Room for a Zoom?
There’s no substitute for real human contact and connection, but we have been doing our best to keep in touch with each other through regular Zoom meetings, where we can see and hear each other in cyberspace.
We’ve particularly been missing our volunteers, and heard on the grapevine that it was mutual, so have organised some meet-ups with them. We’ve had two volunteers’ meet-ups so far and it’s been a tonic to find out what so many of them have been up to over the past weeks. Conversations have been wide-ranging, with issues like lockdown hair and favourite lockdown snacks competing with more serious matters like how to stay productive and find meaningful things to do. Staff and volunteers alike have been missing their days in Alvin Street and their regular time together, and it has felt good to be able to acknowledge this.
Technology has been a huge benefit in helping us to stay in touch and build an on-line community, but of course there are bound to be a few hiccups when a group of ‘digital-immigrants’ (that’s anyone born before 1985!) get together. We managed to overcome these with good humour and, in the end all could see and hear each other perfectly. Laughing together, even when we are miles apart, still seems to work its magic. We’re holding these meet-ups regularly now, so if you volunteer with us and would like to join in, please email email@example.com .
Lockdown resources and activities
During the weeks of lockdown, we’ve been finding new ways to keep our Heritage Hub community of volunteers, researchers, partners and staff connected and engaged with the Archives and heritage more generally. We’ve created a new website page called Lockdown resources and activities as a central point where we can share our own initiatives and resources and signpost to relevant things elsewhere.
Ideas range from virtual jigsaws from Archives images to an invitation to keep a Covid diary for permanent preservation amongst our collections. We already hold records of previous public health emergencies, from the plague in Medieval times through to the Spanish Flu and typhoid outbreaks in the 20th century and now we want to capture life during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are asking people of all ages to keep a diary or write a short article in the coming weeks and months, to be submitted to the Archives when the crisis is over. So, pick up a pen, Open a Word document or take up your phone and record your experiences, thoughts or feelings about this remarkable time. You can make a submission at https://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/archives/submit-a-deposit/
The 60 seconds with... page has also proved to be very popular and which now has a wealth of information and thoughts from many of the visitors, volunteers and staff at the Heritage Hub. We have devised 40 heritage related questions which will hopefully make you stop and think about why you like history and why you enjoy using archives. However, we only want you to answer 10 questions so just choose your favourites…and we only want short answers so that the completed piece of work can be read in about 60 seconds or less! Click here for the contributions so far! and why not take the challenge yourself!
We’re also taking the opportunity to highlight and re-purpose many excellent resources which we already have. Do take a look at the page if you haven’t already, and check in from time to time to see what’s new.
Unlocking Lockdown: how to support people with memory loss and dementia
Three weeks into ‘Lockdown’ and I’ve been thinking about how this experience might be affecting people living with dementia who are still at home, and the people who are sharing their house or flat with them. Dementia affects everyone differently, but there are some things which are likely to be especially challenging for people in this situation. I’ve tried to acknowledge this and to think of ideas which might help.
We are all anxious and uncertain about what is happening around us at the moment. A person with dementia may not know what is going on but will probably be aware that things are different. Even when people no longer recognise the faces of people they know well, often they can still read facial expressions and tell how someone is feeling. It will really help to be as positive and upbeat as you can (without feeling you’ve got to have a permanent grin on your face!)
People living with dementia are often aware that they are not as able as once they were, and this can make them feel low and anxious. When they feel like this, the things that can make them hard to be around (for example, repeating the same question, or being a bit ‘ratty’) are likely to be more pronounced. When the person living with dementia feels at ease, the whole household can be at ease.
Gloucestershire Heritage Hub Volunteer Christine Lingard at an EVOKE session
I remember how hard it was for me to finally get the message that there is no point in arguing with someone who has dementia, even when you know fine well that they are wrong! One of the most helpful things someone told me was to ‘try to get into your mum’s world – there is no way you are going to be able to drag her into yours’. ‘Getting into another person’s world’ sounds hard, but there are lots of resources around that can help with this. I’m going to focus on things which are free, but they do rely on having access to technology.
