In Focus: North East Wales Archives

For this month’s ‘In Focus’ blog, Sarah Roberts from North East Wales Archives joins us to highlight their Women Rediscovered project.

Explore Your Archive was always going to be different in 2020 and once our staff at North East Wales Archives realised that there would be no “usual” events to plan we started to think about what else we could do whilst working from home with limited access to the collections.

Actress, Lowri Jones, portraying the story of two mothers’ experiences of post-natal psychosis

In Wales, archive services have access to Archives Wales marketing support grants which are funded by Welsh Government. Every year, in time for Explore we have the opportunity to apply for a grant to help us to deliver events and projects linked to the national campaign. In September last year we decided to apply for money to cover the costs of a creative project to take stories from our collections to people at home by dramatising accounts of real people from our collections.

We couldn’t deliver this project alone so we set up a meeting with a creative engagement associate at a local regional arts centre and producing theatre, Theatr Clwyd, to discuss a possible partnership. During the initial discussions, it was decided that monologue style films would be the most suitable format, not least because the style of filming really lends itself to social distancing. Theatr Clwyd were excited about the project and the writer, Emyr John, was enthusiastic to get started.

Actress, Caitlin Drake, portraying the famous Marged ferch Ifan aka Peggy Evans, Queen of the Lake

We chose the stories by first looking at the type of collections we wanted to highlight and it soon became apparent that the stories were leaning more towards a female inspired project. We had chosen the story of a teacher, a mother, a widow and a woman of many talents including being a renowned wrestler, boat-maker, hunter and shooter! And so it was born, Women Rediscovered, a project covering stories of strong and inspirational women spanning three centuries with sub-themes such as mental illness and LGBT+.

Luckily, our grant application was accepted to cover all of our chosen stories and we went on to commission the theatre to write the scripts and deliver our project, which they did. The director, Eleri B. Jones, said working with the archives made her feel like “a kid in a sweet shop” and “A lot of history is recorded by men and also by the upper classes who had the time and the ability to write their stories down, I feel there is a huge gap in working class everyday people who were just as extraordinary in their own way.”

The films and the collections and stories they are based upon can be seen on our blog posts, as follows;

A headmistress who devoted herself to education;
A widow of miner killed in the Gresford colliery disaster;
A mother reflecting on postnatal psychosis;
The famous Marged ferch Ifan, “an extraordinary female who was the greatest hunter, shooter, and fisher, of her time” as written about by Thomas Pennant.

Actress, Kerry Peers, portraying a teacher, Miss Harris Jones

The filming took place during Explore Your Archive week and the films were launched weekly throughout January 2021 as part of a #MonologueMonday series. So far, we have had great feedback and comments on the films;

“Phenomenal acting … Absolutely loved the raw, gritty performance”

“Wow this is powerful and thought provoking, really took me out of my comfort zone!! Lowri [the actress] is amazing and gives a real insight to the whole story and history of North Wales Hospital which is difficult to watch (I had to have a break) because it’s real”

“Delivered like this means we can learn from the past and hopefully treat people especially women better in the future! Hopefully this work can also go into our schools in some format to learn and debate our history!”

“I have just watched your You Tube film on Gwyneth / Ann, based on the admission of Ann Owen to the lunatic asylum in 1875. What a fantastic piece of theatre – bringing to life, so well, the story of Ann Owen. Fantastic work, and very inspiring in so many ways, not least in terms of giving a voice to this person from 1875. Loved it!”

Actress, Courtney George, portraying a widow of a miner killed in the Gresford Colliery Disaster in 1934

We are hoping the project will mark the start of a great working relationship with our local theatre and we will go on to work on more projects with them in the future. For me, personally, it has been exciting to work on something so different and creative, especially when our normal working life has been so disrupted over the last 12 months.

You can follow North East Wales Archives on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Sarah Roberts, North East Wales Archives

All images copyright of Dafydd Owen @Ffotonant, freelance photographer and filmmaker working on the Women Rediscovered project.

Sir Charles Lyell Collection

The Explore Your Archive campaign theme for February is nature. For our first blog post related to the monthly themes of the 2021 Explore Your Archive campaign, Elise Ramsay, Project Archivist of the Sir Charles Lyell Collection at the University of Edinburgh discusses the importance of his work on the study of climate change.

The natural world has been a touchstone for me as I have explored more of the parks and woodlands near my home in Edinburgh, and as I work with the University of Edinburgh’s outstanding collection of notebooks and papers from eminent geologist Sir Charles Lyell.

Engraving of Charles Lyell by J. Maguire, Coll-1518/1/2/1-6 © University of Edinburgh]

Charles Lyell (1797-1875) was a Victorian geologist, and a central figure in the advancement of the science. He found natural explanations for geologic activity and introduced methods based on observational evidence. This collection is predominantly a science archive, as Lyell’s accounts of geographical phenomena provide data on the geological and climatological state of regions 200 years ago and inform historical climate change research.

