Starting points

I will start this section on 'Creating the Recovery Archive' by saying again that what I am trying to provide is a window into the context in which the mental health recovery archive has been created.  This comes from my perspective; from my position as the Archivist/PhD researcher.  A different contextual story could be told by Stuart, Dolly, Andrew and Peter; Professor Jerome Carson; my PhD supervisors; and the staff in the Archives and Manuscripts team at the Wellcome Library who have been most closely associated with the archive's development.  These stories would overlap with mine but the nuances would be different.  This is not 'the' context it is 'a' context; and I am very aware of this as I write. 

My initial tentative aspiration has been to focus my PhD research on using Participatory Action Research (PAR) to build archive collections that represent the voice of the individual with lived experience.  From my perspective, this is being done to try to counter-balance the predominance of collections within archives and manuscripts at the Wellcome Library that are framed by or voiced through the professional mental health expert. My aspiration is to be transformational in opening up archival spaces within this context, places in which the individdual with lived experience can be recorded, can become part of the historical record, can be part of moving the historical record forward.  

While I believe that Dolly, Andrew, Stuart, and Peter have been convinced of the need for this shift in the historical record; my understanding is that their initial motivations for involvement in the archive are connected to wanting to speak into societal stigma, discrimination and misunderstanding around mental health; and more specifically to influence the understandings and actions of mental health professionals who have responsibility for delivering services and care.

I think the starting point for the Wellcome Library has been to be supportive in enabling me to carry out this research - to fulfill their role as the partner within my Doctoral Award.  This has involved the input of resources and expertise; and without this input the archive would not be here.  However, the positioning of what we are doing is still something I am reflecting on.  I am not a member of staff; the project has not been initiated from within the team; it sits on the outside, on the boundary, at arms length.  It is an interesting experiment rather than an embedded initiative.  The extent to which it will have influence within the Archives & Manuscripts team to future ways of working remains unknown.

To what extent have these different starting points been successfully woven into a collective endeavour through the Participatory Action Research Process? To what extent have each of the three positionalities moved as a result of involvement in developing the archive? What influence does Professor Carson's aspirations or those of my PhD supervisors have in relation to this?  These are some of the questions I return to cyclically as the process unfolds.