Music is something which resonates with us throughout our lives: we respond to it from before we are born until the very end of our lives. Typically, the music we enjoyed when we were in our late teens and early twenties keeps a special significance for us. The BBC has a fantastic website called Music Memories https://musicmemories.bbcrewind.co.uk/ which is really easy to use. It will play popular songs and music from the decade of your choice. Setting the scene with music associated with a happy time in the past can really help to create and maintain a contented mood. There is also a national radio station called BBC2 50s which plays music from the 1950s https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/lfsxC11Rjlppn1kDfNxYBc/how-to-listen-to-radio-2 - You need to have a digital radio to be able to find it.
Listening to music is great; joining in is even better and has proven benefits for mental and physical health. If you can download Zoom (www.zoom.us) you could join the wonderful Sofa Singers and be part of a huge, worldwide choir from your home.
The BBC also has a fantastic website called RemArc https://remarc.bbcrewind.co.uk/index.html which is full of old and much-loved TV programmes, theme tunes and advertisements. You can choose a Theme or a Decade for some very happy reminiscing. It’s very easy to use and, I can confirm, is a lovely way to spend time with some old favourites.
Liverpool Museums developed their House of Memories programme https://houseofmemories.co.uk/ in consultation with people living with dementia and this is the resource we used for our EVOKE reminiscence project. You will need to download the app onto a tablet computer or an iPad. We worked with the House of Memories team to create our own Gloucestershire package – so you will find lots of pictures and short films from around the county. People living with dementia can often become withdrawn because they lose the confidence to participate. House of Memories works by sparking memories and stories about familiar things, places and experiences.
Moving about is important for all of us, and we are all having to be creative about how to stay fit when we can’t get out much. A person living with dementia can sometimes have a restless kind of energy which makes it difficult for them to settle down. Joe Wicks, the P.E. teacher you always wanted, has devised a safe and simple workout to help older people keep moving: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0873kvz Doing some exercise can release ‘feel good’ chemicals into the brain and there is nothing to suggest that this isn’t also true for people living with dementia.
Art and culture
The National Trust has made many of its treasures available to learn about online: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/spring-into-our-collections . They’ve also got recipes and craft ideas to have a look at. In fact, most galleries and museums have come up with some ingenious ways of allowing us to visit from our sofas, so it’s well worth having a look if that’s your cup of tea. Talking of tea, it’s important to stay hydrated to keep the old grey cells topped up.
Jigidi https://www.jigidi.com/ is a fantastic on-line jigsaw site where you can create your own jigsaws from favourite images and solve jigsaws created by people all over the world. It’s easy, fun and pretty addictive! A few of us have had a go and we are hooked. If you’d like to do some jigsaws created from images in our collections, just search for heritage hub in the keywords.
One of the jigsaws is a photograph of Dorothy Arbuthnot in her wedding dress, 18 May 1896. Her amazing dress was made by Mrs A Roberts. The original document is preserved amongst the collections at Gloucestershire Archives @ the Heritage Hub. Its finding reference is SRPort/ArbuthnotGS
I’d like to finish this by saying a couple of things which don’t get said enough in my opinion:
- Even in less uncertain times, it is challenging to live with dementia.
- Even in less uncertain times, it is challenging to live with somebody who is living with dementia, especially if you love that person.
Give yourself a break, try to take pleasure in small things. You are dealing with something difficult and deserve nothing but respect and admiration. I hope you find something helpful here.
Kate O’Keefe - Dementia Lead and Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Champion.
How to preserve your family or community archive
The Collection Care team at Gloucestershire Archives as part of the National Lottery Heritage funded “For the Record” project – support people to document, care for, interpret and celebrate their personal and shared history”.
During lockdown the team, through a series of blogs, are continuing to support people wherever they are to look after their collections.
An example of how not to keep your archive safe.
Since the first blog on April 4 How to preserve your family or community archive: the Collection Care Covid-19 lockdown blogs. Blog CC #1 the team have published many further blogs with subjects including -
-Why care for the collection?
-How to care for your collection.
-The 10 agents of deterioration.
-Loss of knowledge
-cost and fundraising
The team will keep posting.
