A week in Bootham Archives

So what goes on behind the scenes in the archives? To give you a taste, here are a few of the things I was involved in last week…

  • Trying out the software for a new catalogue of the archives. I’ve spent a while playing with the software, seeing how it works and seeing how best we might use it. It’s very exciting to get to this stage, as it’s been a long time in the planning! Next week I’ll start to put the first ‘proper’ records in the catalogue. Eventually the plan is to make the catalogue available online, along with some digitised records, such as photographs – watch this space…
  • I’ve also been discussing the records retention policy with our administration manager. Each year it evolves slightly, especially as more of our records are now just held electronically. Making sure that we don’t have a big gap in the archives for the first part of the 21st century as a result of electronic records not surviving is a challenge. There’s lots of discussion in the archives sector about digital records. Part of the problem is that software and hardware very quickly goes out of date. Someone can find some photographs from their schooldays fifty years ago, and there’s a good chance the photographs will be in good enough condition to look at. If someone finds digital records fifty years from now, there’s a good chance that they won’t be able to look at them.
  • We often use images from the archive for greetings cards, and it’s time for a new design, so we’ve been choosing a new photograph and I’ve been designing the card.
  • I’ve been continuing with the research for a project about the First World War, linked with the history department. We’re hoping to be able to track a number of Old Scholars who were involved in the war in different ways. I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading through the magazines from the period, which had a lot of news about what Old Scholars were doing. I’ve been struck again by how powerful the stories of individuals are – events that can seem distant and inaccessible come to life when you read letters and start to see the individuals behind the numbers.
  • I’ve also been researching Old Scholars who died during the First World War for a researcher who’d seen the ‘Subtle Resistance: Scraps from a Bootham Diary in the Great War’ play (the play was written by Morven Hamilton and performed by Bootham students).

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