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.
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.