Creation and Capture: a module review

Creation and Capture is a core module for the MA in Archives and Records Management (so no escaping it!). The module sought to look at the creation and capture of records and information within organisations in the course of their business, introducing records management approaches and techniques that can be applied to information created, received and used by organisations in a world of rapidly-changing digital technology. It sets records management in a wider risk and compliance context.

The course introduced us to records management and the organisational and technological environments in which records are created, considering the classification of records, together with tools and systems for their creation and capture in a range of organisational settings, taking into account compliance and the place of the retention schedule. We also built our knowledge of managing records in the ‘real world’, including building systems in practice, delivering a records management programme and selling the benefits of a programme.

We had some great guest speakers (highlights include Kimberly Barata, Head of Information Governance & Security at Ricoh Europe PLC, who gave a really engaging lecture on why records manage matters, and Shona Robertson, Head of the Information & Records Management Service at the Houses of Parliament, who talked about designing and implementing records management).

The coursework for the module was a single 4,000-word business report. Based on a fictional scenario, our task was to set out the case for developing and implementing a formal organisation-wide records management strategy for both paper and digital records. The report had to include a justification, risks, key issues for resolution, steps for implementation, and a timeline with key actions for implementation.

Now, at this point I should come clean and say that this was not my favourite module. The teaching and guest lectures were great, and packed full of really useful information and real-life examples, but I find my joy in archives rather than records management, and so I was not as excited or as interested in the subject as I had been in other modules.

Disclaimer: I know and understand that records management is very important!

Now, the coursework. I won’t lie, it was truly terrifying. The idea that I had to write 4,000 words about a subject that I really wasn’t excited by was not something that I looked forward to doing. At all. I changed my fictional scenario more than once, as I found it hard to grasp the notion of exactly what was needed, and how I might go about it. The hardest thing by far was putting the information together in a business report. Other modules (like Concepts and Contexts) had involved writing essays and literature reviews, and prior to starting my MA I had been studying for my BA (which involved writing lots of essays) and so this style of writing was not too hard to get to grips with. Writing a business report was something that, at that point, I had no experience with, and getting to grips with the format and content, together with coming up with the content was really very hard.

But let’s talk positively about the coursework (just for a moment though, let’s not go overboard!) Having the experience of writing a business report in the safety of a learning environment was incredibly useful. This style of writing is something that I should expect to come across and create myself over the course of my career. (In fact, within days of submitting my coursework, I was writing a business report at work. Talk about skill implementation!) I am a tactile learner; I learn by getting stuck in there and trying things out. For me, whilst this particular coursework process was not the most enjoyable enjoyable, it was a really useful experience from which I can directly apply my learning at work.

Yesterday, our grades for this piece of coursework were released. My blood pressure went up, my palms were sweating, I was worried. But I was incredibly thrilled to find out that I had been given a distinction! To say that I was surprised with my grade is somewhat of an understatement, as I’d been hoping to scrape by with a pass (nothing like a bit of pressure to make you write something good, right?) And so there ends the Creation and Capture module, on a high that I was not expecting.




Explore Your Archives 2017

explore-your-archive-primary-message-smallExplore Your Archive is an annual campaign which aims to open up and showcase archive collections. It is jointly coordinated by The National Archives (UK) and the Archives & Records Association for UK and Ireland, and from 18th – 26th November this year, archives of all kinds across the nation will be taking part in the campaign.

Archives across the nation have taken to social media to share some of their collections, and I’ve shared a snippet below…


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Tweet from the Heritage Lottery Fund, @heritagelottery


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Tweet from Barnsley Archives, @BarnsArchives


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Tweet from the National Folklore Collection at University College Dublin


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Tweet from The National Archives (UK), @UkNatArchives


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Tweet from Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, @RCSEdArchive


These are just a handful of the hundreds of great posts that have been shared across Twitter. Check out the hashtag #ExploreArchives over the coming days to see some more examples of fantastic archival collections from around the nation.

