Farewell from your Community Collections & Outreach Archivist

The time has come to reflect and officially bring to a close the York: Gateway to History project. It has been an incredible two years and we at Explore have come together as one Library and Archive service.

My role on the project is also coming to an end this week and I can’t believe how far we have travelled since that first week. So here is my personal journey on the project. Enjoy!Sarah with HLF project plan

January 2014 – The activity plan strand of the project gets underway when I started as Community Collections & Outreach Archivist. I was daunted by the challenge but excited to get started!

February 2014 – We got straight in and worked with Lord Deramore’s Primary School in Heslington to unlock the history of the school and discover it’s place in the local community. We worked with three fantastic volunteers who wrote a whopping 17,000 word resource and presented it to the school.

Our three experienced and dedicated volunteers hard at work at the school. From left, Alan Bollington, Phil Batman and Roger Barham

June 2014 – By now I’m travelling all over the city by bus, car and on foot to meet all kinds of different community groups. By the end of 2015 we had created a network of 170 individuals from 78 different community groups. You can see where I went during the project on this handy map!

We also started working with the York Normandy Veterans Association on a project to record their memories and preserve their archives for future generations. In 2015 we hosted a celebration evening for the Veterans and created a special short film about the project.

July 2014 – To help manage over 400 community archives and to support outreach activities in 2015, Georgie and Francesca came onboard as Community Collection Assistants!

CCA staff

October 2014 – We launched the Poppleton History Society archive in Poppleton Library with an event to showcase the collection and network with members of the local community.

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November 2014 – To support First World War commemorations we worked with York’s Alternative History Society to launch our pop-up banner exhibition. The banners went on display at York City Screen Cinema before being toured across all our libraries during 2015.

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January 2015 – We opened our brand new Archives & Local History service at York Explore! During 2015 we welcomed a grand total of 94,858 visitors to the service who came to look at archives, browse our local history books and research their family histories.

Archive Reading Room

February 2015 – We hosted the first of our Gateway to Your Archives workshops. In total 98 representatives from 52 different community groups attended a workshop in 2015 and 98% said they felt more supported by Explore as a result.

One of the Gateway to your Archives workshops.

One of the Gateway to your Archives workshops in progress!

If you are interested in learning about how to manage your community archive, all new resources will be launched onto the Explore website next month. Included in this will be our new training films, on YouTube now!

March 2015 – Alongside the Workshops came the Archives Roadshow. We toured all 17 of Explore’s libraries and asked people ‘What Should York Remember?’.

A grandmother, daughter and grandchildren share York memories with Explore staff and volunteers and Tang Hall Library

We gathered 600 responses to the question and even created a vox-pop short film featuring local peoples thoughts!

May 2015 – We said goodbye to Francesca and hello to Jenny as Community Collections Assistant. Jenny took over responsibility for cataloguing and supporting our outreach activities.

 

June 2015 – To help us catalogue our community archives we set up a Community Collections volunteer project. We got 8 volunteers in total who worked to catalogue 5 large collections adding up to 99 boxes, 203 volumes and 32 rolls!

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The volunteers also worked to create content for the Voices of the Archives booklet and pop-up banner exhibition. They provided quotes and unique insights into our community collections along with our community partners and researchers.

combined booklet and banner image

Group with cake_1August 2015 – We worked with York Learning throughout the project to help adult learners explore the archives and use them as a starting point for art and creative writing. Learners on an art project explored the local history of Acomb to create a piece of public art in Lidgett Grove Church and we were invited along to the launch. A local resident even made a special cake!

September 2015 – We commissioned artist Emily Harvey to interpret the 600 responses from our ‘What Should York Remember?’ activity. She created York Panorama: What York Means to Us which is a tactile representation of how York’s residents and visitors view the history and culture of the City.

Emily busy creating the panels in her studio!

It’s a permanent legacy to the project and is available on the 1st floor at York Explore Library and Archive!

...and watching people enjoy the artwork at York Explore!

