We consider MayDay Rooms and its holdings to be an active social resource more than a repository; a place where, amidst the austerity-driven threats to education and spaces of dissent, the future can be produced more than the past contemplated; a communal space for the incubation of cross-currents and informal, unlicensed knowledges more than a ring-fenced scholar’s retreat. Historical material is harboured here with a view to participating in a network of sister institutions which will ultimately offer the space and conditions for these materials’ permanent deposit. MDR’s role is to provide a secure transit space where, in an open and collaborative mode, archives are shared, described and conjoined with the contemporary imagination.
Like the organisation itself, all the collections at MDR are regarded as ‘in formation’, gradually being supplemented by participant visits, group diagrams and audio-visual testimony. Of course, the precise form each evolving collection will take, the kinds of processing involved, and the level and means of dissemination, will vary from collection to collection, and according to the conditions of deposit agreed between MDR and depositors and donors, and laid out in a letter of agreement clarifying a process of care, including the ways in which collections can be activated.
So far the collections gathered at MayDay Rooms are deliberately heterogeneous and reflect both the emergency situation of threatened histories which we try to respond to and an affinity network who offer small amounts of material. Whilst we hold several larger collections (Statewatch and Greenham Common) the majority are modest in size and cover a range of themes from counter-educational initiatives (A-Course, Schooling & Culture) to social protest (Poll Tax Rebellion, Jubilee 2000 Afrika Campaign) and counter culture (Scratch Orchestra, Queeruption). A fair amount of material gathered relates to collective publishing endeavours (Big Flame, NEPA News) as well as activist collectives (Wages for Housework-NYC, East London Big Flame). To supplement these areas MayDay Rooms has a growing stock of dissenting ephemera – from pamphlets to journals and flyers, much of which is available in the Reading Room.
To date, the collections mainly span the period from the late 1960s to the mid 1990s and so could be said to reflect the pre-web era of independent publishing and do-it-yourself culture. This latter has been made easier by the new digital media and is reflected in MDR’s own generative archive of activation footage, which is now coming into alignment with the audio-visual holdings (Newham Monitoring Project) as well as the deposits of long lost but recently digitised material (Four Corners, Cinema Action).
Those wishing to deposit and donate material should in the first instance contact us by email so that we can arrange a meeting and conversation. It is useful for us if archival material is listed, and accompanied by a brief narrative or historical account. This allows us to get a sense of the historical context of the material for deposit, and an insight into the personal social involvement of depositors. As a base-line MDR and its collaborants will endeavour to scan material and enter it into the on-line catalogue to ensure a wider circulation for treasured and still potent material.
View our catalogue and read our collection description here