Manchester's China Town Archive Project

Volunteer Andre Li with a traditional Chinese fan Credit: Chris Foster / MOSI

The local Chinese housing association used the project’s dvds for further reminiscence work and the local police distributed them to trainees new to the Manchester area.

Making a difference

How the project achieved HLF’s outcomes for heritage

  • Previously hidden histories were identified and recorded. They formed an independent archive which was deposited within Manchester’s Archives+ to make them accessible to future generations.
  • Volunteers helped conserve documents and photographs and made the heritage in better condition.
  • A website and history booklet explained and interpreted Manchester’s Chinese heritage.

How the project achieved HLF’s outcomes for people

  • A series of learning events, including talks and craft activities, helped people from all communities learn about the heritage.
  • Forty people from varied communities volunteered time to digitise and catalogue documents.
  • Volunteers developed interview skills. One volunteer succeeded in joined a postgraduate archive course and found a job at the National Co-operative Archive.
  • Different generations and communities came together, changing their attitudes to each other and striking up friendships.
  • Older residents had an enjoyable experience sharing their memories, feeling less isolated and more valued in their community.

How the project achieved HLF’s outcomes for communities

  • Various outreach events and an exhibition tour around non-traditional venues, including Chinese restaurants and local business, engaged more and a wider range of people in the heritage, including those who would not usually visit a traditional museum exhibition.
  • Visitors felt a sense of pride in the area’s history and identity, making Manchester a better place to live.

Lessons learnt

  • Make sure to leave enough time. Working with older people meant adapting to periods of illness and fragility and allowing time to build up confidence in front of a microphone, while volunteers needed time to practice their newly gained skills.
  • Residents were reluctant to deposit their memories and items in an official institution, so an independent ‘archive within an archive’ was created to ensure the documents were professionally protected and easily accessible whilst maintaining the community’s sense of ownership.
  • Including costs for translation ensured no-one was excluded from taking part.
Back to top of page