Based on Gloucestershire Archives Heritage Hub Collection Care training developed by Ann Attwood ACR Collections Care Development Officer and Rachel Wales ACR Collections Care Conservator
Volunteering – What’s In It for Me?
Millions of people in the UK volunteer – about 20.1 million, according to the NCVO, (in 2017-18), or fast approaching one third of the population. At the last count (June 2020), 183 of them volunteer for Gloucestershire Archives.
I, too, have volunteered several times during my life; on a rural community project, based on access to clean water, in rural Turkey, in 1979, organised through UNESCO; at 2 Citizens’ Advice Bureaux in the 1980’s; at several homeless shelters at Christmas time, and with a community based project, for elders, in New York, between 2002-05 (not full time, but during my annual leave, when I would travel to New York to be part of a non-profit providing social work, and community development, with sections of New York city’s aged population).
So, let’s get back to Gloucestershire Archives, and our 183 volunteers. What, exactly, do they do? Well, collectively, they donate around 12,500 volunteer hours each year. This equates to £264,000 per year in monetary value. Volunteers have always mobilised at times of national crisis, or emergencies. In the current covid-19 pandemic, for example, the UK government, in April 2020, asked for volunteers to step forward to support the efforts of the NHS, key-workers and infrastructure. Their target was 250,000 but, in reality, the government received treble this number of volunteers. This will mean millions of volunteer hours in the coming months, and millions of pounds in monetary value. For a very personal and engaging account of volunteering during lockdown, please see a blog, written by one of our volunteers - A CATTER-LOG-ER-AT-HOME
Some of our most cherished, and well known, volunteer-led organisations, emerged during times of national crisis, including the National Association of Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and RVS (formerly the WRVS), which both mobilised huge numbers of volunteers during World War II. And we should not forget the voluntary organisations that grew out of eighteenth and nineteenth century philanthropy, such as the organisation founded by Dr Thomas Barnardo, largely led by volunteers in the nineteenth century. More recently, in the 1960’s, volunteer-led groups like the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) came into being, following reports in the press about the “rediscovery” of poverty in the UK, following several academic studies, notably by Prof. Peter Townsend at Bristol University, and works such as Family and Kinship in East London by Malcolm Young and Peter Wilmott. Arguably, volunteers in the UK have lobbied, pressed for change, helped many millions of people and causes, and this rich and varied tradition of civic engagement in the UK is probably unsurpassed anywhere in the world.
So why do people volunteer? I’ve always thought it’s to do with passion – having a passion for an interest (like heritage), a cause (like civil or equal rights) or as a response to some kind of crisis (whether global, national, local or personal). Above all, it’s about making a difference. Of the 183 volunteers at Gloucestershire Archives, they all, I can very confidently say, have a passion for history. And a good number of them want “to give something back”. Our volunteers are engaged in a wide range of activities; we have 19 separate Volunteer Role Descriptions (a bit like job descriptions) for tasks that volunteers can do. Many are project related (e.g. last year’s Never Better project, on the history of mental health provision in Gloucestershire), some are very task orientated (e.g. cataloguing or transcribing) and some require very specific skills and abilities (e.g. gardener or meet & greet). One of the volunteer roles I’m keen to create is that of Volunteer Mentor, for volunteers who would like to mentor others in specific volunteering tasks. This has been widely used in the museums sector, with great effect.
So, we know what volunteers do, but what’s in it for them? It would appear, from our 2019 volunteer survey, a huge amount. From that survey, we learned that 60% of volunteers come to us because they want to learn new skills, 94% do it because they have fun and enjoy themselves, 70% because it improves their wellbeing, and 90% because they want to do something “meaningful” with their spare time.
Lots of organisations that work with volunteers – or, in fact, rely on them – have learned that people will more readily volunteer (and stay) if they are having fun. So what does this mean, in practice? Well, we can all say thank you to volunteers, with coffee mornings and trips out. But having fun is also about staying connected. And this is one of what the NHS calls The 5 Ways to Wellbeing. In order for people to thrive and feel well, psychologically and emotionally, there are 5 things we can all do to help ourselves: give, keep learning, stay connected, be active, take notice. All of these, I would say, define the very essence of volunteering: it is about being connected and learning, it is about giving and being active, and it is about taking notice.
