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.

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

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 www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/digitaltrainees

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