Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Looking at the the work that goes on in Birmingham Archives & Heritage and the people that do it.

Explore Your Archive 2017


 

Explore Your Archive week is here!

Each year, here at Archives & Collections, we like to get involved with the Explore Your Archives campaign to raise awareness of the work that the archives does. You may remember the past couple of years, we opened up our collections to visitors through pop-up exhibitions.

This year, the theme is conservation and preservation and on Saturday, we welcomed members of the public on a tour of the archives. Starting in the Wolfson Centre, our Conservator, Lucy, talked about the items we had out on display and explained a little about the types of material they were made of. The turn out was fantastic and everyone really enjoyed having the chance to look behind the scenes in our archives storage areas.

Members of the public enjoying their visit to Archives & Collections as part of Explore Your Archives 2017

We are running the event again on Friday (which is now fully booked) and so SPOILER ALERT as throughout this week, we will be featuring some of the items that were on display. We hope you enjoy!

For other events happening around the country, please visit the Explore Your Archive website.

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Explore Your Archives 2017: Behind the Scenes in Conservation

This year’s Explore Your Archives week runs from Saturday 18th November to Sunday 26th November. The mini-campaign is to highlight the vital and highly-specialised preservation and conservation work of archive conservators.

Behind the scenes at Archives & Collections

Unlike the past two years when we have opened up our archive collections through pop-up exhibitions, this year we are offering the chance to look behind the scenes…

Ever wanted to know what the Conservator gets up to in the archives? Ever wondered what is in the gold part of the Library of Birmingham building? You can find out by coming along to this workshop about how we look after Birmingham’s most treasured documents, with a behind the scenes tour of the stores and Conservation Studio.

Spaces are limited to 12 people – so book early by e-mail at archives.heritage@birmingham.gov.uk to avoid disappointment!

 

There are two workshops:

Saturday 18th November 1pm – 3pm

Friday 24th November, 2pm – 4pm.

 

Venue:

Wolfson Centre for Archival Research, Level 4, Library of Birmingham, Centenary Square B1 2ND

 

For details of how to get to the library, please see the Library of Birmingham website for details.

For more about the Explore Your Archive campaign, please visit http://www.exploreyourarchive.org/.

 

 

Connecting Stories, Our British Asian Heritage – Behind the scenes

Have you ever wondered why exhibition spaces are sometimes a little bit dark? Why objects are displayed in the way that they are? How an exhibition is even put together in the first place? Conservator Lucy Angus will explain the stages of preparing and installing our current exhibition ‘Connecting Stories.

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Six months ago I met the British Library Curator Penny Brook who had the difficult task of choosing over 100 objects from collections held at the British Library and Library of Birmingham which would help tell the story of our British Asian heritage. Once Penny had come up with her wish list of objects for inclusion for the exhibition, I was then presented with the objects which included a rare 19th century board game reflecting Britain’s trading interests in Asia, 1940s police reports on meetings of the Indian Workers Association and India League in Birmingham, photographs showing protests and counter-protests in 1960s and 1970s Britain amongst others.

Before and after conservation treatment
[MS 3147/5/ 616]

Upon looking at the objects I had to determine whether the objects were fit for display and what conditions would need to be in place to make sure that the objects were cared for and did not potentially suffer from being displayed. Some factors I considered were the condition of the objects, whether the objects were to be displayed in a case or framed and the potential exposure to light over the course of the exhibition.

Most objects I was shown were thankfully in a good condition and required no conservation treatment. Only a few objects required minor repair with a colour drawing of an Engine House for His Highness the Nabob Vizier of Oude (MS 3147/5/616) requiring the most conservation treatment which included surface cleaning, repair and filling in losses with a sympathetic paper to the original. Continue reading

Heritage Research Area Familiarisation Session

Would you like to learn how the Heritage Research Area on level 4 could benefit your genealogical research?

Meet experienced staff at this free event which will act as a general beginners’ guide to resources such as maps, electoral and parish registers as well as digital resources on Ancestry Institution and software for reading local newspapers.

Spaces are limited to 12 people per session. Please email archives.heritage@birmingham.gov.uk or speak with a representative of staff on level 4 to place a reservation.

Wednesday 28 June 2017

11 am – 1 pm

Please note this session is not aimed at answering specific genealogical enquiries.

Our Heritage Research Familiarisation Session is now fully booked. If you haven’t managed to book on the session this time, we are planning to offer another one on a Saturday in September, date yet to be confirmed. Please check out the blog, the Lob website and twitter as well as posters located in the library nearer the time for confirmation of the date. 

 

Birmingham Archives & Collections. What we got up to…

We thought we’d update you on want we got up to during our closed week at the end of April!

One of our two accessioning days in the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research

For the first time since moving to the Library of Birmingham in 2013, we have had the opportunity to concentrate our efforts on a piece of labour intensive, repetitive, yet incredibly beneficial work… namely, stock checking (surveying) the archives collections in our strong rooms!

