As we near the end of our traineeship we are busy completing projects, thinking about all we have learnt on our placements, and applying for new jobs. My last few projects at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service are a hand over pack for my absent voter project, photographs for the Explore the Past leaflet I have designed and a project to catalogue and care for the Kinver archaeology Collection.
Absent Voters Hand-over Pack
The Absent voters from 1918 are being transcribed by a loyal band of volunteers I recruited and trained. I have supported them as they completed the work and congratulated them as they finished one book and moved to the next. But they in turn have supported me as I wrote up the project for my PG cert assignment. Now the volunteers know what they are doing I just need to leave a pack for my colleagues who will take over supervising the project.
A photograph of Sarah with volunteer David Bonnick taken by David Tyrell – for the Explore the Past leaflet
Meanwhile I have been running around trying to rope in photographers and models for some photographs to advertise the service. The staff and volunteers at WAAS, their children, and some students from the university as well as Tom from the Cathedral library, all kindly helped by posing for photographs, and I was lucky to find two very talented photographers to take the pictures. I have been researching and writing the leaflet for months, so it’s been lovely to get the last bit completed, and now it’s on the way to the printers.
The finished boxes made by Sarah for the Kinver Archive held by Worcestershire Archaeology
And the archaeology project has given me a chance to learn more about the Heritage Environment Record, and to input items into it, while learning some more about archaeology. At the same time I have reinforced some of the skills I have previously learned in archival care and conservation, finally getting my head around how to make boxes to fit the archives.
It’s a little sad as each individual trainee departs on their new journey, but great for the project to revel in our success and I am really looking forward to my own new roles as I continue to apply all that I have learned here. I feel really lucky to have had this opportunity to work with so many experts at WAAS, and to be leaving the role to continue working within heritage.
This week is the culmination of our project as the My Worcester Pop-up Museum goes live in Reindeer Court. We are opening to the public from Thursday 20th, Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd August 11am to 3pm, with an exhibition and FREE activities for all ages.
My Worcester Pop-up Museum, Reindeer Court
For several months now all the trainees have been working hard on the pop-up museum as part of the Worcester Festival. It’s been exciting, terrifying, enjoyable, nerve-racking and fascinating all at once. Such a project had not been tried by the previous tranches of trainees so we are breaking new ground while we learn new skills.
The Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service panel at the My Worcester Pop-up Museum
The exhibition highlights favourite treasures from each placement chosen by our volunteers and visitors. At Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service and the University of Worcester Special Research Collections we don’t normally have artefacts on display so we took the opportunity to create an exhibition on level 2 of the Hive.
Planning exhibitions at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
I visited a couple of other institutions to work out how to create this exhibition. I was welcomed by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery where Katie Hall had kindly organised for staff to talk to me about planning, setting up, and marketing a large exhibition. I chatted to the conservator about looking after the artefacts on display and sat in on a planning meeting. Then I visited Droitwich Spa Heritage Centre where Becky Pye and her band of volunteers let me sit in on a day’s worth of museum management while I marvelled at the temporary exhibition there.
Admiring the exhibition at Droitwich Spa Heritage Centre
Fired up with inspiration from both placements I created the exhibition now on level 2 of the Hive to showcase the Hanbury Hall Map Book (1732) chosen at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service and a copy of Where the Wild Things Are from the University of Worcester Special Research Collections. This mini exhibition can be viewed until the end of August.
Exhibition at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service
It has been brilliant to work together as a team with all the other trainees on this project. Now all the hard work is done, and we can enjoy welcoming customers to our pop-up museum in Reindeer Court: Thursday 20th to Saturday 22nd August, 11am to 3pm. Why not pop in and check it out for yourself?
The trainees had a lovely day in Ironbridge. We visited a couple of the museums to see how they run and what exhibits they have on display. But this was also a chance to meet professionals to discuss their careers and our own aspirations, with an emphasis on engagement.
