On 6th January, Maya Sharma joined the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre and Education Trust as our new Collections Access Officer. We’re delighted to have Maya in post, and can’t wait to see what wonderful ideas she has in store for us.
Maya, can you tell us a bit about your work before joining the team at the AIU Centre?
I worked for many years in the voluntary and community sector, supporting voluntary organisations to develop and deliver their services. Much of this work was with BME, Refugee & migrant community organisations as well as women’s organisations, disability groups and other communities of interest. I then worked for the National Lottery Heritage Fund in a development role which gave me useful and interesting insights into the thinking of a major heritage funder. Following that I worked for The Audience Agency as a consultant, specialising in audience development, diversity and inclusion. I’ve worked alongside the Centre for many years and always found its work exciting, inspiring and important, so when this job came up I was delighted.
What are you most excited about working on as the Collections Access Officer at the AIU Centre?
I’ve always felt really strongly that heritage – whether in the form of an archive, a building, an object or a community story or memory – is of no value if it’s un-known and un-used. I’m really excited, then, to start thinking about how we can ensure that these amazing collections are really well recognised and used. I also love the values and ethos of the Centre, in particular the way it puts communities on an equal footing with academics and other researchers.
What do you most hope to achieve in the first year of this role?
I think if I can get to know the many acronyms that fly around the archive and academic sectors I’d be very happy! That aside, I’d like to really dig in and get to know our Collections better. I’d also like to get a better understanding of who isn’t aware of or accessing the Collection, and why not.
Has any particular archive collection caught your eye so far?
Hard to pick one out, really, but as someone who started off in the independent advice sector I’d love to have a look at the Cheetham Hill Advice Centre collection. I have a feeling the collection tells the story of a really fascinating area and, in particular, sheds light on the lives of people whose voices and experiences are often ignored.
Has your first week been what you expected?
I didn’t really have any expectations, I was just really excited to get stuck in. Having worked alongside the team before I knew what a welcoming bunch they are.
Tell us something interesting about yourself that we don’t already know:
One of my ancestors (on my English side) was – allegedly – one of the knights who killed Thomas A Beckett in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. Perhaps only of interest to fans of English medieval history?
Do you have any secret talents or skills you’re willing to share?
I’d love to share, but then they won’t be secret. I’ll keep my air of mystery and intrigue for now.