Beginning with books

It’s the beginning of Week 4, and I’m settling in well. I’ve got my desk, door keys and (most importantly) I know where to find the tea.

For any cataloguing project, an archivist has to have a Plan – I can’t just pick up boxes and start making lists of what’s inside. My job is to get an understanding of the collection as a whole, and then share that understanding with everyone else (i.e by creating a catalogue) so you can then dig deeper and find out more.

So, the first thing I need to do is good old desk research. I need to learn about the bodies that created the records in the first place, how they worked and where they fit into the bigger historical picture. In this case I am lucky because there are plenty of books on the subject of York and on local government.

Here are some I’ve been reading in the last few weeks, they’re from York Explore and the archive’s own reference collection. The big red one, the Victoria County History volume for the City of York is also freely searchable online and can be useful for finding out tidbits of info about your street or area.

Learning from secondary sources first (such as books) means that when I see a primary source later (an original record) I will already have a gist of what it is about – and so save time having to look things up later.

My plan for the week is to keep going with the historical research and take a look at similar civic archives in other cities to see how others have approached these issues in the past.

If you’ve got any thoughts, questions, or suggestions for things you’d like me to write about, remember you can add a comment on any page or use twitter.

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5 thoughts on “Beginning with books

  1. Welcome to York Archives. Looking forward to watching how you tackle this tremendous job and learning all about York history as you catalogue your findings.

  2. Welcome to York Justine,
    Just thought I would add a comment to tell you I am really enjoying the blog and find it enlightening to know what is going on behind the scenes. As I compile the history column in the local paper I know how rewarding it is to get feed back that people are finding your efforts interesting. You post the stuff out there, but don’t know if anyone is actually reading it! So, looking forward to your up-coming postings.

    • Cheers Carol : ) Writing publically, and having others read what I’ve written, is very new and intimidating for me. However, I believe that it’s an important thing for archivists to do, and that’s what’s given me enough confidence to have a go. Archives don’t have TV programmes like Time Team to give people an idea of the day-to-day processes we go through and why we make the choices we do, so I hope that every little helps, imperfect though it may be.

  3. Pingback: Taking Stock of ‘A City Making History’ | York: A City Making History

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