The trainees have fun in Ironbridge
Tamsin Bapty (nee Rowe) was in the first tranche of Worcester’s Skills for the Future Trainees and is now the Curatorial Officer for Collections Development working in the Museum’s Library & Archives where she keeps busy meeting celebrities. Tamsin met us for a coffee and a chat about life after a traineeship. Going out into the real world and getting a job is something we are all thinking about now our assignments are complete. Tamsin is clearly enjoying her new role and is doing well, so it was lovely to get a positive perspective on our prospects. She kindly gave us a tour of the blast furnace which is one of the reasons the Ironbridge Gorge is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Tea is essential to all museum-based discussions
Then importantly for our learning experience we all had a go at candle-making,while Hugh Simmons talked to us about education at Blists Hill. We discussed some of the ideas that have worked, how he comes up with ideas, and how these are adapted for summer holiday activities. This includes candle making, soap making and typesetting and printing workshops.
And last but not least we met Laura Simcox, who is a recent graduate from another cultural apprentice scheme. Laura is the Special Events and Corporate Hospitality Assistant at Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, and runs events at Blists Hill. Meanwhile she is also working in her own time on a masters course and kindly talked us through her role at Blists Hill as well as discussing her course at Leicester.
Educational workshop on candle making
It was a great day and we all came away feeling inspired for our future careers and ready to start filling in lots of job applications.
All of us trainees have been working on the final assignment for our Leadership & Management (Heritage) Postgraduate Certificate This time we had to write a 4000 word report about a project in our work place – and we just handed it in so fingers crossed.
Sarah teaching a volunteer
My project involved working with volunteers to transcribe the Worcester Absent Voter list for 1918. The absent voter list, can show which voters were away because of the war, where they came from, and where they were, with a description of their service details. The volunteers have been adding addresses to what is already a useful resource for researchers of family, local and WW1 history
This project has been a great opportunity to work with volunteers, to get to know them individually, and to learn about how to supervise them on the task. During the project I learned about the council’s policies on recruiting volunteers, I took staff training at the University of Worcester on training people and read lots of books and articles about how to motivate volunteers. I was really pleased they kept coming back, and they did a great job of the transcribing. We even learnt some things about the people in the lists as we went along.
Absent Voters book for 1918
The task is going to take a while to complete for the whole of Worcestershire, but eventually will be available for everyone to use, both on the shelf and on the website as a searchable electronic copy. In the meantime, lots of electoral registers are available on the local studies collection shelves on level 2, and the Worcestershire electoral registers for 1918 and 1919 are available from the original archives during opening hours.
Dudley Archives leaflets
No, I didn’t get lost on the way to work. I had a day out at Dudley to see their new Archives and Local History Service.
Dudley Archives sent me some leaflets for another project I am working on, so more on that in a later post. The people and the place looked so inviting from the leaflet that I decided to visit.
It was lovely to see how a different archive is run and to meet the team. Rob Bennett the archivist met me and gave me a tour around the building, showing me the lovely new building. We saw the strong rooms and he pointed out the lift with teething problems as we took the stairs. The meeting rooms are beautifully decorated with local archive photographs, and the large room that holds the cooling system for the strong room is completely space aged. Rob even made time to explain to me the theory of cataloguing archive collections, which was really useful.
Sarah at Dudley Archives
Sarah hard at work at Dudley Archives
The building is shared with the home libraries team and the meeting rooms are used by local council departments, so there is a busy atmosphere to the place. The day I visited, there was a job centre plus meeting upstairs, and the Friends of the archives trained people to use the computers. Meanwhile, staff were putting together a World War One exhibition and preparing hand-outs for the next day’s visit of 100 school children. Yet Jane, Sophie, Luke and Phil still had time to welcome new users to the service – and to welcome me. Under their supervision I helped with locating and putting away boxes of archives for customers, and repackaging council archives.
