The Strong Rooms project saw two specially adapted shipping containers tour the West Midlands last summer and was coordinated by Archives West Midlands, which received Arts Council funding in January 2016.

Strong Rooms was the idea of Birmingham artist Mohammed Ali MBE, aka Aerosol Ali, and toured Rugby, Coventry, Dudley and Worcester bringing more than 7,250 visitors (of which a third were children and young people) in contact with archives, artists and archivists.

The project was conceived by Ali following an intensive creative planning process led by Orit Azaz, outdoor arts artistic director, and Susan Goodwin, associate director of cultural sector partnerships at Arts Connect (the Bridge organisation for young people and the arts in the region).

Using two shipping containers the exhibitions were able to show a selection of historic portraits by Ali in one, working closely with archivists to discover the exceptional personal stories of local individuals, and in the other, display artworks created by some of the region’s most exciting young artists, who have been inspired by local archives.

SHOW – AUTUMN SERIES – BANNER – News
More than 7,250 visitors experienced the Strong Rooms project, among a third of them children and young people. Photograph courtesy of Strong Rooms and Soul City Arts

This was Archives West Midlands first project and included four archive partners; Warwickshire County Record Office, Culture Coventry, Dudley Archives and Worcestershire Archives and Archaeology as well as Arts Connect and Soul City Arts (established by Ali in 2009) .

“Mohammed Ali’s vision has pushed the boundaries of the archives sector,” said Sam Collenette, Archives and Historic Environment Manager at Heritage and Culture Warwickshire who will give a talk at the Exchange alongside Ali and Susan Goodwin of Arts Connect. “It has developed new audiences for archives and generated innovative ideas about how to engage young people with their local cultural heritage.”

The creative planning process enabled members of Archives West Midlands to reflect on the priorities and strategic aims of the project, and develop skills in working with artists.

The strategic aims of the project were identified as the following:

  • engage new audiences (especially young people)
  • advocate for archive services, which are relatively unknown and used directly by a small number of people,
  • leave a strong and lasting impression in the communities of what archives are, how they are used and why they are relevant
  • create a legacy
Strong Rooms
The two shipping containers displayed work by organiser Mohammed Ali and young, regional artists. Photograph courtesy of Strong Rooms and Soul City Arts
SHOW – AUTUMN SERIES – BANNER

This was Archives West Midlands first project and included four archive partners; Warwickshire County Record Office, Culture Coventry, Dudley Archives and Worcestershire Archives and Archaeology as well as Arts Connect and Soul City Arts.

“Mohammed Ali’s vision has pushed the boundaries of the archives sector,” said Sam Collenette, Archives and Historic Environment Manager at Heritage and Culture Warwickshire who will give a talk at the Exchange alongside Ali and Susan Goodwin of Arts Connect. “It has developed new audiences for archives and generated innovative ideas about how to engage young people with their local cultural heritage.”

The creative planning process enabled members of Archives West Midlands to reflect on the priorities and strategic aims of the project, and develop skills in working with artists.

The strategic aims of the project were identified as the following:

  • engage new audiences (especially young people)
  • advocate for archive services, which are relatively unknown and used directly by a small number of people,
  • leave a strong and lasting impression in the communities of what archives are, how they are used and why they are relevant
  • create a legacy
Back to top