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

Introducing ‘Voices of the Archives’…

I’m afraid I’ve been reasonably quiet on the blog over the past month, but I’ve been working away on our Voices of the Archives campaign. And what an exciting project it’s been!

Picture4It all started off with an idea to promote some of our community archive collections- but we didn’t want to show you the collections from our point of view. We wanted the people who use them most to tell us their thoughts, and so we contacted local community groups, researchers and volunteers and asked them to tell us what various collections meant to them. The responses we’ve received have been wonderful, and from such a fantastic range of archive-users.

We’ve collected all of the responses together and compiled them into 3 pop-up banners and a booklet…

Voices of the Archives pop-up banners on the first floor landing at York Explore

Voices of the Archives pop-up banners on the first floor landing at York Explore

There was a lot of excitement in the office at York Explore yesterday as the banners arrived from the printers. I’m pleased to say they’re now up and ready for you to view on the first floor landing- so why not pop in and take a peek?!

One set of the banners will remain at York Explore throughout 2016, and another set will be touring the branch libraries- so keep your eyes peeled!

A sneak peek at our Voices of the Archives booklet!

A sneak peek at our Voices of the Archives booklet!

I’m sure there will be lots more excitement later on this week when our Voices of the Archives booklets arrive hot off the press!

For those of you reading this blog post who have contributed to Voices of the Archives, I just want to say a huge THANK YOU! Without your input we would not have been able to create such a fantastic resource. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we have enjoyed creating it!

Our Art Installation has Landed!!

It’s been an exciting week here at Explore York Libraries and Archives! On Friday night, it was our community celebration event to mark the end of our Heritage Lottery Funded York: Gateway to History project. Not only that, it was also the launch of our fabulous new public art installation! The piece was produced by community artist Emily Harvey, and is now in place on the first floor landing here at Explore.

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‘York Panorama: What York Means To Us’

Titled ‘York Panorama: What York Means To Us’, the installation was inspired by over 600 responses to the question ‘What Should York Remember?’ that we have put to York’s public throughout 2015. Since being installed at the start of last week, the piece has been covered by pop-up banners, so Friday night was also the first chance any staff at Explore had to take a step back and see it in its entirety. And what can I say- we’re delighted with it!

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Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture

Not only does the artwork offer a panorama of the city, it also contains people’s personal memories of York within each individual panel that makes up the panorama. For example, a rowing club are making their way down the river, a graduate is receiving her scroll, and there is even a lady being proposed to on the City Walls!

The installation really gives you a feel for not only the history of York, but what it means to individual people. And the artwork is not just something for you to look at! It has been designed as an interactive piece that you can touch as well. You’ll even find some Braille included.

But enough of me raving about it- why not pop into Explore York and have a look for yourself…?! For those of you that don’t know, we’re located right in the centre of York in Library Square, just off Museum Street- so why not pop in and take a break from all that Christmas shopping?!

Digging for gold in our community collections: Round Three!

Yep- it’s time for another one of these posts where I pick out some of our lovely community collections to show you again.
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This time, I’ve chosen to tell you about a collection that is very special to me, as it was the first-ever collection that I catalogued! It is the York Penitentiary Society collection (PEN). And just in case you’re thinking ‘what is ‘penitentiary’’? like I was when I was first handed this collection, fear not- I will explain! The York Penitentiary Society was established in 1822 with the aim of reforming girls who were thought to have ‘sinned’ through work and religious instruction. To give you a bit more of a flavour of what the society was all about, here are their rules and an agreement that girls had to sign before entering the Penitentiary:


It seems that those signing the agreement promised to remain in the Penitentiary home for two years, and abide by some very strict rules!

 
Another personal highlight amongst the collections I have worked with is a bundle of letters written by artist William Powell Frith to his sister, Jennie. These feature in the Raine family collection (JAR). Frith was a Victorian artist, who painted wonderful scenes of Victorian life. A favourite of mine is the Railway Station (1862), which- as hinted at by its title- depicts a station platform scene at London’s Paddington Station. Amongst the bustling platform are a bridge and groom presumably setting off on their honeymoon, a thief being arrested by the police, and even the artist himself surrounded by his family.

Anyway, enough of me going off on a tangent! What makes these letters so fantastic is the way in which they really give you an insight into the life of the artist behind the paintings. He writes of exhibitions, his progress on painting and even more mundane aspects of life. These little treasures are well worth a read!

Letters from Frith to his sister, based in York

Letters from Frith to his sister, based in York

A collection I have catalogued more recently that caught my eye was the Allen family collection. The Allens were clearly keen history researchers, and their collection contains these lovely volumes…


They contain detailed notes on ‘antique and armourial collections’, and beautiful sketches accompany them. What a fantastic way of combining artistic talent with historical research! This lovely collection will be searchable on Explore’s online catalogue from next week onwards.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this little snippet of our community collections. Once again, if you have any particular favourites from our community collections then please let us know about it! Tweet us @YorkArchivesUK using #voicesofthearchives, or drop me an email at jennifer.mcgarvey@exploreyork.org.uk.

Digging for gold in our community collections: Round Two!

