What is the Finding Archives project?
For the last 18 months we have been working on Finding Archives which is part of the Discovery project. Finding Archives focuses on the bringing together information describing records held in other archives with the information about The National Archives records so that users can access this in one place, simply and easily-a ‘one stop shop’ for access to records relating to UK history wherever they are held.
Finding Archives focuses on the National Register of Archives (NRA), Manorial Documents Register (MDR), ARCHON Directory, Access to Archives (A2A), Accessions to Repositories and the Hospital Records Database (HOSPREC). These services currently provide descriptive and access information about millions of records held in over 2500 archives in the UK and overseas. At the moment, Discovery displays The National Archives’ catalogue data and digital records. The value of combining Finding Archives data with information about over 20 million records held at The National Archives is enormous.
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Those blog readers who’ve been to Kew recently will have noticed we’ve carried out a few changes to our museum.
You may not know this, but The National Archives and its predecessor, the Public Record Office, have had some form of museum to display our fantastic collection since the early 1900s and it is a really great resource to have.
The face the old museum presented to those arriving at The National Archives
The museum was completely redesigned in 2008 and, while people really loved the content and displays, the space never really worked the way it was supposed to. So, after carrying out an internal review of the museum this year, we started a project to address the main issues identified: that the space was cold, dark, uninviting and often looked closed and there wasn’t any space or facilities for a large group, limiting our education department’s use of the space. All of these problems resulted in there being relatively little use of the museum, it was often empty and those who did pop in to take a look didn’t stay very long.
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It’s been a very exciting 2012 for The National Archives’ blog. Since our very first post, back in February, we’ve endeavoured to involve you in the extraordinary range of work we do here, and share the passion and enthusiasm our bloggers have for their work. Through comments, tweets and emails, we’ve had brilliant feedback from you, our readers, and hope to build on this success into 2013.
We’re currently posting about four blog posts a week (sometimes more, rarely less), and try to make sure that these cover a variety of subjects. The classic blog ‘list view’ (showing in date order) does mean, however, that posts are quickly pushed quite far down the ‘front page’ of the blog.
Blog front page 2013
So, in time for our first birthday in February 2013, we want to launch a new front page for the blog, one that lets us keep a lot more posts visible on your screen, without you having to work to get to them. You will still be able to switch to the current list style by clicking on ‘List view’ at the top of the page (click on the image on the right to enlarge it).
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Archiving the arts
We’re embarking on an exciting new collection strategy this month, called Archiving the Arts. Our work on collection strategies generally is about identifying those areas of our society which need support to ensure that their archives survive and are accessible into the future. Those archives won’t usually come to The National Archives – very often they will be collected and held by a big range of archive services across the UK, keeping collections with relevant communities.
There can be many reasons why a collection strategy becomes essential – in the case of Archiving the Arts, it is a direct response to the needs of the arts community, who are increasingly interested in exploring a ‘second life’ for their archives and collections. They want to reuse and respond to evidence of their own artistic heritage. The arts is a complex area to archive, because arts organisations’ and artists’ heritage is more than their documents and records: to capture the essence of an art form for posterity, a variety of audio and visual media are often needed, and objects can be a crucial part of the heritage too. Though many arts archives already exist and can be very rich and exciting in content, there is a real danger that other aspects of the arts will not be accessible in the future. Continue reading »
Turning paper graveyards into community hubs
Following the post from my fellow trainee Kasia about her work with the Polish community in Leicestershire, I would like to expand upon the topic of archives and the community where I work at Surrey History Centre.
It’s probably fair to say that most people in Surrey have never visited an archive, and it’s easy to see why. As a history lover, I love the idea of rummaging through old documents but, for a research novice, it’s easy to think of an archive building as a kind of paper graveyard, where documents belonging to people who are no longer around, or companies that no longer exist, are left in dusty boxes only to be looked at occasionally by a scholar or academic, if at all.
My traineeship works to challenge this image. We encourage people to take an interest in our collections, to use us for research and to deposit items and collections they think might be important to the history of Surrey in our archive. We need to show that even though the items stored are objects of history, the collections are still socially relevant today.
