For the Record – Did it Really Transform the Archives Service?
30th June 2021 marked the end of our lottery funded For the Record project. It’s been a long journey since submitting the expression of interest to the National Lottery Heritage Fund in September 2013 with a number of excitements along the way.
Examples include running a public research room (and wider archives service) from a building site for many months, the sudden disappearance and subsequent liquidation of our principal contractors, and most recently over the last 16 months, the impact of the pandemic. So was it all worth it?
As project manager I recognise I’m biased, but I’m delighted with the outcomes (and really enjoyed the journey too). As one of my colleagues reflected, we’ve ‘transformed our facilities, ways of working, relationship with stakeholders and offer to users.’ The N’gambai African proverb has been a guiding force along the way: ‘If you want to travel fast, travel alone; if you want to travel far, travel together’. I’m therefore particularly grateful to Friends, colleagues, volunteers, researchers, partners, community groups, heritage charities, a wide range of funders and all other stakeholders for your invaluable contribution, and your patience!
Improved facilities include new strongrooms so we can continue collecting archives and take a more proactive approach again, space for groups, the new Dunrossil Centre for community events and training, and a tranquil community garden including the beautiful Friends border at the entrance.
Together we’ve delivered many exciting projects – catalogued Dowty, the largest uncatalogued collection in the office; worked with the constabulary to open up and extend police archive collections; delivered reminiscence sessions to over 800 older people in care and other settings; developed films for teaching children; and greatly enhanced family history support by sharing our site with the family history society, to name just a few.
We’ve learnt a lot along the way particularly in relation to fundraising, community engagement and e-preservation. Pleasingly we’ve been able to offer permanent jobs to the experts we employed to help us deliver For the Record.
Through partnership working we’ve made the archives service more sustainable and can look forward to a positive future at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub. I therefore feel we can claim to have transformed, or at least further improved, our service.
Thank you to the Friends who were major supporters and fundraisers for this project - without you it would not have happened. We look forward to celebrating the conclusion of the project once coronavirus restrictions lift and to thank properly all those who contributed.
We’ve already drawn up our vision for the next 10 years which will focus on making our collections more accessible through tackling cataloguing and conservation backlogs. We've recently launched our new online catalogue and I very much hope you’ll welcome this first step in the next phase of our development.
Heather Forbes, County Archivist. firstname.lastname@example.org
New online catalogue
We’re excited to announce that our new online catalogue is now live at gloucestershire.epexio.com
You can explore the unique collections which document the history and heritage of Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire and book your next visit through the new system.
So that our customers and staff continue to feel safe at the Heritage Hub we’ll still be implementing advance ordering, social distancing and mask wearing. We have though made some tweaks to our public service. We are no longer offering timed appointment slots, and our front door will be open so that you can walk straight in. The kitchen will also be available again.
If you are planning to visit Gloucestershire Archives please read the Preparing to Visit information on our website
Community Garden update
Over the last few months we’ve been able to put some long-planned, finishing touches to the community garden.
We now have 2 “lectern” style display stands which give visitors information about the mosaic panels and oak sculpture. As with the other garden interpretation panels, the lecterns include QR codes which link through to more detailed information on the Hub web.
Seven cast-iron drainpipe hoppers, salvaged from outbuildings demolished during the For the Record project, have been mounted along the wall of the main building, and filled with trailing plants. And thanks to some external funding, we will now be able to commission a large sign to go over the gate at the entrance to the garden. This same pot is also funding the purchase of some bee-keeping equipment and an apple juicer/crusher which we plan to use for community juicing days.
The bees and the new wildlife pond are both doing well. We have already spotted a newt in the pond and the bees have been spilt into three colonies, each with their own queen.
Photos by Phil King
Maligned, Marginalised and Misunderstood
Today we are almost deafened by voices, thanks to the internet and of course, social media! But it hasn’t always been like this. Before the mid 19th century, most people didn’t own property, had no vote, and didn’t go to school. This means their lives could leave little or no trace within the written records and so their voices remain silent.
The records of the court of Quarter Sessions are an exception to this. Quarter Sessions were meetings of local magistrates, knows as Justices of the Peace, who met four times a year, hence the name. The court dealt with a great variety of complaints and crimes, from stealing a hat to dangerous rioting. In 2019 we launched a volunteer project called Maligned, Marginalised and Misunderstood to look in detail at a particular series of these court records, the “information and examinations” between 1728 and 1770. We wanted to bring out the voices of ordinary people, especially those at the margins of society.
The five blogs featuring the records of the court of Quarter Sessions allow us to hear the “unheard voices”.
To read the blog series visit gloucestershirearchives.wordpress.com/