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TWAS Review 2000-2001

  1. Introduction
  2. Searchroom and other public services
  3. Access to Archives
  4. Accessions
  5. Conservation
  6. Education
  7. Outreach & Partnership
  8. Records Management
  9. Northern Region Film & Television Archive
  10. Conclusion

1. Introduction

As ever, the Archives Service has been very busy on a number of fronts during 2000/01, in spite of a few setbacks in terms of accommodation and staffing.

2. Searchroom and other public services

This year, for the first time, the Archives Service has received more than 8000 personal visitors in the course of a year. The total of 8214 was 6.5% up on last year, which itself showed a 10% increase over the previous year. The average number of visitors per day was also up, at 33 compared with 31 last year, although again actual numbers were much higher on some days.

Chart Showing Visitor Numbers from 1994/95 to 2000/01

73% of those using the service were pursuing family history, a 3% increase on the proportion last year. Clearly many of our new users are family historians.

75% of our users gave an address in Tyne & Wear, the same percentage as last year.

2000/01 is the first year we have been able to collect statistical information on the use of our website http://www.thenortheast.com/archives/. There have been a staggering 42,866 visits to the site, accessing 192,615 pages in total. By the end of the year an average of 130 people were visiting the site each day. 56% of visitors to our website are overseas, mainly in the United States, but also in numbers in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, France, Ireland, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Spain, South Africa, Italy, Japan, Denmark, Singapore and Sweden. Many of these addresses are borne out by e-mail enquiries subsequently received.

3. Access to Archives

Difficulties caused by the loss of two archivists from October onwards meant that cataloguing output was not as high as we would have hoped. However, catalogue records at collection level, at least, were created for 76 separate collections in the course of the year.

Some of the more significant catalogues completed to item level were a number for records of the Sunderland Jewish community (which have also been electronically linked to the User Guide on our website), Customs and Excise records for the ports of Sunderland and South Shields, Jarrow Division petty sessions, records of the Ingham Infirmary, South Shields General Hospital, South Shields Maternity Hospital and a number of former Presbyterian churches.

In addition, all accessions from January 1993 to date have now been entered on the CALM system, a further two years since the last report.

A regional bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund under the A2A scheme for electronic conversion of catalogues of records relating to economic development is still awaiting decision. If successful, a large proportion of catalogues can be made available electronically.

A bid to a Wellcome Foundation fund for data entry and new cataloguing of medical records has been successful in the first round, and awaits decision on the final bid.

4. Accessions

There were 116 accessions of records during the year, the same number as the previous year.

Among the more significant privately deposited items were further records of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of Newcastle, dating from 1631 onwards, further records of the Sunderland Hebrew Congregation and associated bodies, and further records of British Shipbuilders, which closed down its Newcastle office and store during the year,

Both Vickers Defence Systems and Clarke Chapman Ltd, who have been extensive depositors in the past, added to the holdings of their records during the year. A new retention policy was also agreed with Vickers, which will assist in the management and ultimate cataloguing of their records.

A large quantity of Labour Party records was received from a former party member, and Jim Davis, formerly active in the trade union movement in Gateshead also deposited his personal papers via the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick.

Among new depositors were North East Museums (NEMS) which transferred its records on its winding up and formation of the North East Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

In spite of the long abeyance of the sports records survey records were received from North Durham Rugby and Cricket Club, and New Marine and Benwell Ladies Bowling Clubs.

From official sources a very large quantity of plans was received from the Port of Sunderland Authority, and several schools in North Tyneside, Hebburn and Gateshead, which were closing, transferred their records to the archives. Sunderland Magistrates Court, which had not transferred records for some years, also transferred court registers.

One of the last consignments received in the year was a large series of minor control point albums of photographs from the Ordnance Survey Newcastle Office.

5. Conservation

The major event with impact on conservation and preservation during the year was unfortunately a seriously negative one. Building work at Blandford House on the floors above the archive stores and on the roof caused major flooding in the early part of the year. A great deal of the conservators' time, as well as that of other staff, was taken up with initial rescue work and subsequent conservation and cleaning. A particular problem was the wetting of over 700 plans which had to be individually unrolled and dried out. Luckily only a very small quantity of material has been irretrievably damaged, but the incidents had a major impact not only on workload but also on staff morale.

Otherwise, hands-on conservation work has been proceeding as normal, and there has been a continuation of the programme of phase-boxing of vulnerable volumes.

A written preservation policy has also been drawn up for the first time and was approved by the Archives Joint Committee in November 2000.

6. Education

The major educational project during the year has been the Department for Education and Employment funded Westall's War website and teaching pack. The website, designed in collaboration with Gateshead Libraries, is at http://www.westallswar.org.uk and attracted over 11,000 visits in the course of the part of the year it has been operational. It has had some excellent reviews and has been used as an example of good practice in several publications.

