When thinking of war posters, the slogans ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ or ‘Make-do and Mend‘ might spring to mind, or perhaps the darker ‘Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?’ During the First and Second World Wars, posters were a vital method of communication; the government used them to increase morale, reduce panic and boost both agricultural and industrial output.
You could argue that they’re now embedded in the culture of the country. It’s highly likely every one of us will recognise Lord Kitchener’s ‘I Want You’ designed by Alfred Leete, in 1914. We have a collection of over 150 posters at Manchester Archives.
'Which is it be, Bonds or Bondage?' poster
Take this poster from the collection ‘Which is it to be; Bonds or Bondage?’ issued by the War Savings Office in Salford (date not known), which is unique to the area. Continue reading »
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 »
So the Opening up Archives programme is in its eighth month – we’ve passed the halfway mark and over half of us trainees have blogged here in our very own Trainee Tuesday slot. We’ve had posts on digital preservation, augmented reality, and we’ve learnt about projects and collections within our hosts’ archives, in Leicester Records Office and in London Metropolitan Archives. Oh, and we also learnt that one of our fellow trainees likes to masquerade as a frustrated 18th century spinster online. Well, to each their own.
A lot of collections we’ve seen so far are rooted in the 20th century onwards, but my traineeship goes back a little further than that. I and my fellow trainee, Amy, are based at the Borthwick Institute for Archives undergoing a traineeship that could easily be titled ‘learning to read really old things’. In fact that’s how I describe it to people who ask. Ours is the only traineeship which focuses mainly on these more ‘traditional’ skills: palaeography (the writing), diplomatic (the format), and Latin (the dead language).
And it makes sense really, when you think of the Borthwick’s holdings: an enormous collection of ecclesiastical records including parish registers, visitations, church court records, vast collections of diocesan records and probate records. Many of the documents we are interested in date back to medieval times. Don’t get me wrong, we do have records which date from – gasp – this century; we have a digital archivist and we even have a twitter account! However, in order for us to get anywhere in our traineeship we definitely need the skills we are learning.
In order for us to learn these skills we have to practice, and we’ve found that the best documents to practice with are Cause Papers and wills. The Cause Papers in particular feature a variety of English and Latin, follow a set format and often they can feature narratives which could rival a soap opera’s.
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 »
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.
Continue reading »
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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Using archival resources to aid citizenship teaching
When I started at London Metropolitan Archives I thought I had a pretty good idea of the sort of collections it held. A copy of Magna Carta, a decree of William the Conqueror and another 100km or so of shelving containing the minutiae of London’s governance and trade for the last 1,000 years or so.
Once I arrived here and started browsing the catalogue though, I was pleasantly surprised to see that we didn’t just have the documents of London’s officialdom in our strong rooms, but also the documents of the long procession of London radicals and community groups that have fought for change against the prevailing orthodoxy. From Chartism to Suffragettes to Peter Tatchell, if someone’s been angry with the establishment in the capital, we invariably have some record of it.
Mumia Abu-Jamal protest
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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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Leicestershire’s Folk Past in Pictures
Welcome to another exciting instalment of ‘Trainee Tuesdays’ – brought to you this time via the Record Office for Leicestershire and Rutland, where I began work this July in the digital preservation department.
My fellow trainees have written eloquently about the digital learning curve and the processes and problems inherent to preserving born-digital content. This current contribution is more of a saccharine cherry on top of the digital preservation cake, in which I offer a sneak peak into some of our collections themselves.
Here at the Record Office we are busily scanning an enormous amount of photographic material, including tens of thousands of glass-plate negatives, one of my personal projects. Many of you will be familiar with this pre-celluloid medium, but for those who are not here is a pleasing assortment:
Glass plate negatives
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As an ‘Opening up Archives’ trainee I was set the task of preparing a community engagement project. Being a Polish national with a Master’s degree in History, I decided to research the post-war Polish community in Leicestershire. As it turned out, the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland did not hold many records regarding this community, however, all of my colleagues mentioned that there were something called ‘aliens’ cards’ in our strongroom. So I started my project by going through this collection, which had been donated by the local police force in the year 2000, and which consisted of 93 boxes. This deposit has not only become my main source of information for the project’s statistics, but it also provides essential knowledge about Poles living in the county.
Adam Mamos' Alien certificate
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