Volunteering with Unlocking Our Sound Heritage

Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is a UK wide project chaired by the British Library to preserve the nation’s sound archives. Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage (UOSH) has ten project hubs around the country, working to digitise and catalogue at-risk and historically significant analogue audio collections. Norfolk Record Office is proud to have been selected as the East of England UOSH hub, its dedicated UOSH team working to preserve audio collections from organisations and individuals across the eastern counties.

The East of England UOSH hub at Norfolk Record Office is extremely grateful for the hard work and commitment of its team of volunteers, who provide invaluable support towards the cataloguing process. 42 wonderful volunteers contribute their time towards the project, listening to newly digitised audio collections in full at Norfolk Record Office. The volunteers produce summaries of the content of each sound recording, marking sensitivities, and noting highlights. This crucial step in the process allows our cataloguers to use the summaries to effectively support their work, improving the efficiency of the overall process.

Isobel McManus and Eloise Prichard, Masters students studying at the University of East Anglia, have each written about their experiences of volunteering on the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Project:

2019 Norfolk Record Office Volunteer Christmas Party

“My name is Eloise and I am currently an MA Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies student at the University of East Anglia.

I was interested in volunteering for the UOSH project because I had never had the opportunity to work with audio archives before and it was a type of conservation work that I knew very little about.

I started with the project in January 2019 and have been able to flexibly undertake it alongside my university studies, something that I have appreciated and that has made the sessions interesting and stress free. Since starting to volunteer with UOSH, I’ve been lucky enough to listen to a huge variety of recordings. These have included recordings from the sound archives of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, which are currently housed within the Cambridge University Archives (although I must admit, I did not understand all of the technical references completely!). I particularly enjoyed listening to a collection in March/April of 2019, which contained interviews with Norfolk farmers discussing their animals and crops. This was a world that I was entirely unfamiliar with, but by the end of the interviews I felt like I could have probably run a semi-successful farm! 

More recently the interviews that I have listened to have been an hour or longer in length, and this has given me a chance to work on my ability to extract relevant information and to write brief, succinct synopses about the audio clips.  I’ve found that volunteering for UOSH has helped my study skills, which has indisputably been an added benefit.

I am so glad that I applied to be a UOSH volunteer, it has been a really enjoyable experience, and has allowed me to meet new people from all over Norfolk who share an interest in heritage. I has been some of the most interesting work that I’ve done and, because of the variety of clips and random information that I now know, it always works as an interesting conversation starter! It has been incredibly rewarding to have been part of a project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund”.

Eloise Prichard

Isobel McManus, volunteer for Unlocking Our Sound Heritage

“My name is Isobel and I am currently an MA Landscape History student at the University of East Anglia.

I began volunteering alongside Eloise, and it was a lovely weekly outing to Norfolk Record Office each Wednesday morning. I was interested in volunteering on this project because I feel it is crucially important to preserve endangered sound archives, and because it allows me to work on something that is completely new to me.

During my time volunteering for UOSH, I have listened to a wide array of sound recordings. I have enjoyed engaging with this living social history, which has often been both touching and fascinating. Particular recordings which have stood out for me have included an account of a Second World War pilot who survived a crash landing, and a lady recounting her daily working life on Gressenhall farm, Norfolk.

In my role as a volunteer, I am responsible for logging the relevant information relating to each sound recording on a spreadsheet. This includes information such as the date of recording, the names of the interviewer/interviewee, a short synopsis of the recording, and any special observations. My attention to detail has improved, as some recordings can be over an hour, and so it is important to convert the information conveyed by the speakers into a succinct but brief overview.

I am proud to be a UOSH volunteer at Norfolk Record Office and help on this nation-wide project. I have enjoyed meeting new people whilst gaining new skills (like cataloguing) and confidence. For example, myself and Eloise had great fun attending the volunteer Christmas party in 2019. As a MA history student it has been fulfilling to contribute to a project outside of my studies.

Overall, my experience volunteering on the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project has been invaluable. It has been exciting and insightful listening to living social history. I enjoy the spontaneity that each week may bring, as the content of each audio collection differs so much from week to week. It feels special to be part of a nation-wide project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. I have enjoyed using Norfolk Record Office throughout my four years of study and hope to continue to do so in the near future.”