The 5 Ways to Wellbeing (which sprang out of research done by the New Economics Foundation, and which was quickly adopted and promoted by both the Office for National Statistics, and the NHS), underpin what I believe volunteering is all about. In short, the 5 ways, the 5 actions, go a long way to ensuring one’s wellbeing
In answering the question, volunteering – what’s in it for me? I think we need to look at the complex relationship between volunteering and wellbeing. When we can choose to do so many things in our free time we will, I think, do things that make us feel better. This could be a hobby, spending time with loved ones, engaging in an artistic pursuit, and, for many, volunteering. Volunteering in the archives sector is just beginning to be explored in terms of its connection to wellbeing. This year, the National Archives will be launching their Wellbeing Toolkit for archives to use, and this seeks to shed light on the link between volunteering (in archives services) and wellbeing. It will be an important piece of work, and we can’t wait to get involved!
Sally Middleton – Community Heritage Development Manager.
Volunteer Sally Self sent a photo of the lovely sweet peas that have grown from
the seeds Archives presented to our volunteers, earlier in the year, as a thank you.
As one of a group of volunteers, I’m missing our Monday get togethers and am really looking forward to when we can all get back together. But have we been allowed to be idle? OH NO!
That slave driver cum school ma, (so called volunteer coordinator) has continued to organise us! (Can’t she give us a break?). A long respite from ‘you’ve not used the right Archives format’; ’that shouldn’t be a capital letter’; ‘ there shouldn’t be a gap in the item reference’ etc etc ad infinitum… And what has she made us do?
Well, we’re burrowing through really sensational sources like Ancestry, Find my Past, Newspapers online, Directories, even sifting through the Gazetteer. And what for? Well, scraps to do with Charlton Kings! And to use spreadsheets for all our finds. More blankety blank spreadsheets! Says it will be very useful when there’s enough money in the piggy bank to start on Charlton parish for the Big Red Book of Cheltenham. And when will that be?
Oh bother it … I’m going to mow the lawn, tidy the sock draw, vacuum the bottom of the wardrobe, clean the windows, polish the … all of which I did yesterday, or I might …
just have a glass of wine (or several) and eat a whole packet of Hobnobs. I’m over 70 and ‘they’ have written me off anyway!
ANON (email on application to the head mistress).
Free Access from home
While Gloucestershire Archives, Gloucestershire Libraries and Gloucestershire Family History Society’s research rooms are closed to the public during the Covid-19 pandemic, customers have been unable to access digitised copies of Gloucestershire records free of charge. We’ve been working with Ancestry and can now provide free access to Gloucestershire’s digitised resources until we can welcome you back to the Heritage Hub. Please use this link to access them: http://www.ancestry.co.uk/s108677/t43849/rd.ashx
You can also find some expert help on our prisoner records from our very own Paul Evans who offers some handy hints on using these records: https://www.facebook.com/AncestryUK/videos/2617419908531292/
Gloucestershire Libraries have also negotiated access to Find My Past as below:
Access to 'Find My Past' from home
Find My Past’, family history site will be accessible from home to all Gloucestershire Libraries customers whilst our libraries are closed due to the Coronavirus outbreak. This site can normally only be accessed from a PC in one of our libraries. Instead of using your personal library account to access the website, you will need to use the following details to log in:
These details can be entered into the 'Sign In' page: https://www.findmypast.co.uk/sign-in
For privacy reasons, we are asking users not to start or update their own family trees on this account. Instead you should register/sign into your own personal account with ‘Find My Past’. This will require your own purchase of subscription or credits to access hints and records within your own account.
Claire Collins, Collections Development Manager, Gloucestershire County Council
A Day in the Life of the Community Heritage Development Manager
It is one of my greatest regrets that, at the age of 18, I failed my history A level. History had been my second favourite subject at school, although I had no idea of the sort of career I could make from this interest. At the age of 7, my mother bought me a book on the kings and queens of England. I remember very little about the potted histories of each monarch’s life, but I do remember that it cost 12/6d, which was a significant sum back then. I lost the book very many years ago, but not my interest in history, and what we might now call heritage.
