Experiencing a ‘Gateway to Your Archives’ workshop for the very first time!

Last Thursday I went along to my very first ‘Gateway to Your Archives’ workshop. It was a wonderful day and it was clear from the feedback we received that it was enjoyed by all. I thought I’d share my experiences with you, being new to the workshops myself!

The day started the way any day should start- with tea and coffee upon arrival! Whilst everyone sipped away, we handed out our ‘Gateway to Your Archives’ packs. These include worksheets for the day ahead, a useful guidebook on storing and managing your own archives, and some extra little freebies!

Our 'Gateway to Your Archives' packs

Our ‘Gateway to Your Archives’ packs

After a short introduction delivered by Sarah, Laura led a fabulous tour of our archives services. During the tour, Laura explained the uses of the different rooms; from the Local History Room and the Family History Room, through to the infamous Pod, and finally the Reading Room. It was a great way of helping our guests to get to grips with the uses of the different rooms and informing them about the various types equipment we have to offer, such as the microfilm reader and book scanner. This sort of equipment is something people often get very excited about, as it can come in very handy for local history groups or individuals who are conducting their own research.

 

After taking part in a short activity on the theme of ‘What Should York Remember?’, I led the group back down to the Marriott Room; our main base for the day. More tea and biscuits were consumed, and then Sarah launched into her introduction to archives and cataloguing, asking and answering some fundamental questions such as “what is an archive?” and “what is the point in keeping an archive?”. These questions certainly get you thinking in greater depth about archives and the need to keep them.

Getting into the "What types of records should you keep?" activity

Getting into the “What types of records should you keep?” activity

A discussion then ensued about what to keep and what to throw away when keeping an archive, and this led perfectly on to our next activity- where we tested our guests on their thoughts as to what should and should not be kept. This activity came with useful warnings about how to throw away archive waste and what records can and can’t be made accessible to the public.

Next it was time to ‘create a catalogue’! This activity is aimed at encouraging our attendees to think logically about how to actually store and file their archives, and is really helpful in teaching them how to approach an archive.

Learning how to create a catalogue

Learning how to create a catalogue

It was then time for lunch! In came the sandwich and cake platters, and the room was quickly filled with chatter about the day. One thing that is often mentioned in the feedback is that the workshops offer a fantastic opportunity for attendees to network and get to know people from other local societies and groups- and lunch is the perfect time for this!

After lunch it is time to talk about digital records, a hot topic that is often met with confusion that we aim to minimise! It was soon clear that digital records, once handled in the right way, can be straight forward and as easy to manage as any other type of archive record.

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Introducing our guests to some storage solutions, from boxes and shelving to fire doors and flood management!

Next: storage solutions! This is where we talk about the practical side of managing your own archives, from the type of storage space used through to minimising fire and flood risks. Finally, after another tea break to liven everybody up again, we talk about how you, as a community group or society, can actually benefit from your archive, and how you can take your archives into your local community to encourage further engagement with history. This prompted lots of apt discussion, as many local societies were able to advise others on how to engage with different segments of their communities.

The final part of the day is often people’s favourite… being given a ‘Gateway to Your Archives’ certificate! It was lovely to catch people on their way out and hear their thoughts on their day spent with us. It was also extremely rewarding coming in the following morning to emails thanking us for such an enjoyable day!

20150715_133402If our ‘Gateway to Your Archive’ workshops are something you or your community group are interested in, then don’t fret- we still have spaces available on our Thursday 24th September and Saturday 24th October workshops! Please get in touch by emailing Sarah Tester at sarah.tester@exploreyork.org.uk for more information. We look forward to seeing you there!

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