Notebooks of Sir Charles Lyell, Coll-203 © University of Edinburgh

Lyell is an archivist’s geologist. He theorised that the Earth was a record for geological phenomena, (contrary to some who looked to the Bible or to other ancient texts). In the opening paragraphs of his seminal book, The Principles of Geology (1830), Lyell wrote, “As the present condition of nations is the result of many antecedent changes, some extremely remote and others recent, some gradual, others sudden and violent, so the state of the natural world is the result of a long succession of events, and if we would enlarge our experience of the present economy of nature, we must investigate the effects of her operations in former epochs.”

Lyell travelled widely and frequently, and as I look at his notebooks, I wonder what he would have thought of the current locked down state of the world. His travels were largely inspired by the many scientific journals he received, which described geological phenomena and inspired Lyell to go and see for himself. In a letter to his colleague Roderick Murchison in 1829, Lyell wrote, “We must preach up travelling … as the first, second, and third requisites for a modern geologist, in the present adolescent state of the science.”1

Some 294 notebooks were kept by Lyell over his eminent 40+ year scientific career. They offer unrivalled insights into his reading, field observations, thoughts, and relationships. He meticulously maintained table of contents in each and created nearly 30 reference notebooks of indexes by subject. Lyell had a mind for referencing and cataloguing which makes metadata creation a dream!

Notebook No. 15, Coll-203/A1/15 © University of Edinburgh

This collection gives valuable context to a revered geologist and the natural world. It is also interwoven with many great contemporary debates including those around slavery in America, human evolution, the overlooked involvement and leadership of women in science, and much more. Lyell interacted with the great scientists, polymaths, artists, and writers of his day such as William Buckland, Asa Grey, Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, Gideon Mantell Mary Anning, Charles Darwin, as well as lay-scientists and local guides. As we plumb the depths of this collection, we uncover not only the geologist at the centre, but also his vast network. Through digitisation and transcription, we aim to unlock the valuable data within this collection for access around the world.

Follow our work with this collection at

Elise Ramsay, University of Edinburgh

1 Lyell, C., & Lyell, M. (1881). Life, Letters and Journals of Sir Charles Lyell, Bart. Edited by His Sister-In-Law, Mrs. Lyell (pp. 233, 234). London: J. Murray.

In Focus: Apna Heritage Archive at Wolverhampton City Archive

Archival photo. A family group of Pubjabi descent stands outside a sandstone building. In the centre, the bride and groom wear traditional silk flower garlands.

For this month’s ‘In Focus’ blog, Heidi McIntosh of Wolverhampton City Archives joins us to introduce the Apna Heritage Archive.

Working from home during lockdown has meant staff of Wolverhampton City Archives have been working away from the physical archival material. On the plus side, this has forced us to work more on our digital collections. One of these is the Apna Heritage Archive.

Archival photo. A woman of Punjabi descent sits in an armchair, She is looking at the knitting she holds in her hands and smiling broadly. A younger woman sits on the arm of the chair and has her arms affectionately around the older woman. She is also smiling broadly.
DW-222/1/3: Sally and Suraksha Asar at home in Woodcote Road, Wolverhampton, 1980.

In 2016, Black Country Visual Arts (BCVA) received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards this project. The aim was to build up a collection of over 2000 historic photographs relating to Punjabi migration to Wolverhampton from 1960 to 1989, resulting in an exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. Not only did the project win the “Best New Group” award at the Community Archives and Heritage Group (CAHG) conference in 2017, it was also featured in the National Archives publication “A Year in Archives” the following year. The physical collection is now housed in a dedicated archive space at the Guru Teg Bahadur Gurdwara in Upper Villiers Street, Blakenhall. Children from a local primary school, where around 50% of the school population is of Punjabi origin, visited us and created their own school archive as a result. The digitised images have been deposited with Wolverhampton City Archives.

Archival photo. A family group of Punjabi descent stands outside a sandstone building. In the centre, the bride and groom wear traditional silk flower garlands.
DW-222/6/55: The wedding of Raj Kumar and Nirmal Devia Bhatia at Ealing Registry Office in London, 1985.

According to the 2011 census, over 30% of Wolverhampton’s population were of non-white or mixed ethnicity. Our role as Wolverhampton City Archives is to be fully representative of the communities that we serve, and we are a long way off that point at present. Collections such as the Apna Heritage Archive will move us towards redressing that balance.

Archival photo. A family of Punjabi descent stand by a hospital lift with an older white woman, who holds a newborn baby in her arms.
DW-222/20/111: Harjinder S. Kalsi and family at New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton, after the birth of Pradeep S. Kalsi, 1981.

