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TWAS Review 2001-2002

  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

2001/2 has been another busy and successful year for Tyne & Wear Archives Service. The objectives set last year of continued extension of access to the archives through digitisation of catalogues, and continued partnership working have been achieved and are set out in more detail below.

The Best Value Review of the service is underway.

2 Searchroom and other public services

Numbers of personal visitors to the archives service were slightly reduced this year from a record 8214 last year to 7716. This was still a rise on the previous year's figure of 7711.

Again 75% of visitors gave an address in Tyne & Wear, a consistent percentage over a number of years. A further 8% were from Northumberland, 6% from Co. Durham and 5% from the rest of the north of England. 1% (114) visited from overseas - from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Greece, Sweden, France, South Africa, Norway, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Israel and the Channel Islands.

Visitors to Tyne and Wear Archives

71% of those using the service were pursuing family history, a 2% reduction in last year's percentage which transferred directly to visitors undertaking academic research.

Use of our website went up significantly. 2000/01 was the first year we had been able to measure this and we were surprised to have nearly 43,000 visits to the site. However, this year we have had nearly 75,000 (74,805) visits accessing 392,996 pages, more than double last year's total. 60% of web users are overseas and Poland was added to the list of countries (topped by USA) from which people accessed the site. The average number of visitors per day was 337.

Enquiries received by post, fax and e-mail increased by 13%, while telephone enquiries went up 12%. These were in addition to 317 hours of work carried out under the paid research service.

We have also helped with about 80 claims against British Coal in connection with mineworkers' respiratory disease. Average payouts for successful claims handled by the local solicitors who have dealt with most of these have been £5,251.

3 Access to Archives

There have been significant improvements in access to archives this year.

The two vacant posts for archivists were filled by experienced professionals who have been able to contribute to cataloguing output from the start. 101 new collection level catalogue records were created during the year, up from 76 the previous year.

Some of the catalogues fully completed to item level were for records of South Shields Poor Law Union, Gateshead Heath Authority, Marcus Price Ltd, outfitters, of Newcastle, diaries of Thomas Giordani Wright, surgeon's assistant, All Saints Charity School, Newcastle and South Tyneside Petty Sessions.

The ongoing survey of Roman Catholic parish records continued to embrace parishes created between 1921 and 1950. Numerous records were deposited as a result and catalogues made available for St Mary's, Sunderland, St Theresa of the Infant Jesus, Heaton, Holy Rosary, Gateshead, St Patrick's, Felling, St Joseph's, North Shields, St Gregory's, South Shields, St Vincent's, Whitburn, Our Lady Queen of Peace, Penshaw and St Mary's, Easington Lane.

The regional bid to the A2A scheme Picks & Pistons was successful and as a result 486 of our catalogues are now on the internet. We are currently waiting for these to be returned to us as electronic files so that they can be loaded into our own CALM system.

The bid to the Wellcome Foundation for data entry and new cataloguing of medical records was also successful and work on this was just starting as the year ended. This will employ an archivist for 12 months and an assistant for three months.

4. Accessions

There were 154 accessions of records during the year, an increase from 116 the previous year. Some of the more significant ones are mentioned below.

The ongoing survey of Roman Catholic parishes brought in records from a number of churches, including those listed above. Other significant religious records included a visitors book from Winnowshill Quaker burial ground, Northumberland incorporating an otherwise lost list of the burials 1718-1877. Northumberland records of the Society of Friends form part of the records of the Newcastle meeting.

The photographic collections were considerably added to. Jimmy Forsyth's original negatives of his earlier black and white work were transferred to the archives for safe keeping by the west Newcastle Local Studies Group. Prints are retained at Benwell Library for continued access by the local community. Ward Phillipson deposited their extensive archive of glass and sheet negatives and other material. Some of these have already been digitised by Beamish Museum, and we hope to be able to develop this collection further in due course. The extensive Northern Electric (North Eastern Electricity Board) photographic archive was deposited with us as a result of a contact with a member of the Archives User Group. We also bought an album of superb photographs of the river front at North Shields in the nineteenth century by W Parry & Son. Some negatives of this photographer were already in the archives, but do not include those for these prints.

Another large collection of public records was transferred by the Northumbrian River Authority. These include records of the North Eastern Sea Fisheries Committee, the Institute of Water Pollution Control, North East Branch, a scrapbook of the Wear Fishery Board and records of the Tyne Salmon Conservancy Board 1894-1936.

The controversial closure and dispersal of its archive by Whitbread led to a windfall of records for us. They included Flowers Breweries (Northern) Ltd, R Fenwick & Co Ltd, Villa Mineral Water Works, Isaac Tucker & Co Ltd and James Robinson & Son Ltd.

Another closure during the year was the Trinity Maritime Centre. A number of archive collections were transferred to us including a large number of ship photographs, the war memorial book of Sir Water Runciman & Moor Line Ltd, extensive records of several Souter shipping lines and various other records relating to shipping collections already held. We also bought some useful books from their library.

Thoroughly unexpected was the emergence of a missing volume of the diary of Thomas Giordani Wright for 1824. We had published a volume of extracts from the diaries we already had, and the Surtees Society had published a full edition when the new volume was sent in by a distant descendant of Wright's in Scotland. The previous diaries had come from Canada.