November 2015 – We finished off the project by hosting a celebration event at York Explore. City Archivist Victoria Hoyle and HLF Board Member Sue Mendus gave inspirational talks to our community partners and we all shared a drink to celebrate our success!

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So here we are in March 2016 and we have completed our evaluation report and submitted it to the Heritage Lottery Fund. It was a chance to reflect on everything we have done and think about the future.

Sarah in her final week at Explore with the completed evaluation report

Sarah in her final week at Explore with the completed evaluation report

All that is left to say is thank you to everyone that has come on this journey with us! It has been incredible and we couldn’t have done any of this without your support and dedication. We at Explore have an exciting future with new projects, partnerships and catalogued collections. You can take a look at our ambitious plans in our Access Plan. If you have any questions or comments about the project please do get in touch at archives@exploreyork.org.uk

The archives team at the end-of Gateway to History project celebration event

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NEW art project launched at York Explore

Do you remember at the start of the year we ran ‘What Should York Remember?’ and the Archives Roadshow? We mentioned there could be an art project in the pipeline and that you should wait for details….well your wait is over!

I’m pleased to announce the results of the Roadshow and to launch ‘What York means to us’, a visual representation of York’s past, present and future through the voices of 600 York residents.

We gathered a total of 600 spoken, written and artistic responses from residents aged 3-90 across York. These responses were then presented to local artists who pitched their ideas for a piece of legacy artwork, to tell a very local story of York revealing how the City sees itself.

We chose Emily Harvey to scope, create and install the artwork as a legacy of the York: Gateway to History project. Emily has experience in community arts and one of her most recent projects was the collaborative creation of the banners that hung along the city walls during the Tour De France.

Emily is a printmaker who runs courses as well as leading community art projects

Emily is a printmaker who runs courses as well as leading community art projects

Emily is creating a coloured textured panel made from resin plaster, based on the City Walls with the stones illustrating aspects of York that local people shared with us during the project. The mortar will contain text to link the words and voices of today’s residents to the images in the stones. Emily shared her ideas, and inspiration with us as a taster of what’s to come:

“I am really excited to be starting work on the panel for York Explore Library and Archives. This project brings together a lot of things I am interested in especially community arts, design, architecture, history, and public art.

I started by reading through all the stories about York collected over the last few months, these have inspired a lot of images already which I have been sketching and researching.

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I got some funny looks when I was out taking close up photos of the walls – I must have looked like a very short sighted tourist! I particularly like the ones with accidental faces in them.

Faces in the City Walls discoverd by Emily as part of her research

Faces in the City Walls discoverd by Emily as part of her research

I also have a life size drawing on the wall of the studio to I can collect all the ideas together and get them into a coherent design. I am sure this will change and evolve over time.

The wall in Emily's studio is ready and waiting!

The wall in Emily’s studio is ready and waiting!

In order to get the technique and the measurements right I have done a few test pieces – I find that more ideas come while actually making things so the process is a mixture of planning, doing and thinking and eventually the final piece starts to take shape.”

 

Sample panels and sketches created by Emily as a taster of what’s to come!

Emily has created some mood boards showing how she has been inspired, not only by the responses but also by the City Walls and our archive collections. These are on display on the 1st floor landing at York Explore where the final piece will be installed.

Pop along to York Explore and discover what’s inspiring Emily and where the final art piece will be installed

What York means to us will be launched in November 2015 and be available to everyone to enjoy. If you or anyone you know contributed to this activity, pop along and see if anything you said is featured!

Watch out in The Press over the next couple of weeks for a feature revealing even more about this exciting project!

Hello there! Introducing Explore’s Newbie…

Hello there! I am Jenny McGarvey, the latest newbie here at York Explore (when I say “newbie”, that’s not technically correct. You might recognise me from my previous blog post, “Getting to Grips with Criminal Histories…”, posted back in March when I was a placement student here, but I am delighted to be back as a member of staff!).

