Having just started working at MMU I had heard of the archive prior to my employment. I was keen to support the archive and went with the intention of adopting a slide connected to my discipline youth work or local community history in Tameside. However when I visited the archive I was struck by the range of material and also that its used in teaching art, not my specialist area. Physically visiting means that you are confronted with such a range of material and I realised that the purpose of an archive is not just to find what you want but to stimulate your imagination.
Using online searches may allow one to locate the exact image or detail, however in order to stimulate creativity it is necessary to be distracted also and this produces new ideas and challenges our perceptions. I therefore ended up choosing a slide which had a connection with my Indian heritage. It is a street scene instantly identifiable to anyone who visited India before the 1990s and reminded me of my grandfather’s house in Gujarat. Although I was born in Nairobi it still has much meaning to me, even though I am aware that this world is disappearing.
The visit to the archive reminded me that our visual culture is bound in our history and that often we connect unconsciously to ideas expressed in the images. Perhaps I was ‘over-literate’ in my choice but I knew immediately that this was the ‘one’ and provided my community connection in an image produced many years ago in India. Although I didn’t locate one from my adopted home town of Ashton-Under-Lyne perhaps the pull of the sub-continent is deeper than I had thought.