The George Padmore Institute (GPI) is the type of place that makes history feel very personal.
It's size (some smallish rooms of a typical-sized inner London residential property that sits over a bookshop);
it's location (said bookshop sitting on a typical inner London local high street);
it's way of working (arrange an appointment to sit down and be fed as many documents as you can get through via conversation with their knowledgeable curator);
it's very existence (named after one radical visionary, filled with the seemingly endless papers of another).
GPI sits in contrast to those archives that are evidently more ‘institutional’ in their approach, size, status and beginnings. Each way has its benefits.
One of the benefits I find within an archive like this is the sense that history is the day to day. I believe that is a very valuable perspective to take from the nature of a space. I suspect it is a perspective that many institutions will struggle (and largely fail) to instill amongst visitors, despite their best efforts. It is a perspective that brings an overstanding that history is the things that you or I can do if we so choose.
History is the actions we can and do take part in. History is not - or does not have to be - something separate from us. It does not have to involve hundreds, thousands or millions of people. It can be the commitment of a single person and a few equally committed people around them. It can be as seemingly mundane as a letter or a postcard or the minutes of a meeting.
These things all come together to create a space and energy in the minds of others akin to dynamite in its raw potential to shift matter and produce vibration and forward motion.
From the perspective of campaigning and working for change and progress, I find that very inspiring. I also take relief from it. Because it is a further reminder - when needed - that life, beauty, self-fulfilment, creativity and so much more are not exclusively held at the so-called pinnacles of achievement. There is only so much that can be held in those spaces and much that can never ever be held in those spaces. And beyond that, these things are held all around us by people like us.
GPI reminds me of that.