It’s strange and surprising what can influence record research. Last week I turned on the radio, and subsequently have had a lyric stuck in my head (‘Half of what I say is meaningless,’ as sung by John Lennon in The Beatles’ ‘Julia’). For no other reason, I decided to delve into one of the records The National Archives has relating to the most famous band the world has ever seen.
The Beatles in Japan - cover of despatch in FO 371/187127
A search on our new catalogue, Discovery, provides a number of results for The Beatles, but one in particular catches the eye: the Foreign Office record referring to the band’s 1966 trip to Tokyo (FO 371/187127).
The band arrived in Japan at the end of June 1966 on the back of a storm. Alongside the wild Beatlemania which had spread across the globe in previous years, a tropical storm delayed their arrival in Tokyo for several hours. The ‘Beatles typhoon’, as it was nicknamed, provides a neat metaphor for the band’s days in the city, as they arrived to perform five concerts in five days at the Budokan Arena.
The deadline for this year’s round of the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives is fast approaching. This is a programme administered by The National Archives in partnership with a group of charitable trusts to offer strategic funding to open up archive collections for research. It’s the first year I haven’t been the programme administrator, so I’m feeling a little nostalgic about being involved in something so successful and fulfilling. (You might like to take a look at the Five Year Review of the programme to see why I’ve enjoyed being part of it so much.)
Sketch of a card game at Blenheim, 1880 NPG7/3/4/2/116 ©National Portrait Gallery, cataloguing grant recipients 2009
I’ve also been an assessor for a wide range of archive grant programmes in the past decade, and I thought as my swansong I might share some key tips with you. These don’t appear in any guidance for applicants but they are essential to a successful application, whatever the programme and well beyond the archives sector.
It’s often the little things
You are applying for a grant of thousands, if not millions, of pounds. You’re probably very busy, and have many tasks on your plate. But taking a few minutes to proof-read your application could be the best time you spend on it. Remember you will be in a competitive application process: don’t miss out by giving a sloppy first impression.
Spelling all the names and addresses correctly; making sure your costs add up; sending only what is requested and relevant to your application (but sending everything you’re asked for); making sure you’re not sending a draft with tracked changes: these are really basic points. But you would be amazed how often they get overlooked.
On your visit to The National Archives, you get your reader’s ticket to order up the documents you are interested in seeing but, after entering the document references into Discovery, a document comes up as ‘unfit for production’. So, you wonder, what does that mean?
Unfit document - Detail of damage to an unfit document
Items designated ‘unfit for production’ are in such vulnerable physical condition that producing them would present a risk to the document – unfit documents could be extremely fragile, they could be blocked (all the pages stuck together in a volume or a roll), or perhaps they could be damaged by mould. These are the documents that, when you open the box, you immediately jump to put the top back on and quickly hide it at the bottom of the pile, hoping that it will miraculously disappear!
So who is swanning around, while the rest of us go about our business?
During each year we have lots of feathered visitors come and go, but for a long time we have not been visited by swans. Then, late last year, this all changed when pondweed grew and took over the pond – not good for the aesthetics of the pond, but great for biodiversity as it became a great food source for a family of swans. Continue reading »
Happy St. George’s Day!
St. George is an elusive figure in our records, but he does pop up in a place calling for national pride and strength – the National War Savings Committee posters.
He appears with the slogan ‘Lend to defend the right to be free’, encouraging households to invest in national savings certificates during the Second World War:
"Lend to defend the right to be free": St. George and the Dragon. 1940
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I have enjoyed reading the recent blogs of my colleagues on the subject of the UK Government Web Archive and its evolution since the early days of UK Government on the web. I’d like to continue to the theme of evolution and take a look back at how far we’ve come in recent years.
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At the end of my last blog post I mentioned that I hadn’t seen one of our treasures – the confession of Guy Fawkes, until I was asked to produce it for a film crew.
This document was broadcast last night on National Geographic Channel in episode one of ’Bloody Tales of the Tower’.
As before, this document (SP 14/216) is available to view at Kew to anyone with a valid reader’s ticket.
So, how does filming work?
We’re always keen to hear from people about ideas for collaborative working. We regularly hear from academics who want to talk about new and interesting collaborative research projects. Usually, after lots of meetings, phone calls and emails, ideas are firmed up and a detailed proposal is put together.
But, obviously, we have limited resources and, therefore, can’t say yes to everyone and everything and that’s why we have a formal process to sift through the proposals, this is known as the Grants and Academic Support Panel (or, GASP). The Panel, which meets fortnightly, has representation from each of The National Archives’ Directorates (all at Head of department level) and is Chaired by the Head of Research, Dr Valerie Johnson.
Today is the eve of the centenary of the sinking of Titanic. The ship struck the iceberg on 14 April at about 11.40 pm, but the anniversary of the sinking is on the 15th, since it had not become fully submerged until 2.40 am.
RMS Titanic at Belfast 1 April 1912
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PCC Will of Anne Slack 1843 PROB 11/ 1977
Researchers and writers use documents from The National Archives a lot. You will find references to these documents in the footnotes of many a scholarly volume, and we even have a guide to Citing documents in The National Archives.
But some of the documents we hold are fakes or forgeries, and sometimes the fact that they are fakes is what makes them interesting.