The Archives & Access project will make thousands of unique objects from Tate’s archive accessible through digitisation and online integration with the Tate collection. The associated learning programme will ensure this rich content is distributed beyond the gallery through a regional outreach programme across five areas of England and Wales. Later this year we will be blogging about the first of these projects, when we’ll work in partnership with the Josef Herman Foundation Cymru in the South Welsh Village of Ystradgynlais, as well as other cultural, heritage and community organisations in the Swansea Valley.

As well as reaching out, we will also offer deeper engagement online for those who want it, through an array of interactive and social features on the web, and through a dedicated series of new digital learning resources. ‘Animating the Archives’ will be a new video strand that brings to life some of the processes, practices and stories behind the artists’ lives and working contexts.

Our first film shown here, focuses on the artist Kurt Schwitters and the year he spent interned in Hutchinson camp on the Isle of Man. The Tate archive holds material from art historian Klaus Hinrichsen, who was also interned in the same camp and who became a friend and supporter of Schwitters. The sketches, notes, pamphlets and official documents collected by Hinrichsen, as well as photographs from the camp commander, Captain Daniel, reveal a collection of artists, musicians and intellectuals whose resourcefulness and creativity was encouraged by the captain. As well as camp life for detainees, we gain insight into this period of British history and the policy toward ‘enemy aliens’, many of whom were themselves escaping Nazi persecution during World War II. We were also lucky enough to interview Hinrichsen’s widow Gretel and from her anecdotes, we get a clearer understanding of Schwitter’s artistic ideas and processes, particularly the value of using found objects and whatever materials were to hand, to create his mixed media collages and sculptures.

The format of the films in the ‘Animating the Archives’ series will vary and will include interviews with Tate archivists and curators, as well as with artists and their families, exploring the provenance, acquisition and conservation of particular archive collections. Our next film will examine the work and influence of British Surrealist Eileen Agar, through her sketches, sculptural objects and letters. We will also work involve our various audiences, covering a range of subjects and approaches from workshop-based activities to how-to demonstrations, examining artist’s research practices and documentation processes. This summer we’re making a film with artist Harold Offeh and teachers and students from Welling School in Kent, who have been collaborating on a project through Tate’s Schools and Teachers Programme that explores the meaning of re-enactment and documentation in relation to the live art performance. In short we hope the films in this series will reveal how this rich and varied cultural heritage has relevance and significance for all.

If you use this film or any from our upcoming series in your research or teaching we’d love to hear about it, so let us know.

Rebecca Sinker is Curator of Digital Learning at Tate