Hidden Lives Revealed. A virtual archive - children in care 1881-1981 * Image of handwritten text

The Children's Society and Young Cultural Creators

The Young Cultural Creators (YCC) programme was set up and sponsored by Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA) to encourage sustained working relationships between archives, libraries, museums, galleries, schools, and cultural practitioners using historical documents, artefacts, and works of art to stimulate young people's creativity.

The Children's Society's archive has been working on Young Cultural Creators projects since 2005 with great success. In partnership with teenage fiction author Julia Green (author of Baby Blue, Blue Moon and Hunter's Heart), and various local authority libraries and schools, we have used the Archive's historical children's case files and photographs to encourage young people to explore relevant literature and inspire them to produce poems, stories, artworks and film.

Participating pupils have come from a wide range of backgrounds and abilities, most of whom had never visited an Archive or even knew such a thing existed. These projects heighten young people's awareness of archives, and offer a unique window through which to view ordinary people's lives. We hope these positive experiences will encourage young people to make full use of archives, and explore their rich cultural heritage, now and in the future.

At each school (The City of London Academy (Southwark) and the The Charter School) the project consisted of a series of sessions:

A visit to a local library
Young people of mixed ages and abilities from a local school visit a Council library to learn more about library services, and research relevant literature.

The Inspiration Day
Young people, teachers, librarians, and author Julia Green, visit the Archive.

As the name suggests, the Inspiration Day was designed to inspire creativity. A presentation introduced the work of The Children's Society, its history, and what to expect from the day and the project in general. The young people were shown a selection of original case files of children who were in the care of The Children's Society during the period 1882 to 1918, and encouraged to ask questions and discuss their thoughts.

Next, smaller groups studied the resource packs produced by the Archive team, including scanned copies of case file documents, children's homes' records, and photographs. In a recent session, the groups also took part in a quiz designed to help focus the young people on case pack content.

Julia Green then led the whole group in a creative writing workshop using Archive photographs as a tool to spark imaginations. The writing and ideas produced in this session were the basis for the finished work.

A follow up session
Usually held at the school or library, to discuss and share work in progress.

The Celebration Event
An event for all the participants, sharing finished work and celebrating with special guests including family and friends.

Judging from the quality of the work produced, these projects have proved a great success and given young people a rewarding experience. Some of the young people participating experienced serious difficulties with learning, yet the projects were able to reach out to them and fill them with enthusiasm to write poems and stories. Imaginations have been stimulated and creativity inspired - most of all, it has been fun, surely one of the best ways to learn!

After working with Museums, Libraries, and Archives and other partners for 3 years, the Children's Society is looking to set up its own Young Cultural Creators projects. We intend to build on our considerable experience, and adapt activities to reach new audiences, especially our primary users, the young people who come into contact with The Children's Society.

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