Things That Go Bump In The Night

Rachel Wales ACR gets into the Halloween spirit…

As we approach Hallowe’en, we see lots of decorations featuring massive hairy spiders.  As I fished yet another beefy specimen of Tegenaria domestica out of my bathtub the other morning, I wonder if this is because late summer and autumn are the times when we humans start spotting, and screaming at, house spiders as they roam about our kitchens, bathrooms and sitting rooms in search of mates.  Autumn and spiders go hand in hand. 

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I am not especially fond of spiders, because unexpected encounters with them do make me shriek, but I also hate finding them stuck in my pest traps here at Gloucestershire Archives*.  I put down sticky pest traps throughout our building, in offices, hallways and in our many strongrooms, and check them every three months.  But the purpose of these traps is not to manage creepy crawly populations by trapping and killing them; the purpose of the traps is to give me an idea of what types of invertebrates are in the building, and in what numbers.  And I am particularly concerned with finding species that pose a threat to our archival collections. 

A sticky trap in the archives

So, what creatures really do send shivers down my spine?  Here are two – spotted recently in a sticky trap in our Collections Care room. 

Varied carpet beetle larva and silverfish

This picture shows a larva of the varied carpet beetle Anthrenus verbasci (the larvae are commonly known as “woolly bears”), feasting on the corpse of a common silverfish Lepisma saccharina.  Super gruesome, right? 

Why are these insects considered to be pests?  It’s because they can potentially damage some of the materials found in archives.  In the case of the woolly bear, they are known to eat animal skins (such as parchment) and woollen textiles (such as the sample books from various woollen mills in Stroud, held here at the Archives).  Silverfish have broad culinary tastes, happily eating microscopic moulds, animal glue (used in bookbinding, and as a general adhesive) sugars and starches (such as adhesives used on old labels).  So you can understand why it would be alarming to find significant populations of either of these creatures in sticky traps. 

Any building is going to have insects and other invertebrates living in it – this is just a fact of life.  But part of our job here as Collections Care conservators is to establish what the “base line” for pest activity is in the building, monitor this base line for any upsurges in the population, and then to take action to control pest populations if we feel that our collections are in danger. 

And what about your home?  Are wool moths, silverfish or cluster flies making you break out in a cold sweat of rage and loathing?  If so, there are good resources out there to help.  You can try searching using the term “integrated pest management”.  This is the approach we take here at the Archives.  It’s about using a combination of cleaning, monitoring, and management of temperature and humidity to make our site as inhospitable to pests as we can manage.  I can also recommend a fairly new publication by UK pest experts David Pinniger and Dee Lauder, called Pests in Houses Great and Small.  It’s a great little book, with good photos and descriptions, useful case studies and practical advice on how to spot and deal with pests. 

Good luck with your pests, if you have any, and please wish me luck too as I undertake the autumn trap inspection routine and find out what has been going bump in the night at the Archives! 

Innovations in Gloucester

On Friday September 9th why not attend part or all of our History Festival/Voices Gloucester event, Innovations in Gloucester, in the Dunrossil Centre at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub?

It’s all free, although donations to Voices Gloucester are welcomed.  Bring a picnic to enjoy in the Hub’s community garden.  The building is fully accessible.  There is some on-site parking (£3) – we’re also close to NCP car parks.   For further details and to book a place see https://voicesgloucester.org.uk/events/innovations-in-gloucester/.     

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The #ArchivePeople of Gloucestershire Heritage Hub

For day 26 of #Archive30 we are getting to know some of the amazing #ArchivePeople at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub. Learn more about some of our staff and volunteers below!

John Putley, Community Heritage Officer

Photograph of rolled parchment document
D4431/2/56/1 Castle accounts roll

Explain what you do in 10 words or less? Work with the public and do outreach

What is the best thing about working at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub? The collections: we have stuff on more or less everything & you learn something new every day!

Do you have a favourite item or collection from Gloucestershire Archives? Item: the Gloucester Castle accounts roll from the second Barons War 1264-5 (D4431/2/56/1) Collection: Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon Works (especially the photograph albums)

Favourite tearoom snack? Sainsbury’s jam doughnuts but homemade cakes & cookies come a close second!