Archives are fantastic resources, full of information, knowledge, and experiences not to miss. With four days left of the Explore Your Archive campaign, what will you discover?


Remembering the 50th Anniversary of the Teams of Our Lady

For those who don’t already know, I am solely responsible for the creation of the Teams of Our Lady Transatlantic Super-Regional Archive, a digital archive, comprised of documents and images collated over the last 20+ years. (For information about Teams of Our Lady, please visit either the GB website, or the Transatlantic Super-Regional website).

The 50th Anniversary of Teams in GB

2009 marked the 50th anniversary of Teams of Our Lady in Britain and Ireland, and the event was celebrated with a Mass in Cheltenham. The archive holds the digital copy of the booklet that accompanied the celebrations, provided in the slideshow below.

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The anniversary event took place in Cheltenham where the original Cheltenham 1 team started, with a celebration mass, a shared lunch, presentations by teams members, and a mixed team meeting in the evening.

This item is housed within the GB 50th Anniversary series, and the other items within the series show that a lot of thought and preparation went into the planning of the anniversary. One of the items provides an outline suggestion of a procession of the members of the original team, various readings, and suggested hymns. Some of the other items provides notes from the many preparatory meetings, showing that all manner of issues were planned for well in advance.

The archive can be contacted by e-mail:

ARA London Region Meeting and AGM (September 2017)

Last Wednesday I attended my second ARA London Region AGM/meeting, and it was just as enjoyable as the one I attended last year (which you can read about here). This year featured a panel of archive and conservation professionals from a range of workplaces who took questions from the room. This blog post features a summary of the topics.

Advice for students:

  • Get on board with digital. It’s happening NOW, and you WILL need it. (Absolutely vital piece of advice).
  • Go to the gym, archive work involves lots of manual labour. (This I can absolutely testify to. Anyone who has spent a whole day working on a delivery of thousands of new archive boxes, or who works with heavy collections knows that upper body strength is essential).
  • Take risks and go for things when you’re a student whilst you have the time; join professional interest groups, volunteer at different places etc.
  • Take notice of what people are doing in your archival organisation – how can you help? Being proactive gets you noticed and gets your networking.
  • Make the most of the archive community – they are friendly! The archive community are incredibly helpful and generous with their time: talk to people, follow other archivists on Twitter to see what other people are doing, ask questions, join the Archives & Records Association and its Section for New Professionals.
  • Don’t worry about your MA grades – but make sure you pass! (I cannot stress this enough. Employers will not ask you what grade you got on your coursework, or whether you passed your MA with a pass, merit or distinction!)
  • Don’t forget your people skills! If you are not confident, you can teach yourself to be approachable. Being an archivist is not one of those jobs where you can hide yourself away from people.
  • It’s OK not to know something. No-one enters the profession knowing everything; experience and asking questions helps. There is no such thing as a silly question. (I would argue that a silly question is a question that is never asked!)
  • Management skills are absolutely vital. (Again, yes, I completely agree. UCL’s Record-Keeping Professional module is one of the most helpful modules I have taken so far).
  • You can learn to be good at job applications and interview; practice job interviews will help you get into the right mindset.

Does the archives MA count?

  • Employers are not all about the MA, and experience counts for a lot; your experience and what you have done will stand out. People with more experience may have more drive and may be easier to work with. The nature of this job is changing. Do what is right for now, and what is right for you.

Information about Records Management volunteering opportunities?

  • Records management does not really lend itself to volunteering in the same way that archives do. There are some organisations that will offer internships, but these are few and far between. Some organisations may not have thought about the possibilities of volunteering, so it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Who are the most annoying people to work with?

  • Local authority senior managers – they have a job to do in potentially difficult circumstances; they are not bad people, just trying to do what they can with a hard task and limited resources.
  • Management at senior management level – in an organisation they may not have much knowledge or interest in the archive. Senior management listen to numbers, so talk about your collection in terms of numbers. This is not what we are used to, as we tend to have an emotional attachment to the stuff, but this is something we need to learn to be good at. Use the RAG (red, amber or green) traffic light system when communicating. It’s an easy way to highlight to senior management where things are going well or not going so well, and you can infer your own meaning into the system.