Cataloguing at the end of my first week as Community Collections Assistant

Cataloguing at the end of my first week as Community Collections Assistant

I am the new Community Collections Assistant and I am very excited to be working on the fabulous York: Gateway to History project. My role is to work with Sarah to help her deliver different aspects of the project; from winding up the Archives Roadshow and cataloguing the collections though to helping deliver the Gateway to your Archives workshops and our Community Collections volunteering programme.

 

Some of our volunteers working hard cataloguing some of the community collections.

Some of our volunteers working hard cataloguing some of the community collections.

One aspect of the project that I am very excited about is the creation of an art installation that will reflect the different views of the local community on the question “What should York remember?”. This is the question that has been put to you, the general public, during our Archives Roadshow sessions that have taken place across all of York’s local libraries over the past few months. A local artist will be using your responses to create an installation that will be displayed in the first floor landing at York Explore.

I went along to my first Archives Roadshow session on Monday afternoon at Strensall library, which made for a very interesting first day! We also went along to Dunnington Library yesterday evening for our final stop in the Archives Roadshow journey. It was clear that local history is a popular passion in both Dunnington and Strensall, and it was lots of fun chatting to local residents about the things that they think are important to York’s past. I cannot wait to see the final outcome of the art piece, and how it reflects the huge range of responses we have had about what we should remember about York’s history.

 

“What should York remember?” - some responses given at Strensall library Archives Roadshow.

“What should York remember?” – some responses given at Strensall library Archives Roadshow.

I am also very much looking forward to being involved in the Gateway to your Archives workshops, where we will be encouraging local community groups to develop and manage their own archives. The workshops have been a fantastic success so far and they are an amazing opportunity for us to meet lots of local community group members and help them enhance their archival skills.

 

One of the Gateway to your Archives workshops.

One of the Gateway to your Archives workshops.

Today I have been busy doing my first bit of cataloguing which I am thoroughly enjoying. It has given me the opportunity to have a quick nosey at some very interesting documents and learn how to actually organise a collection logically. I am getting to know the catalogue system and finding it easier each time I log a new entry! I can tell already that I am really going to enjoy this aspect of my job.

You’ll certainly hear a lot more from me over the next few months on our outreach and cataloguing work as part of the Gateway to History project here at York Explore, as I’ll be keeping you updated on our latest events and progress through the blog as well as Twitter, Pinterest and Flickr.

What makes you a Yorkie?

I’m sat in one of our branch libraries and a member of the public walks in;
I ask, ‘What do you think York should remember?’

The member of the public replies, ‘O, well I’m not from York’
Probing further I ask, ‘How long have you lived here?’
‘Around 30 years’ they answer, quickly followed by ‘…but I grew up elsewhere’

The Archives Roadshow has been running since February 2015 and has been to 12 of our 16 branch libraries and gathered over 300 responses to our question ‘What Should York Remember?’ I’ve had this same conversation with people more times than I could count and it has led me to think a little more about what a sense of place really is and what truly does make you a Yorkie.

A grandmother, daughter and grandchildren share York memories with Explore staff and volunteers and Tang Hall Library

A grandmother, daughter and grandchildren share York memories with Explore staff and volunteers and Tang Hall Library

So where does our sense of place come from, and at what point do we decide where we’re from? We tend to say that the place we spent most of our childhood is where we’re from even if we no longer live there or haven’t since we were teenagers or young adults. Where we grew up is perhaps part our individual identity that has shaped who we are today. I’m no exception, I’ve lived in York for just over a year but even if from now on I always live in York, I think I’ll always say I’m from Merseyside as its part of who I am and my journey to get here.

We all have an important part to play in the past, present and future of the communities we live in. Several people have commented on the Roadshow that ‘York is like a big village’. I’d certainly agree with that but around 70% of people we’re spoken to on the Roadshow didn’t grow up in York. How does the fact that so many of us don’t associate ourselves with being from York affect our almost taken for granted community cohesion, in a city already so crowded with tourists?

