Internship Blog Post – Sarah Beattie

I am just over halfway through my internship at Reading Museum, and I’m really enjoying the experience so far.  Having always loved history, and particularly the way that objects are able to bring it to life, I am hoping to make my career in museums, and the experience I have gained at Reading has been invaluable.

Sarah blog photo

My main role is helping Sophie, Project Officer, with the digitization of the Berkshire Chronicle collection. As Sophie mentioned in her previous post, she has selected over 2000 images highlighting key themes in the collection, and we have spent the last month scanning these and adding the images to our internal database. This in itself has been valuable for the museum, as now these photographs can be viewed without having to touch the delicate glass plate negatives, but I am very excited to move into the next phase: shortlisting the most interesting images and researching the stories behind them, with the aim of making them accessible to the public in an online catalogue. We will be scouring microfilm copies of the Berkshire Chronicle to match the photographs with their stories, as well as conducting wider research on the people and places of Reading, and I’m really looking forward to finding out more about the images we have been working with.

As well as great images of evacuees and landgirls, local events ranging from school sports days to galas at the Town Hall, and famous faces such as Enid Blyton and Alec Guinness, there have also been lots of images of the quirkier side of Reading life – a cow on the loose in a shoeshop, nuns performing synchronized exercises and Father Christmas arriving by helicopter, to name just three!  It is amazing to be part of making these images, many of which have not been seen for over 50 years, available to the public. The online catalogue should be a great resource for anyone interested in the history of Reading, or 20th century history in general, and I’m sure Sophie will keep you up to date with progress on the project.

When I am not helping with the Chronicle project, the staff at Reading Museum have been incredibly helpful and generous with their time in letting me get involved with many aspects of museum work, from leading store tours for Heritage Open Day to helping with the installation of the museum’s upcoming portrait exhibition ‘Making Faces: Tudor to Modern’. I have developed skills in marking objects, store cleaning and environmental monitoring, handling and packing objects and working with the museum database, which I’m hoping will be really useful in my future career.



Trip to the ARA Conference 2013

Recently the three archivists on the project attended a day of the Archives and Records Association annual conference in Cardiff, which had the theme of ‘Accountability, Culture & Ethics’.

The key note speaker was Dr Jones Lukose Ongalo, Head of Records and Archives at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Born in the digital era in 2002 the ICC functions as an ‘eCourt’ where evidence, including objects, is digitised to be accessed electronically during trials. Ongalo spoke about how the changing role of records and archives management in this digital culture, with particular relation to the questions of preservation and accountability, a topic which is extremely relevant to archives today facing the advent  of managing ‘born digital’ records.

ARA Conference 2013

One particular talk that stood out was that of Michael Jones, Senior Research Archivist with the University of Melbourne’s eScholarship Research Centre. Jones introduced the web resource Find&Connect, which helps Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants find out about their past by bringing together resources about Australian institutional care. Find&Connect are extremely user focused and are utilising user testing as means to create a web interface that is easy to navigate. This focus made me stop and think about our own websites at MERL. Hopefully users find our new A-Z pages helpful in creating access to our collections and I would be interested to hear people’s thoughts.

Overall it was an exciting day and we all came away with lots to think about. It reminded us of the importance of archives as evidence in the accountability of organisations, and our own ethical responsibilities as the people that manage these records to ensure they are available for generations to come.