A great start to 2016!

I know I’ve been really quiet on the blog recently, but rest assured I have been working away behind the scenes. One of my big pieces of work at the end of last year was the creation of our 2016 Access Plan. The Access Plan will become an annual piece of work, letting you know what we are planning to do over the course of each calendar year. It includes details about our overall strategy, as well as information about partnership projects, funding bids and our cataloguing priorities. The plan will be published annually on our website (you can find the 2016 plan here), and we will update you quarterly on how things are progressing.

Which leads me on nicely to the fact that I’ve just published the first of our 2016 quarterly Access Plan updates (available on our website here). We’ve had a brilliant start to the year, with an increase in both the number of researchers we are hosting and the quantity of documents we are producing in the archives reading room. The plan contains details of a new partnership project we have formed with History and English students at York St John’s University, who have been helping us with some of our collections processing work. You can also find out more about our current projects – including some digitisation work and our Wellcome Trust bid – and some of the outreach events that we have hosted. I honestly can’t believe how much work we have achieved over the last three months. We really couldn’t have done this without the hard work and dedication of all the staff and volunteers at York Explore.

If you haven’t been into the Archives and Local History Service recently, then you won’t yet have had a chance to look at our new signage. We’ve improved our shelf signage, created some new banners for the stairwell and improved the appearance of the staff desk. We really hope you like the new look as much as we enjoyed creating it.

Next time you are in York Explore also keep an eye out for our new archives display case in the foyer. Over the coming months we will be creating a number of mini-exhibitions to coincide with local events and to promote the archive collections. Let us know if there is anything in particular you would like to see!



The 2015 series of Mint Yard lectures is here!

Firstly, a big thank you to everyone who attended the Mint Yard Lecture Richard III weekend at York Explore – it was great to see so many people there! Whilst that was going on, I have been putting together the new series of lectures for this autumn. My ultimate aim is to produce an annual brochure for the lectures but I have to admit I’m not completely there yet! The big news is that now the York Explore refurbishment is complete, the lectures will be returning to the city centre on a permanent basis from September. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be any Mint Yard Lectures in branch libraries any more – we will continue to host extra lectures in venues around the city. More information on those lectures will follow in due course.

Mint Yard map

The Mint Yard Lectures were named after the Mint Yard, on which York Explore now stands.

I am now very happy to say that tickets for the new series of lectures are now on sale from Explore libraries, or by calling Archives and Local History on 01904 552800. Tickets for the September lecture are also available on the Inspire website (www.feelinginspired.co.uk) and if you prefer to book online tickets for the others will also be on there shortly.

The first lecture in this year’s series takes place on 30th September and features a screening of local films from the Yorkshire Film Archive (YFA) collections. This is a great opportunity to join us as YFA bring past events and experiences back to life, and to enjoy reliving shared memories of childhood, home and working life in Yorkshire as captured on film throughout the decades. Who knows, you may even spot yourself or a family member in the clips!

Yorkshire Film Archive image

The Yorkshire Film Archive features lots of images of families and local businesses.


The Yorkshire Film Archive also has film relating to Rowntrees.

The archive also holds films relating to Rowntrees.

On 28 October Dr Peter Addyman will speak about the forthcoming York volume of the British Atlas of Historic Towns (due to be published this autumn). Work started on the volume, part of a pan-European scheme for atlases of all Europe’s historic towns and cities, 43 years ago. Since then a team of archaeologists, historians, cartographers and editors have assembled data on all York’s important historic buildings and sites, shown on a base map of 1852 and in 10 development maps showing the city from AD200 to 1836. If you have an interest in historic maps, this is the lecture for you!


Historic Towns map

The new York volume of the British Atlas of Historic Towns shows historic features on modern maps.

In November Dr Kaley Kramer will be uncovering York’s printing heritage into the 18th century. York’s history of printing began with the arrival of migrant Dutch printers in the late 15th century and continued right up to the present day. The city hosted King Charles I’s printer during the turbulent summer of 1642; became a northern hub of Puritan and Quaker printing during the Commonwealth and was home to one of the earliest regional newspapers – the York Mercury – founded in 1718. Join Kaley as she takes the story into the 18th century and beyond.

Our last lecture of 2015 will be held on 9th December and is unlike anything I have certainly seen before. Dr Sarah Fiddyment of University of York will be discussing her role in a pioneering study of medieval parchment DNA. Parchment (made from animal skins) was the medium of writing in medieval Europe and thousands of these skins still survive today in our libraries and archives, holding an untapped reservoir of evidence. Underneath the pictures and words lies a hidden layer of biomolecular information waiting to be read. In this fusion of history and science, the University of York project has been able to uncover what animals were used to make parchment, where they might come from and much more. Get your tickets now for what should be a very enlightening lecture about how 21st century science is retelling the story of medieval history.