Sue Webb, Gloucestershire Constabulary Archives

Photograph of a bundle of Birch Twigs
Birch rod

Explain what you do in 10 words or less? Rummage around in police personnel files, documents and photographs

What is the best thing about working at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub? The expertise of people around you

Do you have a favourite item or collection from Gloucestershire Archives? The birch in the Chester Master Room

Favourite tearoom snack? Chocolate hobnobs

Ally McConnell, Senior Archivist

drawing of a man looking through a telescope
Close up of Stephen Jefferys (PC/905)

Explain what you do in 10 words or less? I catalogue, accession and package records at the Heritage Hub

What is the best thing about working at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub? The other lovely people! It’s a fun place to work

Do you have a favourite item or collection from Gloucestershire Archives? A map of Long Newnton (Wiltshire) drawn by Stephen Jefferys of Minchinhampton, aged 68, in 1748. He’s drawn himself surveying the area on the map and signed it, I see it as a very early selfie! (PC/905)

Favourite tearoom snack? Sue Webb’s ginger cakes

Laura, Graduate Trainee Archivist

Photograph of a deed with a large attached seal featuring portrait of Queen Elizabeth I
Deed with attached Queen Elizabeth I seal

Explain what you do in 10 words or less? Looks at cool stuff to organise and write descriptions of

What is the best thing about working at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub? Sharing our stories and findings with people

Do you have a favourite item or collection from Gloucestershire Archives? Elizabeth I seal – it’s so big and feels very important holding it!

Favourite tearoom snack? Homemade chocolate brownies that appear in a tin every so often…

Helen B, Senior Archivist and Customer Services Manager

Photograph of large map featuring a colourful crest and drawing of boats
D1655 Map of Thornbury

Explain what you do in 10 words or less? Oversee Customer Services, answer queries, accept deposits, plan new ventures.

What is the best thing about working at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub? The documents which are unique, interesting and normally quite well-behaved.

Do you have a favourite item or collection from Gloucestershire Archives? Map of Thornbury with pen and ink drawings of ships sailing down the River Severn, 1716 (D1655)

Favourite tearoom snack? Banana

Kate O’Keefe, Archives Assistant

photograph of small bundle handwritten recipes with a open page next to it
D1245/F64 bundle of recipes

Explain what you do in 10 words or less? Meeter and greeter, document orderer and search room guide

What is the best thing about working at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub? Without a doubt my wonderful colleagues

Do you have a favourite item or collection from Gloucestershire Archives? There are some tiny weeny little recipes in the Dodington Park collections which I absolutely love (D1245/F64)

Favourite tearoom snack? Tricky. We have a lot of talented bakers in the team and often have wonderful home-made cakes

Sal, Cheltenham Local History Society volunteer

Photograph of two bundle of letters
Two bundles from D2202

Explain what you do in 10 words or less? We [CLHS] catalogue deposits that have not yet been catalogued in detail.

What is the best thing about volunteering at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub? Meeting a wider circle of friends, socially and engagement in a worthwhile activity.

Do you have a favourite item or collection from Gloucestershire Archives? Mostly enjoy the deposit we are working on at the time.

Favourite breaktime snack? The cakes I make for the CLHS gang and the ‘extras’ from the GFHS!!

Brenda, Archives Team Administrator

Photograph of a seal featuring King Edward VI
Edward VI seal

Explain what you do in 10 words or less? Finance, Customer Service, Room Bookings general all-rounder!

What is the best thing about working at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub? The team of course!

Do you have a favourite item or collection from Gloucestershire Archives? The Seals – (who would have had the opportunity to see them when they were first made/used ?– only a privileged few and now I have looked upon something that a Royal would have seen)

Favourite tearoom snack? anything that appears!  It is great to celebrate the team’s birthdays and holidays

Kate Maisey, Archives Development Manager

Drawing of seven girls in school uniform singing, with a banner above with the words "Alleluia Alleluia"
Page from D9374/1

Explain what you do in 10 words or less? I look for ways to connect people with archives

What is the best thing about working at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub? My brilliant colleagues and the wider Heritage Hub community

Do you have a favourite item or collection from Gloucestershire Archives? A beautiful, manuscript history of Denmark Road girls school, Gloucester written and illustrated by teacher Miss Emily Middleton in 1958 (D9374/1)

Favourite tearoom snack? Fruit cake especially home made

Rhianna Watson, Community Cataloguing Archivist

open folder with three pages full of button samples in a wide range of colours
Buttons from D4251

Explain what you do in 10 words or less? Support and work with volunteers and catalogue cool archival stuff!

What is the best thing about working at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub? As cheesy as it sounds, the amazing people I work with!

