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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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.

carriageworks plaster

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!

Experiencing a ‘Gateway to Your Archives’ workshop for the very first time!

Last Thursday I went along to my very first ‘Gateway to Your Archives’ workshop. It was a wonderful day and it was clear from the feedback we received that it was enjoyed by all. I thought I’d share my experiences with you, being new to the workshops myself!

The day started the way any day should start- with tea and coffee upon arrival! Whilst everyone sipped away, we handed out our ‘Gateway to Your Archives’ packs. These include worksheets for the day ahead, a useful guidebook on storing and managing your own archives, and some extra little freebies!

Our 'Gateway to Your Archives' packs

Our ‘Gateway to Your Archives’ packs

After a short introduction delivered by Sarah, Laura led a fabulous tour of our archives services. During the tour, Laura explained the uses of the different rooms; from the Local History Room and the Family History Room, through to the infamous Pod, and finally the Reading Room. It was a great way of helping our guests to get to grips with the uses of the different rooms and informing them about the various types equipment we have to offer, such as the microfilm reader and book scanner. This sort of equipment is something people often get very excited about, as it can come in very handy for local history groups or individuals who are conducting their own research.

 

After taking part in a short activity on the theme of ‘What Should York Remember?’, I led the group back down to the Marriott Room; our main base for the day. More tea and biscuits were consumed, and then Sarah launched into her introduction to archives and cataloguing, asking and answering some fundamental questions such as “what is an archive?” and “what is the point in keeping an archive?”. These questions certainly get you thinking in greater depth about archives and the need to keep them.

Getting into the "What types of records should you keep?" activity

Getting into the “What types of records should you keep?” activity

A discussion then ensued about what to keep and what to throw away when keeping an archive, and this led perfectly on to our next activity- where we tested our guests on their thoughts as to what should and should not be kept. This activity came with useful warnings about how to throw away archive waste and what records can and can’t be made accessible to the public.

Next it was time to ‘create a catalogue’! This activity is aimed at encouraging our attendees to think logically about how to actually store and file their archives, and is really helpful in teaching them how to approach an archive.

Learning how to create a catalogue

Learning how to create a catalogue

It was then time for lunch! In came the sandwich and cake platters, and the room was quickly filled with chatter about the day. One thing that is often mentioned in the feedback is that the workshops offer a fantastic opportunity for attendees to network and get to know people from other local societies and groups- and lunch is the perfect time for this!

After lunch it is time to talk about digital records, a hot topic that is often met with confusion that we aim to minimise! It was soon clear that digital records, once handled in the right way, can be straight forward and as easy to manage as any other type of archive record.

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Introducing our guests to some storage solutions, from boxes and shelving to fire doors and flood management!

Next: storage solutions! This is where we talk about the practical side of managing your own archives, from the type of storage space used through to minimising fire and flood risks. Finally, after another tea break to liven everybody up again, we talk about how you, as a community group or society, can actually benefit from your archive, and how you can take your archives into your local community to encourage further engagement with history. This prompted lots of apt discussion, as many local societies were able to advise others on how to engage with different segments of their communities.

The final part of the day is often people’s favourite… being given a ‘Gateway to Your Archives’ certificate! It was lovely to catch people on their way out and hear their thoughts on their day spent with us. It was also extremely rewarding coming in the following morning to emails thanking us for such an enjoyable day!

20150715_133402If our ‘Gateway to Your Archive’ workshops are something you or your community group are interested in, then don’t fret- we still have spaces available on our Thursday 24th September and Saturday 24th October workshops! Please get in touch by emailing Sarah Tester at sarah.tester@exploreyork.org.uk for more information. We look forward to seeing you there!

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.