The photographs themselves are wonderful. Whilst some of them document key life-changing moments and rites of passage, such as births and weddings, many of them show everyday life. Because of the time period covered, a large proportion are in colour, making them rich and vibrant and varied in their nature. There are posed school portrait photos alongside more relaxed shots of family groups on the sofa. There are photographs taken in Wolverhampton, but also of day trips and holidays, such as to Lichfield or London, as well as photographs of India.

Archival photo. Two men in their late teens wear traditional Punjabi clothing,
DW-222/8/11: Rawinder Chonk performing a dance with a friend at Dunstall Primary School, Wolverhampton, 1986.

There was some discussion as to whether we should weed these photographs – after all, as a general rule of thumb, we don’t usually collect people’s holiday snaps and family occasions, unless they are particularly significant individuals. However, that is partly what makes these so beautiful and interesting, as you get a real insight into the lives of the local Punjabi community. They have a wider relevance, too, as they are so evocative of that period in history.

These photographs are currently being added to our online catalogue. The ones that are completed are available to view here, and more will be added all the time: Apna Heritage Archive.

Head to Twitter to follow the Apna Heritage Archive and Wolverhampton City Archives, or check out the website. Applications are currently being taken for an AHRC-funded PhD project based around the collection – find out more here.

Introducing the new EYA team

In December Explore Your Archive put out a call for volunteers to help expand their campaign and build on previous successes. We had a great response from people with a wide range of experience and interests in the sector. These volunteers will be joining the ARA Board Member who runs and oversees the campaign. As our January theme is ‘new,’ we thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce you to those who are working behind the scenes in the new Explore Your Archive team.

Our new Campaign Officer, Rosie is responsible for keeping the rest of the team on the same page, and representing EYA to others. Rosie did her training in York, but now lives in Amsterdam, where she works as a government archive inspector. While she enjoys getting to visit lots of different archives, Rosie’s real passion is archival outreach, especially to those outside the sector (mostly because she’s sick of answering the question “so what does an archivist actually do?”). As such, she has joined the EYA team to indulge this passion, and to hopefully spread the word that archival material is not only varied and interesting, but can also be quite fun!

The two Blog Coordinators, Katie and Alice, are responsible for curating and uploading the blog posts created by our contributors. They are the first point of contact for those wishing to post to the website. Katie has mainly worked on Archives Revealed projects after completing her MA in Archives and Records Management at UCD. She is looking forward to this opportunity to be more involved in outreach and explore the fascinating projects, records, and stories that repositories throughout the UK and Ireland hold. She is also keen to promote archives and repositories that may be small or have a niche remit to a wider audience. When not busy with the blog coordination team, Alice is a PhD student working on ‘Archive and Narrative in the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum’, a collaborative doctoral project between the University of Stirling and the National Library of Scotland. She has an MSc in Information Management and Preservation from the University of Glasgow, and before returning to studying worked at Lothian Health Services Archive at the University of Edinburgh. Alice is particularly interested in rapid response collecting, the impact of the digital on collecting practices, and how heritage bodies can use the internet to reach new audiences.

Randeep and Chloe are Social Media Officer’s and are taking over the campaign’s twitter page. In normal life Randeep works as an insurance claims handler and was drawn to this opportunity whilst looking for things to do during downtime from work. She enjoyed being involved in outreach whilst at university and is looking forward to highlighting the works of different archives and learning more about their projects and collections. Chloe is hoping to develop her knowledge of archives and the heritage sector, which will be useful to help contextualise her future studies, as well as improving her social media skills. She is really looking forward to helping to promote collections across the UK and Ireland – and discovering something new every day!

Our Facebook page will be getting a revamp from our Facebook Social Media Officers. Rachel is currently a masters student at the University of Glasgow studying Information Management and Preservation. She looks forward to generating some exciting online discourse within the sector. Stefania graduated in 2018 with a degree in Italian and History from Edinburgh University. She hopes to get a lot out of this volunteering opportunity, as she is interested in building up her experience in the heritage field, most specifically in increasing engagement with  archives, libraries and heritage sites. This role will be really valuable experience for her and she is really excited about becoming more familiarised with the huge number of archives throughout the UK and hopefully becoming more skilled in outreach and  social media marketing.

