TWAS Review 1997-1998
- Searchroom and other public services
- Access to Archives
- Records Management
- Northern Region Film & Television Archive
Following the staff changes and restructuring last year, the Archives Service faced a period of relative stability in 1997/8. The year, however, proved to be a very busy one, with several major accessions of records and activity on a number of other fronts described below.
For the first time since 1993/4 there was a small decrease in the number of people using the searchroom this year. Numbers fell by 3% from 7451 to 7226 but this should be seen in the context of a 20% increase over the previous two years and was therefore by no means disappointing. The percentage of people using microfilms as opposed to original documents continued to rise, with original document use down 5% at 10,362, and microfilm use up 2% to 14,267. In order to accommodate this there were plans at the end of the year to extend the searchroom to improve the amount of space available for both types of users.
The percentage of users from Tyne & Wear was in the usual range at 75% of the total, which included 133 visitors from overseas.
Further inroads have been made into the cataloguing backlog, with numerous small lists having been prepared and indexed. Major cataloguing projects include the records of St Nicholas' Hospital and records of the Newcastle Jewish Community, both of which were completed during the year.
Access to archives held elsewhere has been improved with the purchase of further microfilms of parish registers from Durham and Northumberland Record Offices, and the microfilming of North Tyneside Cemeteries records by permission of the council. Further microfilming of cemeteries records is planned for the coming year in co-operation with the Mormon church.
The overall number of different accessions fell this year from 173 to 149, but the bulk taken in increased markedly, from 220 metres to 553. This was largely accounted for by two jobs which took up most of the summer of 1997 - the Port of Tyne Authority and Turner Visuals, both of whom were vacating their adjacent premises in Bewick Street and Pink Lane respectively.
The Port of Tyne Authority records are of obvious significance for the development of Tyneside, based on the improvement of the river from the mid-19th century onwards. As well as the minutes and administrative records of the Authority the collection includes a large number of plans and photographs, records relating to bridges and ferries and to the Tyne piers which were built by the Tyne Improvement Commission, predecessors of the Port Authority.
The Turner Visuals records comprise two groups - first the prints and negatives from the still photography side of the business, and secondly movie films made on behalf of numerous clients from the 1950s onwards. The latter will form part of the collections of the Northern Region Film and Television Archive, discussed in greater detail below. Turners very generously donated the copyright as well as the physical collections to the Archives Service.
Apart from these two, significant records were received from a number of other businesses including Hartley Wood & Co, glassmakers of Sunderland, Clarke Chapman & Co, Gateshead and Holzapfels (International Paints), Newcastle. The demolition of buildings for the West Central Route yielded some records of Newton & Co, bicycle and furniture retailer of Westgate Road. Dickinson Dees, solicitors deposited a quantity of records prior to their relocation from Westgate Road to the Quayside.
Reorganisation within the NHS yielded further records from a number of hospitals including St Nicholas', Hunters Moor and Sanderson. As noted above, the opportunity was taken to prepare a new catalogue of all the St Nicholas' records deposited over the years.
The survey of records of sports clubs continued, albeit slowly, and records were deposited by Tynemouth Cricket Club (additional to previous deposits), Northumberland and Durham Counties Amateur Swimming Association from 1913 and Newcastle Gosforth Rugby Club from 1877.
Other organisations who deposited records included the McDowell Trust, who look after records relating to the Stephensons and railways in the region, Felling Male Voice Choir, Newcastle, Gateshead & District Butchers Association, Newcastle upon Tyne Freemasons Lodge No. 24 and constituent lodges dating back to 1800, and NUPE Northern Division which was relocating.
Sunderland Jewish Community deposited records for the first time, complementing the Newcastle records already held. An exhibition at Sunderland Museum is planned using these records.
Among personal papers deposited were those of Miss W P Smith MBE, who has been active for many years in the voluntary sector in Newcastle, and of Professor E Hughes, historian and Dr Mark Hughes MP.
The remaining important archives retained by Gateshead Library, the Cotesworth and Ellison manuscripts and the records of Thomas Bell & Sons, surveyors, were transferred to the care of the Archives Service.
A new conservator, Tristian Jones, was appointed early in the year. An unqualified trainee at the time of his appointment, he quickly completed the Society of Archivists certificate which he had begun in his previous post, and passed the assessment.
As a trainee he also attended the Society's Annual Instructional Meeting for conservators, with the aid of a bursary. The Conservation Manager also attended this funded by the Archives Service.
Matt Parsons, the other conservator attended a training course on the preservation of photographic negatives and film, which will be extremely useful in the light of material recently taken in.
The main programme of conservation work during the year has been the making of phase boxes for the protection of bound volumes on the shelves in store. This often saves more extensive repair work which might otherwise be necessary.
The Education Officer has undertaken his usual range of work during the year with individual schools, group Inset training, and adult groups, but also took part in several more unusual activities.
With local schools, he played a large part in the Northumberland History A Level 6th Form Conference at St Benet Biscop School, Bedlington, and in the Historical Association Primary History Conference on the Victorians in Sunderland. Further afield, a pack on Tudor Newcastle was produced for schools in Newcastle, New South Wales for the British Council New Images Newcastle, England/Newcastle, Australia Joint Project.
A number of smaller exhibitions and displays were prepared in the course of the year but there was nothing on the large scale of last year's Engineering Art. Displays at Blandford House included Recent Accessions, the Hoppings, Richard Grainger Bi-centenary and St Nicholas Hospital.
A programme of updating the series of User Guides on various subjects has been ongoing and a number are now on the Internet. Enquiries received suggest that these have been widely consulted.
The Archives Service provided a venue for the launch of Joe Clarke's book Building Ships on the North East Coast, which was published by Bewick Press. Sales at the launch were brisk.
The main development in the Records Management service this year has been the winding up of the development corporations. The retrieval of records in the run-up to this put great strain on the system, but all was eventually resolved and records of historical significance have been selected for archival preservation. These also include records which had never been part of the records management system, such as large numbers of slides and photographs.
The establishment of the regional film archive after discussions over a number of years has been one of the most significant achievements of 1997/8. The archive has been formed by a consortium led by Tyne & Wear Archives Service, but including Trade Films and the University of Teesside who hold the other most significant film and television collections within the region. Funding has been provided by the British Film Institute and Northern Arts in addition to the consortium partners. Chris Galloway took up the post of Project Director in February and at the end of the year there were plans to appoint an assistant.
1997/8 has been another busy year for the Archives Service. Attention in the coming year is being given to increasing automation and also to a longer term view of the accommodation needs of the Service.