Preservation volunteers are go!

Back in May I mentioned that we were looking for preservation volunteers to help us clean and package the Calke Abbey archive – I’m happy to report that we now have two very dedicated volunteers who come in every Thursday afternoon.

 

Our volunteers in action

Our volunteers in action

Linda recently retired and was looking for a volunteering opportunity that would suit her interests, when Derby Local Studies Library suggested us. The fact that our current project deals with the archive of Calke Abbey is an added bonus for her, as she lives near the house and knows it well. Jennifer joined in order to learn new skills and because she has a passion for history and genealogy; she’s very pleased she can now help preserve the past.

We’re extremely grateful to both for all the work they’ve already done and will do in the months (even years!) to come. As you can see, there’s enough room for two more volunteers to join the project, so if you think this is something you might be interested in, you can find more details here.

 

Volunteering at Derbyshire Record Office, Summer 2015

A lowly university student, panic-stricken and preceding her third and final year of studying Archaeology and Ancient Civilizations, it suddenly dawned on me… I need to decide what I want to do with my life!

DSCF0696

The summer was fast approaching and I knew it would be the best (and last) real opportunity I would have to fully commit myself to work experience before having to decide which career path I would like to follow. I’ve always thought of working in the heritage sector, as history and learning are my passion and also the basis of my degree. In addition, I’m also extremely interested in local history, as I’ve grown up with parents who encouraged and fuelled this interest. Therefore, when searching through the options available, I came across Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock. I’ve always been interested in archives but, to be completely honest, was not too sure what it really meant to be an ‘archivist’. However, I was curious and intrigued to find out.

I got in touch with the Record Office and was put forward to Paul Beattie. We communicated via email and phone and he helped me to plan my volunteering around university and my part-time job. The Record Office were extremely flexible and helpful when it came to actually planning the time in which I could volunteer, basically leaving it to my discretion, which was tremendously accommodating for somebody like myself with such a busy schedule.

While volunteering, I was able to experience all areas available at the Record Office, including; the archives, local studies and conservation. I worked with various members of staff, all who were incredibly friendly, helpful and skilled at their jobs. I was able to experience: box-listing, cataloguing using archival software CALM, using microfilms, heat-set repair techniques on documents and many more equally exciting and new tasks. I received talks by different departments on; record keeping, conservation, archival projects, microfilm, special archives and more. I was also even lucky enough to view a few of the wonders of the archive – my personal favourite being Beatrix Potter’s grandad’s fabric books, which are breathtakingly beautiful and well preserved. While I was there, I was given the opportunity to delve into every area available and spend time where I enjoyed the most – this, in particular, really made my time spent at the Record Office, worthwhile and irreplaceable, as it accommodated my interests but also allowed me to explore other areas I had not considered before.

My time spent volunteering at Derbyshire Record Office has been both memorable and invaluable. I was welcomed warmly by all staff, given interesting and exciting tasks to complete that were accustomed to my own interests, and I was made to feel instantly ‘at home’. The people I met were highly skilled professionals who are accomplished at their jobs and more than willing to teach volunteers valuable skills that they can take away from the experience. They were also kind enough to answer my persistent questions about career opportunities and pathways and even gave me information and sources to look further into. I am immensely grateful to everybody at DRO for offering me their time and wisdom this summer. I know that my time spent volunteering has definitely helped bring clarity to my mind over the path to reaching my desired career. Thank you so much.

Kerry Edwards

Looking for preservation volunteers…

Would you like to help us look after Derbyshire’s history in a very direct and hands-on way?  If you have lots of patience, enjoy working delicately and precisely and are available on Thursday afternoons, this could be the project for you.  You may have seen previous posts by Neil about the work he’s doing regarding the archive of the Harpur Crewe family of Calke Abbey; we are now starting a volunteer project to clean and package this very large collection.  We are hoping to recruit up to six volunteers to work together on Thursday afternoons to clean off the dust, remove rusty staples and paperclips, put photographs in archival sleeves, sew protective pouches for the seals of medieval documents and pretty much do anything else the collection needs.  The photographs below give an idea of the variety of items contained in this collection, which range from the 14th to the 20th century, but if you’d like to know more details about the contents of the archive, you can follow this link to our catalogue: D2375

Bundle of 20th century documents

Bundle of 20th century documents

Envelope with 19th century contents

Envelope with 19th century contents

Envelope with stamps

Envelope with stamps

Early medieval deeds

Early medieval deeds

If you would like to know more about this project, please have a look on http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/libraries, then select ‘Services’ and ‘Volunteering’.  At the bottom of the page you will see the profile for Derbyshire Record Office Preservation Volunteers; the page also has details on how to contact us to express an interest in joining the project.

Meanwhile do keep an eye out for an upcoming post by Neil about the latest exhibition in our Vitrine Wall showing the artistic side of the family: Art and the Harpur Crewes.

First World War Letters

A stack of letters still in their envelopes

A stack of letters still in their envelopes

There’s a fascinating article on the BBC News website today, explaining how the postal service managed to deliver millions of letters to and from front-line soldiers during World War One (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25934407).  It’s answered many of the questions we in the Conservation Team have been asking ourselves while we clean, repair, digitise and re-package the hundreds of WWI letters in our collection.  Many are still in fantastic condition, even though the paper used wasn’t very good quality.  But after a hundred years they can all do with a gentle clean and some snug, made-to-measure packaging.  Some of the letters are still folded inside the original envelopes – wonderful to see, but not so good for their long term survival.  Creases in paper have a tendency to turn into tears, so we’re opening out the letters, mending tears and strengthening creases where necessary and then storing the letters with the envelopes but not inside them.

A letter and its envelope before treatment

A letter and its envelope before treatment

A letter being cleaned

A letter being cleaned

Repairing an envelope

Repairing an envelope

Letters and their envelope repaired.  We decided to keep the hurriedly opened look of the envelopes, just strengthening the edges so not more gets lost.

Letters and their envelope repaired. We decided to keep the hurriedly-opened look of the envelopes, just strengthening the edges to avoid further losses.

As conservators it’s our job to look at paper and inks, to make decissions about a document’s condition and treatment and to ensure its availability to researchers now and in the future.  The one thing we’re not supposed to do is read the contents; that’s a job for the archivists and we’re usually very happy to leave it to them.  But in this case, it’s proving very difficult not to get caught up in the words that jump out at us.  How are you supposed to glance over a letter from a soldier who you know died soon after and ignore his touching comments about his baby daughter?  Or see al the kisses he sent to his wife without contemplating the many lost husbands, fathers and sons and the pain of those who were left behind?  Handling and reading these letters provides a powerful link to a time not really so very long ago and a group of people we’re still much closer to than we often realise.

We’re currently looking for volunteers to help with our Derbyshire Lives in the First World War project, so if you’d like to find yourself surrounded by some of the thousands of words that were sent across the Channel or would enjoy the opportunity to delve deeper and investigate the impact of the First World War on the people of Derbyshire, why not have a look on our volunteering website http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/leisure/libraries/services/volunteering/default.asp