The EYA campaign has recently established an Instagram page @exploreyourarchive. Our Instagram Social Media Officers Jo and Karen have done a great job in setting it up and we hope that everyone will take a look and give us a follow. Jo currently works as an Archive Assistant in a County Record Office. She hopes to be able to give back to a campaign which she has used a lot in her day job over the last few years! Karen is a Library Marketing Assistant for St Helens Library Service and manages their social media platforms. She put her name forward for the Social Media Officer role – Instagram specific – given that Explore Your Archive didn’t yet have an Instagram account she thought it would be exciting and challenging setting up this account from scratch.  She was excited for this role as it gives her an opportunity to put her digital marketing skills to use in a different field as well as gaining more knowledge about archives, collections, repositories projects that are happening across the country that she can pass on to her colleagues at St Helens Library Service and use in her full-time employment role.

A new role, web development, was created due to the number of responses to the call out. They will be redeveloping the website and adding new material to help promote the work of EYA and providing resources. Janet works at Durham Cathedral Library and Collections. She has been working in the cultural heritage sector for seven years, after completing a doctorate in medieval studies. In her current role she works primarily on digitisation, collections care and outreach. Her areas of special interest include archives and museums, and digital humanities. Steph is a trainee archivist, volunteering at Carlisle Cathedral and Sedbergh School. She is an Associate Researcher at Newcastle University and holds a PhD in early modern music book history. With previous roles in heritage education and arts administration, Steph is really interested in public engagement with archives and is excited to be part of the EYA web development team to give an online platform for all sorts of repositories. Stacey is currently a postgraduate student on the ‘Information Management and Preservation’ course at the University of Glasgow. In working with Explore Your Archive web team, Stacey is looking forward to bringing exciting new content to the website featuring various different archives with smaller platforms! She is looking forward to working with archives to be able to show off their collections remotely!

The whole team is looking forward to getting stuck into this year’s campaign and all your responses. We hope to build on the great work that has been done in previous years and to add new resources. Please keep an eye on our social media and website for themes and blog posts.


The College and Castle today. The windows of the archive may be seen in the bottom left hand corner of the castle building

History and development

Clongowes Wood College SJ, near Clane in Co Kildare has a long and rich history of education in Ireland since it was founded in 1814 by Fr Peter Kenney SJ. It was the first work of the Society of Jesus worldwide following its restoration that year after 41 years of suppression; indeed the Irish operation predated the lifting of the order of suppression by several months. The college was located outside of Dublin to avoid affront to the British authorities as the Penal Laws remained in force and constraints on Catholic Education were many. The founding fathers had spotted something of a gap in the market; they had decided to educate the sons of the middle class, who previously had the choice of sending their boys to England (with its uncertain religious background) or mainland Europe (which posed difficulties of finance, language, culture and distance). Daniel O’Connell acted as advisor to Fr Kenney, and encouraged him to purchase land that had been confiscated as, with such a property, one could prove title. Richard Reynell, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas under Cromwell, had been granted the castle and surrounding lands in 1667 and the estate was confirmed to him by letters patent of Charles II. Reynall sold the castle and 1,000 acres to Thomas Browne, a Dublin barrister and a Catholic, for £2,100. Browne changed the name to Castle Browne, by which it was known until 1814 when it was changed back to Clongowes by the Jesuits.[1]

The chosen location was a historic one as it was on the line of The Pale and there had been castles on the site since 1450. The new school occupied the relatively modern 18th century version with the entire community of Jesuits and students living in the same building. The Jesuits began to expand the campus almost immediately with the addition of a refectory and a study hall (still in use today) and the buildings continued their march to the south and west over the next two centuries with the addition of dormitories, classrooms, an infirmary and swimming ‘baths’ (the oldest indoor pool in Ireland). Development continues apace in the 21st century with the addition of modern science, art and technology facilities, a large sports hall and a new swimming pool. The college includes a working dairy farm as well as 150 acres of land dedicated to playing fields and recreation space, including rugby and soccer pitches, tennis courts and a golf course and is home to some 450 boys from Ireland, the UK, Europe and further afield.

The front of the castle (the original school) today

Notable past pupils

For more than two centuries, the college has produced many notable alumni including leaders in business, politics, social justice, sport and the arts. Graduates of the college have gone on to become leaders in Ireland and the Jesuit project was encapsulated in one man in 1914, when Old Clongownian, John Redmond was on the brink of becoming the first Prime Minister of Home Rule Ireland. Other prominent past pupils range from the author James Joyce (part of whose novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is set in the school) to Michael O’Leary of Ryanair by way of rugby international Rob Kearney, Taoiseach John Bruton, Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Fr Peter McVerry SJ, champion of the homeless.

The Archival Collection

The collection, which has been built up over more than two centuries since the Society of Jesus purchased the property in 1814 from the Wogan-Browne family, comprises papers, visual materials and artifacts relating to the history of Clongowes since its foundation. There are bound volumes of handwritten records from the 19th and early 20th centuries as well as school attendance and examination records, books of account and diaries that were kept by the Rector and Prefect of Studies[2]. There are also copies of various prospectuses as well as some journals and magazines. These include all issues of the school annual, The Clongownian (a valuable historical resource which has been published since 1895) and other occasional school publications since its earliest days. There are photograph albums, VCR tapes, DVDs, maps and floor plans/sketches for building projects.