Just like last week’s blog post, this post focuses on some individual items from our wonderful community archive collections (and yes, I am biased- but I hope you’ll soon see why I think they’re so wonderful!). Don’t forget- you can click on any of the images in this post to see a larger version of them!
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A collection I’ve been focusing on a lot at the moment is the York Scouts collection (BSA). It is a lovely collection and features lots of camp log books, like the one pictured below. These detail excursions, activities Scout members took part in, and even what food they ate! This one in particular features this little hand-drawn camp map…

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A Scouts log book, complete with this colourful hand-drawn map! (BSA)

You may have heard us mention the York Cemetery Company collection (CEM) in previous posts, as it’s a collection that our volunteers worked away at earlier this year. It is predominantly made up of bulky volumes, but the volume I want to show you is one that particularly stood out…

This volume, titled ‘Designs for Sepulchural Monuments’, contains plenty of intricate drawings of gravestone designs. Whilst cemeteries may not be the nicest topic, this volume certainly sheds some light on what it is like to design and produce gravestones.
More favourites of mine are these photographs, taken from the Cundall family collection (CPP). They show women (some presumably from the Cundall family) climbing a glacier in the Swiss Alps.

What I love most about this photo is how the women are dressed- in skirts and shoes that look rather impractical (and chilly!) for climbing, let alone climbing a glacier! Whilst the collection provides no background information on this particular photograph, I like to imagine the back story behind it; were this women climbing the glacier for a cause, or just as a fun holiday excursion?

Those are my highlights for this week! I’ve decided to make blogs posts showcasing what I like to call community collections ‘gems’ a regular thing, so expect to see similar posts over the next few months!Picture2

If you’ve come across something from our community collections that you think is particularly special, whether you’ve seen it in our Archives Reading Room or on our social media sites, we’d like to hear about it! Tweet us @YorkArchivesUK using #voicesofthearchives or email me at jennifer.mcgarvey@exploreyork.org.uk. Don’t forget- you can head over to our Pinterest page to see more community collections, or even book into our Reading Room and take a look for yourself!

Popping into Poppleton’s History!

Calling all history-bods, archive boffins and Poppletonians! There’s a new display at Poppleton Library and you must go and see it!

Having fun setting up the Poppleton History Society display with Secretary, Julian Crabb

Having fun setting up the Poppleton History Society display with Secretary, Julian Crabb

I’ve recently been working with the Poppleton History Society (PHS) to create a display showcasing some items from their wonderful archive collection. Their collection first became publicly available in 2014 as part of Explore’s Gateway to History project, and is located in Poppleton Library.


PHS has been a thriving society since 1989 and publishes publications, holds social events such as their bi-annual banquets, and takes part in local archaeology.

For their first library display, PHS Secretary Julian and I decided to focus on the theme of ‘Recreation in Poppleton’, and have selected various records that demonstrate the huge range of recreational activities that the people of Poppleton have been and still are getting involved in. From tennis and football to socialising down by the river- they certainly know how to have fun! We’ve taken copies of original documents and used these for the display.

'Recreation in Poppleton: A display of the PHS archive collection'

‘Recreation in Poppleton: A display of the PHS archive’

Creating the exhibition alongside the Society’s Secretary, Julian, has been great fun, and it’s been lovely to explore their archive some more- previously knowing very little about it myself. Their collection consists of a huge range of material- from photographs and publicity to oral history recordings and transcriptions produced as part of their oral history project. If you’re a local Poppleton inhabitant looking for a starting point to conduct your local history research- then look no further! Poppleton History Society’s archive collection is fantastic, and you can find a box list of their items on the Explore website.

The PHS archive in Poppleton Library- open for public access!

The PHS archive in Poppleton Library- open for public access!

So what are you waiting for?! Head down to Poppleton Library and take a look for yourself!

Update: Explore’s Art Project!

Back in August, Sarah published a blog post telling you all about our exciting art installation that will soon be in place on the archives landing here at Explore. We thought it was about time we posted an update on this project that’s got all of us here at Explore on the edges of our seats!

Just to refresh your memories, the art installation is based on over 600 responses we have collected from you- the public- to the question ‘what should York remember?’. It will take the form of a panorama of York, titled ‘What York Means to us’. Inspired by the iconic city walls, the piece will be made up of individual bricks that each tell a story about life in York.

Emily's mock-up of the art installation, inspired by individual memories and the city walls.

Artist Emily Harvey’s mock-up of the art installation, inspired by individual memories and the city walls.

We thought we’d keep you posted on our progress and asked artist Emily Harvey to tell us how it’s going…

Emily busy creating the panels in her studio!

Emily busy creating the panels in her studio!

“The whole panel is sketched out in more detail now – I will keep adding and removing things as it progresses though! Once particular blocks are designed they start to take on a life of their own, and I know that some characters will pop up again in different scenes.

Here are pictures of some sketches and maquettes testing out the ideas:

Polo swimmers – lots of people talked about swimming and this block shows children having fun in the outdoor pool (sadly no longer there) with polo ‘lifesavers’ .

Learning to read – this image comes from a stained glass panel in All Saints Church in North St – a little girl is being taught to read 500 years ago, this picture will be combined with contemporary children and university students in York.

The white horse – you can see the white horse from high points in York and it is included in the panorama to show the landscape beyond the walls.

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The carriageworks – lot of people have memories of working here, this image is made from old spanners, bolts and other tools and other tools used in engineering.”

The final artwork will be installed at the end of November, so we’ll be keeping you updated until then. I’ve just updated the display boards on the landing here at Explore, so pop in and take a look! Don’t forget to keep your eyes and ears peeled for future updates!

Our newly-updated display boards on the landing where the art installation will be.

Our newly-updated display boards on the landing where the art installation will be- pop in and take a look!