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 »
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 »
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 »
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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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
Continue reading »
‘Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding’
This inscription from the Book of Proverbs can be found in the Great Hall of Manchester Central Library. I’m an Opening up Archives trainee, based in Manchester Archives, which is a part of Manchester Libraries. Today, many archival institutions have a social media presence; they tweet, blog, have a Facebook page and a Flickr Photostream, but to what extent do they help us get wisdom? I’d like to concentrate on three different, emerging, and perhaps misunderstood, online-based channels which offer the potential to produce an engaging, interesting and accessible online narrative.
Augmented Reality (AR), as I understand it, involves the combination of a real world view with a virtual scene generated by a computer, augmented with additional information which is viewed through a smart phone or tablet. I’ve written about AR previously on the Manchester Archives blog, in which I discussed what AR could add to this pictorial poster (below) produced for the Manchester Corporation Transport Department by E. Wigglesworth in the early 1930s. The potential and possibilities for contextualising an item or collection appears endless.
Manchester Corporation Transport Department poster by E. Wigglesworth (GB127 M29 File 71J)
Continue reading »
As part of my Opening Up Archives traineeship at the West Yorkshire Archive Service, I am looking into the world that is Digital Preservation. Similar to a fellow trainee, my knowledge of digital preservation was pretty much nonexistent. When presented with the term, although I had my assumptions of what its true meaning was, I didn’t want to rely on that alone. With a background in IT and languages, getting to grips with digital preservation was a little easier than learning about archives as a whole. Digital Preservation, as mentioned in the previous Trainee Tuesday blog post: Tales from the Dark Archive, is the challenge to preserve digital material so that it can be accessed in the future.
In May, I attended the Digital Preservation Training Programme (DPTP) and it brought clarity to the concepts, models and acronyms associated with digital preservation. Practical activities enabled the other attendees and I to think about the subject, what issues there are surrounding it and to see if we could relate the topics to what we do in our own organisations. One benefit was that the OAIS functional model was broken down into sizeable chunks and discussed in great detail. The Open Archival Information system (OAIS) model is a reference model created to give understanding and knowledge of concepts and processes of digital preservation.
Now after five months, I am comfortable talking about checksums, ingest procedures and software involved as well as knowing how an archives works thanks to a lot of reading on my part and a lot of patience from my colleagues.
A packed out room of eager listeners
So this week at the Our Stories Community Archives Conference 2012, I was asked to deliver a workshop for community groups on digitising collections with regards to planning and long term care. This was a great opportunity because it was my first time delivering a workshop at a conference and I could put my knowledge to good use.
Continue reading »