A 19th Century Line Drawing of the Castle and College. Courtesy of the Clongowes Wood College Archive

The collection includes the Exemplification of Title granted to Thomas Browne by Charles II (1682) and various deeds of title for lands and other legal documents (all parchment). There are materials from the collections of previous owners, when the buildings and grounds were in private hands (most recently those of the Wogan-Brownes) as well as items donated by various Jesuits and Old Clongownians. There are also some artifacts of both a religious and a personal nature including an original school uniform and some school caps (c.1850), sundry medals, a chalice, a monstrance, original glass plates of overhead photographs taken from a kite, a Papal Hat (Pius XII), a Rugby International Cap, a penknife belonging to Liam Mellows and a Ceramic Poppy from the Tower of London commemorating World War I. The material is stored in a secure room in the castle, with some of these items on rotating display in a gallery that links that building with the school. 

Descriptive List

The collection is divided into eight series. The first chronicles the history and involvement of the Jesuit Community both in the school and its hinterland from the earliest days through the changes in the management structure in 1971 to today’s much smaller population of priests and brothers. The second comprises materials relating to the purchase of the castle and grounds and the subsequent development, repair, extension and maintenance of the many other buildings that have arisen as the school has developed. The third series contains documents pertaining to the governance of the college and the Jesuit Community therein and reflects the changing nature of both as the school population has expanded and the Jesuit community dwindled leading to almost exclusively lay control. The fourth is concerned with the Jesuit Ethos in the school, how it has been and continues to be manifest in the pastoral activities of the pupils and the changing emphasis as its custody moves from Jesuit hands to those of their lay colleagues.

Ratio Studiorum

The changing nature of education in the school from the initial classical approach of the Jesuit Plan of Studies – the Ratio Studiorum – via the modernising effect of the Intermediate Education Act of 1878 to the modern points based system is traced in the fifth series, while the sixth comprises materials pertaining to the many indoor co-curricular activities such as debating, drama, music and academic presentations, which are fundamental to the original Jesuit plan and still core to the school. The seventh series contains materials relevant to the many outdoor co-curricular activities including athletics, football, cricket, tennis and golf as well as the history of some pursuits that are now extinct such as ‘The Stonyhurst Game’ of gravel football. The final series relates to the financial stewardship of the school from income in the form of fees, government grants and bequests to capital and current expenditure.

Access arrangements

It is the intention of Clongowes that the collections in the archive be made as available as possible in line with the principles of access espoused by The International Council on Archives and the profession’s presumption of openness. This approach also falls in line with that of the Irish Jesuit Province to make known the existence of all archives under its control and its proactive approach to access.

The archive in Clongowes Wood College is available to researchers by appointment (045 -868202). Access is normally granted on Tuesdays and Thursdays (09.00-17.00) during the academic year, but other days (and times of year) are possible by arrangement. Records of past pupils are in high demand from relatives researching family history – in particular from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Well known past pupils such as Thomas Francis Meagher, James Joyce, John Redmond and Kevin O’Higgins attract attention from researchers, who may visit the archive in person. Visitors are accommodated in a spacious research room, which also contains a library of history and reference books relevant to the history of the college while further reading material may be sourced from the Jesuit Community Library in the castle.

Note on access during COVID19

The archive is currently unavailable to visiting researchers due to the prevailing pandemic. In practice this makes little difference, as actual visits are normally few with the majority of enquiries being submitted remotely by mail or email. In response the archivist does the research and mails or emails the results to those making enquiries and this facility continues to be available during these straitened times.

Declan O’Keeffe

Assistant Archivist and College Historian; Editor, The Clongownian

June 15, 2020

[1] Brendan Cullen, A Short History of Clongowes Wood College, 2-3.

[2] Prior to the institution of the office of Headmaster / School Principal in 1971, the college was managed by a Rector with the assistance of a Prefect of Studies (both Jesuits). The former was head of the Jesuit Community as well as Headmaster of the School while the latter combined the roles of Assistant Headmaster / Deputy Principal with that of Head of Boarding.

Historic property listing for I’m a Celebrity castle uncovered as part of Explore Your Archive week

A historic property listing for Gwrych Castle, made famous by this year’s series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! has been uncovered, ahead of Explore Your Archive Week (Saturday 21st – Sunday 29th November 2020).

The 19th century castle and estate, which is based near Abergele in Conwy, is the first UK location to be used in the returning popular entertainment show usually filmed in the warmer location of Australia.

