The National Archives

Finally I was invited to start my training at The National Archives after my CRB security check came back with the all clear. I went in on Monday for a basic security and IT training and really began to get excited about my next step in archive volunteer work. It probably wasn’t the basic training lecture that got me all excited to be honest but just getting up in the morning, leaving the house, getting on the train and arriving at the beautiful Kew Gardens was enough to make the whole  journey worth it. What a beautiful part of London – if I won the lottery tomorrow I would probably buy a house in the pretty little streets that lead up to the National Archives and I am very much looking forward to visiting the area on a weekly basis.

Another part of the day that really inspired me was spending some time in the actual National Archives building. It was so huge and had a strange feeling to it. A building that is filled more with paper than people perhaps, or maybe because it was a Monday and the building isn’t open to the public. Everybody I did meet, from the security to the head of the project that I will be working on, were really friendly and helpful and now I am just really excited to get started on cataloguing the petitions for clemency. I begin next Wednesday and I am sure I’ll keep you all posted!

The sheer scale of the building and the project that I will be working on is just so much bigger than anything I have done before so that really got me thinking that all the volunteer work I have done in the past is NOT pointless because it is generally leading onto BIGGER things.

All wish me luck for next Wednesday – I can’t wait to get my official National Archives photo ID and to use my discount in the bookshop!


Thank you Hannah

I think this clip is really relevant to all of us so please take 3 and a half mins out of your life to watch it. Thanks!

Turning a Negative into a Positive

So on Friday I received another job rejection (to be the archive assistant at the V&A) because other candidates “… had experience that was more closely matched to the role.” Fair enough, off course, OBVIOUSLY. As my work experience has mainly been volunteer work in libraries and archives I decided that maybe I would go get some volunteer work in a totally different industry as this maybe would make MY experience more closely matched to the role? It also gives me the security of knowing that if this does all go balls up then I have something else to fall back on. I found an internship for a picture editor that would utilise my digitization skills and keep my computer skills sharp.

This change of heart was also offset by a pub quiz with friends on Monday evening (yes I do have friends). Over dinner I mentioned that the whole archive job market was tough and that nobody was giving me a job to which my already very succesful friend said

“just send out 100 CVs, you’re bound to get at least 4 or 5 job interviews”

to which I replied

“there aren’t 100 jobs to apply for – at the moment there isn’t even 1.”

The table responded with silence and I took a large gulp out of my glass of wine. This got me thinking BIG time. I cannot restrict myself to the archiving industry as I run a huge risk of wasting my twenties. I haven’t given up but I definitely think that I need to be looking into other things as well so… I will still be starting my new volunteer job at The National Archives next week and I will still be applying for any archive assistant job that comes along and interests me but I also think I need to get my fingers in a few more pies. Who knows, maybe in the long run it will help me get my dream archive job?

Thank you V&A.

On Line Archiving

I have mentioned in some of my earlier posts that I was interested in the way social media is archived and I am very grateful to one of my new friends on Twitter for sending me a link to this website which is pretty much a personal, on line archive. How cool!!

Cuts, cuts, cuts!!

So I am thinking everyone is bored of talking about George Osbourne’s cure to plug (blah, blah, blah) Britain’s deficit last week? No? Well me neither. What do these cuts mean for this countries archives I wonder? I got my first inkling the other day when I heard the news that three of London’s councils are now going to merge – Brent, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea. That is three separate archives but will they have to become one BIG archive? Run by not three separate archivists but by one lucky archivist? How do you go about a project such as this? This story is close to my heart as I volunteered with Brent Archives for a year. Maybe everything will just go on as it is and the changes will all just be higher up the ladder. In any case I would love people’s opinions on public sector archives and how they will be feeling the pinch. Do archives rely on grants too much or should they be paying for themselves? I really do not know what stance to take on the discussion so any opinions (preferably not concerning my spelling and grammar) would be very welcomed. Happy archiving.

The National Theatre (Part II)

My first post ‘The National Theatre’ sparked off a couple of interesting debates, some fabulous passion and some really great advice from archivists all over the country so it felt only right when invited by Gavin Clarke to tour the National Theatre’s archives that I should go! I had such a fantastic time and my interest in pursuing archiving as a career has only been increased by viewing this great archive.

The archive is based in Waterloo/Southwark and is conveniently placed next door to The Old Vic, it was able to move here from Brixton three years ago after a generous grant from a National Lottery grant via The Arts Council. A happy day for Gavin (the National Theatre’s archivist) who told me that archives often rely on these types of grants to survive. The building is fantastic, the National Theatre’s audio – visual collection is accessible through high tech Apple Macs laid out in a bright, relaxing space surrounded by windows looking over one of London’s most creative areas. I was also shown large spaces that are provided for actors and directors to use and bring many of the National’s greatest plays to life, rooms packed with state of the art technology for filming and made a lovely cup of tea in a comfortable staff room.

One of the highlights of the tour for me was being taken into a lecture room (usually used to promote the importance of archives to students) and being shown clips from a play called ‘Warhorse’. A play that started at the National Theatre that has now crossed over to the West end. All the National’s plays have been filmed since 1995 and are now filmed digitally using numerous cameras at different angles so that eventually the play can be cut and pasted (using the best digital shots) to make a kind of movie out of the play. Gavin was aware that you have to be very cautious when manipulating a play that was never intended to be a film when using this technology and always makes sure an original copy of the play, filmed from one angle (wide shot) is also kept in the archives. I found this very interesting as I used to work for a post – production company and never would I have thought to link the two professions together. I LOVED that I could. This has just encouraged my interest in digital archiving which I have now found out is actually offered as a separate MA in both Glasgow and London (Kings College).

Eventually I was shown the ‘proper’ archive which was in the basement of the building. It was cluttered, Gavin finds it hard to keep up with all the donations, but fabulous. I really enjoyed looking at the set model for the first ever show at the National Theatre (when it was still in The Old Vic) – ‘Hamlet’ directed by Laurence Olivier and starring Peter O’Toole. A new adaptation of ‘Hamlet’ is also currently showing. Every single play that has ever been put on at the National has its own box and in each box is often a huge array of things including programmes, directors notes and cast lists. I saw posters (I even got to take two home), correspondence between national Theatre directors and their famous staff, more set models and old audio reels. I was really interested in finding out how old fashioned audio reels are digitized and the National Theatre’s archive has the technology though Gavin said that it can be a lengthy process. It was the most technology savvy archive that I have ever visited and it really showed how archives can really keep up with modern technology when they have a bit of money behind them.

So, maybe I didn’t get my ‘dream’ job at the National Theatre – as I’m sure some of you will remember I didn’t even get an interview – but I got the most fantastic tour and I did make a new friend in Gavin. All things which I am sure you will agree; are a step in the right direction!

Courtesy to Stephen Fry…

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries