‘Holding Your Ground’: Exploring research resources relating to the environment and the climate emergency in the Common Ground Archive

In response to growing awareness, acknowledgement and concern about the Climate Emergency, the University of Exeter Library is highlighting a variety of resources on this subject. You can find these resources usefully drawn together in the Library’s Climate Emergency: Resources LibGuide. Of course, we in Special Collections are also keen to highlight archival resources relating to the environment in our collections! In particular, we are very lucky to look after the archive of the arts and environmental charity, Common Ground. This archive contains a multitude of records relating to environmental concerns, which may be useful for anyone conducting research in this area, as well as for those simply seeking guidance on caring for the environment.

Boxes and files in the Common Ground archive

Common Ground is an arts and environmental charity, which was founded in 1982 in the UK. The charity has pioneered many innovative projects designed to excite and inspire people to become more engaged in looking after their local environment. For almost 40 years, Common Ground’s projects have been raising awareness of environmental concerns through arts and culture, in particular, through the commissioning of artistic works; the organisation of exhibitions, events and conferences; the launching of new calendar customs; and the publication of books, pamphlets, newsletters, leaflets and postcards. Projects launched by Common Ground have related to a variety of aspects of the natural environment, including trees, rivers, fields, orchards, and flora. Particular projects that have had a significant impact on the cultural geography of the UK include the Campaign for Local Distinctiveness, Parish Maps, and Apple Day.

A small selection of Common Ground publications, including books, pamphlets and leaflets

The Common Ground archive consists of a wide range of material created and collected by the charity in the course of its activities between 1982 and 2013. It includes correspondence, project planning papers, financial papers, publications, promotional material, press clippings, research material, photographs, and audio recordings. It also includes lots of material relating to a range of environmental issues.

For each of its projects, Common Ground published a range of books, pamphlets, leaflets and other promotional material. Produced through careful research by the team at Common Ground, these publications provide information on environmental concerns and ideas for actions that could be taken. One of Common Ground’s earliest publications was ‘Holding Your Ground: An Action Guide to Local Conservation’ (1985), which provides information on how to care for your locality, reasons why local conservation is important, case studies of local initiatives, and advice on who to contact for help and support. Particularly interesting are also posters created by Common Ground, which were first published as full-page advertisements in a national newspaper and were then available for people to purchase in colour. One example is the poster pictured below, entitled ‘Mayday! Mayday! Nature’s Call for Help’, which was published on 02 May 1988 in ‘The Independent’ newspaper.

EUL MS 416/PRO/9/2/2 – Two copies of Common Ground’s ‘Mayday! Mayday! Nature’s Call for Help’ poster

In the 1990s, Common Ground also conducted several crowd-sourcing projects to collect data. One such project was Flora Britannica. An invitation for people to send in their personal knowledge of local plants was circulated by national and local media, and Common Ground received responses from thousands of people all around Britain, which were then used by Richard Mabey to write the book ‘Flora Britannica’ (1996). As part of Common Ground’s Orchards project, a call was put out to orchard owners to record ‘Orchard Observances’ in the form of a diary from October 1995 to November 1996. The letters and diaries received by Common Ground in response to these projects provide fascinating insight into biodiversity in Britain. This data has the potential to now be used to study the changes in biodiversity and the impact of human activity on the environment since the 1990s.

EUL MS 416/PRO/7 – Material relating to the ‘Flora Britannica’ project

Finally, the archive also includes a large number of press clippings, reports, strategies, action plans and publications on a wide variety of issues, including deforestation, flooding, land development, water pollution, pesticides, droughts, natural disasters, global warming and climate change. This material was collected and used by Common Ground from 1980s to 2010s for research purposes and informed many of their projects and campaigns. This material may be of particular interest to anyone studying climate change and how governments and environmental organisations in the past 40 years have responded to it.

A small selection of research material in the Common Ground archive

We hope you have enjoyed reading this blog post about climate resources in the Common Ground archive. If you have a particular interest and would like to know whether there is any relevant material in the Common Ground archive, you can browse our online catalogue (please note that the archive is currently undergoing cataloguing) or send us an email at libspc@exeter.ac.uk. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

By Annie Price, Project Archivist

Why not start your exploration of the Common Ground archive via our online archives catalogue today?

You can also find out more about the Common Ground archive cataloguing project by taking a look back at our previous blog posts.

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