It was over 20 years ago that I first moved to Gloucester, because of work. I had memories of the city from my childhood, as we lived only 40 minutes’ away and would sometimes visit the city for shopping. For much of my time in Gloucester, I have worked as a social worker. I trained in social work and community work in the mid-1980’s. I made a conscious decision to leave social work back in 2002, and was lucky enough to get a job with the library service as a Social Inclusion Development Officer. This involved using easily transferable skills: working with communities, outreach, advising the service on equalities issues and breaking down barriers that some people faced when accessing the service. One of my responsibilities, at that time, was to work with the librarians based in the library at HMP Gloucester, looking at literacy projects for prisoners and their families. It was also at this time that I worked with Health to set up Gloucestershire Books on Prescription, a self-help scheme run by GP’s, to help their patients access books from their local library on managing their mild to moderate mental health issues. It was the first social prescribing project in Gloucestershire, and is still in operation today. But it was my work with communities of interest that really inspired me.
In 2014 I was made redundant from the library service, and this was in the context of reductions in public library budgets across the UK, and quickly found a job with the City Council as a Neighbourhood Manager. This involved working with communities to improve quality of life in their neighbourhoods, and this ranged from dealing with anti-social behaviour, illegal encampments (Travellers), street scene (looking after the built environment, and streetscape issues such as managing fly-tipping), stray dogs (yes, really), monitoring and removal of graffiti, and being, in part, responsible for community efforts to improve Gloucester park, including reducing crime and helping support a new community interest group that was formed to protect and enhance the heritage of the park, as well as helping to organise events held in the park. One of my biggest tasks whilst at the City Council was to oversee some of the improvements in the city in readiness for hosting some of the international rugby matches for the Rugby World Cup 2015.
Three and a half years ago, I started working as the new Community Heritage Development Officer at Gloucestershire Archives. It brought together all the things I was passionate about – history and heritage, working with people and communities, equalities, social inclusion, working with volunteers, project work and outreach.
So what does a typical day look like? It’s fair to say there is no “typical” day. I meet a lot of people, and enjoy the practical side of this – problem solving, communication skills, working in partnership and exploring what is possible. The post was a new post (part of the For the Record project), and this meant I had every opportunity to “make it my own”.
But the very best thing was that, at last, I was working in an area that had everything to do with history and heritage. I read lots of history books, especially on social history; I’m currently reading a book about crime in 1880’s London (the decade, and the century, into which my maternal grandfather was born). And my favourite Christmas present, last year, was a very expensive facsimile edition of Charles Booth’s poverty maps of Victorian London (it more than makes up for my lost copy of the kings and queens of England), where the blackest streets indicated the worst socio-economic conditions. The maps really are works of art, with streets colour-coded as to household income and what we would now call social class – from the palest of pinks, to crimson red, to grey, indigo and black, the very poorest. The poorest, blackest, streets also indicated the most crime-ridden, both in terms of perpetrators and victims. It was probably the first time that any researcher had made a connection between crime and poverty. If you want a sense of what life was like for the working poor in this period, I would highly recommend Henry Mayhew’s book, London Labour and the London Poor, published in 1851 and, of course, Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England. To make that history really come alive, and to taste, hear and smell mid-Victorian London, with its debtors’ prisons, pawn shops, workhouses, street urchins and hardships, try reading any of Charles Dickens’ London novels of the period. One of my first clients, when I was a social worker in the mid-1980’s, was a woman who had been born in the East End in the 1890’s. She will have long since passed away, but it always struck me, as a social worker, sometimes (early in my career) working with people born in the late Victorian period how short a period of time a century really is, certainly within living memory now we have so many people not only reaching, but living beyond, their 100th year. It used to fascinate me, as a very young child, being handed 12 Victorian pennies as my weekly pocket money, in the 1960’s, and wondering who, in all those years, had also handled those coins. Perhaps a famous person, a chimney sweep, a market trader in Petticoat Lane, an artist, a Jewish elder, perhaps even a king or queen.
