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5.3 Owning the Space: Glad Disruptions of the Status Quo


One of the disruptions of newcomers coming into an established ecosystem is their challenge to the geophysical status quo. Following an informal meeting of the project team within the first week of their being together, while the project director was involved with a researcher, the new members of the project team took over and entirely re-designed the public and working space of the Archive, which had lain undisturbed for over a decade: a workplace formerly inhabited primarily by a lone archivist, with a relatively low volume of use by volunteers, visitors and researchers, was transformed into a workplace appropriate for four people, with a high volume of use by others; it became less of a 'kettling' space, and more clearly set aside for smaller conversations, specialised scrutiny of archive materials, and additional individual or group working.

Once project team members had been invited to join it, an equally radical process emerged from the weekly core team meetings, as Executive Director John Cross asked the members of the project team and core on-site team to form working groups to look at how the Trust's site as a whole was experienced and how it was performing. The approach and front and back entrances to the Trust were examined and thoroughly re-designed, becoming clearer, more attractive, and more welcoming. A surprisingly influential innovation flowed from the suggestion for a display board in the Trust's main meeting room, as recorded at the time:


From the project's practical point of view, the most significant change so far has been the installation of the new display board in the main room, which was up and running in time for the Shotton Hall Archive "Weekend". Over the course of Archive "Weekends" the project team has tried various configurations of tables, rooms and equipment. In the course of this the downstairs Garden Room has come to be naturally used in first meetings with groups, and for bringing groups together at the beginning and end of each day. The upstairs room has been naturally adopted for oral history training, and for recording interviews. The identities of the dining room, main room, and Archive users' room [radically reconfigured as described above] have tended to be more diffuse. A display board in the dining room turned the dining room into a kind of meeting/working room, for example, but out of touch with and effectively in competition with the other two; while both the main room and the Archive users' room competed for use as general work, discussion and discovery rooms.


The installation of a display board in the main room has allowed the focus of the dining room to return to refreshment and informal discussion. The main room has acquired new focus and definition as the main common working space, the distinct centre and natural hub for the building as Archive "Weekend" work-place. Participants can work at different tables, alone or together; can concentrate on specific tasks such as scanning, and simultaneously share discoveries, questions and ideas. It has become the natural reference point, where project team members and participants touch base.


In a glad disruption of the established way of things, the simple integration of the project team into the weekly core team meeting opened a line of discussion which led to the suggestion for a display board in the main room, the installation of which unexpectedly transformed the perception and use of the main room and the rooms around it; enhancing focus, communication, and the experience of shared work and discovery in every subsequent Archive "Weekend": An example of the fact of the whole team working together as a consequence of the project, and the benefits flowing from it.