Performing the Archive

The Performing the Archive project is funded by the Learning and Teaching Development Fund. The project combines the skills of performers and archivists to create new pedagogical tools and models for learning across all colleges. It addresses issues of accessibility, ‘archival anxiety’ and multiperspectivity in collection-based learning.

Through a series of workshops with professional acting coaches, lecturers as well as PGR and PGT students we will (A) explore performance-based strategies of dealing with archival texts and objects; (B) these strategies will be tested in classroom settings across a number of sample classes from Arts, Law, Social Sciences and Medical Humanities; and (C) they will be documented and further disseminated through an online teaching resource.


The Team

  • Project Lead: Michael Bachmann; Senior Lecturer (Theatre, Film & Television Studies)
  • Co-investigator: Moira Rankin; Senior Archivist, Archives & Special Collections
  • PhD researcher: Sarah Gambell, PhD candidate in Information Studies at the University of Glasgow
  • Michael Howell, Casting Director, Theatre Director, Voice Coach, Educational Consultant and Teacher


Aims and Objectives

  • To develop a toolkit with strategies for how performance-based methods (drama-for-learning) may be used in collection-based and object-based learning;
  • To foster critical thought and investigative learning in perspectivity by trialing new ways of approaching archives and collections through performance-based methodologies, thus enhancing student engagement with the University of Glasgow collections;
  • To foster critical thought and investigative learning in perspectivity by trialing new ways of approaching archives and collections through performance-based methodologies, thus enhancing student engagement with the University of Glasgow collections;
  • To trial online classroom access to archival material in light of potential disruptions to F2F learning through performance-based OBL as methods for online mediation.



This project builds on prior LTDF projects in the field of collection-based learning. It also draws heavily on the groundbreaking object based multi-perspectivity model developed for Call and Response: The University of Glasgow and Slavery.

The project draws on and extends this pool of collaborators across colleges and subject areas, including History of Art, Theatre, Law, Medical Humanities, Social History and Slavery Studies. This provides wide interdisciplinary expertise for the thematic focus on ‘hidden’ histories and ‘minority’ narratives.


Project Partners

  • Monica Callaghan, Scottish Graduate School for the Arts and Humanities (Expertise: PGR development)
  • Hannah-Louise Clark, School of Social and Political Sciences (Teaching: Global Economic and Social History)
  • Maria Fletcher, School of Law (Research/Teaching: History of Women in Law)
  • Victoria Price, SCCA, Theatre Studies (Teaching: Theatre History and Archive Placements)
  • Adele Redhead, Humanities, Information Studies (Teaching: MSc in Information Management and Preservation)
  • Mhairi Taylor, Equality and Diversity Unit (Expertise: Inclusivity in education)
  • Christine Whyte, Humanities, History (Research: Slavery Studies)
  • Christina Young, SCCA, History of Art (Teaching: Paintings, Plays and Performance) 


Project Plan

The project seeks to further develop active learning strategies and enhance the accessibility of the University of Glasgow’s unique and distinctive collections as a site for experiential education by combining object-based learning (OBL) with drama-for-learning approaches.

This project explores how ‘acting’ strategies can be employed to ‘stage’ new critical encounters between past and present. In particular, drama-for-learning embraces the exploration of multiple perspectives and the complexity of non-linear approaches.

To achieve its aims and objectives, the project progresses in three streams:

  • A series of workshops led by the highly experienced consultant Michael Howell in collaboration with the project leads; the participants of these workshops are PGR/PGT students and academics/lecturers.
  • Dedicated archive sessions in sample courses convened by the lecturers who participate in (A), as a way of trialing and refining the performance-based learning strategies in collaboration with UG students; acting coaches, project leads and assistants are available for support and peer observation.
  • Documentation and development of a teaching toolkit by the consultants in collaboration with SGSAH placement and project leads. Graphic designers will be employed to ensure the toolkit is usable and of high quality.


Knowledge Exchange

The project has a range of possibilities for transfer elsewhere: First, Archives & Special Collections are used for teaching across all four colleges and the learning shared at point of service delivery; second, the online teaching toolkit will provide strategies for object- and performance-based learning beyond the on-site use of collections and archives; third; the project addresses wider issues of accessibility and neutrality in teaching as the exercises and learning strategies documented in the toolkit will provide opportunities to engage with minority perspective, hidden narratives and suppressed voices throughout various fields of knowledge; fourth, the interdisciplinarity of the proposal will provide further opportunities for knowledge exchange activities, professional development for staff as well as skills development and training at undergraduate and postgraduate level.



 Students do not simply learn from texts, but with and through texts and artefacts in modes of experiential, sensory and tactile engagement. However, there are inherent limits to such approaches in terms of accessibility (archives and collections traditionally only foster to smaller groups; ‘archive anxiety’ may prevent students from engaging with collections; students may not be physically able to access archives) and perspective (institutionally, archives and collections have tended to claim neutrality, thus favouring one perspective and suppressing ‘minority’ narratives such as BAME, LGBT, female and colonial experiences). The proposal uses drama-for-learning/performance-based methodologies to address these issues.

By developing and rehearsing exercises that voice different perspectives or forgotten narratives in a text, hidden histories and complex multi-perspectives may be highlighted; by fostering creative and ‘playful’ approaches to the archive, archival anxieties may be alleviated; and by trying out new performative methodologies of mediating objects, issues of accessibility will be addressed. Performing the archive also works in online settings and actively enhances VLE approaches to collection-based learning.