The team spent 90 hours surveying the collections, and managed to cover 1528 shelves – that’s about 3 and half minutes per shelf! They updated some 590 location records, which in the long-term means we will be more efficient at retrieving material for you!

Library of Birmingham Archives & Collections staff surveying locations in strong rooms

So what are the benefits of undertaking this work?

Well naturally, more efficient retrieval for when you order material to look at in the reading room, but also  better use of space by storing items in more efficient configurations and uniting collections that have historically been stored separately (we did some shifting around). The work undertaken has also informed our thoughts about how we record locations on our collections management system to make them more accurate and our retrieval times swifter.

Over the course of the week, and in addition to the team surveying collections in the strong rooms, we worked on staff development through shadowing activity and group training sessions, such as a webinar run by The National Archives! The scene pictured below features half of the Archives & Collections team attending a webinar about Digital Preservation – a significant issue facing all archives services in this modern digital age.

Archives & Collections staff “attending” a webinar about digital preservation run by TNA

During the week we were able to spend two days on accessions, which also involved training in the form of shadowing for one of our Senior Archives & Collection Assistants, who spent some time getting to grips with and documenting a collection of deeds that had just come in!

Adding deeds to the collections on one of our ‘Accessioning Days’

We plan to carry out similar activities later on this year and in years to come, and as such have scheduled in further closed weeks. To minimise disruption to the service, we have used our visitor statistics kept since the opening of the Library of Birmingham in September 2013 to choose the quietest weeks. The closed weeks then for 2017/18 will be as follows:

w/b 4th September, reopening on Tuesday 12th September

w/b 25th December, reopening on Tuesday 2nd January 2018

During these weeks the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research will close but, the Heritage Research Area counter on the same floor will remain open.  You will still be able to talk to knowledgeable staff about the collections we hold, identify material you wish to consult and make appointments to consult that material.

All the team at Archives & Collections are proud that we are able to continue to collect and make accessible cultural and heritage collections that are representative and reflective of our city and its population. Thank you for your continued support, enabling us to utilise such opportunities to make these collections more open and available to everyone who wishes to use them.

Corinna Rayner
Archives & Collections Manager
Library of Birmingham

Archives in the balance

Weighing scales, somewhat less sophisticated than the ones used in the Wolfson Centre. [MS 2628/4/4/2]

 Astute users of the Wolfson Centre may have noticed that we weigh items in the Wolfson Centre before serving them and when we receive them back at the desk.  I have been asked many times if that’s because we think people are inveterate thieves.  Of course we do – there will always be that one person who will nick anything.  But that’s not the only reason, there is also the fact that digital scales are cool.  What often surprises researchers though is that we don’t just weigh items to check that nothing has been taken out, but also to check that nothing has been put back in!  Why is this?  Well, I shall tell you, dear reader:

Theory lesson

Foremost early 20th century archival theorist, Sir Hilary Jenkinson wrote that the role of the archivist is the ‘physical and moral defence’ of archives.  So what have scales got to do with this?  Well firstly, we’re dealing with the physical defence by making sure that none of the material goes missing.  But perhaps more crucially, we’re charged with the moral defence of the material.  Now, we all know the archives are evidence of a transaction (you knew that, right?) but what makes them so important and useful to historians is their ‘impartiality’ and ‘authenticity’, i.e. the fact that we know the records haven’t been messed with and are the same today as they were when the transaction occurred.

Continue reading

Meet the team at Archives & Collections

The Iron Room has been going for just over 4 years now and, following a conversation with one of our Archivists late last year, we realised that we have probably never properly introduced ourselves! There have been many changes to the department over the last 12 months so we thought we would wait until the dust settles and then write about the faces you are likely to see in the department…..

RC GB for blog

Rachel and Geoff at the desk in the Heritage Research Area

Our staff work both sides of the ‘counter’ in the Heritage Research Area (HRA) and the Wolfson Centre – we all worked at Central Library although many of us are now in different roles.

KH PD SA for blog

Peter, Kathryn and Saley behind the counter in the Wolfson Centre

Our Archives & Collections Manager is Corinna Rayner, ably supported by the rest of the team – Paul, our Archives & Collections Coordinator (who will be a familiar face to many I’m sure!), Archivists Peter and Nicola, and Project Archivist Eleanor. Rachel, Kathryn and Saley (our newest member of the team) are our Senior Assistants and last but not least, Geoff and  Stephen, our Archives & Collections Assistants.

Eleanor, our Project Archivist

Eleanor, our Project Archivist

Corinna and Nicola processing accessions in the Wolfson Centre

Nicola and Corinna processing accessions in the Wolfson Centre

We will do our best to assist with any queries so if you do visit, please don’t be afraid to ask for help!