Joan Sinar first came to Derbyshire in 1962 and was responsible for setting up the Record Office. She’d spent the previous ten years in Devon, where she established Devon Record Office. Having been born in Lancashire, she moved from Devon to Derbyshire because she missed the north.
When she started at Derbyshire, the Record Office was based at County Hall in Matlock and consisted only of the county archivist and some clerical assistance. Joan’s office acted as the workroom, for processing collections, and the public searchroom – not an arrangement we would consider ideal! As she brought in more and more material, this accommodation proved entirely unsuitable. You can get a sense of how cramped the accommodation was from this photo, taken in 1967:
By1968 the set up had been improved, with a separate searchroom and additional storage within county hall in what used to be the old Smedley’s Hydro kitchens. The search for bigger and better accommodation continued, though, culminating in the move to the former Ernest Bailey school on New Street, Matlock, where the Record Office remains today.
Miss Sinar retired in 1988, just as the Record Office began moving across to New Street. Over her 26 years as county archivist, she had overseen the acquisition of many important collections and built up the office from one room to a large building. Even after she left, she still maintained an interest in the Record Office and sent her congratulations when we reopened after our extension project in 2013.
Joan Sinar was one of the legendary and redoubtable women who characterised the archive profession in the ‘heroic age’ of archives, as the county record office network was set up. Derbyshire certainly owes her a huge debt of thanks for the preservation of the county’s history; you can read more about her in The Daily Telegraph obituary which was published on Saturday.