One of my responsibilities, as the Community Heritage Development Manager, at Gloucestershire Archives, is to work closely with the Gloucestershire Family History Society. I attend their monthly committee meetings, and write a monthly report from the Archives that I present at the meetings. I enjoy working with GHFS, and deal with things like snagging issues arising from the recent building works, preparing for joint events, sharing information about the annual History Festival, dealing with any problems or queries that arise, and sometimes sharing volunteers. The GFHS Treasurer sits on the Heritage Hub User Group, which I chair every quarter, and which is a group of users who feed back any concerns, complaints or compliments about the Heritage Hub.
One of the areas of work I particularly enjoy, in my role, is project work. Last year, I project managed an externally funded, year-long project, called Never Better, culminating in a drama performed at Blackfriars as part of the Gloucester History Festival in September 2019. This was where a group of volunteers, recruited and managed by me, were asked to read and transcribe contemporaneous accounts of patient admissions and treatments in Victorian lunatic asylums. These transcriptions were used as the basis for the performance, brought right up to date alongside contemporary accounts of those living in the city today with their own mental health issues. Once again, I was working with people, dealing with sensitive issues and had to focus on mental health (one of the sectors I had worked in as a social worker). The Never Better project has been the highlight of my career, because I know it made a difference to so many people and because it gave a voice to some of history’s most silent and ignored people.
So, what is a “typical” day like for me? Well. I may be interviewing a couple of volunteers. I could be writing or amending policies on learning and outreach, I may be chairing a meeting with one of our partners (one of my favourite is the partnership we have with Kingsholm Primary School, where we work with the teachers to bring children aged 9-11 years in to the Heritage Hub; this may be on class visits, workshops or our annual children’s take-over day). And I could be looking at issues to do with customer service, or mentoring a colleague. And (another favourite area), dealing with equalities issues (as a Local Authority we have a statutory duty to promote equalities, as enshrined in the Equality Act 2010). But, whatever I do, and whatever I’m working on, it will involve working with people, and working with history. Not so bad for someone who failed her history A level all those years ago!
Gloucestershire Heritage Hub bee update
The Heritage Hub community garden now has beehives in the garden for the first time since September! When we lost our colony towards the end of last summer, we decided not to bring any other colonies into the garden over the winter but just start again in the spring.
One of our beekeeping friends, who lives in Tuffley, offered us a colony in the spring if he had been able to make one for us (creating a “split”, which means creating a new queen in a strong colony and allowing her to form her own separate colony) and last year, a friend and garden volunteer mentioned that he had honeybees in his flat roof extension and did I know of anyone who might be able to get them out without killing them. I couldn’t find anyone, so it was decided to leave them in the roof as any other beekeeper would not remove them without killing them because of the complexity of the home.
This spring, because of Covid-19 we decided not to be too upset if the split from our friend didn’t happen, but the roof bees were starting to cause a problem again and since last year I had met a local beekeeper who was up for the challenge. Towards the end of May, I found myself in a bee suit in Hucclecote helping my beekeeper friend Manny and a builder called Steve retrieve the bees from the roof. My job was to collect honeycomb and put it into empty frames for the bees to go on when we took them to their new home. Put simply, Steve would drill out the bricks (the bees had been getting in through air bricks) and Manny would vacuum them up with a special vacuum into a box, then Steve would replace the bricks. This took an entire day and at the end of it, we trudged back to the Heritage Hub with a big box of bees, transferred them to a hive, and left them to it.
A couple of days later it had become clear that some of the bees had decided they preferred their Hucclecote home and were wanting to go back. Bees can return to their original homes up to 3 miles from their new homes, and this wasn’t quite 3 miles, so I then had to take them to another friend’s garden near Tewkesbury where they spent the next two weeks. One week in to the two weeks, our colony from Tuffley was ready and I brought them back to the Hub garden one early Tuesday morning. They were joined a week later by the Hucclecote colony and at the time of writing we now have two beehives! The Tuffley bees are strong and the roof bees are weak, so I may have to combine them into one stronger colony but that’s to be decided later.
Further updates through the year!
Ally McConnell, Archivist and volunteer bee keeper.