Friday, 30 August 2013

Last Day!

Well it is my last day today and what a year it has been. The time has flown by during which time I have met some lovely people, had the privilege of working with some wonderful material and learnt a lot about what is involved in running an archive service.

During my year I have
  • Done a display in the performance centre to accompany the Kneehigh performance of A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings
  • Completed a number of PowerPoint point displays for various events including the launch of the Gorsedh Kernow special collections launch, CSM reunion and 125th event and finally  the St Piran's day event.
  • Produced a resource list for students researching the history of Tremough Campus
  • Catalogued the Edwin Chirgwin Collection
  • Gone on a 3 day placement with a Records Management Unit in London
  • Created 2 exhibitions for the glass cabinet in the library: one for the special collection books and another for the 125th Anniversary of CSM
  • Research into the Grotto site on Campus
  • Audit of the archival stock
  • Orders for supplies
  • Digital Records course at Gloucestershire Archives
  • Presentation to staff on digital records
  • Assisted at a Public History day event
  • Measured and ordered book covers
  • Book Conservation course
  • Supervised volunteers and visitors
  • Visited St Ives Archive and University of Exeter Archive unit
  • Catalogued the Camborne School of Mines Journals putting them onto CALM
  • Answered enquiries
Just to name a few! This just emphasises the variety of work I have been lucky enough to be involved with.

It is going to seem very strange not to be here next week. I wish all the best to the new trainee and if they enjoy it half as much as I have, they will have a fabulous year.

So in Cornish style, Duw genes!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

A Records Management Placement

I arrived in London on the evening of Monday15th July to start a placement the following morning with the records management unit of The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Having had very little experience of records management I was keen to try and get to grips with how the unit was set up and the policies and procedures in place to assist with the everyday running. As I am currently doing the records management module on my long distance course with Dundee, I had read a lot about the theoretical processes and ideas which should be applied and was keen to try and see these in practice.
 

Tuesday morning began with a short tour of the library and the three staff that work in the department as well as a quick look in the store room which was downstairs in the basement. This was quite remarkable as it was smaller than I had expected and the quantity of material within it was minimal, suggesting the records management system was working. There was even space on the shelves to put new consignments. I think my imagination had been working overtime as I was expecting a much larger space filled to the brim with records. One side of the room was given over to semi current storage and the other to archival material.

 

 
The semi-current storage
 

The room was kept fairly cold with an efficient air conditioning system keeping the temperature consistently low. Although the basement is not the best place for record storage, and is certainly not the recommended location within archival theory, office space, particularly in London, is at a premium and in house records management units are often allocated spaces which in an ideal world are not ideally suited. Having said that I did not notice any water pipes located within the space.
 
The unit relies on an access database to enter items into the system as they are transferred and to identify specific lists of material should they be recalled by a department. All items transferred are accompanied by a transfer list which provides details of the authorising personnel, the quantity of material and its covering dates with a brief description accompanied by disposal and access restrictions. This is all entered into the system, the material packed into appropriate boxes and then locations are added to a separate excel sheet. As disposal dates approach the access database can be used to search files for the weeks review files or next months list of files due for review enabling the records manager to keep abreast of changing status of material.
 
This provided an example of what can be done with relatively few resources as well as an interesting contrast to another records management of one of the Royal College's which I visited the next day.
 
The records manager there had been in post since 2011 having come from a high risk environment in a local authority which had a fully operational ERMS system in place. At the time there were very few systems in use. She was very quick to point out that although we have these lovely definitions of records as evidence of activity, a lot of what she does is actually information management. Information can be useful despite not necessarily strictly qualifying as a record. The example given was the large quantity of data sets which the College held as part of their research work. Whereas the normal approach may be to hold on to the final report and discard the research process documents, data sets have long term value and are therefore also kept.  
 
 As part of the Information technology team, the Archivist found her position within the organisational structure central to the activities of the organisation and consequently extremely beneficial to her role. There is good dialogue, but much of this is reliant on organisational culture - in fact she said she could not emphasise how important culture can be. As part of the IT team she found her position extremely useful as records were becoming more and more reliant on technology. It enabled early involvement from the moment of creation, rather than the traditional involvement as a record becomes semi-current and then archival, thereby offering a much more holistic approach to Information Management.
 