The discovered property listing and accompanying photographs (full copy in notes to editor) is dated 1946 and offers the castle for auction. Described as the “The Well-known Picturesque Castle”, the listing gives us a valuable insight into how it would have looked over 80 years ago. The document states that the castle was built during the Regency Period by Lloyd Bamford Hesketh, Esquire, and “is reputed to have cost a fortune”.

It details 26 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms, within an estate that covered 1400 acres, the equivalent of 700 football pitches, including outbuildings, lodges, gardens, woodland and parkland.

The castle has had a long and varied history, as the family home of the Earls of Dundonald, as a tourist attraction, and with proposals in the 1990s to turn it into a luxury hotel. During World War II it served as a safe haven for hundreds of Jewish children as part of Operation Kindertransport. It is now in the custody of The Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust who were able to purchase it in 2018 on behalf of the nation.

This insight into the castle’s past has been shared by the North East Wales Archives with accompanying pictures provided by the Gwynedd Archive Service as part of Explore Your Archive week, which is organised by the UK Archives and Records Association, and supported in Wales by Archives and Records Council Wales. The annual week-long campaign encourages people across Wales to discover something new and exciting within the nation’s archives, whether that’s delving into your own family history or finding out the stories about the people and places at the heart of Welsh communities.

Sarah Roberts, archivist from the North East Wales Archives, said: “Gwyrch Castle had kept the Dundonald family in lavish surroundings since the 1870s and would have been a much more comfortable place to live than the viper vaults the I’m a Celebrity contestants are putting up with right now.

“Following the Second World War, when the property was used as part of the Kindertransport programme to house Jewish refugees, the family decided to auction the house. Despite numerous

attempts over the years to turn the building into a hotel or tourist attraction the house fell slowly into disrepair until taken over by The Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust. It’s brilliant to see it reach households all over the country now and viewers can explore its story and others like this by looking into their local archives.”

Alongside the Gwrych Castle listing, Archives Wales is sharing a letter from pre 1879 using an early form of emojis, documentation of the 1866 Caernarfon cholera epidemic, and the household staple from the 1960s, a Green Shield Stamp booklet.

Archives Wales promotes the work of Welsh Archive Services and the country’s rich documentary heritage. Ordinarily, services across Wales, based in local authority record offices, national institutions and universities would invite the public to join them at a variety of events, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s campaign will be held digitally. People across Wales and the world are being encouraged to log on to online archives to connect with the country’s past.

The Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Lord Elis-Thomas, said: “Archives remain a vital resource for understanding our national, community and personal histories in these unprecedented times. While people may not be able to visit our archive services physically at the moment, this campaign will highlight how we can still access our rich archival heritage online. I would encourage everyone to take this opportunity to find out more about what our archives offer for them, and explore the stories of local people, families, businesses and organisations held within these records.”

Hayden Burns, Chair of Archives and Records Council Wales, said: “We are delighted to participate in the Explore Your Archives week once again this year. The campaign provides an excellent opportunity to educate everyone about the value of archives and the importance of protecting and preserving our documentary heritage.

“The historic collections held by Welsh archive services are the documented memory of the people, events and places of Wales. They tell our stories and in doing so, they connect us with the past and give us a sense of identity.”

To start exploring, why not visit your local archive service online –

· Follow Archives Wales on social media for daily highlights. Twitter and Facebook @ArchivesWales @ArchifauCymru

Dublin City Council Archive – A city response to Covid-19

Back in March, when the pandemic took hold in Ireland and the first lockdown was introduced, it was clear that we were living through unprecedented times. In Dublin City Library and Archive, we were keen to collect and preserve Dublin’s experience of the pandemic for posterity.

We put out a call through the press and via our social media channels, and were bowled over by the response we received! People submitted photographs of empty streets and got in touch with personal stories and diary entries. We received pieces of creative writing inspired by the pandemic, as well as school projects and drawings by children. We heard from businesses impacted by the restrictions, and from older people who were cocooning. People got in touch with photos of socially distanced weddings, and with stories of not being able to get home to other countries to see loved ones.

We are now processing the material that we’ve received, and as part of Explore your Archive week, we wanted to put together a short video to showcase a small selection of the material that was submitted.

We’re really grateful to the people of Dublin who have helped us create this collection, which will doubtlessly be of interest to researchers of the future.

Stephanie Rousseau – Dublin City Archive

Business Archives Council Scotland Supporting Scottish businesses for 60 years.

2020 marks the 60th anniversary of the Business Archives Council of Scotland (BACS).

