Blogging a Building (11)

 

FullColour_Landscape

Since April, the Heritage Hub site – both outside and in – has been a hive of activity.

Externally, we’ve been creating firm foundations.  The 26 tonne piling rig shown in the images below arrived on the back of a lorry from Devon.  It drilled 87 piles 10 metres deep to underpin our new strong rooms in a matter of days. Continue reading

Ab initio – or from the get go

So when was the first record office established in Gloucester? 1930s? 1940s? 1950s? Well, thanks to a chance conversation a year or two back I think I now have a more radical, and surprising, answer. I was chatting to Giles Standing, then The National Archives Transforming Archives trainee at Gloucestershire Archives (and now working for the Diocese of Lichfield). It transpired that we had both studied Roman archaeology, and had both been involved in publishing. Moreover, Giles was editing for book publication the collected essays of his former tutor at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, an eminent scholar of Roman Britain, Mark Hassall (whom I then only knew by reputation). And, since I still operate as a small publisher in my spare time, would I be interested in publishing Mark’s work?

Yes, of course! And now, two years later, I find myself typesetting Mark’s essays (meticulously edited by Giles), which happen to include a paper on ‘The Tabularium in provincial cities’. The Latin word tabularium means record office (or to put it in modern parlance, ‘heritage hub’!) and Mark had assembled evidence from Roman sites in continental Europe about what archives such an office might contain. He prefaces his remarks with the caveat that there is hardly any evidence from Britain itself, but that (because Roman bureaucracy was pretty standardised) what he describes is very likely to have existed in the cities of Roman Britain, and especially in the coloniae, of which Gloucester (Glevum) was one of three.

He then goes on to list the categories of archives, and they begin to sound eerily familiar. There would have been the city charters and constitutions, lists of magistrates and councillors, minutes of council meetings, decrees (perhaps the equivalent of our local byelaws), maps and surveys, contracts and leases. By analogy elsewhere, the Roman record office would have been a room or office attached to the basilica (or town hall) and presided over by the tabularii publici curator, the city archivist.

As a young man Mark was involved in archaeological excavations in Gloucester and Cirencester, and his tabularium essay was originally published in a tribute volume to an archaeologist whom he had worked under in Gloucestershire, John Wacher. Although his paper does not mention it, Mark would know well that in Gloucester the site of the basilica was excavated in the late 1960s and is now occupied by Marks & Spencer. The Emperor Nerva, who in 97 AD was apparently responsible for founding the colonia of Gloucester (and presumably therefore for instigating the first city archivist to look after its first charter) sits astride his horse nearby. I walk past his statue every day – from now on I’ll treat him with a little more respect.

 

John Chandler

VCH Gloucestershire

Blogging a Building (10)

There are aliens and strange structures just metres from my desk. But don’t be alarmed.  I haven’t been beamed from Starship Enterprise to a parallel universe!  The strangers are just asbestos removal experts – back for a second visit.  This time they’re making the under-floor spaces for the new Heritage Hub safe, ready for remodelling work.  And it’s all happening behind closed doors – so there’s no danger.

Meanwhile, Archives staff have been celebrating some good news. The Local Government Association has awarded us £15,000 to develop online customer registration arrangements and streamline our online document ordering system.  These improvements should make it quicker and easier for everyone to access original documents and minimise any queuing times at the new Heritage Hub reception.  Well done to our Digital Preservation & Access Officer, Claire Collins for leading the way on the successful bid!

JS ID photo 2016

Jill Shonk

Access & Learning Leader

Blogging a Building (9)

Well, our planned ‘hard hat’ tours of the construction and refurbishment site that’s to become the new onsite Heritage Hub have gone well.  And the learning has been two-way: project stakeholders have been able to glimpse the spaces to come and we have discovered more about the history of our building.

The new evidence of our building’s past comes from two sources.  Firstly, the builders discovered a window above the original front entrance.  It was hiding above an artificial ceiling that that’s been removed in order to change the room layout.  Here it is:

Winsow above front door 20170426

This space will eventually become an office area for Gloucestershire Family History Society volunteers.  The window can be their secret as it’ll be hidden behind a new ceiling by the time they take up residence there.

The second piece of evidence came from a lovely lady, Pam Brogan who took part in one of our tours.  We discovered the experience was actually a trip down memory lane for her, as she was a former pupil of Kingsholm School, the original occupant of our premises.  And she was kind enough to share a photo of herself with her infant school friends, and let us feature it here.  She told us it was taken in the 1940s and the children and their teachers are shown in front of an air raid shelter.

Thanks, Pam, it’s great to be piecing together the history of our building and we’re glad you enjoyed your evening with us!

Do get in touch if you’re reading this and have your own memories of Kingsholm School, as we’d like to use these as part of the interpretive displays (stories about Gloucestershire, Gloucester and Kingsholm) in the Heritage Hub.

JS ID photo 2016

Jill Shonk

Access & Learning Leader

Blogging a Building (8)

The dust has settled after the first stages of our building works and this has been another relatively quiet week, other than the removal of some air ducts.  The lull is down to the discovery of  some previously unidentified asbestos and we need to follow a proper process for removing this.  But there’s always a bright side and the current waiting game presents an ideal opportunity for the site tours we were hoping to offer.

First in the queue for tours are our ‘For the Record’ project partners.  And we began yesterday by showing a few key members of the Friends of Gloucestershire Archives around.  The photo below shows us in what’s going to be the new Heritage Hub reception area, wearing our Mickey Mouse shoes and egg head hats, and looking at the architects plans to get a better idea of what the spaces are going to look like.

FoGA tour 20160412

Left to right: Jill Shonk, Heather Forbes, Liz Jack, Stephen Haygarth and Hilary Haygarth.

We plan to offer bookable tours to anyone who’s interested later on in the building programme.  If you come along we hope that you, like us, will be excited by what’s happening!

JS ID photo 2016

Jill Shonk

Access & Learning Leader

 

Blogging a Building (7)

This week our builders have been busying themselves with behind the scenes arrangements  to progress the next stages of construction.  So I thought you might like to look ahead with me, to get a taste of what the Heritage Hub is going to be like when it’s finished.

Firstly, hot off the press, here’s the latest image of how it’s going to look.  Very smart!

Quattro building image

We want the inside to be stylish too, and are looking forward to receiving the draft mood boards soon.  These will help us to consider the look and feel of the internal spaces, and to make good interior design choices, bearing everyone’s needs in mind.

Like our builders, we too have been making behind the scenes plans.  But ours are about adorning the building and its surrounding site.  There are two strands to these: internal and external interpretive displays that reveal a potted history of the historic county of Gloucestershire’s cultural and natural heritage; and, on a functional level, information sharing media and signage that will show visitors what the Heritage Hub has to offer.  We’ll be working with stakeholders and community groups to develop these over the coming months.  And we’re eagerly waiting to hear if our allied bid to Arts Council England has been successful, as it would allow us to include more art installations as part of our storytelling.  We should know the outcome in mid May.  ‘Fingers crossed!

JS ID photo 2016

Jill Shonk

Access & Learning Leader