2014 Arts & Heritage Bursary Reports
very Sherlock Holmes!). Once the photograph was thoroughly described, to improve its search-ability online, I improved the ‘iconography’ which involved tagging concepts such as ‘women at war’ or ‘refugees’. The range of photographs I researched was fascinating and showed me the varied lives of those who experienced the First World War and the importance of this project. I saw photographs of women from my home city Birmingham working in munitions factories, young children who had lost limbs in bombings learning to live again in rehabilitation resorts in the countryside, the evolution of military prosthetics, the trenches and much more. It is great to know that all these stories are now available to the public. Alongside two other volunteers, I also explored some of the unknown objects in the archive’s stacks. The stacks are extremely cold due to temperature control and you have to ensure that you check them to make sure you do not squash anyone when you move them; getting to go in and get objects was like being in a history documentary! Our job was to go through a collection of very dusty boxes which contained objects from the opening of the museum in 1917, and beyond, which had not yet been catalogued. Objects included some of the very first visitor books, brand new photographs never seen before, minutes from the first trustee board meetings and obscure objects like stationary reports and over ten folders of German newspaper cut outs from the Second World War of Nazi officials (we dubbed these the ‘folders of evil’!). Our job was to again decipher these objects, put our information together, group them appropriately and then create an inventory to be sent to the various archives across the organisation to see where the objects best belonged. Doing this has ensured that these objects will finally be available for request by the public; although I’m not sure anyone will want to go through the ‘folders of evil’. Our second mini-cataloguing project was to organise boxes of loose photographs and determine three things; first, were they First World War print duplicates, second, were they First World War agency photographs or from another conflict entirely. Like any organisation, an archive struggles with space and organisation, especially this archive where they are guaranteed a large stream of new objects each year from official sources. Established duplicates were passed to the archive head for removal authorisation and new photographs, which we found, were uploaded to the online collection. Any agency photographs were catalogued via the agency name and photographs from other conflicts were passed to the appropriate expert in the archive.
Finally I was given the task of general materials management. This involved reorganising and keeping track of the quantity of specialist material used for archiving. This gave me an insight into the materials used in this profession, the distributers and how heritage funding is allocated. Overall, my time at the IWMs has given me much food for thought regarding the occupational path I take next. It has also allowed me to build up a range of new skills and abilities I would otherwise not have had the opportunity to develop. But, most importantly, it has shown me the dedication of those who work within heritage to ensure that history, and its lessons, are available to all.
Photo: Locating objects in the stacks at the IWM’s photographs archive
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