The Archive is a Gathering Place

October 2023 – May 2024

The Archive is a Gathering Place considers the future of archives that are collectively owned or created. Understanding archiving as a creative and political practice, the project explores both the digital and physical archive as a place for people to gather. The programme will culminate in a symposium and performance festival on 24 and 25 May 2024 at Tate Modern.

Bring me all of your dreams,
You dreamers,
Bring me all of your
Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.

Langston Hughes, The Dream Keeper (1932)

Collective archives are created out of a necessity to document, preserve and mobilise perspectives, dreams, testimonies, narratives and practices that might otherwise be lost, or face active erasure. They are enabled by the gathering together and organising of both people and material. The collective archive is not simply a collection of objects and ephemera, but a result of ‘human infrastructures,’ networks and relationships. Archival practices emerge in this context as continuous practices of communing, ‘dream-keeping’, collaboration and resistance.

Engaging with the rich history and present iterations of grassroots and digital archiving projects, ‘The Archive is a Gathering Place’ invites audiences to a collective, interdisciplinary conversation that engages with the archive as a public, gathering place and archiving as a creative and political practice. In the context of an international art gallery and museum, the project also explores how artists work with, activate and unleash archives to image, imagine and give language to radical futures, through an engagement with the past.

Additionally, the project asks: How can histories of gathering around archives, or gathering to archive, inform the duties of care and protection towards these collections across disciplines and practices? The project is critically concerned with questions of access, preservation/protection, and what it means to care for collectively owned digital archives that face precarity.

Programme of activity

By gathering with and listening to people who care for community archives in different ways – including artists, archivists, writers and community organisers – this project explores how the preservation of community-owned archives requires sustained collective engagement. Activities include:


‘The Archive is a Gathering Place’ forms part of Our Heritage, Our Stories: Linking and searching community-generated digital content to develop the people’s national collection, a Discovery Research Project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, as part of the Towards a National Collection programme. Our Heritage Our Stories is led by Lorna Hughes at the University of Glasgow in collaboration with the University of Manchester, The National Archives and the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC).

Tate’s contribution to Our Heritage Our Stories as a project partner is led by Vasundhara Mathur (Assistant Research Editor, Tate Research) with support from Tate Library and Archive.

Project Information

Project type
Research project
Lead department
Tate Research
Project leader
Vasundhara Mathur, Research