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Go to: Access Art in London- Alternative archives

Three people standing together as a group singing into microphones in a club setting
Three people standing together as a group singing into microphones in a club setting
| Photograph: The Subcultures Archives (Youth Club)
Written by
Ruby Cedar
Published date
31 October 2018

Ruby takes us back in time to archives across London.

An archive is a collection of material that the archivist has sought to protect and sees it as an important thing to keep and study. The archive can be a radical way of preserving events, communities, subcultures that are often left out of our history.

By documenting something and making it part of an archive it can speak to future audiences about specific experiences. The lived experience aspect of the archive is fundamental for marginalised groups such as people of colour and LGBTQ+ folk. Because although it’s improving, it is difficult to find representation for these groups within art, TV, film and the like, and it’s so important that we see ourselves to feel more connected to the world. Many artists like John Akomfrah and Arthur Jafa use the archive and therefore history to say something about the past, the present and the future.

The Feminist Library

three people looking through magazines
Photograph, courtesy of the Feminist Library.

The Feminist Library has been going since 1975 and operates in a space between Elephant and Castle and Waterloo station. It is completely run by volunteers and marries archiving with activism. It’s a space of learning and has a vast collection of feminist resources to get lost in. By following The Feminist Library on social media, you can keep up to date with their many events that bring people into the space, a lot of which are free. When I visited the space for example, there was a drumming workshop and a book club taking place. It’s mostly just open in the evenings and is a really good spot for taking the time to read quietly and a brilliant resource for learning about the feminist work that lay the foundations for contemporary feminist theory and art practice.

Follow the Feminist Library on Twitter

Keep up to date with upcoming events on the Feminist Library website

Feminist Library 

5 Westminster Bridge Road

The Subculture Archives

three people singing into microphones on a dancefloor
Photograph courtesy of The Subculture Archives

The Subculture Archives or Youth Club as they’re also known are an online archive of different subcultures, styles and times that have emerged out of youth culture through photography. They are a not-for-profit organisation that works to, “preserve, share, educate and celebrate youth culture history through a passionate network of photographers and creatives.” They do this through curated events, exhibitions, collaborations and consultancy which you can stay aware of through following them. Many artists use archival images, and images of subcultures/youth culture as a starting point for their artistic practice or projects. Through the website you can search for different groups and images.

Explore The Subcultures Archives online
Follow The Subcultures Archives (Youth Club) on Instagram

BFI Archive: The Rueben Library

an image of a library, with people sitting at computers researching
Photograph, courtesy of the BFI Reuben Library.

The BFI Reuben Library collection spans the history of cinema and is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Their priority is comprehensive coverage of moving image work in Britain, but the collection is international in scope. It’s a free and accessible research space, dedicated to the study and appreciation of film culture. As well as books, magazines, academic and trade journals and festival programmes, the library has a collection of over 4.1 million digitised newspaper cuttings and other press materials on films, TV programmes, actors and directors. Find the BFI Reuben Library at BFI Southbank, situated between the box office and the BFI’s amazing shop. It’s a real treat to visit and you can even combine it with a visit to their free Mediatheque of digital archive films.

Search the BFI’s collections online before your visit

The BFI Archive

Belvedere Rd

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