BACS started as the initiative of Sydney Checkland(pictured) who, in 1957, was appointed the new Professor of Economic History at the University of Glasgow. He immediately started raising funds from the business community in Glasgow to establish a Lecturer in Business History – the Colquhoun Lecturer. His task was also to survey historical business records of firms in Glasgow and the West of Scotland. The first Colquhoun Lecturer was Peter Payne, in post from 1959 to 1969. Working with assistants he established the Economic History Department Business Record collection. From 1970 the then Scottish Record Office along with the National Register of Archives for Scotland funded the appointment of several Regional Registrars as business surveyors.

In 1977 the BACS Executive Committee, matching funding from the Scottish Record Office, appointed a Business Surveyor to continue the work of the Regional Registrars. Between 1977 and 2011, a period of 34 Years, fifteen Surveyors worked on behalf of BACS to locate, survey and find a home for business records often at risk of destruction. This initiative has contributed nearly 900 surveys to be deposited with NRAS and many hundreds of collections deposited with public archives.

In 2014 surveying activity was reinstated when BACS raised funds in collaboration with the Ballast Trust, the Lind Foundation, the University of Glasgow Archive Services, and the University of Aberdeen’s Capturing the Energy project to appoint a new Business Archives Surveyor. From 2016 this post has been funded by the Ballast Trust with strong links to the BACS.

Today BACS is primarily a networking organisation for creators, custodians and users of business archives. Our activities include an annual conference, training workshops and our corporate connections events for members. We also publish a regular newsletter and our journal – Scottish Business and Industrial Heritage (first published in 1977), which contains articles by professional historians and independent scholars, covering a wide range of topics on Scotland’s business and industrial past. Past issues of the journal 1977-2014 are available to download from our website.

We started this year with lots of plans to celebrate the anniversary particularly using social media and were pleased to take part in the ARA Scotland #Archive30 campaign throughout April. We were assisted in this by University of Glasgow student Alexandra Foulds who created a series of tweets to tie in with the daily themes and showcased our anniversary and history at the same time.

Unfortunately, our remaining plans to celebrate the anniversary were somewhat derailed by COVID, but the executive committee have been working from home offices and kitchen tables to engage with our members and we’ve extended our activities into 2021.

Members may have noticed that this year we’ve adopted a whole new look for BACS and launched a brand new website. Our ‘look’ actually comes from our own archive as we re-visited BACS’s first logo and updated it! As part of the celebrations we also commissioned three new videos to highlight the breath, depth and value of business archives in Scotland. Thankfully filming for the videos was completed before lockdown and the videos are now available. In the videos we answer the question – What are Business Archives? We explores the types of records held by Business Archives and the different ways they can be used. We also reflect on the community that BACS has created and how it has changed since the Council was established.


What is a Business Archive?

History of BACS

Business Archive Collections

We are also working on an anniversary edition of Scottish Business and Industrial Heritage, which will look back at the history and achievements of BACS. It will be published in May 2021 to mark the anniversary of our first AGM. We also hope to have a launch event/birthday party then if possible.

Leading to May next year we will be running a BACS moments Twitter campaign #BACScot60, please follow us for interesting facts about BACS and key moments and collections from Scotland’s business archives.

Finally, unfortunately we have to end on a more sober note. Today and for the months to come businesses across the UK are facing unprecedented hardship. The full impact of COVID 19 restrictions and Brexit are still to be felt but there is a real danger that records of historic or culturally significant businesses will be lost or destroyed. With this in mind, BACS has worked with the Scottish Council on Archives to create new guidance, titled Collecting in a Crisis: A Guide to Rescuing Business Records. We hope that this step-by-step guidance for dealing with a crisis management case will be helpful to the archive community.

Amanada Noble (BACS Chair)

Kiara King (Ballast Trust)

Taking History Day online – Creating a digital fair to discover history collections

Since 2014, History Day has brought together students, researchers and history enthusiasts with professionals from archives, libraries, publishers and other organisations with history collections. Past History Days have taken place at Senate House in London, the home of the Institute of Historical Research Library and Senate House Library, the central library of the University of London. A fair with stalls representing different history organisations was set up to browse, explore and interact with. The event has attracted as many as 243 attendees and 192 participants from a wide range of institutions. This year, because of the on-going impact Covid-19, we have had to rethink the format of History Day entirely. When it became clear that we wouldn’t be able to hold an event which attracted large crowds, we decided to take History Day 2020 online.  

One of the biggest challenges in taking this step was re-envisioning the format of History Day for the online world while maintaining the spirit of the event. One of History Day’s greatest achievements is bringing people together in one space and helping them to get up close to history collections and those responsible for managing them. Ensuring that we could recreate this interactivity online meant we had to invest a lot of thought in how we would ask organisations to participate and in which ways we could enable audiences to interact with them. We made the decision to offer multiple pathways to allow as many as possible to join in and get creative with their contributions. We will be offering a mix of live sessions during the day, including virtual collection tours, Q&As, quizzes, show and tells and even a podcast live recording session. Alongside the live events, we are creating a gallery of pre-recorded content full of links to blogs, videos and images to help you discover new collections online.  