I am so pleased to have such a varied programme of interesting topics, with such good speakers and featuring a wide variety of types of archives. All lectures start at 7pm at York Explore and tickets are £6 each (£5 for Yorkcard holders and all including tea and coffee) so why not pop down to your local library and get yours now? We’ll look forward to seeing you there!


We’re #imaginingyork for Local History Month!

I realise I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog recently, so apologies for that. I’ve been continuing to work on the new archives service at York Explore, and I’m pleased to report that the intrepid band of Archives & Local History volunteers have now completed the cataloguing of all our open access book stock! Given that we have only been open for four months that’s an amazing achievement, so a massive thank you goes to all of them from me. There’s still a lot to do, though, including the cataloguing of our special collections books and pamphlets, so keep an eye out for more updates over the coming months.

Today marks the start of Local and Community History Month, which aims to increase awareness of local history and promote history in general to local communities. This year we will be tweeting some of the amazing images from our Imagine York collection throughout this month, so make sure you are following @YorkArchivesUK to see them all (they all have the hashtag #imagineyork). I’ve only selected a handful of the thousands of historic images we have in the collection, so if you are inspired to look for more you can do so through the Imagine York website. There’s something in there for everyone, from transport to historic buildings, community events and leisure pursuits, so tell us what you think of the images and which ones are your favourites. You can also directly participate in improving our knowledge of the collections – if you have information about a photograph or notice an error, use the ‘Tell us about this image’ button to let us know. I get weekly reports of all the updates so I can make the necessary changes.

Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, 1897

York’s residents gather to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, 1897

Don’t forget, if you like any of the images on the site we can supply high-resolution digital copies for you to print at home for £7 per image (plus £5 handling fee). There are additional charges for publishing them in books and on websites, but with reproduction charges starting at just £13 it’s worth taking a look. We can take payment over the phone or by cheque (payable to ‘Explore York Libraries and Archives’), so just drop us an email at archives@exploreyork.org.uk with details of the images you would like and we’ll be happy to sort everything out for you.

In other news, we still have two Mint Yard lectures to come in our summer programme – former City Archivist Richard Taylor will be speaking about his new role at Transport for London at Acomb Explore on 27th May, and you can find out ‘what’s new with the Vikings’ from University of York’s Dr Steve Ashby at York Explore on 16th June. Tickets for both events are on sale now, priced £5 each, and are available from any Explore library or from www.feelinginspired.co.uk. I’m currently finalising the autumn Mint Yard Lectures programme and the details for a very special summer weekend at the moment (more information will follow shortly).

Johnson typeface

Richard Taylor will be discussing ‘London’s Handwriting’ at Acomb Explore on 27th May

In the meantime, enjoy #imagineyork and remember to let us know your thoughts on the images we have chosen.

It’s time to Explore Your Archive!

This week the Explore Your Archive campaign is running across the UK and Ireland. This annual campaign was launched last year by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland) to ‘raise awareness of archives, their value to society and the impact they have on individual lives.’ Its aim is to promote archives to people who have previously never interacted with them, through a week-long programme of events and activities. Click on the video below to watch the advertisement for this year’s campaign:

Obviously we would have wanted to take part in Explore Your Archive this year, but as the building phase of the York: Gateway to History project hasn’t quite finished yet we are not able to offer tours of the new service or any exhibitions at the moment. Never fear, though, as yesterday I put on my hard hat and high vis jacket and took my camera to York Explore to give you a virtual tour of the new public spaces instead…

You are now entering the world of Archives and Local History…
When you arrive on the first floor landing at York Explore, you’ll see we’ve cleaned and re-grouted the floor tiles, and installed a new SmartTV screen next to the entrance to Archives and Local History, which we will use to provide useful information about our services and to advertise events. We have a similar screen on the other side of the landing for people using the lift.

First floor landing

We have cleaned the landing and installed new benches to make it a more welcoming space.

Stop 1…Local History
This is the first room you come to in the new service, and as well as housing our Local History collections it is also the Quiet Study space for the library. We’ve installed a new staff desk, refurbished the bookcases, the parquet floor and some of the existing tables and chairs and laid a new carpet. There’s also new lighting, and behind the scenes we have installed a new ventilation system to regulate the temperature better. We are currently awaiting the delivery of six new height-adjustable desks, chairs and some additional bookcases, so when it’s finished the room will have space for 32 people, including four using public network PCs. The room will also be equipped with two computers for searching the library and archives catalogues, a SmartTV screen and a walk-up book scanner. The bookcases are currently empty, but I promise we will have the books on the shelves by 5th January!

Reception desk

The new staff reception desk in Local History

Local History

Not all the furniture has arrived yet but it is already looking great!

