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

Ware and tear – The challenges of cataloguing a large solicitors archive

This week I wanted to share the journey of one of our archive cataloguing projects and how we made a 78 box collection accessible to the public for the first time.

Our volunteers work incredibly hard and you’ve heard from and about them in our earlier blog posts and on social media. They dedicate their time to us every Thursday in the Archives Reading Room at York Explore.

One of the largest community collections to have been brought back on-site was Ware & Co Solicitors. It’s a complex legal collection with documents relating to a wide range of Yorkshire families, properties and businesses.

The challenge was how to organise such a large collection with so many different parts. The records themselves were also quite challenging as they date back to 1554 so can be difficult to read and interpret without specialist skills.

Volunteers enjoying historical legal documents, complete with wax seal!

Initially we thought that it might prove to be an easy collection, despite it’s size, as there was an old printed list and most of the boxes were labelled. We set the volunteers off checking items in the boxes against the list. The complexity of the records and the list meant this was slow going and we all started to feel like we were never going to get anything done! Families, properties and business were all mixed up together, often in poor condition, with many items not appearing at all on the original list.

So we needed a new approach. The work the volunteers had done so far had given us a good idea of the types of records and their condition but it wasn’t sustainable to keep working at such a detailed level.

Our new system was to first come up with an arrangement for the collection. We printed out the names of 67 families as well as 15 properties and businesses and set the volunteers the challenge of matching up the boxes to the names. Once all the boxes had been assigned a name, this gave us a starting point for writing catalogue entries. We chose to keep the descriptions brief as almost all of the collection consisted of the same types of legal records.

The volunteers, who by this time had a lot of experience using the collection, recorded the key details about the items including covering dates and a brief description of the documents.

We also set our volunteer Richard the task of discovering more about each family. The information he found was especially important as some of these families have played a key role in the history and development of the local area.

In just 4 weeks…that’s 80 hours…we had gone from a un-usable collection to one full labelled and searchable on the online catalogue. Without the support of our volunteers it would have taken one member of paid staff over 2 weeks to complete the collection…and that’s without them working on anything else!

The now organised Wares Solicitors collection. Searchable on the online catalogue at Ref no. WSC

The now organised Wares Solicitors collection.  Ref no. WSC

We learnt a valuable lesson on this project, that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to tacking an archive cataloguing project, and it’s something we’ll take forward to the rest of the archive team as we build a lasting legacy to the Gateway to History project.

The full collection will be searchable via the online catalogue w/c 21st September with the reference no. WSC For further information about this collection please email jennifer.mcgarvey@exploreyork.org.uk.

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.

The Community archive collections are coming!

January 5th is fast approaching and the whole team is busy preparing York Explore for opening. Right now a team of library and archive staff are hard at work stocking the shelves and preparing archive collections.

Preparing the archives has been a process that Francesca, Georgie and I have been working on since August and we were all so excited when we got a huge scale delivery from Deepstore two weeks ago. It was the first time since I started my job back in January that I had actually seen the community collections I manage.

The archives arrived from Deepstore, who are based in the salt mines in Cheshire

The archives arriving from Deepstore from the salt mines in Cheshire where the archives have been kept safely while we built our strongroom.

We had around 300 boxes delivered, most of which were Civic records to be processed by Justine but it also included some previously inaccessible community collections. We haven’t had everything sent back as we are doing this gradually to make sure that the collections we make accessible are catalogued and properly packaged.

The first of the community collections safely on shelves in the strongroom

The first of the community collections safely on shelves in the strongroom

Due to the hard work, and a real team effort, we’re pleased to announce that so far we have 15 community collections ready for researchers to use when our doors open.  Justine is hard at work making sections of the Civic archive ready, which will form the bulk of the archives ready for use.

Here’s a taster of what community collections you’ll be able to discover:

  • The York Art Society
  • York Rugby League Club
  • York Musical Theatre Society
  • Boy Scouts Association York
  • York Educational Settlement
  • Cundall Family Papers and Photographs
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The Boy Scouts collection is full of exciting finds including loads of troop photographs and log books!