After her arrival in 2011 the records manager first began to establish an information management framework to meet issues surrounding risk. This was an important starting point and a good way of convincing management of the value of records management if you are able to highlight the potential risks of data protection penalties. A fine from the ICO of up to £500,000 can be a convincing argument with the emphasis on saving money and reputational damage. Policies were also written including an Information Governance policy, Data Protection policy and an Information Security policy. As reliability and integrity of a record are reliant on the security of that record this is a central issue for any records manager. This was followed up with classes on Data Protection and responsibilities of staff, which although time consuming were beneficial as staff got to know who she was. The College then started encrypting computers and memory sticks, again mitigating risk.
This visit providing a really interesting comparison between an organisation which was starting afresh with its records management program to that of an organisation with inherited systems and processes and not necessarily the organisational wide procedural framework. What did unite the two places was the need for good communication. You need to approach people in the right way to encourage participation rather than just force the point. The records manager at RCOG rejected using records management jargon as a means of communication emphasising the need for familiar and understandable language. This she maintained was imperative. If people don't want to cooperate then it makes your job a lot harder as they will become obstructive if you try and force the point. She advocated a soft approach emphasising the benefits of what you, as a service, can offer to your colleagues.
 

 
 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Grotto

With an increasing amount of interest in the history of the campus coupled with next years commemoration of the First and Second World War, the archive service have been preparing a  number of history projects for students of public history. One such project is based on the Grotto, which is located down by the gate house and is so tucked away that if you did not know it was there you would easily walk past without seeing it.


It consists of a star shaped pool which can still be seen, however, unfortunately due to damage the statues have had to be removed, but there were two of these depicting Our lady of the immaculate conception and St. Bernadette. The Grotto was consecrated by the Bishop of Plymouth in May 1944.

The Grotto was built by a number of American servicemen stationed here at Tremough during 1944, and their names are listed on a stone within the grotto. Unfortunately, it only gives the first letter of the Christian name so we are undertaking some preliminary enquiries to see if we can either find the names or find more information on what regiment the men came from. Initial investigation suggest it was the 97th Seabees Battalion of the United States Navy, however, research is still in its early stages. So watch this space!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Volunteers Day


This week we had a small get together to say thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers who so kindly give up there time to help us with the collections. It was deliberately arranged to coincide with volunteers week and our figures suggest that over the last year we have had 8 volunteers in all and they have clocked up a magnificent 200 hours.

This year particularly has seen a large amount of outreach activities and an increase in teaching sessions, which have all contributed to the service becoming increasingly busy. While this is encouraged as we want people to use the service, it means that in reality less time is available to spend working with the collections and completing those jobs which may be on the wish list, but unfortunately don't seem to get done.

This may be why volunteers are increasingly playing an important role in enabling organisations to get collections catalogued and therefore accessible to the public. CIPFA figures for 2006-2007 recorded 2136 volunteers working in Local Authority archives contributing a total of 188,333 hours
compared to a year later in 2007-2008 which stated 2742 volunteers contributing a total of 211,294 hours. A marked an increase of 22%.(1) The Archive sector update in August 2010 included a short article about a volunteering project at the University of Reading. This involved a collection of 608 boxes containing various contracts, documents and over 60,000 letters from a publishing house called Macmillan and Longman. The project started in January 2010 and is estimated to run for two years which gives a good indication of the time and effort involved, especially when you think that there are 20 volunteers taking part doing a minimum of half a day a week.(2)

We are then very grateful to our volunteers for all their help!



Sources:
(1) Archive Services Statistics 2006-7 Actuals and Archive Services Statistics 2007-8
Actuals CIPFA, http://www.cipfastats.net/ Quoted in Louise Ray, ' Volunteering in Archives: A Report for the National Council on Archives', June 2009, http://www.archives.org.uk/images/documents/volunteeringinarchivesfinal.pdf >[Accessed 7/6/2013]
(2) The National Archive, 'Archive Sector Update Autumn 2010' http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/information-management/archive-sector-update-autumn-10.pdf [Accessed 6/6/2013]


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Outreach


During the last few months the Archive Service has found themselves undertaking a large amount of outreach work. This has included a number of small exhibitions as well as participation in a public history event held on campus for the first time in March. Prior to the University's moving on to the Tremough site in 2004 it was a Convent school and before that Tremough house was a private residence. The estate has changed hands a number of times over the years and consequently records about Tremough are scarce or at least scattered in various locations. The Archive Service has numerous requests from students trying to find out about the history of the estate to inform projects that they are undertaking. Performance students are required to do a site specific piece on campus which often requires research into various aspects of Tremough. This curiosity is of course not just restricted to students, we also receive enquiries from external researchers. It was with this demand in mind that earlier this year we undertook the task to produce a Resource List to help guide researchers to the various organisations that currently hold records relevant to Tremough [see post 11th Jan 2013].

The opportunity to further this research was presented when interest was shown by the University of Exeter's Public History Course in organising an event in the form of a Public History Day. This was aimed at encouraging people who had connections to the school or other aspects of the site to come back and have a look around and re-connect with the place. Of course with anything like this you cannot predict how successful or how unsuccessful the day may be, but as it turned out there was an amazing amount of interest which just illustrates the strong human connection to places from the past.

