one review

On Wednesday Cardiff was still being washed clean by last night’s rain, ready for the afternoon city visits, when delegates began registering at 9am for the 2015 ARLIS Conference. As in all conference organisation, some delays are inevitable – the sun appeared a bit later than expected for the visits, the coaches also appeared later than expected for the visits, and some documents via couriers eventually turned up – but nevertheless the conference and sunshine shone during the day!

Photo via @CardiffMetConf

The opening plenary, by the government head in Wales of ‘Museums, Archives and Libraries’ (MALD), Linda Tomos, was a sweeping view of the scene in Wales, related to the conference theme of the economy, arts and culture, and the links across them. Linda noted the low levels of prosperity across Wales, and hence the need to ‘punch our weight’ with arts and culture ventures, to vitalize other areas of life – social, educational, and economic. Lots of examples were given – and lots of advice: be innovative/entrepreneurial, take opportunities which arise, look for new audiences, link in with major sector themes (where there is usually money attached), get partners/collaborators, and find good ‘champions’ for your cause/sector to assist you.

The second plenary had three fascinating presentations related to – the world of advertising (in WW1), the world of the stage (theatre archives), and the world of Wales (NLW collections). Amanda-Jane Doran spoke about the ‘science of sales’ in WW1 era adverts, and how she appealed to publishers with the theme for her book on this topic. Jo Elsworth from Bristol Theatre Archive talked about their innovative outreach with a wide variety of groups, to make the collections relevant to educational, social, and commercial audiences. Lloyd Roderick from the National Library of Wales gave an amusing and broad perspective on the NLW art collections, and how digitisation is helping to link in with audiences well beyond the borders of Wales.

After lunch two presentations looked at practical examples of ‘art fueling the economy’ with a perspective on the V+A exhibition ‘Savage Beauty’ and the work behind that, by Louise Rytter and Sally Williams; Richard Morris, Dean at Cardiff Metropolitan University, looked at enterprise and business foundations for modern art students coming into the world of work. (Later that evening a Cardiff Met. Student, A.J. Stockwell gave a fascinating insight into her venture into the workplace via an assisted scheme within the university).

Delegates then scattered to the four corners of Cardiff, on art and architectural tours of Cardiff Bay, the City Centre, and various libraries and galleries – if walking tours can be described as ‘whirlwind’, these were examples!

The evening finished on a high note, with the launch of the latest in the series of the ARLIS ‘Art Researchers’ Guide’ books, with the volume on Cardiff and south Wales; again a credit to Rose Roberto and her editorial team for another fine volume (on sale via ARLIS, Cardiff University Library, and the National Museum of Wales, and all ‘good’ bookshops of course)! The after dinner quiz was a hoot, the most difficult question being ‘what happened to the pudding’ – nobody got that right!

Peter Keelan, Cardiff University Library,
Special Collections and Archives.


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