Five Years On – A Personal View from Sally Middleton
Next month marks 5 years since I started working at Gloucestershire Archives. I cannot believe it has been half a decade since I joined the team, initially as a Community Heritage Development Officer (a new post), then as the Community Heritage Development Manager.
In that half-decade, I have met dozens of new people, the number of volunteers has more than doubled, I have acquired a new team – the PLOT (Partnerships, Learning & Outreach Team) – and we have transferred all of our outreach and learning to online delivery, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also, during those 5 years, the “For the Record” project building work started and finished, and the place looks vastly different from when I first arrived – we now have the Heritage Hub, with all its modern and spacious facilities. And, of course, we have a newly landscaped community garden complete with wildlife pond and bee hives!
It has been quite a journey – not only for me, but for the service and the wider team. And, of course, for our customers and volunteers – who all have far better facilities than ever before, with a lot more space. By far the biggest change in the last half-decade, and the one with the greatest cause for celebration, has been the outstanding success of “For the Record”, which has been a massive transformation project.
The year after the building work was finished, the COVID-19 pandemic hit us, in March 2020, and we all had to learn new ways of working and delivering our service. Volunteers (a small number of them) continued to work remotely. And staff learned how to undertake film-making and delivering talks online, for both adults and children. We set up weekly Volunteer Zooms – a space to chat over coffee, in a virtual setting – in May 2020, and these are on-going. Life certainly has not been quiet!
I knew of Gloucestershire Archives long before I started working here. What I didn’t know was exactly what treasures Gloucestershire Archives has, and what it did day to day. I have learned a great deal in the last 5 years, and have introduced some new ways of doing things.
Also, during my time here, we have signed up to Twitter and Facebook, and now use these social media platforms to market and promote what we do, to a much wider audience than before. And we have a new website, all about the Heritage Hub and its partners. There is a new online catalogue (Epexio), and this will also transform the way that customers interact with us.
Above all, I think recent years have been all about learning, and growth, for all of us to some extent. Whilst this inevitably brings challenges, it also brings rewards. Looking back, it’s quite amazing how so many things have changed in the last five years. Congratulations to all involved!