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.
Posts tagged 'records'
At 08.19 on 8 October 1952 three trains collided with one another at Harrow and Wealdstone Train Station, some 11 miles to the north of Euston Station in London. One of the trains was a local passenger service taking early morning commuters from Tring to Euston, and the other was a passenger service from Perth to Euston. A third train, the 08.00 express travelling from Euston to Liverpool and Manchester ploughed into the wreckage created by the initial collision of the trains travelling from Perth and Tring.
A combination of poor weather (patchy fog), misread signals and inadequate equipment led to a disaster that was only exceeded in scale by the disaster at Gretna Green in 1915, when 227 persons, mostly soldiers heading to the Front, were killed. The carnage of Harrow and Wealdstone can be comprehended if one considers the effects of a crowded passenger train (the Liverpool express) steaming into the shattered remnants of trains already wrecked and with their passengers and their effects strewn across lines. One disaster fed into another disaster. The casualty figures, high enough, would have been higher still were it not for the swift attention of passing detachments of the United States Air Force, who rushed to the scene of the disaster and applied life-saving field techniques learnt in wartime.
At last, a hero who was a data specialist: Christopher Tietjens in the recent BBC adaptation of Parade’s End, four partially autobiographical novels by Ford Madox Ford, beginning just before the First World War.
Tietjens is a civil servant in the newly created Department of Imperial Statistics: ‘a first class government office’ no less. In truth, there’s not much data crunching in Parade’s End, although more so in the books than in the television adaptation: one doesn’t feel that mugging up on standard deviation was a vital part of Benedict Cumberbatch’s preparation. But is there anything in The National Archives that could shed some light on what Tietjens and his department were doing?
I supposed the Department of Imperial Statistics to be a fictional version of what is now the Office for National Statistics. In 1912, the ONS predecessor was neither newly created, nor was it anything other than home based, indeed at this time it was under the parochial charge of the Local Government Board. We even have real some data from that era: the historic mortality files from 1901 – 1995 in RG 69, part of our National Digital Archive of Datasets (NDAD) collection. But Tietjens wasn’t tabulating native mortality; his masters were after the population of British Columbia and British North America. At the time of the high water mark of the British Empire, and all the administration and trade that went with it – if there wasn’t a Department of Imperial Statistics, you’d surely need to invent one… Continue reading »
… when it’s really just beginning! My colleague Cathy Williams brings you her final update on The Record of London 2012.
Cathy writes: My first – very first – blogpost in May posed questions about the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games pre-London 2012 and the promised legacies post-2012, but this time I want you to think about what the questions might be in the future about London 2012. What will researchers want to know or uncover? What will they want to analyse or interrogate? What sort of data will they need and in what form?
Perhaps they’ll want to focus on the stiff and highly visible security measures implemented at all venues? Or consider the accusations of cheating levelled by the French at GB’s high-performing cyclists? (Did they really imagine our wheels could be ‘more round’ than theirs?!) or maybe question the anglocentric themes of the Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies? or measure the impact of the Paralympics on the way society views disability or physical impairment?
Before the Games began, they were being touted as the ‘Digital Games’, the ‘Green Games’, the ‘Legacy Games’ … but after the event, they might be better labelled as the ‘Yorkshire Games’ with a massive medal haul for the county at the Olympics? Or more seriously, as the ‘Women’s Games’?
I wish this was my house but, sadly, it isn’t. It’s Forty Hall, a Grade I listed manor house now owned by the London Borough of Enfield. It was originally built in the early 17th century for Sir Nicholas Rainton, a leading haberdasher who later served as Lord Mayor of London. The house has been a museum since 1951 and recently re-opened following a complete renovation and refurbishment.
I thought it would be interesting to find something about Forty Hall among our records so I decided to look it up in the Valuation Office survey. This survey was carried out in the years leading up to the First World War to assess the base rate for a new property tax called increment value duty, which had been introduced under the Finance (1909-10) Act 1910. Although increment value duty proved controversial and the legislation was repealed in 1920, 1 the surviving records of the survey now have a second ‘life’ in the archives. They are now one of the most popular sources for house history and local history, and are often used by family historians and professional researchers too.
If you’re a regular follower of this blog you will have gathered that we are obsessed with records. Whether finding, caring for, managing or coming up with exciting ways to use the information they hold, we live and breathe archives.
This passion extends across the country. We are lucky to have a network of archives looked after by people who work hard to preserve the records in their care, and make them accessible to everyone who needs them. Where there are archives in businesses, charities, country houses, universities, local authorities and many more, there are people who are fascinated by records. At The National Archives, our aim is to support this network of archives to be the best they possibly can.
In April, my colleague Melinda talked about our developing role as archives sector leader for England, and how we would continue to support archives and their funders to demonstrate the valuable contribution they make to society.
With this in mind, we’ve recently updated our action plan for archives, which helps archives providers use the resources they have to strengthen and develop their services within the current challenging economic climate. The action plan builds on the government strategy for archives, Archives for the 21st Century and sets out The National Archives commitments to archives over the next three years, but also asks the archives sector to think about ways in which they can work, with the resources they already have, to build innovative, sustainable services.
Some colleagues and I recently visited the Mind the Map exhibition currently on at the London Transport Museum. This exhibition explores the role of transport maps in art and everyday life, and it inspired me to choose a set of maps related to the London Underground as the subject of this blog post. Continue reading »
I’ve had this quote scrawled on a piece of Christmas wrapping paper that I’ve been carrying around since, well Christmas. Boxing Day to be precise.
It comes from Neil MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects, chapter 19, The Mold Gold Cape. He describes how the removal of the skeleton at the dig site meant that they lost so much more potential information about the way people lived at the time. The story of the cape was only half told.
“For although the precious finds will usually survive, the context which explains them will be lost, and it’s that context of material – often financially worthless – that turns treasure into history.”
You might say that for our records it’s what turns documents from Peter and Jane into Shakespeare…
We’ve already spoken of the importance of context in managing information, but this is IMPORTANT. So let’s explore further. A few days after I was leafing through someone else’s Christmas presents, The National Archives released a set of Margaret Thatcher’s files. One of the elements that caused so much attention was her hand written notes in the margins of the papers. They bring so much more context to the documents, an insight into her thoughts and personality.
SD – Ahead of Hack on the Record held at The National Archives back in March – the results of which you can see on our Labs website – I discussed with colleagues in the Advice and Records Knowledge department the possibility of pitching interesting and appropriate documents or record series to the developers attending the event. One suggestion regarded the catalogue data for BT 31, a series which contains the files of dissolved companies.