Initially the Service's expectations of the day were minimal and it was largely seen as an opportunity to possibly begin discussions with people and allow them to put faces to the team, so that in the future we might be able to encourage donations of records relating to Tremough and in doing so enhance our understanding and ability to meet our users needs. Advocacy is something the Archive world is very familiar with. As Larry Hackman points out it is part of our core work, '...not an add-on or a 'nice to do' (1),  and so this was seen as part of what was going to be a long process of forming relationships with people who had connections to Tremough and learning about what records may exist, an excercise which proved to be very informative.

There were a number of items donated on the day which was certainly unexpected but very welcome. One lady bought a collection of items which had belonged to her father who had worked as head gardener on the estate. Others came to simply meet up and remember their experiences of the place and relive old memories. One such gentlemen had grown up on the Tremough Barton farm and remembered the soldiers who were billeted here during the war. Events like this provide a wonderful
platform for oral history so it was extremely useful to have CAVA (Cornish Audio Visual Archive) carrying out interviews with those who were willing to tell their stories and memories and allow them to be captured and recorded as a valuable source of information.

For me, though, the most valuable experience of the day was for the first time seeing Tremough in terms of a stage for all those personal stories and memories, rather than simply an historic house and grounds. Many former pupils of the convent school brought their children to show them where they had been taught. This importance of passing on information about your past and in so doing helping construct the identity and self worth of your children is interesting. It has been said that  'A sense of belonging and a sense of place are two important components of a person's sound metal health' (2). Archives can  and do play a very important role within that construction, a fact which has become well recognised with the huge growth in family history researchers, but also within social care professions (2).

Due to the success of the day it is planned that the event will be repeated next year and hopefully encourage more people to come and share their stories and records so that Tremough Campus does not lose its links to the past but is enriched by the experiences of those who came before.






(1) Larry Hackman, 'Love is Not Enough: Advocacy, Influence and the Development of Archives', Journal of the Society of Archivists', Vol 33, No.1, April 2012, pp9-21, p12.
(2) Judith Etherton, 'The Role of Archives in the Perception of Self', Journal of the Society of Archivists', Vol 27,No.2 October 2006, pp227-246, p227..

Monday, 22 April 2013

World Book Night


It is World Book Night tomorrow and to mark the occasion the library staff have got a number of novels to give away free to try and encourage people who would not normally read to pick up a book. The Archive service have put together a small display in one of the glass cabinets in the library to try and advertise and bring people's attention to some of the wonderful novels, both old and new, held in the special collections.  These are available for students to freely browse and include novels from hollywood films taken from the Bill Douglas Collection to novels of Victorian Culture from the Chris Brooks Collection.

As you can see, titles are as diverse as Roy Rogers to The Brontes went to Woolworths! Here's hoping it inspires someone to explore the rolling stacks to find another gem of a story hidden away.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The joys of research

One of the most enjoyable activities of this job is the research I get to do for people with enquiries which can range from family history to witty and amusing anecdotes for speeches, as has been the case this last week. The Camborne School of Mines Annual Dinner was held last week which also marked the 125th Anniversary and so I have been involved in helping various people find information for their speeches. During that research I have found some interesting little snippets and lively accounts, not just about student escapades, but staff aswell!

For instance did you know that CSM once unofficially adopted a rather scruffy, but charming little dog who took pride of place in the 1925 School photograph. He had somewhat mysteriously disappeared by the beginning of the new academic year, but it was reported that 'Old Ben' had been seen '...looking very forlorn, wearing a collar, with a Praa Sands address inscribed upon it.'



For all those students out there who complain about the habits of their house mates spare a thought for one 'Haughty Student' who wrote to the CSM magazine in March 1898 to complain about the antics of his landlady. Apparently, she had a partiality to cornbeef and would eat the students stock and then 'conceal the delinquency by keeping up the level of the beef in the tin with the aid of bread put in from underneath, and who eats [his] sardines, and says they had to be "throwed away" because they had 'agone bad'.

One staff member in his early days as a student during the 1940s played a rugby match in Penzance for the school afterwhich he and the wing forward went on a pub crawl. Some time later they clambered onboard the student's motor cycle to return to Camborne. There they partook of 'one more' at the club before again mounting the bike and proceeding down the footpath which also happened to have a concrete post looming ahead. 'The pillion quaked in trepidation as to the width of the gap between post and wall. [The student] replied to his passenger in the usual way, by revving the engine, slipped the bike into gear and gave [a laugh] followed by 'we'll have to see'. The two remained friends so it would seem the bravado paid off, however during a more sober moment the gap was found to be just 2 inches wider than the handlebars!!