Do you have a favourite item or collection from Gloucestershire Archives? That’s a hard question! I do quite like the random assortments of buttons that can be found in the Erinoid Ltd (earlier Syrolit Ltd) of Rodborough collection (D4251). They are just so colourful and pretty!

Favourite tearoom snack? Brownies or any kind of cake someone is kind enough to bring in!

Gloucester City Council and the City War Memorial, by Jonathan Hoad

As Remembrance Day approaches, I thought I would share my findings in the Gloucester Borough Records (GBR/L6/23/B5018), on how the names of World War Two fallen on the Gloucester City War Memorial, in Gloucester Park, were collected by the Council using official sources and a public appeal.

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Natasha Young – our Bridging the Digital Gap Trainee, in her own words

Natasha with Sid

My name is Natasha Young and I am a Digital Archive Trainee taking part in the 2021 cohort of Bridging the Digital Gap trainees. The traineeship is run by The National Archives and I have been seconded to Gloucestershire Archives to get hands-on archiving experience. I have had the privilege of learning traditional archiving skills from professional archivists and digital preservation experts in an active archive setting. As well as learning whilst working, The National Archives have also set up an online training program that teaches us how to be archivists and how to approach the various considerations for digital archiving and preservation.

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Cotswold Roundabout goes Digital, by Natasha Young

I was appointed as a Gloucestershire Archives trainee in January 2021 under the National Archives “Bridging the Digital Gap” scheme.  My post has an emphasis on digital and technical skills and one of my tasks has focussed on the Cotswold Roundabout collection (D6112).  This wonderful sound archive consists of programmes compiled and edited by the Cotswold Tape Recording Society from around 1960 to 1976.  Originally called Hospital Roundabout, the programmes were designed to provide comfort and entertainment to hospital patients. The scope then widened to reach the elderly, the blind and the disabled, through clubs, homes and societies. .Despite being an amateur endeavour, the recordings were made in a professional manner and the quality of the audio is high.  The content is extremely varied, showcasing the talents of local people and “characters”, from singing and stand up comedy to telling spooky tales.  It also includes people’s reminiscences and unvarnished interviews about local trends. 

Original Cotswold Roundabout reel-to-reel tapes
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Blogging a Building (23) – the end of an era, by Heather Forbes

On 7th December 2020 we signed the completion certificate for Gloucestershire Heritage Hub.  This signified the end of the snagging period following the handover of the completed building and site in August 2019.  It therefore seemed appropriate to bring to an end this series of Blogging a Building, started by Jill Shonk back in February 2017. You can read the whole series here by searching for Blogging a Building, and see a pictorial record of how the building project developed from January 2017 to December 2020. We accidently missed out number 18, ambitiously jumping from 17 to 19! 

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One of our volunteers sent this lovely feedback….

I’m everyone’s volunteer. In normal times I would be dashing between Gloucester Cathedral, Berkeley Castle, Cheltenham College, Cobalt and of course Gloucestershire Archives. I like to use my brain to do something potentially useful, I like learning new things, meeting people with the same interests and chatting to fellow volunteers, friends I have made over the years. All that stopped with lockdown.

John Humphris’ probate inventory, 1690, mentioning the hogs (see below)
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Cataloguing the Stanley Gardiner photographic collection: the volunteers’ story (by Camilla Boon and Roger Carnt).

Sitting in fourteen boxes in a refrigerated strong room at Gloucestershire Archives, Stanley Gardiner’s collection of over 5,500 old images of views, events and people in and around Stroud’s Five Valleys  was an obvious goldmine for anyone interested in local history. The problem was that the collection was uncatalogued. The wrong choice of box number might bring you traction engines, not images of Rodborough, and heaven help you if you were just hoping for something on Edwardian farming!

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How to preserve your family or community archive: the Collection Care Covid-19 lockdown blogs:   Blog OH #1

Do you remember when….?

  • Short of conversation when phoning elderly relatives in lockdown?
  • Want to capture family stories for future generations?
  • Know someone who witnessed significant local events?

One activity that households self-isolating together could do together is to chat to each other about their memories.  Our memories are unique.  Even if a group of us have witnessed the same event, all of us will remember it in a different way.  Sharing memories across generations is a particularly powerful way of both inspiring younger people, and confirming to the elderly that their lives have value and are important.

Dr Ollie Taylor recording the memories of Brian Mince, photographer for Fielding & Platt, 1952-74

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