The main issue, which I am sure many archives would agree with, is that the demographic of users is made up mostly of white, middle-class people, often retired. However, the history of Surrey is full of other cultures, nationalities, and identities that need to be drawn out of the archives and made visible to the wider community.
I would like to pull out two examples that I have been working on during my traineeship. Continue reading »
Christmas at the bookshop
In the run up to Christmas (yes it has started, we have our Christmas cards out and we are only moments away from fake snow on the windows) I thought I might suggest some new releases for those seeking inspiration for the present list. Remember, a book is always welcome… well, it is in my house.
The first, A Book for Cooks, is a blatantly self-indulgent hint to any of my nearest and dearest looking to buy for me. Not history, you may think initially, however bear with me: history is about people and ‘we are what we eat’. (In my case this is clearly several fat capons and an awful lot of butter, I sometimes wonder if my attraction to the past is nothing more than a hankering after a more woman-friendly age when the pins-ups were by Reubens rather Hello magazine…) So first up is an unusual but lovely look at the historical development of food, eating, design and the cookbook. A Book for Cooks is Leslie Geddes-Brown’s list of the 101 best cookbooks of all time. In cookbook terms, all time dates from the early 16th century when recipes began to be written down and published. Prior to that it was an oral tradition where crucial ingredients and cooking times were passed on by a clip round the ear to the nearest scullery boy.
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The Inner London Education Authority Television Service
Over the last six months as a trainee at the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), I have been absorbing myself in the film and video collection and hosting a monthly Film Club dedicated to the interpretation of the previously little explored moving image archive held here. The Film Club gets together to watch and discuss films within the collection, often focussing on themes that are of particular relevance to events occurring in London within that month, whilst also providing a platform from which to engage our regular archive visitors in a different way of researching and sharing information.
ILEA 4: A teacher working at Battersea Studios
Some of the strangest and most interesting screenings have come courtesy of a collection of educational videos made by the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) in the 1970s and 80s. ILEA was the education authority for the 12 inner London boroughs and the City of London from 1965 until its abolishment in 1990, after which the educational needs of these schools were taken on by the borough in which they were situated, in line with the rest of the country.
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All the best things go in cycles - thanks to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History for the inspirational diagram
One of my very first posts on this blog was about our annual survey of collecting, known as ‘accessions to repositories’. It’s a crucial way we keep in touch with hundreds of archive services across the UK, finding out what they are collecting and how the archival map is evolving. Archive services’ collections grow constantly: they add items to document more recent history, and also when new collections become available, whether because new relationships have been built, or because of a major event, as when a company has closed or an owner has died and the records need a safe new home.
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The conservation of MH 47 in preparation for digitisation has been an intriguing and engaging experience due to the nature of the content and variety of paper-based materials within this group of records. The records are primary sources regarding conscientious objectors and appeals of exemption for the First World War.
Repairing a MH 47 record
While the majority of the records are standard forms of the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal, the group also includes minute volumes and hand written letters and photographs submitted by applicants as evidence of their claim. Thanks to the exceptional efforts of volunteers, the forms and letters pertaining to the appeal of each individual applicant have been sorted and placed in separate folders; this enables greater ease of handling, increased efficiency in completing conservation treatments and appropriate housing for long-term storage after digitisation.
Bore Place, Kent
When I joined The National Archives I couldn’t have imagined that I’d spend two weeks living on an organic farm in the name of work. But in late September of this year I found myself at Bore Place, a conference and study centre in the idyllic Kentish Weald, for the opening fortnight of the Clore Fellowship Programme 2012-2013.
I have had the great honour of being selected as one of 29 fellows on the programme, which is designed to support leadership development in the cultural sector. My own fellowship is supported not just by the Clore Leadership Programme but also by a consortium of national archive institutions: The National Archives, National Records of Scotland and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.
Most of my fellow fellows come from the UK, but there are also two from India, two from Jordan and two from Hong Kong. Our professional backgrounds range from theatre and dance to libraries and museums. Some are freelancers, while others work for big organisations.
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