Currently closed to the public, but of great value for the future, are the research files on muscular dystrophy of Professors John Walton and W G Bradley 1951-1990.

5. Conservation

During the year the conservators have been piloting a survey methodology based on work by the National Preservation Office. This involves statistical sampling of collections to provide a picture of preservation needs. Some work has been done on a sample of the whole archive, and more detailed surveys carried out on two discrete collections, the Wood collection of theatre and other handbills and the Turner negative collection. We hope that these surveys will form the basis of funding bids for these collections which both have serious conservation needs as well as difficulties in providing access.

Work has also been carried out on several important collections - the Bewick papers, the Cotesworth papers, and a collection of letters relating to the Jacobite period in Morpeth. This work has involved repair of individual items and packaging.

A Catalan student from the University of Northumbria Conservation MA course spent several weeks working in the conservation unit to gain work experience. She has since moved on to a post at the British Library.

6. Education

The Education Officer worked with 87 groups (1 fewer than the previous year) involving 1368 individuals in the course of the year. Some of the more unusual topics have been researching wrecks with the British Sub-Aqua Club, Whitley Bay, design and architectural modelling with Sunderland University, post-graduate planning and conservation with Newcastle University, Victorian philanthropy with Newcastle College and Victorian mining children with the University of Northumbria.

Individual students were helped with dissertations on 19th century prostitution, 19th century football violence, the anti Garibaldi riots, civil rights during World War II and the "hungry 30s".

He also participated in June 2001 with the Discover Sunderland Month organised by the Sunderland Heritage Forum, and with several lifelong learning courses organised by Newcastle Libraries. Another partnership project was It's the Way We Tell It, an innovative intergenerational oral history project with Beamish Museum, students from St Thomas More RC High School, North Shields, and four older people from the North Tyneside community. The group focused on "Life and Death", concentrating mainly on people's recollections of health and medicine, but including two introductory sessions based on archive resources.

The Westall's War project continued to attract plaudits and was one of 10 sites shortlisted for the Becta/Guardian education web site awards 2002.

7. Outreach & partnership

The Northumbria Anthology project has continued into its closing phase. A number of celebrities have now contributed recordings to the project, including Brian Johnson of AC/DC, Geoff Wonfor, Jools Holland and Ray Laidlaw of Lindisfarne. The project has also started to transfer to the Northumbria Anthology company which sponsored a successful concert at Newcastle City Hall which starred Graeme Danby and a host of local musicians and performers.

New exhibitions and displays this year have included Newcastle Freemen, and A Celebration of Sport which showed at St Mary's Visitor Centre, Gateshead, and Crawcrook, Dunston, Birtley, Pelaw, Felling and Gateshead Central libraries as well as at Blandford House.

An existing exhibition Decent, Honest and Truthful a selection of election propaganda over the centuries was updated to coincide with the General Election, and toured Gateshead and Sunderland Civic Centres as well as Blandford House.

Other existing exhibitions A Century in Photographs, Tender Loving Care, Newcastle General Hospital, and Doctor about the Toon were seen at County Hall, Durham, Palmer Community Hospital, Jarrow, South Tyneside General Hospital, Newcastle General Hospital and Blandford House.

A Millennium of Crossing the Tyne, initiated the previous year, proved extremely popular, visiting Gateshead and Newcastle Civic Centres, Gateshead Local Studies Library, Gateshead Quays Visitor Centre and Pelaw and Crawcrook Libraries, as well as helping to publicise the release of a book Crossing the Tyne, published by Newcastle City's Tynebridge Publishing and written by retired Tyne & Wear archivist Richard Potts with Frank Manders.

The Chief Archivist continued to chair the North East Regional Archives Council and to represent that body on the boards of NEMLAC and Culture North East. She was also elected vice-chair of the Society of Archivists for a two-year term.

The Chief Archivist, along with another archivist and a conservator attended the Society of Archivists annual conference in Aberystwyth which was opened by Neville Mackay, then chief executive of Resource.

8. Records Management

The records management service has continued to operate successfully and to make a considerable financial contribution to the running of the service.

Following the withdrawal of English Partnerships (representing the Washington and Tyne & Wear Development Corporations) as a client, all their archival records have been transferred to the archives for continuing preservation.

Another commercial client also withdrew during the year, but has not been replaced for the time being, pending some building work for Tyne & Wear Museums ongoing development which will affect the records centre, and the outcome of the Best Value Review.

9. Northern Region Film & Television Archive

The new director of the NRFTA, Leo Enticknap took up his post in summer 2001 and has successfully continued the work of his predecessor. Because of the start of building work on the new archive facility in Middlesbrough, the employment of the director was transferred to the University of Teesside and he has been mainly based there, although visiting Tyne & Wear Archives Service on a weekly basis.

Lisa Bond, the archive's access officer continues to be based at Tyne & Wear Archives Service and has made good progress with cataloguing the collections as well as helping with commercial enquiries. The archive has contributed substantially to a number of television series including Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in Colour (NRFTA believes it has the earliest known colour footage of the Queen Mother as Queen), and When We Were Kids.

10. Conclusion

The most important work during this year, in addition to the continuing successful operation of the service, will be the conclusion of the Best Value Review, which is due to report in February 2003.

A number of issues, in particular relating to accommodation, have already been identified and work to address these is underway.