There’s a lot going on and we’re going to be part of it!

I’ve been very busy over the past month, so here’s a breakdown in numbers of what we’ve got so far:

  • I’ve recorded and categorised 577 community groups across York;
  • Identified 129 community collections to which authority files and collection level descriptions need to be created;
  • There are a total of 54 community groups represented by the community collections currently held in the archives;
  •  Deposited community collections at Explore currently represent less than 9% of  community activity in York

In short, there’s a lot going on and we’re not part of it…yet!

I’ve used the themes I mentioned in my last post to work out what we should focus on and prioritise. In total we have over 1,000 non–civic collections so over the next 2 years we need to target certain kinds of collections and create a plan to tackle the rest. Initially we’ll be focusing on York Charities & Voluntary Organisations of which we have 129 collections.

A Wordle is a great way to represent the kinds of community records we hold in the non-civic archive!

A Wordle is a great way to represent the kinds of charity & voluntary collections we hold in the non-civic archive!

There’s also been a lot of progress in the scoping of current community activity across York, as we’re looking at how the service can represent the community as a whole through the collections and the public service we provide. Most of the contacts have been recorded using, which is a hub for community events and adult learning created by City of York Council. Additional contacts have been provided by the City Archivist as a result of the Heritage Lottery Fund bid consultation process.

A total of 577 community groups have been recorded in a spreadsheet and to make it easier to navigate I’ve divided groups into categories and mirrored this structure onto the community collections we hold. Groups have been categorised as follows:

  • Parish Councils
  • Residents Associations
  • Local History Societies
  • Trade Unions
  • Charities, Societies & Local Groups:
    • Business & Professional
    • Advice & Support
    • Health & Well-being
    • Social
    • Children & Young People
    • Education & Learning
    • Campaigning & Events
    • Arts, Crafts & Creativity
    • Music, Dance & Theatre
    • Sport & Leisure
    • Specialist Hobbies & Interests
    • Religion & Belief
    • History & Heritage
    • Languages & Culture
    • Places & Spaces
    • Nature & Environment
    • Animals & Animal Care

I’ve also visually represented these categories and the groups within them using

Red – No records for this group in the archive
Orange – Limited records for this groups in the archive (1 box or less)
Green – Good selection of records in the archive (over 2 boxes)

Look Familiar? That’s because it’s the same mind mapping programme that Justine used for her project! Using a traffic light system I’ve been able to display visually the gaps in our collections, so we can see easily where we are strongest and weakest. I’m still working on creating a separate map for the Charities, Societies and Local groups but once complete it will be a high impact way to demonstrate our reach to support the statistics!

Whilst creating these categories I became aware that most community groups fall into more than one category, for example York Carers Forum is a ‘Health & Wellbeing’, ‘Advice & Support’ as well as ‘social’ group. The group  may also self-define themselves in another or entirely new category. So,  we’re going to be looking at ways to get community groups to engage with us in ‘collaborative tagging’ where groups will have the opportunity to choose tags to describe their functions. The aim of this is to break down the artificial structure I’ve created whilst still making information easy to find. We’re keen to use the activity and it’s outcomes to support our engagement activities, collections development and to scope a platform for displaying community group information. So keep following us to see what we develop!

So who first? With so many community groups we need to plan who to target first and I’ve chosen the following:

  • Parish Councils
  • Residents Associations
  • Local History Societies
  • Advice & Support groups and organisations
  • Health & Well-being groups and organisations
  • Social groups and organisations
  • Campaign & event organisations and groups
  • Language & culture groups and organisations

The first 3 groups are known to hold their own archives and some groups have already expressed an interest in further advice and support on their archives, so it makes sense for us to engage with these proactive groups.

The remaining groups may not have heard of or considered engaging with the archive service before, which means that there is fantastic potential to develop new relationships and to broaden access to York Explore.

I’m really excited about finally getting out and meeting local groups, as it’s a very real way of getting to know the community landscape. From these meetings I’ll be finding more out about what groups do, about their history and records and also what they need from us before we start planning our workshops and resources to be delivered in 2015.

Look out over the next couple of weeks for a post about our newly started volunteer project with Lord Deramore’s Primary School in Heslington!


Space, the final frontier…

Close up of tape measure

Our move out of the art gallery is fast approaching. As the new strongroom at York Explore won’t be ready until next year, the records need to go into storage in the meantime. The bulk of the archive will be going away for a year to remote storage, but what about the civic archive that I’m working on?

The idea is to move these records into a secure local storage facility here in York, and for me to go with them so I can still work on them directly. This is obviously a bit of a nuisance in the middle of a major cataloguing project but it can’t be helped!

I need to contribute to this process by working out exactly what the requirements will be for the new space, so that it can be negotiated, budgeted for, and set up correctly ready for me and the records to move in smoothly.

The first thing I did was go through the collection and work out which records have to come with me, and which were better off going away to storage. For example, the heavy plan chests on the mezzanine are very unwieldy and take up lots of space, so I should prioritise cataloguing them before the move so they can go straight into storage.

Wooden plan chests with rolled plans piled on top.

This is about a third of our wooden heavy plan chests.

Also, minute books are very straightforward to catalogue – I don’t actually need to physically have them with me, if I have a basic list to work from. So that’s another big chunk (c.60 shelves) that can potentially be knocked off.

Shelf with bound volumes on it

There are about 60 shelves full of council minute books

After I’d been through the archive in this way, I then had to work out what is left and what space I need to fit it in. At the moment, our shelves are 44cm deep, 97cm wide and are set between 20-60cm tall. There are currently 729 standard ones in use in strongroom 1, plus another 80 extra deep ones that rolled plans are kept in.

Non-standard shelves include these extra-deep short ones for the wrapped PH plans

Non-standard shelves include these extra-deep short ones for the wrapped PH plans

However, that size is not necessarily the best to fit the boxes we have, so today I’m measuring our various standard boxes to see how they fit together, and come up with a size range for each dimension of a shelf that I can give to the contractor so they can supply the right racking.


Here are two of our standard box sizes. The height of one tall one is about the same as two medium ones.

Like many things in archives, you need to be systematic and accurate. I don’t want a surprise on moving day finding out that the boxes won’t fit. I once bought a sofa that wouldn’t fit through my hallway (we had to take the window out to get it in the front room) so I’m being extra careful to get it right this time!

In a few weeks Victoria and I will do a site visit to see what facilities there are, such as loading bays, room for our large work table, computer/office access, and see if there is the right space to accommodate us based on the shelving needs that I’ve worked out.

The move is becoming a lot more real at the moment, and as soon as the plans are fully in place I can finally get stuck into physically cataloguing the records, starting with those on my priority list that may be going away for storage. Interesting times!