Blogging a building (15)

Artists for Gloucestershire Archives

This week we’ve been celebrating the national #ExploreArchives campaign, so it seemed appropriate to demonstrate just how many ways there are of exploring the collections.

If you have visited the Archives’ garden lately you will have noticed that there is a very large oak tree trunk lying on the ground. This is the raw material for our new vertical sculpture to be carved by Cheltenham based sculptor Natasha Houseago. The tree trunk is two and a half metres long and has a diameter of about half a metre. Or if you still hanker for the olden days, 15 feet long and about 20 inches across.

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Blogging a Building (14)

by Heather Forbes, County Archivist.

Why did Genie visit the Archives?   Read on and find out more.

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“It’s like watching concrete dry…” is a phrase normally associated with something exceptionally boring. But we all found the concrete pouring and polishing exercise particularly interesting.

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We knew that the concrete pouring was going to be a long job – the contractors notified us and the neighbours that work would start at 7.30am on Friday morning and continue into the small hours of Saturday..  This was because the foundations of the three new strong rooms needed to be poured as a single job.   Initially a large concrete pump with a contraption like an elephant’s trunk pumped concrete into the metal mesh.

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We were then surprised to see several workmen in wellies walking in it with rakes to level it off.   Later on they used hand-held hovercraft-like contraptions (parafloats) to smooth the surface.  Finally sit-on parafloats were used to polish and seal the surface.  I think several of us secretly wanted to have a go on these but we refrained – this was a job best left to experts!

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35 trucks, 500 tonnes of concrete, and 19 hours later the strong room foundations were completed.   Next step – the walls and roof.

So why did Genie visit the Archives?   Because it’s a telescopic  forklift truck for loading the ¾ tonne parafloat onto the concrete slab.   We were particularly taken with this truck as it shares its name with our genealogical database (Genie), now accessible via Ancestry.  And we always welcome genealogists on site, whatever form they take!

 

Mayor Visits Gloucester City Charters, by Rachel Wales

It’s an exciting day when the Mayor of Gloucester calls in.   But it’s not me he’s here to visit – along with several Friends of Gloucestershire Archives, he has come to see the gorgeous Gloucester City Charters, kept here at Gloucestershire Archives since 2012.  The City Council consider the Charters to be amongst the most significant items held here because they document the development of Gloucester as a city.  Continue reading

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