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.

IMG_2107

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.

20140905_161426

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!

20150716_110850

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!

IMG_1154

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

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!

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.

Coming soon to a library near you…

This year we’re pleased to announce that we’re taking archives and local history out across Explore’s branch libraries in our first ever Archives Roadshow.

We’re thrilled with our new archive service at Explore York but we know that for many of you, the local library is still the heart and soul of your community. That’s why Francesca and I will be touring all branch libraries during 2015, giving you a chance to discover more.

We've had all our publicity professionally designed so you'll know what to look out for in your branch

Seen these leaflets around? It’s all Gateway to History!

Expect to see shiny pop up banners and leaflets advertising the Gateway to History project and the Gateway to Your Archives training workshops; discover how to use the archive catalogue; see copies of items from our community archives; ask us all about the new archive service and share your local history stories with us.

But we’d like you to get involved as well. Throughout 2015 we’re asking you, What should York Remember? We want your thoughts on the people, places, events and memories that have shaped our city and the way we live.

We launched this event at Residents Festival in York Explore on 31st January and we got some facinating responses including ‘The remarkable lives of ordinary people’, ‘the smell of chocolate’ and ‘disability rights in York’. We had some truly inspirational discussions and even some children popped in to draw us a picture of York Minster!

Examples from our activity at Residents Weekend 2015

Examples from our activity at Residents Festival 2015

If you’d like to have your say and learn more, the first 3 dates of the Roadshow are:

Tang Hall Library – 17th February 2015
Clifton Library – 25th February 2015
Acomb Library – 26th February 2015

Expect to see us at each branch library at least twice throughout 2015 and we’ll be advertising more dates throughout the year. Keep a look out for this eye catching poster in your local library to see when we’re next coming to you!

Look out for this poster in your local library!

Look out for this poster in your local library as it will include dates for each branch

From April 2015, you’ll also get a chance to see our popular WW1 pop-up banner exhibition as it tours the branches. Its currently upstairs in the foyer at York Explore Library so if you’re popping in, take a look. Check with your local library over the coming months and discover when its coming to you.

Our WW1 banner exhibition - coming soon to a branch near you!

Our WW1 banner exhibition – currently on the landing at York Explore

We look forward to meeting you all as we travel around the city and discover what York should remember!

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).

Something new is coming to Poppleton…

I’ve been quiet for a while on the blog, but we’ve had some fantastic posts from Francesca and Georgie,  keeping us all entertained!

Our new archive facility at York Explore Library will open on the 5th January, but how does this affect our branch libraries? I’m pleased to announce the launch of our latest pilot project with Poppleton History Society (PHS) which is  giving  us the opportunity to share archives and local history through our branch libraries in collaboration with a community partner.

The project started with PHS  approaching us and requesting to store and make accessible their archive collection in Poppleton Library. Initially there were concerns around whether we would have enough space, as Poppleton is one of our smaller branch libraries. The Society had purchased two filing cabinets to house their archive material and we agreed to put the cabinets in the Library asking them to  select items of local interest to go inside.

The Filing cabinets are in a great location in the library

The Filing cabinets look great in Poppleton Library!

We tasked PHS with cataloguing their own collection, as we felt they knew more about it than we did. I provided them with a box list template to make sure they captured the most important information. It was great to see them rise to the challenge and enjoy the process! They enjoyed it so much that three members of the society have been the first to book onto the Gateway to Your Archives  training workshops running next year (details to follow shortly).

PHS will be creating a display of their archive to spark visitors interest.

PHS will be creating a display of their archive to spark visitors interest.

We had no idea what material they had stored away in the garages and attics of their members but we were thrilled with what they came back to us with. The collection contains a wealth of information on the history of Poppleton especially relating to local schools and historic buildings, including the Tithe Barn. It also includes information on events and projects the Society have been involved with, in particular the themed historical banquets they run every year. The Society are currently transcribing a series of oral history recordings, and these will be made available as part of the collection over the coming months.

Justs a sample of the treasures waiting to be discovered in the archive

Justs a sample of the treasures waiting to be discovered in the archive

We held a fantastic launch event for this project a couple of weeks ago, everyone was so positive and pleased to see a new resource being made available in their local library. You can see all the photographs from the event on our Flickr page.

