the Archive

RBKC Collage - Trellick

The Kensington Narrators Arts & Heritage Archive was created to preserve and protect the outstanding creativity and testimony produced by our wider community during a period of intense emotion and historical change.  As we move forward, we intend the Archive to serve as a general repository for art, culture, stories, and other content created by those making their homes in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) – it should be a wider historical recording of our heritage, perceptions, experiences, identities, and responses to historical events and local changes.

The Archive is physically maintained at the Bishopsgate Institute (near Liverpool Street station), and managed by a board of trustees made up of Kensington residents with the necessary skills, experience and interest. Bishopsgate, which specializes in community archiving and has the latest digital storage technology, also ensures the data protection and copy rights of those who contribute.

Unique to our archiving process is that contributors provide the relevant context and details of their work.  Physical materials are then digitized for online viewing (with the permission of the creator/author).  Community volunteers help to catalogue the work.  Copies of the catalogue are available online and in hard copy to any organisation that requests them – including local schools or universities, and libraries.

what is an archive?

An archive is a collection of historical documents or records about a place, an organisation, or a group of people. It can refer to a physical space and/or a digital space, where primary sources of information are preserved in their raw, unedited form, so that they can be referenced for decades to come. Items in archives are catalogued carefully so that people can see what is in them, and these catalogues can be located online and in community institutions.


Archives are used by students, historians, writers, communities – and anyone who has a special interest. Archives like ours accept diverse material, including poetry, essays, and other written materials (handwritten, typed, or digital), video, audio recordings, digital photographs (including photographs of street art, etc.), and artworks including mixed media art.

The 2020 Digital Exhibition reflects the wide range of contributions received in the Archive, and allows us to offer opportunities to both gain greater understanding, and to share alternative viewpoints. 


While the title and description of each piece provides some context of the work being displayed, the associated (URL) hyperlinks offer a way to look deeper -- a video captured in the same location, an article about the artist or a link to their website, a poem relating to the exhibit, a contrasting argument, or other intriguing background. The link between entry and hyperlink may be immediately apparent, or it may take some thought; but every link is providing an additional layer – or lens – through which to consider that Archived material.  


You will find that a football tournament medal links to the recipients of the 2019-2020 Mayor's Awards (for those who have improved the lives of others).  Local preschoolers will lead you to a story about the closing of Maxilla Nursery.  And a photo collage of a young man launches an article about young people being the unsung heroes of Grenfell. 


We invite you to experience some of the Archive contributions, and view History in Layers.

training community members

The Kensington Narrators Arts & Heritage Archive recruits community volunteers and trains them in archiving techniques and cataloguing. People at a grassroots level can get access to professional-grade equipment for digital archiving, video editing, graphic arts, and more.

We periodically offer historian-led workshops aimed at young peopl, specifically to expand education about how to use archives to learn about the history of a community, and to create inspiring art, video and written projects.

how to get involved

We welcome your contributions to the Archive!  Please use this link to submit the details; if you have a physical item to be stored, a Narrator will be in touch to arrange for transfer to Bishopsgate.

You may ask questions using the contact us form for more information:​

  • become a cataloguing volunteer

  • find out more about our youth workshops

  • learn how the archiving process works

If you'd like be kept up-to-date with Kensington Narrators programmes and activities, kindly subscribe for updates.

why did we decide to work with Bishopsgate Institute?

The Bishopsgate Institute specialises in community archiving, and the experiences of everyday people. It is home to a growing number of photographic and oral history collections created by heritage projects and community groups, and has world-renowned archival material on London history, labour and social movements, free thought and humanism, co-operation, protests, and campaigning. Bishopsgate also has the latest digital storage technology, and can conserve and store physical material safely.


During the community consultation period for this project it became clear that an archive location needed to be identified which had significant permanent physical and digital storage space, as well as professional cataloguing facilities. The location needed to be open, and community-led.


We have worked with Bishopsgate to introduce a new way of cataloguing, which enables the community to tell its own story. Contributors, rather than professional archivists, write their own descriptions of the items they share; they explain why the material is important and significant to them. The system gives the community control of how the collection is represented and interpreted, and it will be an invaluable resource for future historians. That said, the Archive will still follow international professional standards, ensuring material will be easily findable, and catalogued onto professional standard archival software. 


Community volunteers have been (and will continue to be) trained to catalogue the Archive, and copies of this catalogue will be available online and in hard copy to any organisation that wants them, including local schools and libraries.  Physical material is digitized and made available online (with the permission of the creator/author). Bishopsgate Institute does not own the material; the contributor retains ownership and there is a clear policy regarding data protection and rights. Unlike at other archives, contributors are able to remove their material from the Bishopsgate site if they wish (either temporarily or permanently). Details and approvals regarding copyright and permissions are part of the contribution form.


Bishopsgate Institute is an open, inclusive, and welcoming space, and is free to visit. Unlike other archives, the public can visit whenever they like without having to book a space, and they don’t have to provide lots of documents before using the collection. This makes it very accessible. Project participants and community volunteers may also be offered a tour of the archive.


The Kensington Narrators Arts & Heritage Archive is managed by a board of trustees made up of Kensington residents with the necessary skills, experience, and interest in preserving local history.


As an independent charitable foundation, Bishopsgate Institute is self-funding and self-sustaining -- and most critically, not under risk of closure.  Trustees for Frank Crichlow's Mangrove Archive likely chose Bishopsgate for similar reasons.

This is a difficult time for archives and some important collections have been closed or remain at risk of closure due to a lack of funding (recent examples include the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, and the Feminist Library). Local Authority archives are also suffering from cuts, resulting in shorter opening hours, fewer resources and a smaller storage capacity;  some councils have warned that they may have to start charging for access. In contrast, the Bishopsgate Institute is in good financial health, and can guarantee that materials deposited there will remain safe, accessible, and free to view for generations to come.

RBKC Collage - Chelsea