Isobel McManus

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What happened to Eugenia Zagajewska: discovering the story behind a name on a grave

The military section of Earlham cemetery contains graves of war victims of many nationalities, including even some German graves.  Two in the Polish section of eleven graves have always intrigued me: those of Wladislaw Slizewski and Eugenia Zagajewska.  Both died on the same day 22 April 1946, suggesting some kind of tragic incident (both were just 21 years old), and the ‘-a’ endings of the second name show that the deceased was a woman, very unusual on a military commemoration. (I know of only one other  example in the whole of Britain of a female Polish military grave).

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'Conscientious and promising nurse' to 'Appeared to lack brain and interest': Comments found in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital Nurses’ Registers (1900-1928)

Nurses’ Registers can be a useful historical source for those researching their family history or nursing training. They can also provide a fascinating insight into the lives and personalities of the people who worked there.

Nurse Training

In the early twentieth century, the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital (NNH) was one of many hospitals offering training in return for free nursing care. It ran a three year certificated course and introduced a four year course in 1904. Dora Mary Bryant was the first nurse at the NNH to join under the 4 years system (NRO Ref, NNH 114/1).

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Conserving the Richard Bright Collection

Dr Richard Bright is a key figure in the history of medicine and intellectual life, famous for his work in nephrology and discovery of Bright’s disease, but also active in other areas, including natural history, geology, anthropology and travel. Bright was a notable figure on the London medical scene and was particularly active at Guy’s Hospital.

The Bright paper collection held at the Norfolk Record Office (MC 166/299, 633X7-8) consists of approximately 850 individual manuscripts and 13 notebooks containing about 830 pages in total. These items, housed in two boxes, date from 1808 to 1858 and were either written by or received by Richard Bright. Together they chart the early years of Bright’s career as a doctor and author.

Grants received from the Wellcome Trust, the National Manuscript Conservation Trust, and from other generous donors has enabled the NRO to carry out the conservation treatments.

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Royal Greenwich Observatory

The ‘Unlocking Our Sound Heritage’ Project has received many collections for digitisation since it began. One such collection is the sound archives of the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO), currently housed within the Cambridge University Archives. This collection has a vast range of interviews and recordings that give an insight into the work of RGO, its employees, and its history. In it you will find interviews with some famous names in astronomy, including Sir Richard Woolley and Sir Bernard Lovell who both served the position of Astronomer Royal. In addition to well-known names, the collection has interviews with a wide range of staff of the Observatory and from it we can get a first-hand glimpse into the history and changes that RGO went through over the years.

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Much Ado About Nothing?

A Letter from Edward Harbord 3rd Baron Suffield, to his sixteen-year-old son starts ‘With an aching heart and a trembling hand, I take up my pen to reply to your note…’

The eleven-page letter written in 1829 and held at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO, MC 350/1, 711×2) describes the scandalous and dishonourable behaviour surrounding the Harbord Family of Gunton. The letter is addressed to sixteen-year-old Edward Vernon Harbord, later the 4th Baron Suffield (referred to as Edward in this post), from his father, Edward Harbord at that time the current 3rd Baron Suffield (referred to as the Baron Suffield, or Baron for the remainder of this post). It outlines how Edward broke his father’s trust, consequently leading to the threat he would be removed from the family inheritance.

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William Curtis: an 18th century farmer, debtor and habitual complainer

Corruption always tends to capture our interest- reading the tabloids indicates that- and it is very easy to identify what looks like corruption when we research documents from the past. We tend to forget that in previous centuries different rules applied, and what was legal and acceptable then would not be today with the progress that legislation has made. Two recent such instances have been when I was researching the long drawn out saga of the history of Snettisham Farm and the story of the Angel Inn. Continue reading

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The Angel Inn of King’s Lynn

It sometimes seems strange- though on second thoughts it’s only to be expected- how researching one topic recalls previous ones, with one thread leading to another, then another, until they are all intertwined. While browsing the records at King’s Lynn Borough Archives, I came across a mention of the Angel Inn, except that this wasn’t the one I expected on Saturday Market Place, but one on Tuesday Market Place, on the site of King’s Lynn Corn Exchange. Such apparent anomalies always arouse my curiosity, so my latest blog explores the history of the inn, beginning with Amfles family of Snettisham Farm…. Continue reading

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