Interacting with the Nutrition Society archives: look, read, touch, think, create, write, talk and share

Summer Conference 2018 archive exhibition - Uni of Leeds

Continuous care of The Nutrition Society’s records and corporate memory has produced an archive of information assets that evidence collaborations between nutritional scientists since 1941. Primary source material of biographical and historical importance captures the critical thinking behind political and social drivers that developed nutritional science. The Nutrition Society will provide continuous and long-term management and preservation of its records and those pertaining to the Secretariat services it hosts, including the International Union of Nutritional Sciences. The authenticity, reliability, integrity and usability of these records is captured in ways that ensures future researchers will have access to information and be able to examine, analyse and circulate new ideas in the future.

The Society’s archive is registered with the National Archives and has a unique Archon code to identify its collections. On-going design of the archives catalogue is supported by a framework of policies, plans and procedures, designed to comply with the democratic principles of documenting accountability and transparency. Compliance will be delivered that adopts and enforces appropriate national archival policies and laws, to locate, retrieve, select, and interpret usable records. Schedules designed to ensure compliance with General Data Protection Regulations, will ensure access is restricted where appropriate, to protect privacy rights.

The Nutrition Society’s commitment to long-term preservation of its physical and digital assets is being delivered with appropriate conservation and preservation management. The Society will exhibit selected items from its collections after mitigating any associated risks, maintaining a balance between preservation and access of this significant resource.

Showcasing its 75-year history with an archive exhibition during the Society’s reception at the Royal Society in December 2016 identified further exhibition potential.

Understanding that an exhibition has the power to animate a collection and inspire new audiences, the Society decided to host its first theme specific exhibition at the 2018 Summer Conference at University of Leeds. The conference and archive exhibition theme ‘Getting energy balance right’ provided a narrative to trace ideologies concerning obesity and capture the scope of the Society’s evolving European and International collaboration on this topic.  The International Union of Nutrition Societies (IUNS) and Federation of European Nutrition Societies (FENS) characterise this ideal through their meetings, emphasising that energy balance is a recurring topic which remains as important today as it was in 1919.

This exhibition showcased 69 items from the archives to signify the history of the conference theme and the effects and affects of continuous scientific collaboration.  Engaging with ideas at the intersection between archives and nutritional science highlighted how energy balance has been explored for almost one hundred years. Methods of discussion are more sophisticated and professional as understanding of nutrition and energy balance has become more nuanced: the emphasis changing from malnutrition to obesity.

The expertise of the conference visitors enhanced the exhibition with discussions reflecting different points of view: they could look, read, touch, think, create, write, talk and share. At the Archives Interactive table delegates responded to statements selected from documents in the Society’s archives, concerning energy balance, weighing their opinion against the statement by selecting a blue counter to agree with the statement, a yellow counter to disagree with the statement or a white counter to show uncertainty. In this participatory experience, people engaged with nutritional voices from the past and became enlightened how language has changed over time to articulate scientific ideas. The images below indicate the statement from the document and illustrate the percentage of assenting and dissenting opinions generated in the interaction.

With an archive strategy for outreach and engagement, the Nutrition Society welcomes opportunities to host further archive exhibitions and activities in collaboration with archives of other learned and scientific societies.

Sheila Mercieca
The Nutrition Society Archives, Library and Records Manager

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