When the country first went into lockdown in March 2020, I wrote about the tasks we would be working on while we were unable to access the archive and local studies collections. Of course, none of us still expected to be working from home a year later, and although we will be re-opening our onsite service when the country enters Stage 2 of the national easing of lockdown, some staff will continue to work from home some of the time.
So, what have we been able to achieve while working from home? In March 2020 I wrote about two areas we would be focussing our energy on as a team, and two other areas that I was particularly hoping to develop (An Archivist without Archives). Followers of this blog will have seen our regular updates about what we have all been doing, but here is a brief overview about where we are now.
1. Answering Enquiries
In the last 12 months, we have answered over 3,100 enquiries, including over 550 copying and research orders – an increase of around 15% and 35% respectively, although providing an accurate estimate of the increase is problematic because we have introduced a new online order form which incidentally has changed the way we track the number of enquiries we receive. Whilst it is not at all surprising that the number of enquiries should increase while physical access is not possible, the nature and complexity of the enquiries has changed quite substantially continuing a trend that had begun before the pandemic.
2. Adding more content to the online catalogue
There are over 18,000 new entries in the online catalogue, including:
- nearly 2,500 relating to the local studies collections, bringing the total to over 12,000
- nearly 1,600 interim entries for the Miller Mundy family of Shipley (see Sarah’s blog post from January for more information)
- over 400 full entries for title deeds and related papers from the mid-13th to early 20th century held in the Vernon family of Sudbury archive (see reference D410)
- nearly 300 entries recording the names of apprentices from various Derbyshire parishes between 1694 and 1835
- nearly 2,000 entries recording the names of individuals in various County Quarter Sessions records relating to bastardy 1682-1788, lunacy returns 1828-1836, vagrancy passes, removal orders and settlement papers 1711-1821, Commissions of officers in the Derbyshire Rifle Volunteers 1860-1872, and Enrolment of volunteers to the Navy and Army 1795-1799.
Several colleagues have also been busy typing the card catalogue into spreadsheets so that they can ultimately be imported into the online catalogue – there are around 15,000 entries in the spreadsheets already and there is still a way to go yet.
We have also:
- improved tens of thousands of other entries, whether through adding index terms, correcting date formats so the search results can be properly sorted chronologically, improving the summaries of the contents of specific collections, adding details of the creator of an archive collection
- completed the work to publish key place-name information, such as which the poor law union/registration district, local authority, electoral district and petty session division a parish or township came under. For example:
We still have a lot of work to do to improve the catalogue and the descriptions to the standard we want them to be and to make the material as findable as possible, but we are certainly chipping away at it constantly. The eager-eyed amongst you may also have noticed a few minor changes to the catalogue itself that are designed to make it easier to find what you are looking for.
3. Processing digital archives
I spent a good proportion of my time last year processing the ‘Buxton’s Present from the Past’ digital archive. Containing of over 700 digital files relating to oral history interviews with residents of Buxton, it was the first “large” wholly-digital collection we have dealt with. I say “large” because as far as archive collections (digital or not) 700 files is probably not that big, but most of the digital material we have processed in the past has been on a much smaller scale, usually as part of a traditional paper archive.
You can see the full catalogue for this oral history archive under reference D8048.
4. Resources for Schools
I cannot even begin to imagine the stresses and strains that the closure of schools to most pupils had on the pupils themselves, let alone the parents and the teachers most of whom had to then juggle two jobs between working from home and home schooling for the former, and teaching pupils at school and at home for the latter. I hope that most people also found some joy and a few new opportunities out of the experience as well.
For my part, we didn’t undertake as much development of new resources for schools and home learners as I had perhaps hoped, but the situation did give us some space to undertake a mini review of our education programme and to improve the delivery of our services this year. As a result I have now delivered my first virtual workshop with a class of Year 2s and am busy working on resource packs for several schools to use after Easter – including a brand new History of Clothing pack which is quite a learning experience for me as it is not something I confess to knowing much about in the first place.