The future of the archive

What will happen to your work and archive?

Meadows’ entire photographic archive is being acquired for Birmingham Central Library within the next few years. “I’ve always thought I’ve been making something for the history books,” he says. “The most important thing is that my work is in a public collection.”

Meadows began to focus on his archive in 2008, when he received approaches (simultaneously and independently) from Pete James, Curator of Photography Collections at the Library of Birmingham and Professor Val Williams, at the University of the Arts for, respectively, the acquisition of some pictures for the Birmingham collection and the curating of a retrospective exhibition.

What have you had to do to your archive to make it possible for the Library of Birmingham to take it on?

In June 2009 James, who by then had become interested in acquiring the whole of Meadows’ documentary archive, provided him with archival quality negative bags, print sleeves and boxes sufficient to rebag all of the films and contact sheets in his documentary collection (not the movie stills). Meadows used money from the purchase of some of his prints to buy an Imacon scanner and a printer and set about digitising his darkroom.

With the help of photography student interns from the University of Wales, Newport, all the negatives were rebagged in archival sleeves and boxes, missing contact sheets were made, and negatives and paper documents were scanned.

Do you want it to be kept together, or would you think about breaking it up?

Meadows would prefer all the material to be kept together. The interest and investment from the Library of Birmingham make this seem probable. Meadows expresses relief that he will not continue to have responsibility for the archive; it will be safe from flooding or a fire and he will no longer have the, not inconsiderable, expense of looking after it.