Three cheers for volunteers!

Be prepared scouts

Be Prepared….for a strong sense of satisfaction.

Officially, National Volunteers’ Week takes place from 1st -7th June every year. Here at Gloucestershire Archives we have cause to be thankful to our large team of volunteers every week of the year. Volunteers do things as diverse as reminiscing with an older person at one of our EVOKE reminiscence sessions and helping us to develop and maintain our profile on Social Media.

On 1st December we’ve invited all our volunteers to tea as a way of saying ‘thank you’ – but volunteers tell us that they already feel rewarded for their time and expertise:

I was always a ‘doer’ and I didn’t see that that should stop when I retired. I’m using skills I developed over a long working life, but I’m using them in a new way. I’ve surprised myself by how much I’ve got out of it.’

‘It wasn’t that I was bored – I work part-time and I’ve got children at school – but I wanted to meet some new people and try something different. In that sense it’s been a very positive experience’.

 If you’d like to find out more about volunteering opportunities with us, please get in touch with Sally Middleton our Community Heritage Development Manager.

Further delving into Dowty

Hello from a combination of my desk facing the wall (and just able to see the wooden sculpture being worked on, and the mosaics being installed) and Strongroom 11, which houses the bulk of the Dowty archive and where I seem to spend most of the time I’m not at my desk.

It is now 6 months since the project to work on the Dowty project formally started, which means I am a quarter of the way through – which is actually quite scary. But I’ve been working on it a bit before that too, and can finally say that I’m fairly up to speed with various engineering terms I had never heard about before, as well as the Dowty company structure, locations of its various offices and factories all over the world, and some key people within the Dowty group whose papers I am working on.

Dowty Rotol rugby sevens team from the 1950s

Dowty Rotol rugby sevens team from the 1950s

For those of you who don’t know, the Dowty archive takes up about 1500 boxes’ worth of space on our shelves. That’s a huge number of records, and my approach has been to work on the archive semi-systematically. When I first started, I spent quite a lot of time in the strongroom labelling boxes and noting what was in them, which had been roughly done on the outside anyway, and also opening up each transfer packet (the transfer packets tend to be stored out of boxes on the shelves, and probably take up about 1/3 of the space) and noting down in further detail what was in each packet. Once I’d finished that, I then went back to the beginning to work on the transfer packets as a proper listing project (rather than noting files down) and also to open up the boxes and list and package the material in those. The semi-systematic approach was a deliberate ploy to keep myself on my toes, as I had quickly realised that listing a lot of the same types of record would get quite dull! So I decided to work on a bay – 20 boxes – at a time and then moved on to some transfer packets for another 20 boxes’ worth, then back to the original boxes. Given that the first 78 boxes in the collection were very small files of correspondence relating to patents from the 1960s-1980s, this allowed me to step away from the world of patents and into the world of audits, or accounts, or legal files, before becoming tired of them and being able to surround myself in patents again.

At the time of writing, I have now listed, numbered and repackaged 173 boxes and 200 transfer packets, and the pace is quickening – depending on the material inside the box, I’m able to do between 3 and 8 boxes a day, but the first 80 boxes were very slow as there was so much in them, and this is now out of the way. I decided to repackage the items as I went along, and give them temporary numbers (the box number and a sub-number) so that when I come to The Big Sort towards the end of the project, all I will have to do is write the permanent catalogue numbers on the documents rather than fiddle around with folders and archive tape as well, which will also save time.

My aim is to have 500 of the 750 standard archive boxes of material listed and repackaged by the beginning of April next year, and 700 of the 1100 transfer packets. This means that the second half of the project will involve less listing and more sorting, and will also give me more time to tackle the photographic material and electronic material which is housed in our special photographic strongroom, which volunteers are starting to list now but which will need more careful packaging and storage, taking up more of my attention.