A fascinating study that puts the horror of war on a very human scale BBC Online Best of the Web Guide

This brilliant site Imperial War Museum

Seriously impressed by your website: will enhance my teaching no end Comment from an English teacher on the site

It is excellent and perfect for use in schools. I am really impressed by the organisation and information offered by the site. Superb. Andrew Field, http://www.schoolhistory.co.uk

This is what the web is about...real interesting content for once. Congratulations Comment in site guestbook

Based on a set of records relating to an air raid in 1941 and a children's novel, this site combines research skills, access to original sources, narrative and data-gathering activities in one well designed package. The website is linked to a resource pack with literacy materials and a CD ROM which allow the project to be extended into classroom work. The site itself is a rich resource and is attractive on a variety of levels. It is a good example of one educator, with a clear set of aims, working with an LEA, local teachers and a designer to produce a really useful learning resource.
Re:source report: Museum Learning Online: guidelines for good practice

Courses for teachers based on the Westall's War project have involved Washington, Southmoor, Castle View, Monkwearmouth, Biddick, Houghton Kepier, Oxclose, Pennywell, Gosforth West Middle, Gosforth Central Middle, Lemington Middle, Firfield, Gosforth East Middle, Sacred Heart, Kenton, Benfield, Westgate, Central Middle, John Spence, Monkseaton Middle, Norham CTC, Parkside, Southlands and Whitley Bay High Schools. 21 schools from Co Durham have also participated. This training will continue in 2001/2.

Pupils from John Spence Community High School using the Westall's War website

Pupils from John Spence Community High School using the Westall's War website

In more routine mode the Education Officer worked with 88 groups, involving 1602 people in the course of the year. Topics with schools included World War II, Tudors, Victorians, technology and the poor law. Topics with adults included engineering records, family history, industrial Tyneside, and learning initiatives for older people. The education officer also worked with students from Newcastle and Northumbria Universities on records of the built environment.

7. Outreach

The Northumbria Anthology project has been ongoing throughout the year. John Pandrich, otherwise known as Johnny Handle, the project researcher, has given a number of talks and performances during the year, including at Newcastle University, Winlaton Local History Society, and the Roland Bibby Memorial Lecture in Morpeth. Research and recording was virtually complete at the end of the year, and following the release of the CD set it is hoped to take the project into a new phase, without direct involvement from the Archives Service.

In spite of our staff shortages, several exhibitions have been mounted during the year. In July Hetton Memories was exhibited at Hetton Cricket Club. In September the Archives Service took part in a celebration of 150 years of Photography at Gibside, and this display was also subsequently used at Gateshead Library. Photos ranged from views of Percy Street and the Bigg Market in 1848 to the National Police Diving School at Jarrow in 1998. An exhibition on Newcastle Guilds was put together for a national meeting of guilds of freemen which took place in Newcastle, and one on A Millennium of Crossing the Tyne was also exhibited at Newcastle Civic Centre. A popular exhibition on the health service Tender Loving Care was displayed again at the Ingham Infirmary and Palmer Memprial Hospital in South Tyneside.

The Archives Service has also featured in the media during the year. Kath Rolph, principal archivist was interviewed for the Radio 4 series Mapping the Town, on Newcastle. Diaries and correspondence from the archives collections were featured in two television programmes made by A19 Films for Tyne Tees, and Fred Dibnah's Victorian Heroes also made extensive use of the collections for the programme on Lord Armstrong and Robert Stephenson. The archives also featured on Japanese television in a programme on Emperor Hirohito.

Because of national and regional developments the Archives Service has been involved in a considerable amount of partnership working during the year. The North East Regional Archives Council, chaired by the Chief Archivist, has continued to meet and as well as discussing relevant issues has collaborated on a bid to the A2A scheme, mentioned above.

The Chief Archivist was a member of the steering group which has led to the formation of the North East Libraries, Museums & Archives Council (NEMLAC). As a result of the experience of cross-sectoral working, she was invited to speak at a conference in March in Birmingham - West Midlands Archives Future Directions.

Katharine Taylor, archivist, was secretary of the Northern region of the Society of Archivists until her departure for a more senior post elsewhere.

8. Records Management

The loss of two clients last year has not had an adverse impact on income from the records management service, which has again exceeded expectations. It has also enabled us to consolidate the service, which had been working somewhat over-capacity for some time.

9. Northern Region Film & Television Archive

The Film Archive has seen a number of developments during the year in addition to its regular work. The most exciting of these has been the securing of funding at Teesside University for a new building for the archive. This will improve storage and access for the collections currently at the university, and in the longer term will enable the transfer of the whole master collection to a state of the art facility. A strategy will be developed to ensure that access is maintained throughout the region.

Work continued towards the establishment of an independent trust to run the archive, and a board of trustees was appointed.

Wendy Maughan worked with the archive for several months to develop a business plan and funding strategy, which will enable it to move forward once the independent trust is established.

The archive suffered a slight setback in January 2001, with the departure of the founding director, Chris Galloway, to a post at the British Film Institute. However, a new director has been appointed.

10. Conclusion

It had been expected that the Archives Service would undertake a Best Value Review during 2000/01, but this is not now scheduled to begin until autumn 2001. This will make a fundamental examination of the role and structure of the Archives Service, and will particularly address future accommodation needs.

In addition the priority for the coming year will be the continuing extension of access to the archives, and information about them through digitisation of catalogues and materials. Use of the website is likely to continue to increase, and as well as widening access in general, can ease some of the pressure of individual visitors.

Partnership working, to deliver improved access in particular, will continue to be an important aspect of the Archives Service's work.