The UEL Archives are actively committed to a programme of civic engagement, outreach and promotion activities to encourage learning and research through the use of our archival collections. 

We are keen to develop learning, teaching and research opportunities to help researchers and the public to find out more about our archives.

We hope to achieve our promotional and outreach goals and activities by:

  • Engaging with our communities through social media tools.
  • Engaging with the wider UEL Civic Engagement agenda as outlined in the Corporate Plan.
  • Improving access to our collections and highlighting the steps we take to make our collections more widely available, e.g. Digitisation.
  • Displays and exhibitions
  • Personal contact
  • Articles and press releases in relevant publications
  • The promotion of collections with significant potential for teaching and research to relevant UEL academic schools to encourage use by both undergraduate, postgraduate and professional researchers.

Democratic Access or Privileged Exclusion

In February 2015, under the auspices of the UEL Library and Learning Service, and focusing on the preservation of refugees and migrants lived experiences in London, we were awarded funding from the University of East London Civic Engagement Fund to undertake a pilot project exploring the role of oral history in helping to document the testimonies of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. 

The project was entitled "Democratic Access or Privileged Exclusion? Civic Engagement through the Preservation and Access to Refugee Archives," and sought to use existing Archives held within the UEL Library as a basis to forge new partnerships between students, academics, archivists and a community groups.

A detailed report and videos can be found on our Democratic Access or Privileged Exclusion page of the Living Refugee Archive website.

Democratic Access or Privileged Exclusion

Performing the Archive

As part of a year long module investigating themes associated with the Politics of Memory and Performance, second year undergraduate performing arts students were tasked in the second half of their course to develop their own performance pieces on the theme of 'Performing the Archive.'

The concept being that the students would be able to explore archival collections and be encouraged to discover the breadth and range of narratives held within these collections and then to create their own pieces of performance theatre based upon the narratives they had discovered.

With a successful civic engagement funding application in place, we were able to work in conjunction with Tom Drayton (Director of Pregnant Fish Theatre) and Dr Eve Katsouraki, (Senior Lecturer at UEL), with our second year performing arts students to start formulating their performance pieces. 

We decided that we would encourage the students to make use of possible narratives from all our archive collections: including the British Olympic Association Archive; the East London People’s Archive of East London oral histories; the Hackney Empire Theatre Archive; and the Refugee Council Archive. 

Students were given two weeks of inductions at both of our archive stores, at both the Docklands and Stratford campuses. 

We were very fortunate to be able to employ Tom Drayton, Director of Pregnant Fish Theatre, as a theatre director to help guide and direct the students.

Performing the Archive Information

Performing the Archive Leaflet

Tate Live

Salvaging the Oral History of the Tate Institute

North Woolwich and Silvertown has experienced a mixed cultural history over the past century.  Issues of decline, regeneration and immigration combined with the policies and interventions of local government in the region have subsequently contributed to growing community isolation and a loss of community spirit. 

This contributed to a decline of sense of community and neighbourhood in these areas. 

Our participatory approach of the Tate Lives project, developed by incorporating a bottom up oral history methodology, has enabled positive community engagement and interaction to help facilitate a community (re-) connection with their collective memory of both the Tate Institute and, more broadly, a shared sense of history and community within the local area.

Through our work, we created a space for the local community who felt a sense of ownership and engagement with the project as the project was intended to give a voice back to the community and to genuinely document their own narratives, testimonies and memories to which they felt have been overlooked for a long time.

Tate Lives Project Information

Tate Lives Caravan Exhibition Tate Lives Facebook group Tate Lives Project Twitter

Participatory Community Heritage in North Woolwich and Silvertown

The aim of this project was to further enhance and develop the work originally started in our Tate Lives project, which resulted in a successful ongoing community exhibition and an interactive Facebook group.

On completion of this project, we felt that we had only just scratched the surface in relation to engaging with the local communities and neighbourhoods in this area, and that in fact there were many more stories, histories and narratives that needed to be explored, preserved and made accessible.

Our Living Community Archives: Participatory Community Heritage in North Woolwich and Silvertown project was inter-disciplinary in nature, enabling the sharing and cross-pollination of ideas across neighbourhoods, generations and communities facilitating and enabling innovate new approaches to engaging with local communities and respecting their memories and heritage. 

It further engaged with local communities and organisations through the implementation of school visits and community workshops, and the development of a community-focused website and the mapping of resources via the Layers of London website.

The outputs of this project included:

  • The creation of a Tate Lives website and the developing and creation of a North Woolwich and Silvertown Community Living Archive.
  • Integration of materials into the Layers of London mapping project, funded through the Institute of Historical Research and partners.  This is a platform on which student and UEL research projects will be shared. (One of the aims of the Layers of London project is to help create a bridge between the academic and non-academic worlds in terms of history and geography).
  • Undertaking of trips to several local schools in the area showcasing extracts from our work and encouraging school children to participate and engage with the local history of their area.
  • Undertaking community focused workshops and intersecting with community-led events during 2018, which included the Arts and Culture Festival, Newham Heritage Week; etc.
  • Working with the Newham Crossrail.
  • Student writing of articles for publication in local history magazines and articles for the press.
  • Student presentations at relevant academic conferences over the course of the funded project.
  • Increased development and awareness of UEL Archive collections and facilitating community access to resources.
  • A sustainable exhibition of student contributions to the project at the UEL Docklands Archive.

Refugee Mental Health and Wellbeing

In 2016, with the help from UEL Civic Engagement Funding, colleagues in the School of Psychology with the support of the Archive, received funding to help establish a Mental Health and Wellbeing portal for Refugees and Asylum Seekers to be utilised as a first stop resource to enable mental health and social care professionals, community organisations, statutory, international and national third sector organisations and refugees and asylum seekers themselves, to easily access the wealth of information and resources, and practical tools many of which are not accessible in one place.

These resources have been produced and developed by health care practitioners, international and national organisations and academic and research bodies with experience and expert knowledge of working with refugees and asylum seekers, both in the UK and internationally.

The online portal embodies the ethos of civic engagement at university of East London through the creation of an interdisciplinary approach aimed at bringing together staff and students from a number of UEL schools and services as well as facilitating interaction with professional bodies, NGOs, charities and community organisations in East London and at national and international levels.

Refugee Mental Health and Wellbeing Portal UEL Refugee Mental Health Twitter Page


In late 2016, the University of East London in conjunction with the Central European University in Budapest, University of Vienna and the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) received Erasmas + European funding to offer five 10 week courses for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. The aim of the course is to introduce refugees and asylum seekers to Higher Education.

The course offers an opportunity for students to find out what skills and knowledge are needed in order to apply for and succeed in HE in the UK and provides information about pathways and opportunities.

Modules and workshops are offered in English language and academic writing, research skills, academic tutoring and introduction to academic discussions.

As part of the OLIve initiative, and in conjunction with the Refugee Council Archive at UEL, we applied to the University of East London (UEL) Civic Engagement Fund for additional funding in order to create the online Information Hub and to facilitate engagement of UEL students at all levels in the undertaking of the project.

Our successful application was entitled, "Supporting Refugees into Higher Education: A Research Hub for London" and was being led by Dr Aura Lounasmaa, a lecturer in the UEL School of Social Sciences and Paul Dudman, the archivist responsible for the Refugee Council Archive at UEL.

OLIve course link OLive Twitter page