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 »
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
Continue reading »