The 2017 ARA Conference: Day 3

At this point, please forgive me, as I completely neglected to take notes in all but one of the talks that I attended. However, I found this particular talk so interesting (and potentially very useful for an upcoming project), that I would like to dedicate this short blog post to that one talk in the Conservation stream…


Emily Hick, Special Collections Conservator at the Centre for Research Collections (CRC) at the University of Edinburgh, gave a great talk about carrying out conservation work by crowdsourcing from the pool of students at the University. The project was to rehouse part of a significant collection which was in a poor condition over the space of two days. The project would reduce the time it would take for the conservators to rehouse the collection; it would provide conservation experience and generate student engagement, and it would promote the archive and the need for preserving the historic collections.

The important points:

  • To ensure a good staff-to-student ratio during the rehousing, Emily stressed the importance of briefing more staff on the project and processes too, so that there was appropriate supervision and guidance for those taking part throughout the experience.
  • To spend a significant time planning the project, risk assessing the situation, developing a timetable, and ensuring all necessary materials and equipment are ready. Planning and risk assessments are great for management buy-in
  • Create training resources and guidelines for the volunteers; provide detailed training before starting the project, and including on-the-spot re-training if an unexpected situation occurs or where necessary
  • When sourcing the ‘crowd’, seeking anyone who has an interest in archive and/or the collections, and not simply asking for for anyone with previous experience or conservation qualifications
  • Over-booking the volunteers, as volunteer-driven projects often have a number of people who drop-out or who can’t make it on the day
  • Provide refreshments and breaks! Keep the volunteers motivated and give something back as a thank you for participating
  • Gathering as a group and talking about the project periodically to ensure that the volunteers are aware of what they are doing, why they are doing, and to discuss any issues and successes – celebrate the wins!
  • Supervise and check the work of the volunteers
  • Think about the growth of the collection and plan for the collection take up more space on the shelving once the collection has been rehoused

Crowdsourcing and Volunteering

I don’t think that crowdsourcing has been spoken about much in archives, but volunteers in archives are a form of crowdsourcing, without the crowdsourcing label. What there has been some discussion of is the use of volunteer labour to do the work of archivists. I’ve been in both situations. I’ve been a volunteer, and I’m currently an archivist. If it wasn’t for the possibility of volunteering, then I probably would not be doing what I’m doing now. Volunteering allowed me to experience an archive and gain experience, to see what archivists do, to get my hands on records, and to value the importance of preserving records and making information accessible. I didn’t for one moment resent the fact that I wasn’t getting paid (although I’d happily accept tea and biscuits). I saw it as an opportunity, and was very grateful for those who allowed me to develop my skills whilst volunteering. Now, as an archivist, if I was ever in a position or organisation where I could take on some volunteers, I would do so to provide experience and opportunities to those who wanted to learn, and not exploit them for free labour.


The 2017 ARA Conference: Day 2

Day 2: a keynote speech, the Archives & Records stream, and the ARA


Beautiful view across Manchester from my 14th floor hotel room

The keynote speech for Day 2 of the 2017 Archives & Records Association Conference was delivered by Elizabeth Denham, the UK Information Commissioner. He role balances the access to information, and the protection of privacy. A tough balancing act.

Denham set out her views on the importance of access to information, the duty to document and the opportunities and challenges digital presents to information management. She quoted Arthur Doughty “of all national assets, archives are the most precious”. Denham said that in the context of information rights, it’s the message that counts not the medium. He speech reinforced the need for good records management and digital preservation – that the truth is in the details, and if we we can find the details more easily, so much the better, and that we have a duty to document our decisions about preserving digital materials. (For a full summary of Denham’s keynote, check out Jon Elliott’s summary here).