…and on your left
The new Archives Reading Room is located to the left of the staff desk as you enter Archives and Local History, and is now complete with a stunning glass door for security. The room will accommodate 12 archives users at once, and also has a new staff desk. By the time we open it will also have a SmartTV screen, book scanner and a height-adjustable digitisation table with a tripod for people wanting to photograph archives. We have managed to get the periodicals back on the shelves in this space already, and we will also have some council minutes, accounts and early electoral registers on open access for the first time.

Reading Room Door

Entry to the Archives Reading Room is through our new glass door.

Archives Reading Room

Part of the Archives Reading Room.

Through to…Family History
Our new Family History room is at the other end of Local History, in a space which was previously closed to the public. It’s also the room that has undergone the biggest transformation, as we have removed the old shelving and installed a mezzanine level which will hold a large table and chairs. It’s not the easiest space to photograph given its height, so rather than relying on my photography you might need to visit it for yourselves to see what a great room it is! The Family History room will also have three public network PCs, three new digital microfilm readers and a SmartTV, plus some comfortable chairs and tables for anyone wanting to use their own laptop or tablet to access the library Wifi.


The new mezzanine structure – it’s a feat of engineering!

PC tables

Our new desks awaiting their PC’s and microfilm readers

…and finally…
Our final port of call on this whistle-stop tour is most likely the one you have all been waiting for…the inside of the ‘gold box’. I can confirm that the new mobile shelving has been installed and we are waiting for our first batch of archives to come back (which we are very excited about!).


One of our new runs of shelving – it won’t be this empty for long!

And that concludes our virtual tour of the new service! I hope that it gives you an idea of some of the work we have done over the summer, and I look forward to seeing you all in the new service January! As I mentioned earlier this year’s Explore Your Archive campaign is running at the moment, so if you want to find out more about events in your area visit their website.

If you do have any first impressions on the new service, please let us know, either by commenting here or by emailing me direct (laura.yeoman@exploreyork.org.uk).

The new series of Mint Yard lectures is finally announced!

I realise I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog recently, but don’t worry – I’ve been working away behind the scenes. Over the last few weeks I’ve been spending a lot of my time pulling together the new autumn programme for the Mint Yard Lectures. The lectures offer members of the public the opportunity to learn more about the history of Yorkshire from nationally-recognised experts, and form part of our contribution to the council’s Inspire programme.

Mint Yard map

The lectures are named after the old Mint Yard, which stood on the land now occupied by York Explore.

There has been a lot to do – I’ve had to track down speakers, write the content for a leaflet and poster and have them designed, write a press release and put together the content for the council’s Inspire website (as well as writing this blog!). I’ve also had to work out the logistics of how to get the right numbers of chairs, tea and coffee to the right places in time, so it’s been all go!


Mint Yard lecture leaflets and posters

The new Mint Yard lecture leaflets and posters arrive on my desk.

I’m pleased to say that my hard work has just about paid off, and tickets for the new series of lectures are now on sale from Explore libraries. The first lecture takes place at Haxby Explore Library next Wednesday (3rd September) and will be by Professor Mark Ormrod from the University of York, so book now to avoid disappointment! Mark’s lecture is entitled Immigrant Communities in medieval Yorkshire, and in it he’ll consider attitudes towards the many thousands of people from continental Europe who made their lives and livelihoods in Yorkshire during the period of the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses. It sounds a brilliant subject so I’m really pleased that he has agreed to kick-start the new autumn programme.

On 9 October the series moves to Dunnington Reading Rooms, which will play host to an examination of the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, the final victory of Harold Godwinson, last Anglo-Saxon king of England. The speaker, Chris Rock, is co-founder and current Chairman of the Battle of Stamford Bridge Society and will discuss the reasons for the battle, its course, consequences and its wider role in history. Chris has previously spoken at Acomb Library, so I’m really happy he’s agreed to present another lecture for us.

Battle of Stamford Bridge poster

Chris Rock of the Battle of Stamford Bridge Society will lecture on the battle in October

In November it’s time to get on your bike with Jim McGurn, Chief Executive of Get Cycling, as he discusses the history and future of the bicycle. We know cycling is practical, sociable, egalitarian, ecological, healthy and fun, but why is it also so divisive? Join Jim at Rowntree Park Reading Cafe on 6 November to find out what the bicycle is: technically, intellectually and socially.

The final lecture for 2014 will be Esther Graham’s Remember Scarborough, which will be held at Acomb Explore on 3 December. As the centenary of the 1914 attack on Scarborough by the German navy approaches, Esther, who is Project Officer for Scarborough Museums Trust’s Remember Scarborough project, will discuss the impact of the bombardment on the town and the Museum Trust’s commemoration of the event.