IMG_2107

Sarah at the launch event thanking PHS and Debbie, manager at Poppleton Library for their hard work on the project

This pilot is part of the HLF Gateway to History project and demonstrates new and innovative ways of sharing archives and local history with our branch libraries. We’ve now got a fantastic working relationship with PHS which will enable us to work more with them in the future.

Julian Crabb, Secretary of PHS shares his experiences working with Explore on this project

Julian Crabb, Secretary of PHS shares his experiences of working with Explore on this project

The Poppleton History Society Archive is now available in Poppleton Library for anyone to view. The collection is still owned by PHS so if you have any questions about the history of the village or the collection you can contact Julian Crabb, Secretary,  at  johnjcrabb@gmail.com.

Watch our website over the coming months as the catalogue for the PHS archive will be made available on the Poppleton Library page. Why not head over to Poppleton Library and take a look at the archive for yourself?

Delving into 150 years of local Primary School history

The Gateway to History project has launched its first pilot volunteer led community research project. We’re working with Lord Deramore’s Primary School in Heslington to help them understand their history so it can be interpreted for pupils in the classroom as part of the 2014-15 curriculum.

Selected items from Lord Deramore's School Archive including a local history publication for Heslington

Selected items from Lord Deramore’s School Archive including a local history publication for Heslington

Lord Deramore’s Primary School is the one of the oldest state primary schools in York and opened in 1856. For over 150 years the school have maintained their own archive based in the original grade 2 listed building. Sadly the building is no longer suitable for the school’s requirements and the school is set to be moved to a new building on the same site. Although this move has not taken place yet, building work is underway. The original building will remain in place and its future use is currently being discussed.

The school’s head teacher, Mrs Sheena Powley, got in touch with the City Archives to get some support with the research into the history of the school to help bring it to life for the school children and local community. Gateway to History is all about engaging with all local communities and this project is a chance to work with schools and encourage children to explore their local heritage and engage with their community.

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

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

Myself and our three volunteers went along to an initial meeting at the school in February and we were overwhelmed by their enthusiasm. Since then our volunteers have been meeting every Friday at the school to create a fascinating chronology of the school’s history, packed full of unique stories ready to be transformed into classroom activities!

The volunteers have been discovering some fascinating facts about the school, including how the staff and pupils responded to local, national and international events. Between them they are all working on slightly different aspects of the school’s history and here’s a little taster of how they are getting on!

“The school logbook for 1914-1918 shows that the Great War was clearly much in the minds of the teachers and the children, with references to a Zeppelin air raid, fear of spies, food shortages and the gathering influenza pandemic. The logbook is also a work of art, written in beautiful clear ink handwriting, with delightful grammatical accuracy including the entirely appropriate use of the endangered apostrophe!” – Phil Batman

***

“I’ve been working on life at Lord Deramore’s during the headship of Mr Percy Bostwick including the Second World War years. Some of the material gives you quite a dramatic insight into the context of the times. For example during the war Mr Bostwick was unable to continue working at the school because he couldn’t find accommodation for his family, which brings home what the national housing shortage meant locally. The little details all combine to make a fascinating picture.” – Roger Barham

***

“It’s fascinating to see the changes in outlook through the years; earlier times being concerned with absences due to harvests, bad weather and contagious diseases, to more recent entries like in 1962; “Children excited today, American spaceship in orbit” a reference to John Glenn.” – Alan Bollington

The headteacher is thrilled with the results so far and is going to be using the First World War information to inspire her staff at the next school training day. She’s planning to transform one of the school’s classrooms into how it would have looked during the war complete with desks and costumes! The information about the school will help to teach about life during the war, and children will be contacting local people to learn more about how their school has changed through time.

Our volunteers have also been approached by several local people in Heslington who are keen to get involved with the project and share their memories of the school. Over the coming months our volunteers will be recording some of their memories and using the information to supplement the facts they’ve found in the archives. If you have anything you’d like to share with the team we’d love to hear from you!

Everyone is welcome to post their memories as a comment on this blog or feel free to send us an email at  sarah.tester@york.gov.uk.

We’ve already had some local press coverage of this project. Read the article here.