I learnt lots while I was in Dudley, and I took away some new ideas and an appreciation of how different archives operate. I especially liked the friendly atmosphere and the welcoming feel of the building: it really was as welcoming as it looked from the leaflets.
I you are interested in archives from Dudley you can search their collections online or pop along and visit.
Historic magazines being conserved
…it sounds like a family craft event, but this blog post is all about working with the highly skilled conservator at the Hive, helping to care for old books and documents.
I had worked with Rhonda as a volunteer before starting here as a trainee. I had been cleaning quarter session paperwork with a smoke sponge. So my first visit to Rhonda as a trainee involved similar tasks, but on each visit I am learning something new.
Sarah as a trainee conservator
In keeping with the current theme of World War One Rhonda taught me how to replace the staples in a collection of magazines that contained photographs of battlefields during the war, and 20 years later. The paper of the magazines was in good condition but each one was held together by two rusty staples. So I carefully removed the staples using variously sized microspatulas and using pliers to pull out any bits of the staples that disintegrated on the way out. I gently brushed away any crumbs of rust, then on a bookbinder’s needle I threaded linen thread through the holes the staples left behind. A little knot tying, and snipping off the ends and they look as good as new, and ready to be stored away in the archive for posterity.
Japanese wheat paste
Having got to grips with cleaning and sewing, the next job was much more technical. The A E Barnard collection of scrapbooks needed their Evesham-themed newspaper cuttings pasted back in. This was a lovely chance to me to read a little about my home town as I worked.
Rhonda mixed Japanese wheat paste, then carefully showed me the techniques involved with this task. I had to apply the paste to Japanese tissue paper then fix it to the piece of newspaper like a stamp hinge. This turned out to be a completely reversible process when we accidentally stuck something in the wrong place, and simply removed the paste with some water. I spent an afternoon sticking the cuttings into several scrap books then going back through to remove bits of scrap paper from within the pages when the paste had had time to dry.
I am really enjoying the opportunity to work with Rhonda as she is highly skilled and luckily a patient teacher. It is an opportunity to do something completely different and to learn what could turn out to be some useful skills.
I can’t wait to see what I might be learning next time.
I am now on the rota at the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service. This means I work alongside the other staff to assist the public with their queries. Being on the rota includes working in the office to answer emailed enquiries, conducting inductions for new customers, and working at the Explore the Past desk. I love these parts of my role: I have the opportunity to learn about what other people are researching, and to learn about all the different archives that we hold, to help customers find the treasure they are seeking.
Enjoying serving customers behind the Explore the Past Desk in The Hive, Worcester
Inductions give me an opportunity to learn about the specific needs of customers, what they are looking for and what they are researching. By listening carefully to their query I can point them towards the most useful documents. At the moment I find this tricky, as I am still learning about all the different records we hold. Just when I think I know it all someone asks about records I didn’t know we even had and I learning about something new. This week I learned that we have census records on microfilm to look up a particular address and acts of parliament from the eighteenth century. I also directed customers to parish registers, wills and newspapers on microfilm, showing them how to use the microfilm readers to view the documents.
Answering emailed enquiries is another great learning opportunity. When customers pay for a limited search I even get to do half an hour’s worth of research which is great fun. Its lovely to be able to help and it’s a great way to learn about all the records we hold by helping people to access them – with a lot of help from my very patient colleagues. It is especially nice when I am asked an easy question and I know I can answer it without having to ask anyone for help.
I also work behind the Explore the Past desk. This is the most visible part of my role. People come up to the desk with all sorts of library-related queries, and we deal with them all. We have many new users coming to use archives so I get involved in giving them inductions to help them find the documents they need, then take their order away to the strong rooms to find the box they want. This week we even helped a gentleman researching for the new Victoria County History for Gloucestershire. Finding things in the archives is like treasure hunting – rolling the shelf units around, getting out the steps and finding the right box. It is especially fun when I deliver the box to the customer and watch their eyes light up as they search through its contents.