Reflections on my Traineeship
by Olivia Northrop
(former trainee at East Riding Archives)
In October 2019, I started my traineeship with The National Archives’ (TNA) ‘Bridging The Digital Gap‘ scheme, designed to increase digital skills in the Archives sector and also develop my own abilities in this area. I was seconded for 15 months to East Riding Archives and started my traineeship without knowing that much about archives and how they function. Since starting, I’ve worked on a variety of tasks within the East Riding Archives repository at the Treasure House in Beverley, East Yorkshire, which include learning about how archives operate, digital preservation, digitisation, and public engagement projects.
From the outset, I was very happy to work on the Archives service’s ‘What Was Here’ mobile app, as it was one of the things that caught my eye when I first found out about the position. Throughout my traineeship I have contributed content to the app, from sourcing historic images, to adding a digital rendition of a local author’s character (‘Ruff The Dog‘) to a children’s trail in Hornsea. I also added the app’s first audio content in the form of the ‘Beverley-Shipyard Voices’ trail, as part of the ‘Trawling Through Time‘ project funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. In connection with the latter project, I edited digital copies of 177 ship plans, digitally stitching and aligning hundreds of separate images taken of the large plans so that the composite images would make the plans be more accessible to the public.
In terms of digital preservation, I learned how to used a freeware program called DROID for creating profiles of our digital assets, fixity checking and the monitoring of storage growth and capacity. I also made preservation copies of many records stored on ‘at-risk’ media, such as cassette tape, and updated registers for scheduling the next refresh dates.
The Archives service also gave me experience of various other of its digital engagement channels, which involved adding photographic content to the East Riding Archives’ Flickr profile, with themed albums such as ‘The Show Must Go On’, ‘All Roads Lead To Rome’ and ‘Off To The Races’, whose images have collectively gathered thousands of views. You can view these albums along with other images here:
In discussions about how to develop digital engagement further and, in particular the access to our audio material, it was decided that the creation of a channel on the Soundcloud website would be the best way forward in sharing a wealth of interesting material. I began by selecting interesting audio content, digitising cassette tapes, editing clips to be queued for posting online. I collected a range of material from folk music, to dialect poems, to content from past council projects.
Around the time that I was selecting material from our collections for the Flickr and Soundcloud channels, I came up with an idea for a creative-writing concept, which I developed into the ‘Haunting the Archives’ Halloween Creative Writing Competition, inspired by the unusual images I came across in the repository. On Halloween night, we launched our live ‘Halloween Night Broadcast’ on the service’s social media feeds at Facebook and Twitter. We uploaded a selection of entries as spooky audio tracks, which formed our first content for the Soundcloud channel. The competition was a great success and reached out to a wide range of participants. You can still listen to the playlist of the recorded ‘Haunting the Archives’ entries here.
Here, at the end of my traineeship, I have left a body of work ready for publication to Soundcloud, as well as initiated a digitisation and online exhibition project in partnership with Hornsea Museum, featuring photograph negatives from the former Hornsea Pottery company. My hope is that these can blossom and develop into larger-scale projects in future! During my 15 months here with East Riding Archives I’ve discovered that my favourite aspects of project work are those which focus on engaging the public with archive material in non-traditional ways. I really enjoy the idea of creating projects which ‘reach out’ to demographics that probably wouldn’t usually visit the archive and get them to interact with its material.
I would like to thank East Riding Archives for hosting me for the last 15 months. I’ve really appreciated my time at the archive. The traineeship has taught me a lot and been extremely valuable in helping me make my next steps in the world of heritage!
by Olivia Northrop (Former Trainee: ‘Bridging The Digital Gap’)