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?
Volunteers play an integral role in the heritage sector. Their time and effort goes a long way towards completing projects and making collections more accessible to the public. To learn a little more about the appropriate use of volunteers, Sarah and I travelled to Leicester’s New Walk Museum to attend a training session. The day was organised by the East Midlands branch of the Archives and Records Association (ARA) and included delegates from universities and record offices across the country. Coming from a small department, I was intrigued to learn how to gain and keep new enthusiastic volunteers.
Caroline Williams, the president of the ARA, began the day with a talk on the varying types of volunteers. The two main categories are those who are looking for social enjoyment and those who are aiming to improve future employability. The second category includes pre-course experience for future archivists as well as volunteers who want to gain new skills to enhance their CV. This was a similar path to the one I undertook before beginning this traineeship. It was these differences which Williams argued needed to be considered to manage volunteers effectively. To fully support those who are giving their free time to help, it is essential to understand their needs. They are there to help and by understanding their expectations they are more likely to work effectively and happily within your team.
The day continued with case studies from organisations with varying numbers of volunteers. The nature of volunteering is changing to reflect the wider scope of the archive sector. Volunteers can now experience digitisation and outreach roles as well as the listing of records which has previously been completed. Episodic project based volunteering is on the rise as many time-restricted projects require extra assistance to be completed within a set time frame. This change in focus for archive volunteers encouraged a discussion on what the future holds for volunteering.
The delegates felt that in the future there will be a greater focus on remote volunteering. This would include allowing access to documents online so that they can be transcribed and listed without physical access to the collection. They also thought that volunteering would act as a social scheme to allow people to re-enter the workforce. Volunteers will be able to enhance their IT and administrative skills whilst working within a team. This method is already being trialled in Wigan Archives and shows how the organisation can give back to those who are willing to help.
These were the top five tips given to help understand volunteers:
- Don’t blur the lines between a professional role and a volunteer, they are not a paid member of staff
- Create a clear and concise volunteer policy
- Keep the initial paperwork to a minimum, they are not applying for a job
- Be present, offer support and remain patient
- Provide tea and cake to maintain happy volunteers!
To read more about volunteering in archives, please read Caroline Williams’ report here.
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.
Last week I attended my first gathering for members of the Group for Literary Archives and Manuscripts (GLAM). The University of Worcester Research Collections has recently become a member of this group and I was glad to attend as a representative of my workplace. The meeting was held at the British Library in the Conservation Studios and was made up of 35 archivists, librarians, curators, writers and researchers. GLAM was established in 2005 and was initiated by The John Rylands University Library, at The University of Manchester. GLAM is an independent organisation which supports the collecting, preservation, use and promotion of literary archives and manuscripts in Britain and Ireland.
The focus of the day was on negotiations within acquisitions of archives and the issues that may arise as a result of these discussions. I gained a lot from this meeting as I was able to talk with and listen to institutes who purchase collections rather than relying solely on donations from generous depositors. Although this was not directly relevant to my current workplace it was useful to understand the methods which other repositories undertook in order to secure their collections. The advice that was provided widened my knowledge of the archive sector and helped to situate our current position at the Research Collections.
The next topic of discussion was on the benefits and issues of using living or recently deceased creators. Having a creator and/or depositor who is still alive can greatly enhance the understanding and context of the material being housed. They can be interviewed and their statements can be recorded within the archive and they may even be available for future questioning if any uncertainty arises. On top of this, a living depositor can also answer questions relating to access and allow certain permissions of access to their own work. However, an issue that may arise is one of sensitivity. Their collection is their work and so it is difficult to place a value (whether research potential or financial) on their material without causing any undue offence. It is important to remain empathetic when dealing with depositors as many will see the removal of their work as a cathartic process; this is particularly true in cases where the creator has recently passed away.
The next meeting of GLAM is in October and will be a 10 year celebration of the group. I am hoping to attend as it was great to discuss how different bodies manage their collections and it was nice to see the level of support amongst members.
Receiving an award from the Worcestershire Historical Society for my Independent Study
Just lately, my working life, academic study, and spare time have all been about the Worcester Infirmary. I have been preparing to deliver my first ever workshop and it is based on my independent study about local funders of Worcester infirmary. I received a fantastic grade for the original work and subsequently two great prizes, the latest presented by the Worcestershire Historical Society. And now I am ready to present my research to the public. I hope.
The Worcester Infirmary board room
Like similar services around the country, Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service offers courses and workshops to the public to help customers with their research and show them what we have. This also helps the service to maintain its reputation with customers new and old, and to generate a small amount of income to cover costs. When I first arrived I sat in a few very interesting workshops and when I offered to run one myself that’s where the work really began. It is one thing to have written an academic piece of work, but quite another to develop that into something I can deliver in an interesting way to the public.
My independent study and the Worcester Infirmary minutes
In preparation for my workshop, I have attended some workshops by other members of the team, and taken staff training at the university on how to train and deliver research. I even used training as for my last assignment for the PG Cert in Leadership and Management. And I have practiced public speaking by talking to colleagues and students.
Picture curtesy of the George Marshall Medical Museum: Postcard of Worcester Infirmary 1914
Now the time is drawing near. I have done further research on different subscribers to the Worcester Infirmary to be able to tell their stories in the workshop. I have delivered research in tours and talks as preparation for the big day: a successful tour of the Infirmary for Worcester Belles WI and a talk for University of Worcester history students. I have advertised on social media, helped to write a press release, and now a blog post….now there is nothing more to do but to walk into the room and deliver my workshop on 19th May at 2pm at the Hive. Places on this workshop can be booked through this link.
We have turned into fledgling botanists-cum-poachers tracking down and hunting wild beasts – and museum pests are our prey.
We had no idea there were so many different kinds, all with their personal favourite hiding places, and diets. Some like the dark corners, under cases, where they munch on the carpet. Some venture into boxes and cases for a tasty morsel of skin, fur or textile. Others with a sharper tooth spend their lifetime wriggling through wood. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours, and can nibble at most things you might find in a museum or archive, if you don’t keep tabs on them.
Luckily at the Archives there are very few live pests to worry about. A shiny new building with climate controlled strong rooms and carefully followed procedures mean only the most agile spider or fly can make it inside. But the conservator does deal with the evidence of insect attacks, after freezing everything to remove lodgers. Those books and documents scratched and gnawed by silverfish or left with delicate holes by the tiny Common Booklouse can be carefully put back together in such skilful hands, but it was interesting to learn more about the culprits.
At the Worcestershire Museums though the insect detecting now begins. The collection contains many stuffed animals, insect collections, textiles, carpets and wooden artefacts. These provide a veritable feast for biscuit beetles, furniture beetles, vodka beetles, and clothes moths, and require constant surveillance and control.
The National Brewery Centre in Burton-on-Trent provided the perfect setting for this training course with Jayne Thompson-Webb with great (if repulsive) actual examples and a chance to look around the museum itself to assess any possible pest control issues. This was also an opportunity to network with professionals and volunteers from other midland museums and historic houses, including Coventry Transport Museum, Middleport Pottery and Wightwick Manor. If you are tempted to learn more about museum tests, you can follow this link to the English Heritage pest poster.