Category Archives: inner workings

Research in the Archives

Most of the last session I was doing some research for an oncoming project. Archival research is a bit different than library research, the type I used to do for my studies. The archives are mostly first-hand material, raw data that is not ready for direct consumption. In other words, you can write your material based on the data found in the archives, but before you’ll get to the things you need, you’ll dig through everything else that is vaguely related to it. It may be relevant or not really, but it will consume your time nonetheless. What is interesting is that generally, people have no idea how the things stand, cue requests that need to be completed in a few days, but they are better suited for dissertation and involved. Example:
A request comes for a one-page of notes on history of turtle washing. But even if we have materials that pertain to the history of turtle washing. what exactly should that be? Marjon’s alumni that were known to wash turtles? The history of Marjon turtle-washing clubs? The involvement of the community in turtle washing around Plymouth? There is a short article about it in the old magazines and a newspaper clipping from the 70s’. Here is a picture of turtle with a shiny shell, will that do?
A vague request for a few notes might turn to hours of digging through articles, documents, pictures, books, recordings and various other materials more or less related to the topic- a single request that will consume hours of research, not to mention preparing the notes themselves. And finally, instead of asking for notes, why not to come to the archives yourself and do the work yourself if the clean chelonians are so important to you?

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Filed under humour, inner workings, musings

Moving up

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We finally have our digitization set up! Soon we will be able to digitize not only document, books and such but also transfer DVD and VHS to files. We’re certainly moving up:-)

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Good intentions are tough to execute pt.2

Pictures-everybody love them. We do too, but we love the ones that are annotated even more because it is better to know who is on them. It’s not only because you can put a name to a face, so you don’t just stare on bunch of unknown people. It’s because when a request for information comes, we can send over a picture alongside our findings. But, have you ever tried to find that one picture of your friend Andy from that time you went to a party dressed like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum from 2001? Imagine just that, but with a stack of really old photos of people you’ve never met. So, the next project is listing the photos with the names attached to them so you can find that one guy you’re looking for. Except it’s another good intention that is tough to execute. Mostly because for some reason the names on the pictures are often tiny. Which leaves you squinting through the magnifier for an hour, hoping you’re getting it right. I don’t even know what kind of writing implement they have used, unicorn hair maybe? Here is the picture I took with the magnifier:

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Good intentions are tough to execute

I had a great idea recently. Because we often have requests to find information on somebody that at one point was in Marjon, as a student or otherwise, I decided to create a little project. Normally, when such request comes in, we have to scour the materials in search of that person. That means digging through registers, year books and other assorted material. One day I had this great idea to put all the names in a small database, so if a request comes, we at least have a rough idea where to find them. Big mistake. I started with the earliest register we have, one from Battersea Training School. This dusty old tome contains around 1400 names alone. Written in scribbles. Yeah, you already know where this is going. I managed to do about thirty before I had to stop. On one hand, I’m pretty sure this qualifies as a cruel and unusual punishment. On the other hand, this database would be a great help and save a lot of time. Decisions, decisions…

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Chuck? Donate? Keep?

 

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Pretty illustration in a pretty book. Too bad it’s Fielding

We have many books that found their way into the archives from the library and they are going to stay by a virtue of being authored by one of our students or staff. Others are here because they mention Marjon is some way. But there are other books that wander by, the ones that won’t stay. They are usually withdrawals from the library, so called ‘weeds’. They might be outdated, they might be damaged or they simply haven’t been checked out for a long time. Those don’t have place in the archives. But do they have a place somewhere else?
I was digging through such a pile recently and found a beautifully bound book. The pattern on the binding had caught my eye so I opened it. To my dismay the pretty book was The History of Tom Jones by Fielding. I hate Fielding. Yes, he was very influential. Yes, he was one of the fathers of modern novel. Yes, he was a smart guy that revolutionized the police force (Bow Street Runners anyone?). But I absolutely can’t stand the way he writes. That makes this pretty book an equivalent of a paperweight to me. I can’t read it.
But then, it’s still a beautiful artefact. It’s well preserved and it looks like there was a mistake in print of the introduction. The printed annotation mentions it, but it’s seems like somebody made corrections by hand (what would be the total copies printed if they did that?). So what would you do with a beautiful paperweight like that? Chuck away? The bibliophile in me howls for blood at this thought. Keep it and never read? The pragmatic in me scoffs at that? Donate? If I only knew somebody that enjoys Fielding… What would you do?

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Sorting Frozen Moments

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See this mound of completely mixed pictures? That is a classic example of an iceberg. You only see the very tip of it:-). That’s what I was doing recently, sorting the pictures according to subject and series. We got a ton of those as a donation from another department. We have among others: a series that students had taken when traveling to Bergen, a series of children events complete with creepy clown, and very unhappy Plymouth marathonists. It might sound boring, but to tell the truth, it’s right up my alley. If you gave me a box of mixed beads or coins or buttons when I was a child, you’d have me occupied and silent for the rest of the day.
I’m sure that I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say that again: sign and date your pictures. The generations of archivists yet unborn will love you for that forever.

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Falling Debris

Sometimes the archives seem to be a catch-all for random stuff that gets cleared out from somebody’s office. Like this issue of Executive Post- a publication from PER.

‘So what?’ you could say. ‘Shouldn’t the university be in possesion of those?’ Certainly, but this particular issue is exactly as old as I am. Uh-oh, somebody is way behind cleaning in their office.:-)

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On unrelated note: hey, PER people! Do you have anything that this starving artist could do?:-P

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Filed under artefacts, humour, inner workings, long time ago, random stuff