All of the collections we have available will be searchable via the Library catalogue and we’re currently working on a programme of work which will allow us to continue making collections accessible gradually throughout 2015. We’re creating a Pinterest board to showcase these collections, similar to the one we have for our First World War material. We’ll also be sharing collection updates via our website and here on the blog.

Finally, I just wanted to say a huge thanks to Georgie who is a Reading and Learning Advisor at York Explore. She came across to this project on secondment to gain archive experience and she has been responsible for half of the collections we’re making accessible in January. You’ll probably see Georgie around the library as she is returning to her previous role and will be working in all areas of the library and archive service.

Georgie, complete with high viz working on one of our collections

Georgie complete with high viz working on one of our collections

Francesca has been responsibe for the other half of the collections and you’ll also see her and myself around as she’ll be working with me throughout 2015 to deliver outreach activities. I’ll be blogging shortly with more details about what you can expect to see from the Gateway to History project next year.

We’ll see you in January!

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.

Mezzanine

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!).

Shelving

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).

Where Do You Think You Are? A Community Collections Tour of York – Part 2

Last week I posted Part 1 of a series of 3 posts about my ‘Community Collections Tour’ of York. I talked about John Goodricke, the Morrell family, and the Gray family, most well known for their role as prominent solicitors. This week, I’ll be looking at another long-standing family legal firm, and about a York businessman and politician whose name is probably familiar to many York residents, visitors, and anyone interested in the city’s history and the history of the railways.

Munby & Scott:

Just around the corner from the offices of Gray’s Solicitors on Duncombe Place are the old offices of another long-established law firm, Munby and Scott.

The Munby family were solicitors in York from as early as 1665. In 1878, Henry Venn Scott became a partner in the firm. From 1838, their offices were located at No. 18 Blake Street (which was actually No. 3 Blake Street up until the mid-1950s when the street was renumbered). The house in which their offices were located was originally built in 1789 for a member of the Woodhouse family, who were connected to the Munbys by marriage.

No. 18 Blake Street housed the offices of Munby & Scott from 1838 - 2007.

No. 18 Blake Street housed the offices of Munby & Scott from 1838 – 2007.

George Leeman:

The statue of George Leeman stands just outside the city walls as you walk from the station.

Statue of George Leeman, located just outside the walls of the City as you walk from the Station

Statue of George Leeman, located just outside the walls of the City as you walk from the Station

Inscription on the statue of George Leeman.

Inscription on the statue of George Leeman.

Leeman is most well-known for his connection to the railways and his opposition to George Hudson, the ‘Railway King’. In 1849 he was Chairman of York, Newcastle, and Berwick Railway. He promoted mergers which led to the creation of North Eastern Rail (N.E.R.) in 1854, and from 1874 – 1880 he served as Chairman of N.E.R.

However, Leeman was also a successful lawyer and politician. He was Lord Mayor of York three times – 1853-1854, 1860-1861, and 1870-1871. He was also elected as an M.P. for the city in 1865, 1871 and 1874.

As I mentioned last week, these collections will be made gradually available to the public throughout 2015 as we are still busy processing everything.

That’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed reading a little more about my walk around York. Thank you to everyone who read and/or commented on my post last week. Next week, in the final post in this series, I’ll be talking about one of York’s most well-known artists.

A Library Girl in the Archives

Hello, I’m Georgie. This is my third week of a three month secondment to the York: Gateway to History Project as a Community Collections Assistant. I’ll be working alongside Francesca  and Sarah to research and catalogue our community collections archives and explore how these can be used in future projects to engage local communities with our Archives.

At the end of my first week!

At the end of my first week!

Community collections are the records of groups, organizations, families and individuals who played a role in the city’s past. The project also involves engaging with a wide range of current community groups to help them make decisions about how to preserve their own archives for future generations.

I have actually worked for Explore York Libraries and Archives for ten years, as a Reading and Learning Advisor. I worked at our central branch on Museum Street up until it closed for refurbishment in June 2014. After that I was based at our Acomb branch, and although I enjoyed working there, I missed my daily contact with our Archives and Local History department. I was very excited to be offered the opportunity to be seconded to the Gateway to History project, and to get the chance to work in an archives environment.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks researching some of our community archives, particularly focusing on those of families and individuals. I have come across some fascinating and quirky records and I hope to share some of these in future blog posts.