Watery Archives hero

Watery Archives

A one-day participatory workshop on Hull’s flood histories

Project summary

The Challenge

Community members asked for an opportunity to learn more about Hull’s water and flood histories.

The Approach

The Risky Cities team co-designed a participatory history workshop which was held at Hull History Centre

The Outcome

The workshop formed a great opportunity for knowledge exchange between the participants and workshop leads and hosts.

Lead academics

Funded by

Project partners


Hull History Centre

The Challenge

Risky Cities workshops and events demonstrated that historically informed approaches to learning about flooding were effective and we received numerous requests from community members for more opportunities to explore and learn about Hull’s history of living with water. Previously we had brought images and stories from the archive out to workshop participants, but we also wanted to give them an opportunity to work directly with the historical documents in order to widen access and inclusion to the city’s heritage spaces

The Approach

Watery Archives was a co-designed participatory history workshop at Hull History Centre. Community members and previous project participants were invited to the daylong event to explore historic documents and local stories relating to the City’s watery past. The aim was for the workshop to be participatory, so academics, archivists and community members could freely share their skills, experiences, and knowledge about the city.

During the course of the day we explored four different kinds of archival material: maps, manuscripts, policy documents and newspapers. Information about each was then combined with creative activities and group discussion. For example, after a short talk on historic maps and their power to present places in different ways through their design and use of imagery, participants then went on to explore a range of historical maps of Hull, finding their own homes and sharing stories from those places.

We also gave participants the opportunity to create their own archive at the end of the day. This was framed around the question ‘what do you want to put in Hull’s watery archive?’. This led to a variety of responses; from the sound of water rising through the ground, to ‘reeds’ and the stories of people’s personal experience of flooding.

Watery Archives Workshop

The Impact

The workshop formed a great opportunity for knowledge exchange between each of the participants. Community members were able to develop their own archival skills, while academics were able to learn about community stories, experiences and needs.

‘I really enjoyed it, and learnt a lot about watery history, archival skills and how I can relate things or use knowledge to inform my arts projects’.

Feedback gathered from participants indicated that the workshop changed people’s perceptions of water in the city - ‘It makes you realise how water dependant Hull is’

And it also shaped thinking around future water management and flood prevention - ‘ask or educate people not to hard surface their gardens or drives – heavy downpours cause these areas to flood!’

Watery Archives Workshop 2