Academic World Pledges Support For BCA

23 November 2018

Rt Hon Jeremy Wright

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

100 Parliament St.

London SW1A 2BQ

Dear Secretary of State,

As Heads of History Departments at UK universities, we are writing out of concern at the possible closure of a nationally-important scholarly institution.

The Black Cultural Archives (BCA) in Brixton has been an important part of the institutional landscape for historical study in Britain for decades, a position strengthened with the opening of its new building in 2014. It is the only national heritage centre in the country to collect, preserve and celebrate the history of the African and Caribbean community in Britain. It is uniquely trusted as a depositary for manuscripts and artefacts documenting the history of people of African origin in Britain. As a result it has a large archival collection documenting the history of individuals and organisations, of great and increasing value to historians interested in all aspects of the history of Britain. The standards of archival preservation are the very highest, equivalent to that used by the National Archives and British Library.

In addition to its role as an archive the Black Cultural Archives performs a vital educational role furthering the study of the role of the diverse people of African and Caribbean descent in Britain. It has strong partnerships with British universities and museums. The BCA has jointly curated exhibitions with the Victoria and Albert Museum. It collaborates on research projects with the Universities of Leeds and Surrey and University College London, jointly teaches a history module with King’s College London, and is a vital resource for students from dozens of universities. It attracts researchers from academic institutions from across the world, with connections to the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the US Smithsonian Institution amongst others.

The BCA furthers scholarship on the history of Black Britain to the very highest academic standards, while nurturing a constant dialogue with Britain’s African and Caribbean communities. In that respect, it is the very model of what history should be about now: always insistent on academic rigour, but also looking outwards, engaged with a broader public and in doing so not afraid to ask difficult questions.

As you know, the BCA has been very successful at receiving short-term and capital funding, allowing it to open its current building and grow significantly over the last few years. However, a nationally significant institution such as the BCA needs long term funding, on the same kind of basis as other national museums and archives such as the National Archives, British Library or indeed many county or regional museums and art organisations which receive funding through the DCMS. With museums and libraries now being able to join the Arts Council’s National Portfolio, one possibility is to include BCA in the funding portfolio as a long-term means of supporting it.

We are writing to urge you to find a long-term means for funding the Black Cultural Archives. We’d appreciate hearing about your thoughts on BCA’s funding situation as soon as possible, so we can reassure colleagues anxious about the future of this vital partner for historical scholarship in the UK.

Yours faithfully,

Signed by the following Heads of History Departments:

Professor Abigail Woods, Head, Department of History, King’s College London

Professor Jan Rueger, Head, Department of History, Birkbeck, University London

Professor Simon J. Potter Head of History University of Bristol

Professor Matt Houlbrook, Head, Department of History University of Birmingham

Professor Tim Harper, Chair, Faculty of History, University of Cambridge

Professor Meggen Gondek Head, Department of History & Archaeology University of Chester

Professor James Livesey,

Dean of Humanities and Professor of Global History, University of Dundee

Professor Catherine Cubitt Head, School of History University of East Anglia

Dr Mark R Frost, Head, Department of History, University of Essex

Dr Timothy Cooper, Head of Humanities Penryn Campus, University of Exeter

Dr John Price, Head, Department of History, Goldsmiths, University of London

Professor George Lewis, Head of School, History, Politics & International Relations, University of Leicester,

Professor Elaine Chalus, Head, Department of History, University of Liverpool

Dr David Clampin, Liverpool John Moores University

Professor Matthew Jones, Head, Department of International History, London School of Economics and Political Science

Dr Drew Gray Haed, Department of History University of Northampton

Professor Sarah Badcock Head, Department of History, University of Nottingham.

Dr Andrew Gritt,

Head of History, Languages and Global Cultures Nottingham Trent University

Professor John Watts, Chair, Faculty of History, University of Oxford

Prof. Joanne Begiato, Head of the School of History, Philosophy & Culture Oxford Brookes University

Dr Elaine Murphy, Associate Head of School for History, University of Plymouth

Professor Adrian Bingham, Head, Department of History, University of Sheffield Professor Douglas Hamilton
 Head of History, Department of Humanities
 Sheffield Hallam University

Professor Simon MacLean, Head, School of History, St. Andrew’s University

Professor Eleanor Robson, Head, Department of History University College London

Professor Daniel Branch Head of Department of History University of Warwick

Professor Lawrence Black, Head, Department of History, University of York

Also signed by the following senior university leaders:

Dr Johanna Malt, Executive Dean,

Faculty of Arts and Humanities, King’s College London

Professor Nicola Phillips, Vice Principal (Education), King’s College London

Professor Evelyn Welch, Provost (Arts and Sciences), King’s College London

Professor David Price, Vice-Provost, Research, University College London

Professor Sasha Roseneil, Executive Dean, Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences, University College London

Professor Anthony Smith, Vice-Provost, Education, University College London

Dr Laura Sandy Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of International Slavery (CSIS) University of Liverpool

Dr Sam Edwards Director, Manchester Centre for Public History and Heritage Manchester Metropolitan University

Dr Cathy Smith Deputy Dean, Faculty of Education and Humanities University of Northampton

Black Cultural Archives