I have 5 on-site volunteers currently, and a further four who are involved in oral history interviews and work on our website, which has been taking shape and is really being populated after its launch at the end of August. I am about to welcome another volunteer and as I work on the material I keep finding tasks for volunteers to do. Two are working on patents, two (and the new volunteer) on photographs and one on site plans. I am really looking forward to volunteers getting bogged down in listing apprentice records and doing some social history research using the brochures and newsletters.

If you’d like to look at the website, the web address is www.dowtyheritage.org.uk. If you have any photographs or stories to share about the Dowty company, then the website is an opportunity to do that. It would be great to hear more stories and see more pictures from peoples’ time working for this massive company.

 

Blogging a building (21)

Building news – all about the Artists

The artists have been busy throughout the year researching, meeting with volunteers, visitors and staff, preparing and finally making. The mosaic panels and the textile panels are now complete and are here for visitors to come and see. If you are visiting the new Heritage Hub, have a look at the artwork and see how heritage can be presented in very different and beautiful ways.  Continue reading

South Gloucestershire arrivals

Earlier this year, we were pleased to receive a large deposit of over 500 minute books, documenting the business of South Gloucestershire Council, mainly for the period 2005-2009. This was the latest addition to our existing holdings for South Gloucestershire Council, and all predecessor authorities for this region, dating from the 1890s up to 2009.

Continue reading

Robert Raikes, education pioneer – and now archives mascot inspiration.

Some say that your school days are the best days of your life. I suppose that from the point of view of not having many of life’s worries, they could be right.

But having said that, when I was at school, there were plenty of things to worry about. Such as- would I get to “be” the footballer John Barnes whilst having a kick about during lunch time? (Mainly yes, as everyone else wanted to “be” Gary Lineker or Chris Waddle.)

There were so many other worries too – what was the best way to get out of the pointless cross country PE “lesson”?; who was responsible for nicking my pencil sharpener?; could I swipe an intriguingly named Hedgehog flavour crisp from Daniel during break time without him seeing?; how much Space Dust popping candy could fit in my mouth before it spat and foamed out uncontrollably?; could I make it back home in time to see the next episode of ChuckleVision on TV? And the biggest worry of all – how much of a telling off would I get from my mum after I’d fallen in the brook that ran by the school’s perimeter whilst attempting to jump over it on the way home?

However, a few hundred years ago, there was no such thing as school or education for children. Children were set to work or to simply survive in the city’s disease ridden slums. They had plenty of worries far more serious than crisps and pencil sharpeners, one of which was just trying to stay alive. Continue reading

Join us at upcoming Heritage events – Part 2

Our last post announced our History Festival events over the coming week, but there’s much more happening involving the Hub and its heritage partners over the rest of the Festival.  At 14.30 on Friday 7th September Dr John Chandler, a Trustee of the County History Trust, delivers his talk Before the Spa at the Heritage Hub, looking at Cheltenham‘s development from Anglo-Saxon times until the 18th Century.  The event is fully booked though, so please don’t attend it if you don’t already have a ticket.

Image of Gloucester's first royal charter, from the time of Henry II (c.1155)

Gloucester’s first royal charter, from the time of Henry II (c.1155)

The Archives cares for a range of royal charters relating to Gloucester, and these will be on view at Blackfriars Scriptorium between 10.00 and 14.00 on Saturday 8th.  You can also attend an illustrated talk about them in the Buttery at Blackfriars at 11.30 that day.  Again the exhibition and talk are free, but pre-booking is required, quoting reference CV15. Continue reading

Join us at upcoming Heritage events – Part 1

Yes, Heritage time is firmly upon us again, beginning this Saturday (25th August) with Gloucester Retro Day.  We’ll have a stall providing information about the Heritage Hub in Kings Walk, and we’ll be joined by members of the Fielding & Platt Heritage Group with a display about the Company, and by Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology with a Lister’s display.  We’ll be there 10.00-16.00, so do come and say hello.

Image from Retro Day 2017: Members of the Fielding & Platt Heritage Group meet some famous faces

Retro Day 2017: Members of the Fielding & Platt Heritage Group meet some famous faces

Continue reading