All this week, as part of the Explore Your Archive campaign, archives have been sharing their work, opening up their collections and answering your questions. Today we want to celebrate archives – the collections and the people and to really shout about what makes them so great.
Tell us what archives mean to you! Why is archival research important? If you’ve taken part in your local archives’ events tell us what you enjoyed. Tell us why you love to #explorearchives.
In this blog post, Stephen McGann, one of our Explore Your Archive ambassadors, tells us more about why archives mean so much to him:
The word sounds a little dusty and remote, doesn’t it? Like ‘archaic’. A dead thing, viewed from some great distance. A fossilized relic, devoid of blood or passion.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, it’s hard to think there was a time when I wasn’t aware of the passionate life that crawls beneath the cold stone of that unassuming word.
The first time I discovered archives, I was just 17 years old – a nervy teenager in a northern English town. I’d asked my dad about my ancestors, who had apparently arrived from Ireland to forge a life in the same streets where I lived. He’d heard only fragments. Warriors – labourers – merchant seamen – even a Titanic survivor – vague anecdotes of disasters and heroism. So I plucked up some courage, and ventured out to my local Records Office to see if I could discover more.
When I first entered, I was nervous. The place had an academic hush to it. The other visitors seemed so expert and absorbed – the staff so busy and forbidding. Yet I was put at ease by a friendly staff member, who helped decipher my scribbled notes, and extract a coherent document request: a Victorian parish register of births. I filled my request form in, and waited patiently for the data to be delivered.