Despite the challenges, going online has had many advantages. We have been able to invite participants from across the UK and beyond to this year’s event, rather than restricting it to those able to travel to London. On top of that, we were delighted to be accepted as part of the Being Human festival, the UK’s national festival of the humanities. This allows us to reach a wider public audience than ever before. We are looking forward to being a springboard that introduces history enthusiast everywhere to the treasures that history collections hold.  

Organising History Day has been an opportunity to reflect on the importance of history, or more specifically how we collect and provide access to the sources to study it. We have organised three online sessions for the day to explore these themes. 2020 has been a historic year with the global social and economic disruption in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact on cultural institutions has been immense. In response many of us have had to rethink how to open up our collections online to populations in lockdown and to a new world of social distancing. One example of this is the Bibliothèque nationale de France’s online sessions La BnF dans mon salon (“The BnF in my living room”) which brought collections into French homes during lockdown. They will be represented at the Exploring History in the Digital World session alongside other innovative digital projects bringing history closer to online audiences. In the last months, hundreds of collection projects have been initiated to archive the history of 2020, such as the Black Cultural Archives’ call to document the Black Lives Matter protests in the UK, Document! : Black Lives Matter. The Black Cultural Archives together with other panellists representing different initiatives will explore how 2020 is being archived for future generations at the session History in the Making: Archiving 2020 for the future. This year also saw new outreach projects launched to connect people with their local histories. For example, the campaign History Begins at Home, led by the Norfolk County Council’s archive service, was launched to get everyone across the generations to connect with each other during the coronavirus pandemic. Find out more about how local and community historians and associations are reaching out in new ways in our show and tell session New Approaches to Local and Community History

Sign up to join us for History Day 2020 on 19 November 2020, coinciding with the Being Human festival, the UK’s national festival of the humanities. You can view the programme and find out more at the History Collections blog. To receive updates on History Day, subscribe to our mailing list

Bridging the Digital Gap Traineeships Bring New Skills into Archives

Today’s documentary evidence is recorded as a series of 0s and 1s and stored on hard drives and servers. Therefore, archives need technical people and new approaches to capture and preserve these digital records today to ensure they are available in the future.  

Bridging the Digital Gap, the technical traineeship programme from The National Archives, aims to bring in new people with different skills and backgrounds to create a digitally equipped and more diverse workforce. Through these traineeships, talented technical people use their skills to increase archives’ ability to retain and safeguard vital digital materials and to find new ways for others to access the history they record. 

Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the programme involves three cohorts of eight trainees each. Trainees are employed by The National Archives and seconded to a host institution for their 15-month placement. Hosts include local archives and record offices, universities, and charities.  

The first two cohorts of trainees worked at archives in Yorkshire, Norfolk, and London in 2018-2020. The third cohort will be based in London and the South West in 2021-2022.  

While working at their host institution, trainees receive on-the-job training in standard archive practices and digital-specific areas. They are involved in digital preservation, digitisation, digital capture, cataloguing, and digital engagement. 

Depending on the materials in their host archive, trainees have digitised paper-based materials, photographic prints and negatives, films, videotapes, and audiotapes. They have uploaded digital ‘surrogates’ of analogue items to their host’s online catalogue, geo-tagged images on their host’s website, and expanded information about archival films on their host’s YouTube channel. 

Through their training in digital preservation, trainees have learned to ‘ingest’ digital files (text, images, audio, and video) and migrate digital collections into their host’s digital repository, usually Preservica or Archivematica. They have run regular checks to ensure the digital materials are retaining their integrity.   

Some have captured emails and websites for inclusion in the digital archive. Others have made preservation copies of assets on digital media that are becoming obsolete. 

Trainees have written blog posts, tweets, and Instagram stories. One devised an innovative social media campaign in which oral history recordings were linked with subtitled video clips. 

During their paid placement, trainees also take part in a series of training opportunities provided by The National Archives, such as workshops, online courses, and seminars with expert speakers. Each trainee has a personal budget to spend on conferences and courses of their choice. They can also take advantage of member-only benefits from organisations to which TNA belongs, such as the Digital Preservation Coalition and the Open Preservation Foundation.  

Through the programme’s partner, the Archives and Records Association (ARA), trainees receive individual membership and work toward Foundation Membership of ARA during their placement.  

The Bridging the Digital Gap programme enables trainees to develop key skills that prepare them for careers in the heritage sector. Trainees from the first cohort are now employed in digital roles at the British Library, Cambridge University Library, and British Film Institute. 

For more information go to

By Chris Jones, Bridging the Digital Gap project manager, The National Archives