Whilst it has been a lot of work pulling everything together for the programme, I’m happy we have a good range of subjects on offer and four fantastic speakers. All lectures start at 7pm and tickets are £5 each (including tea and coffee) so why not pop down to your local library and get yours now? Alternatively you will shortly also be able to purchase them through the Inspire website (www.feelinginspired.co.uk). I’m looking forward to seeing you there!


A new opportunity: transforming the card catalogue

Today marks the start of our exciting new volunteer project to transfer the contents of our local history card index onto the library catalogue. The card index was created between the 1960s and 2008 and contains details of all the books, pamphlets and journal articles in the local history collection – and a lot more besides. Whilst the catalogue itself is incredibly useful, up until now it could only be accessed by people visiting York Explore. By transferring the information to the library catalogue we will make the information about our local history collection available to a much wider audience for the first time.

Piles of cards

Some of the cards after they have been sorted.

The project has taken quite a bit of planning, and given the size of the index (we think it contains around 150,000 cards!) I decided early on in the process that the best way to tackle it was by dividing it up into categories depending on the type of material the cards relate to. As our main priority is to have the local history book stock on open access when York Explore reopens, I decided that the first phase of the cataloguing project would concentrate on the cards relating to books. The work to sort the index began at Tang Hall Library last week, and is being carried out by staff as they have extensive knowledge of what the index contains.

Once a batch of cards has been sorted at Tang Hall, they are being transferred to Sycamore House Reading Cafe in central York for the cataloguing work to commence. Volunteers are adding the information from the cards to our library management system, Workflows, under the watchful eyes of our apprentices, Kelly and Alice, who are supervising the project on my behalf.

Volunteer working at computer.

One of our volunteers inputting details from the cards onto the library catalogue.

The great thing about working from the cards is that we don’t have to move large numbers of books around whilst York is closed – we can just match up the books with their catalogue entries when we come to re-shelve the collection later in the year. As a result, all the entries we are creating at the moment are ‘shadow entries’, and each one will only be made live once the book is ready to go back on the shelf.

Local History book stock

Some of our Local History book stock.

Today is the first of many we’ll have to commit to this work, and it will take us a significant amount of time to complete the transfer, however the end result will be a collection with much greater accessibility that there has been in the past.

We are looking to put together a dynamic team of volunteers to work on this project over the summer at Sycamore House, so if you are interested in helping us make our local history collections accessible to the public please let me know (Laura.Yeoman@exploreyork.org.uk). Full details of the role can also be found on our website.

A tale of two archives services

As Richard mentioned in his blog post earlier in the week, York Explore has now closed for the last phase of the Gateway to History building works. As part of the closure, earlier this week I spent time helping the staff at York Explore move part of our temporary Archives and Local History service from the Marriott Room to Acomb Explore, with the remainder going into secure storage. It’s been a lot of hard work from a very dedicated team of staff, but we are finally ready to open in Acomb on Monday.


Marriott Room boxed up

The boxing up of the Marriott Room went much quicker than expected.

When I wrote my last post I was in the process of designing the new service – complete with tape measure and scale drawings – to ensure that everything we wanted to take with us would fit in the new space. Well, the good news is… it does! I love it when a plan comes together. The new temporary service has fewer desks in it compared to the Marriott Room, but whilst it is small we’ve still got a good range of material for family and local history on offer, and Acomb Explore is equipped with public PCs for accessing Ancestry and the British Newspaper Archive. (It’s also got a really great cafe!). Our alternative was to close the service completely until we reopen later in the year, so I’m very grateful to Acomb Explore for agreeing to let us have one of their rooms. Full details of everything available at Acomb can be found on our website, as are details of how to make an appointment to use the resources there.


Acomb archives service

The new temporary Archives and Local History Service in Acomb Explore.

Now that the temporary service has moved it’s time for me to turn my attention to an altogether larger beast – the new service at York Explore. At the moment the upstairs has been completely stripped out to allow the builders to start the final phase of the works. Now that it’s empty it’s clear just how big the space is. My challenge for the summer is to create all the policies, processes and procedures for the new service, as well as all the communications and staff training materials. I’ll also be involved in sourcing some of the new fixtures and fittings, so watch this space to see how things develop!


York Explore Local History space

The next challenge!

If you are stuck for things to do over the summer why not get involved with our new volunteer project, which will be taking place at Sycamore House Reading Cafe in central York? We’re going to start putting the information from our local history card index onto the library catalogue, so that the collections can be searched online, alongside our lending stock, for the first time. It won’t be possible to get everything done before the reopening, as there are around 150,000 cards to sort through, so I’ve chosen to split the project into a number of different phases. The first phase will concentrate on index cards relating to books. This will be followed by further phases looking at different types of cards, including pamphlets and journal articles. If you are interested in spending some time helping us with the data inputting please let me know (laura.yeoman@exploreyork.org.uk). Further details, including a detailed role profile, can be found in the Get Involved section of the website.