Transforming Archives: Vivacity Peterborough Archives

Rachel Cole

Rachel Cole

I have been based at Peterborough Archives for the past 10 months, and my traineeship has primarily focused on outreach and engagement within archives. I have been involved with a wide range of archival duties over the last year and my traineeship has enabled me to gain excellent practical experience of working within archives and the heritage sector.

Before applying for the traineeship, I hadn’t previously considered a career in archives. Having studied History and Philosophy at university, I was interested in pursuing a career which was related to my degree – albeit I had no idea what that might be! Having stumbled across the Transforming Archives trainee role online, the position seemed like a great opportunity to use my interest in history and heritage while learning and developing new skills.

My main responsibility at Peterborough Archives has been to lead and manage a cataloguing project. I am currently working with groups of volunteers to catalogue the records of the Soke of Peterborough County Council. It’s an interesting collection as the council controlled Peterborough and the surrounding area from 1889-1965, a period of huge change for the city. Documents relate to the development of the city centre, the construction and management of the Memorial Hospital and workhouse in the period before the NHS, and Peterborough during the two world wars. My responsibilities have included designing and creating volunteer roles; advertising and promoting the project and roles to a wide audience; and recruiting, interviewing and supervising groups of volunteers on the project. I provide training and instruction at each stage of the cataloguing process from handling archival records, conducting basic archival conservation and preservation techniques to describing documents. This has given me the chance to teach my newly learnt archival skills to groups of volunteers.

Volunteers hard at work on the cataloguing project.

Volunteers hard at work on the cataloguing project.

I advertised the project to a range of different audiences, hoping to attract new users who had not previously volunteered at the archives. As a result, there is a broad range of volunteers helping on the project, from school and university students to part-time workers and retired people. Managing and working with these volunteers has been a great experience and it has been very enjoyable. I’ve benefited from their local knowledge of Peterborough and their commitment to the project. It has also shown me just how important and valuable the contribution of volunteers is to the work of the archives.

I have also been involved with heritage work at Peterborough Museum, spending one day a week developing collections, leading and taking part in education sessions and helping with events and exhibitions. I’ve had the chance to curate two cases for the museum’s new Alice in Wonderland exhibition, help at Peterborough’s Heritage Festival weekend, lead tours of the archives and help deliver heritage-based workshops for school children at the museum. This has given me the opportunity to work with different audiences and broaden my experience of working within heritage.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my traineeship, in particular having the opportunity to work with and manage a team of volunteers. I’ve learnt new skills and it’s provided me with a great introduction to working within archives and heritage. I hope to build on these experiences in the future and continue my professional development within the heritage sector.


  1. Cynthia Brooks says:

    Good Morning,

    This is my first time to visit this site. I am hoping to be able to be able to dive into history and fill in blanks in our family history. Honestly I am hoping to find paths never walked, detail, not just name and date. I don’t know what it is but I’ wil know it if and when I find it.

    My comment is on first impression. My first impression is do you not want people to use your site? That was my first thought. Grey print against white background is very hard to read. Your font is thin and almost disappears also. I am sure to a Graphic designer or an art major it looks modern and up to date. I do however submit to you what about those of us who are a little limited in sight (which are most of the general public), the elderly or for that matter just about any one.

    I submit gray on white with your font is , for me imposable to read. I for one am afraid I will not be able to use to use your site. Accessible to the people? Accessible to art majors possible but not the people.

    1. Nell Brown (Admin) says:

      Hi Cynthia,

      Thank you for your comment, and I’m sorry that you have had difficulties.

      We take accessibility very seriously, and we’d be keen to take a look at the things you’ve mentioned.

      Most of the site is black text on white, so it would be useful if you could tell us a bit more information, like what browser and operating system you’re using, and if you have any kind of accessibility mode switched on. Also, could provide us with links to any pages you found particularly difficult to read?

      You can reach us at

      We look forward to hearing from you.



  2. […] An archives trainee describes her job […]

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