Just a selection of the campaign badges held by the Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive (with thanks to Bishopsgate Institute for the image)
We’re now well into LGBT history month, celebrated by The National Archives and many other heritage organisations and communities across the country. It seems like a good moment to reflect on how LGBT archives appear in the historical record, without which LGBT history month couldn’t exist.
Older records can be really problematic for studying LGBT history, and seem almost to conspire to hide histories rather than to reveal. Where a community was of necessity trying to avoid the eye of the authorities, there’s relatively little in the official records, and when it does exist, it’s often a negative portrayal. Jenni’s blog earlier in the month outlined what The National Archives is trying to do about that, revealing hidden histories and bringing together information on LGBT records so that it is easier to find. Continue reading »
A bit of old Britain pamphlet front (ref: NRO 2674)
As part of my traineeship I’m creating an online exhibition at Northumberland Archives, showcasing items that reflect aspects of the maritime history of the area.
Though I was aware of some parts of this history, such as the region’s long association with the shipbuilding industry, I had little knowledge of other elements like ship breaking.
This pamphlet (see right) is from Hughes Bolckow & Co., battleship breakers based at Battleship Wharf, Blyth, Northumberland. The company bought in redundant ships and stripped and made furniture and other household goods from the fittings of the ships. It appears that the company had an extensive business and they sold directly from Blyth and from their London showrooms. Continue reading »
It is six months since I last blogged about my own major project, the new Accreditation Programme for Archive Services. Then, I was introducing the pilot we were about to launch and describing what we hoped would come out of that process. Today, I can reflect on what we have learned from the pilot.
I listed three main aims for the pilot:
- Working out the kinks
- Getting the guidance as good as it can be
- Making sure that one size fits all
We recruited 20 different archive services from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to achieve this. They represent a huge range of service types, from national institutions – The National Archives itself led the way as a pilot – to very small, privately-run archives who nonetheless can provide a public service to interested parties.
The strongroom at Exeter Cathedral Library and Archives, one of our pilot services
We worked with business archives, who often have serving internal users as a priority; archives in museums, where we needed to review how this new programme works with the existing scheme for museum accreditation; and we were very pleased to have a volunteer from the audio-visual archives sector who tested how the principles of archive service accreditation would work with their different media. So we gave ‘one size fits all’ a good workout.
What we heard back
Of the 20 services who began the pilot, all 20 were able to make a return, despite having to work to a tight timescale of just three months to help us launch the programme on schedule. That gives us real assurance that the process is not too burdensome. We recommend that once the scheme is live, archive services make it part of their long term planning and development, rather than setting an artificially short deadline like this.
Continue reading »
Ice cream may not be all that appealing at the moment, given the recent snowy weather. It’s a time when most of us just want to wrap up warm and eat comforting stews and soups. I, however, have spent a week rummaging through boxes of material from the Lyon’s collection at London Metropolitan Archive (LMA).
Result: Now ice-cream is all I can think about…
'Lyons Ice Cream Van' from the Lyons Maid Collection at LMA
Continue reading »
Encouraging creative reuse of archive collections
As part of my traineeship at Tyne and Wear Archives I have got involved in exciting projects that look at ways of being responsive to public interests as well as enable people to create new meaning from the collections. Some of the projects have invited creative practitioners to explore the collections and tell us what they feel evokes interest, what is inspiring to them and in turn their audiences.
For one project called Half Memory, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums worked in partnership with Tyneside Cinema and record label Tusk Music to commission sound artists and musicians to create original music in response to the collections. Warm Digits and Richard Dawson, two regional artists, had the freedom to explore the archives to identify resonant collections areas to inspire new work.
Warm Digits created a film and soundtrack inspired by line drawing designs, plans and photographs from a massive 1970s Tyneside civic engineering project (the metro system construction). Richard Dawson took his inspiration for a new album from photographs, letters, newspaper cuttings and illustrations of obscure North East tales.
I worked with Emily Meritt, a volunteer and photography student, to help Warm Digits source the images based on their specific brief. It was important we understood the desired aesthetics of the film they wanted to produce.
We sourced and digitised a few hundred images, including the below:
Warm Digits: Tyne and Wear Metro Construction (ref: DT.MHA/17/1/K624-1) The finished film will be published online in April 2013
Continue reading »
Access to 13 archive collections is set to be transformed by a series of grants announced today. The National Cataloguing Grants Programme 2012 has awarded £407,950 to archives across the UK to help make these vitally important collections fully accessible for the first time.
Warwickshire Record Office's successful project - 'Boaters & Bright Sparks' will catalogue the archive of Willans Works, Rugby
Managed by The National Archives, the grants programme helps archives to catalogue previously inaccessible collections. Cataloguing past collections has uncovered treasures, which have provided unique insight into our nation’s history.
The programme is funded by a collective of charitable trusts and foundations including the Pilgrim Trust, the Foyle Foundation and the Wolfson Foundation – we are very grateful for their renewed support.
Continue reading »
Some responses are not too hard to interpret: Do you keep an accessions register?
I posted back in November about our annual survey, Accessions to Repositories, which maps new material taken in by archive services across the UK. I also mentioned that we were asking the services who participate in Accessions to Repositories to tell us how they find the experience, and what we can do to help them. We now have the results, and they make interesting reading.
I’m glad to say that over 100 archive services took the time to respond – that’s over a third of the total who participate in the Accessions to Repositories exercise – and that there was a good mix of types of archive: local and specialist, national and higher education archives were all represented. We’d like to thank all who responded.
Continue reading »
I’ve been thinking about this question a lot since starting the Clore Fellowship Programme. Out of 29 fellows I’m the only one from an archive. Being quite literally the only archivist in the room has made me reflect not just on my own role, but also on how archives fit into the cultural sector.
I wasn’t accustomed to seeing myself as part of the cultural sector before the fellowship began. My day job rarely takes me out of the office, and when it does I don’t venture beyond familiar territory: my last (hugely enjoyable) work trip was to London Metropolitan Archives (LMA). What’s more, working at The National Archives means that I’m a civil servant within the official archive of the UK central government, and until recently this governmental context loomed larger in my mind than potential areas of collaboration with galleries, theatres or dance companies.
Prompted by the fellowship, I spent a day in our Archives Sector Development department a few weeks ago to find out more about what they do. I’m getting the impression that other archives are more likely than The National Archives to exist in partnership with different kinds of cultural organisations.
Continue reading »
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.
Continue reading »
In my last post (Watch out Aliens!) I discussed the records I had based the Polish Community in Leicestershire project on and described the Alien Certificates and Alien Cards in detail. Today I would like to focus more on the stories told to me by the Poles who came to Britain in the late 1940s. Through visiting and interviewing these generous people, I managed to make several oral history recordings which have been essential to the project.
Winston Churchill and Wladyslaw Sikorski reviewing Polish troops in England (by Anonymous photography, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
The Polish people who came to Britain in the 1940s arrived here as a result of the Second World War. They were either serving under the British Command once Poland collapsed after the attack of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in 1939, or as dependants of relatives in the army. Most of the Poles who settled in Britain originated from Eastern Poland and were deported to Siberia by the Soviets in 1940 and 1941. After the Nazi attack on Soviet Russia, Polish and Russian authorities signed an agreement which allowed deported Poles to leave Siberia and join the Polish Army under the British Command (approximately a million people were taken into Russia and only about 15% of them managed to get out). Continue reading »