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The group meets for the first time on Orientation Day.

The group meets for the first time on Orientation Day.

Our Future Histories project begins at an exciting time in the history of the Ancoats Dispensary Trust as the group has recently secured a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The trust regularly holds public events including, most recently, a workshop to create a banner celebrating the vibrancy of the Ancoats community. I am very happy to have been paired with Ancoats Dispensary Trust — an active and passionate group which has such strong foundations.

At our first session on September 6th, we brainstormed many ideas for the project, including upskilling volunteers to perform archival research and collecting stories from community members. One of the primary challenges of the project is that Ancoats Dispensary does not currently have a physical space of its own. How will our project create a lasting legacy if we do not have a permanent location where displays can be erected and community members gather?   One solution might be to create virtual spaces to serve these functions, while another might be to use public spaces which are open for all to use (the Manchester Archives, for example). In between our workshops, group members have sought inspiration in established digital projects.

Members of the group have also been researching the history of Ancoats Dispensary, sharing oral histories, newspaper articles, parliamentary reports, and medical journals. In addition, Tessa Chynoweth has compiled a list of sources accessible at the Manchester Archives. What has really struck me during the course of this research is how Ancoats Dispensary offers a unique lens to explore a wide range of issues which were not only discussed by nineteenth-century Mancunians, but have relevance today: These issues include immigration, juvenile delinquency, urban poverty, and public health. One of the desires of the Ancoats Dispensary Trust is to foster a connection to the dispensary amongst all members of the Ancoats community, no matter their backgrounds. By drawing out the connections between past and present, we might encourage community members to see that the dispensary has relevance to their own lives and that the history of Ancoats Dispensary is also “their” history.

At this early point in the project, our group has more questions than answers. But this initial stage is tremendously exciting, our imaginations wide open to the possibilities before us. I look forward to seeing how some of our ideas will translate into concrete plans over the coming weeks.

September 28th, 2014 - 19:25pm

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