This week I was fortunate to attend the DCDC Conference 2016 ‘Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities: Collections, Connections, Collaboration-from potential to impact’. This is a collaborative conference between The National Archives and Research Libraries UK and shares how archives and the wider heritage sector are exploring the wider impact our collections can make and how they are reaching new audiences, in new ways.
On Monday night, Pawel (Digitial Preservation trainee) and myself, were presented with certificates for completing our Transforming Archives Traineeships along with a number of the other Cohort 2 trainees. You can read the introduction to our traineeship Pawel and I wrote here. The conference was an excellent opportunity to reflect on the skills and experience I have gained over the past year and my ‘Top 10 things about being a Transforming Archives Trainee’ are shared below.
- The people
Over the course of my traineeship I’ve had the pleasure of working with a variety of age-groups, schools and community groups, through events at the Norfolk Record Office and outreach activities. I have had the opportunity to learn from the team of staff at the Norfolk Record Office, the Transforming Archives and Opening Up Scotland’s Archives trainees and other archive professionals through training events. Equally importantly, I have also engaged with a range of volunteers and service users; everyone in the sector has been truly welcoming and supportive and seeing the many ways people respond to our collections is a priceless experience.
As part of the Transforming Archives Traineeship each trainee is allocated a personal training budget to search for training relevant to our individual needs. Over the past year I have completed the Prince2 Project Management Course as well as training related to Volunteer Management and People Management, Creating Accessible Educational Resources, Managing Events, Fundraising and Creating a Social Media Strategy and Blogging. I have been blown away by the fantastic engagement work happening across archives and this has only fueled my desire to continue working in the heritage sector!
- Learning more about the history of Norfolk-its people, places and communities
I’ve always had an interest in local history and working at the Norfolk Record Office has been a fantastic opportunity for me to learn more about my home county and share this knowledge with others, through social media, activities and events. Some of my favourite blog posts I’ve researched include Caley’s crackers, WWI silks and discovering the history of our oldest document: a charter from King William II.
- Inspiring learning
A couple of weeks into my traineeship a chance encounter with one of my former primary school teachers sparked the idea for a history week at Rackheath Primary School. I was able to contribute to this event by planning a local history workshop for gifted and talented students and creating a pop-up exhibition for a community event to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. It was amazing to see the work the students created shared with the local community and I even learned more about my family home 100 years ago!
- Being creative!
I have always enjoyed working with young people and struggle to contain my excitement before our half-term activities! Over the past year I’ve designed embroidery patterns based on WW1 silks; created templates for a range of animal puppets and masks and drawn inspiration from natural forms in our archive to make papercraft flowers and origami bugs! Now who wouldn’t want to do that every day?!
- Attending exhibition launches
In addition to our own events and schools programme, the Education and Outreach team are often approached by other organisations to deliver document handling and archival skills training for groups researching in our own, or other, archives. In 2016 we have worked with two groups of young people on the North Norfolk Stories Project and YMCA Norfolk: Supporting Changing Needs in the Community for 160 years. One of the perks of our job is being invited to the private views for the exhibitions the young people created and hearing the inspirational stories of what they achieved and the skills that they learned.
One of the biggest outreach events of the NRO calendar each year is the Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival. This year I created our pop-up exhibition on Ships and Shipbuilding in Great Yarmouth and the surrounding area. I attended the festival on the Sunday and the day flew by-a whirlwind of crafts, fielding questions and sharing the range of records that can be accessed in the archive, for free!
- Archives and Object Based learning
The Education and Outreach team works with primary, secondary and further education students at The Archive Centre but we also collaborate with other heritage education programmes. In the Spring, we worked with Felbrigg Hall, using their archives to complement object based learning and in July we worked with over 100 secondary school pupils over two days, to contribute to Norwich Castle Museum’s KS3 Slavery day.
- Presenting a poster at the Archives and Records Association Conference
My skills and knowledge have greatly increased this year through working on the Heritage Lottery Funded Project Change Minds. I’ve learned about the history of St Andrew’s Hospital, observed how professional artists lead creative sessions, visited Gressenhall Museum and Workhouse and taken part in an oral history recording. Most of all, I’ve had the pleasure of building relationships with an inspiring cohort of participants. I am really proud to be a part of this project and shared my experience with other archives at the ARA Conference in Wembley in September 2016.
- Working with volunteers
What better way to conclude than to reinforce, for me, working in archives is all about the people! Over the past 12 months I have supported 7 trainees through a digitisation work placement scheme, excitedly read the archive discoveries of our research bloggers and have been inspired to create artwork in response to a finding by conservation volunteer Al.
My Transforming Archives Traineeship has been a comprehensive and exciting introduction to the archive sector and as I’m lucky to be staying here until December, I can’t wait to see what I learn next.
Lizzie Figura-Drane, Transforming Archives Trainee: Outreach and Engagement, 2015-2016