Museum Gardens. Imagine York Collections, City of York Council, Ima

Museum Gardens. Imagine York Collections, City of York Council

I believe that everyone has some attachment to the city, especially if you’ve lived here for 30 years, so I always ask, ‘How has your community changed since you’ve lived here?’ I’ve found this to be a great way of exploring personal community connections and usually encourages people to share stories about their own children and grandchildren such as ‘feeding squirrels in Museum Gardens’. Childhood, whether it’s your own or your family’s, seems to increase our attachment to a place. It’s not just places that people are attached to as there seems to be a real sense of ownership around recent local events such as the Tour De France and Tour De Yorkshire. Perhaps it reveals the true social value of these events as well as attracting tourism and funding.

Roadshow attendees feel a strong connection to events that take place in the city such as the Viking Festival.

Roadshow attendees feel a strong connection to events that take place in the city such as the Viking Festival.

Our experiences in local places and feeling part of events play a vital role in community identity. The responses to ‘What Should York Remember?’ give us a snapshot in time as to what is important to residents in 2015, whether they have been in the city all their lives or just a few months.

So what does make you a true Yorkie? Someone on the Roadshow said it wasn’t until you’ve seen the Minster without scaffolding. We might be waiting a long while for that to happen but maybe as soon as you move to York you become a Yorkie, after all are we not part of one big village?

Coming soon – Wondering what we’re planning do to with the 300 ‘What Should York Remember?’ responses? Well watch this space for a sneak preview of what’s coming up later this year.

Libraries & Archives together at last!

Today I’m feeling inspired as I’ve just returned from the second day of my tour of Explore York Libraries.  I have been overwhelmed by the dedication, community spirit and welcome we received  from both staff and users.

A warm welcome from the staff at Rowntree Park Reading Cafe!

A warm welcome from the staff at Rowntree Park Reading Cafe!

I’ve never worked as part of a library service before so when I was invited to tour the libraries I thought this was an opportunity to see something a bit different.  I was surprised to discover how community focused our branch libraries are and how their activities feed into the work I’m doing. It’s especially important that we develop these links as Explore Libraries & Archives moves forward together as an independent organisation.

The Gateway to History project is bringing libraries and archives together, services that have traditionally operated separately. We believe that our strength is our integrated, community focused service.  I’m developing crucial community links to build a stronger public profile, driving our services forward and exploring new ways of collaborative working.

New Earswick Library...comfy seats and a great learning space!

New Earswick Library – comfy seats and a great learning space!

So what did visiting our branch libraries teach me? Well, first of all it was that we have some fantastic spaces for reading, learning and exploring local history. I’m working with Laura to find ways in which we can use these fantastic spaces to bring local history back to the community through the branch libraries.

Speaking with the branch library managers also gave me a really good idea of how our communities are working with their local library, often in more ways than I was aware of. For example, Dringhouses Library is based in the old school which is 150 years old this year. The library is working with the local community to celebrate through a programme of events.

Dringhouses Library - 150 years old this year! Happy Birthday!

Dringhouses Library building – 150 years old this year!

On the 5th August the library is running Remembering Dringhouses  from 9.30am-12.30pm and 2pm-5.30pm. Visitors will have a chance to share their memories of Dringhouses and find out about the history of their community. I’ll be based at the library all day to get a flavour of the event and to meet people from the community.

All branch libraries have a local history section - Have you spotted it at your local library?

All branch libraries have a local history section – Have you spotted it at your local library?

We also used the visit to hunt down the local history books in each branch. We are planning to find new and dynamic ways to represent archives and local history across all the branches to complement our new service at York Explore library. We’ll be doing this through building and sharing our community contacts, improving our local history stock and hosting events in the local libraries to engage a wider audience.  So, if you have ideas for how to bring local history to your branch library, we’d love to hear from you! Your input will shape our libraries and archives for the future.

Up until now I’ve largely been based at West Offices and traveling around the city to meetings with community groups. After visiting the branch libraries, I’m going to be based more and more out in these fantastic spaces. So if you’re a regular visitor to your branch library, you may just see me around and about, so feel free to stop and have a chat!