I’ve been at City of York Council for a month now, so what have I been doing? Well, my main focus has been to get a better idea of what non-civic archive collections we hold. Over the past month I’ve worked my way through a total of 1,023 individual archive entries, relying mostly on the original accessions register. I’ve then been recording the type, dates, size, ownership and level of detail that has been recorded about the collection.
I’ve chosen to record this information in a spreadsheet as it’s easy to use and move data around into other ‘sheets’ when you need to create themes or different sections. It’s the digital equivalent of sorting out boxes in a room!
I’m a massive fan of colour as a way to visualise links between things and to highlight priorities. Each colour represents a different type of collection and I’ve used a traffic light system to make it clear, at a glance, what collections will need exploring in more detail.
With each collection ranging in size from just 1 piece of paper up to 30 boxes, it’s important to find new ways to make these diverse collections accessible to our users. Through dividing collections into clearly defined themes we aim to make it easier for our users to explore a new side to York’s history. So at the end of the initial audit of the collections I’ve divided the non-civic collections into the following themes:
- York Individuals and Families
- York Businesses
- York Charities and Voluntary Organisations
- York Events and Local Culture
- York Artwork and Photography
These themes are still subject to change and it might be that as I move collections around and get a chance to explore the physical records, which are held off-site, that I discover some of these themes are too broad, too specific or that we need to add additional ones.
Using themes will also make it easier to identify where our collections are weakest, and where we should be looking to actively collect. We hope that through supporting local community groups we can expand the reach of the non-civic archive to reflect ‘all communities and cultures, past and present’.
I’ve also been busy researching a bit more about the history and culture of York using the resources in York Explore library which is especially important as I’m new to the city. I’ve also been reading about other archive outreach projects and best practice guidance to better understand how we should scope our own project. We’re keen to avoid using previous projects as a framework for our own as the needs of each community is different, so we’ll be taking the time to find out exactly what York’s community groups need and then use other projects and best practice guidance to support our ideas.
All of this background work is time consuming and involves a lot of reading, but it’s an essential part of the project which will enable me to work with our communities in the best way possible so that they feel confident in my knowledge and skills.
Look out for further posts as I develop the themes and begin to explore York’s community groups. As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!