“Of all national assets, archives are the most precious”

I spent the morning of Day 2 in the Archives and Records Stream. The first talk I attended was ‘What’s in a name: archivists, recordkeepers, or information governance leaders – where are we heading’, by Dr Elizabeth Lomas (who is also one of my MA lecturers at UCL). Lomas touched on the old view of archivists as ‘gatekeepers of the past’, perceived as a boundary to access, the desire of the 1990s to connect the archivists and records managers, and the influence of the ‘networked age’ on the professions. Lomas said that ‘record keeper’ is not a sexy name – I’d have to agree. She pondered whether we are information governance professionals, identifying a ‘turf war’ over who should be delivering in this space – archivists, records managers, lawyers, IT? Information governance recognises information as an asset, and we are moving to a world of multiple stakeholders. Lomas argued that we want to be at the heart of this domain, that there are no hard and fast boundaries to professional identity, and that no one person will have the entire skills set.

“Recordkeeper is not a sexy name”

The next session in the Archives and Records stream for me was ‘We are all heritage professionals now… Should archivists and curators remain as separate professions?”, featuring talks from Charlotte Berry, Adrian Steel, and Iain Watson. For me, this question was a no-brainer. Archivists and curators should remain as separate professions, because  whilst there are some similarities and shared skills, the professions are very distinct and have separate skills and knowledge, and there should be specialists in each profession. However, whilst I believe that the two should remain separate professions, there is no reason why the two cannot also be identified under the much broader term of heritage professionals. But hey, that’s just my opinion.

Berry spoke from an archivist’s point of view, arguing that ‘professional flexibility is key’, the professions have big differences, and these differences should be celebrated. She also noted that the non-archival heritage professions are more flexible in terms of entry routes into the profession. This flexibility is something that the archival profession is aware of, but I feel that we have been slow to embrace a flexibility into the profession, and that a postgraduate degree is still seen as a gold standard. Steel spoke as the Director of The Postal Museum (newly re-opened)! Steel said that archivists are trained to be detached from the record, focussing on preserving and enabling access, and leaving others to research and interpret the record. Whereas, curation is usually done in reference to a particular theme or story. Steel’s view was that there was a need for both professions as they are both equally valid, but that both archivists and curators need to improve on some skills. Finally, Watson spoke from the role of Director of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, and suggested that maybe the terms ‘archivist’ and ‘curator’ have become meaningless to the user, as they could be seen to be inward-looking. My favourite quote from this session has to be ‘bad archivists create hiding aids’.

“Bad archivists create hiding aids”

I spent my afternoon in workshops  about the Archives & Records Association in action: the qualifications accreditation panel, and the new CPD programme. Dr Margaret Turner spoke to us about the Qualifications Accreditation Panel, and how they need help from the archives profession. The ARA is one of few professional associations to accredit postgraduate archival education programmes, and they have a rolling programme of visits to the currently accredited postgraduate courses and potential courses to review ad provide guidance on the content and its suitability to the profession. I feel that it is important to have the postgraduate qualifications accredited. As a student currently attending an accredited postgraduate course in Archives & Records Management at UCL, I feel reassured by the qualification accreditation.

Chris Sheridan spoke to us about the ARA’s new CPD programme. He reminded us that qualifications become dated over time, and the need to advance and enhance our careers by reflecting on our knowledge and applying it to the workplace. The new CPD programme will be replacing the old registration scheme, and will be based around gaining competencies in a range of areas, with three levels of attainment: Foundation, Registration, and Fellowship, with re-validation every 5 years. The new Programme is something that I amorally interested in, and I’m looking forward to getting started.

Gala Dinner!

Day 2 ended with drinks and a gala dinner for the delegates. The highlights for me had to be the frangipane pudding, catching up with past colleagues, and getting to know some of the other records professionals at the conference. My dancing skills are not currently at their peak, so a small breakaway sub-group (myself included) popped upstairs to the hotel’s beautiful 23rd floor bar, with amazing views across Manchester. You want to know what archivists do when they’re let loose? They drink cocktails!


The ‘breakaway sub-group’ having cocktails in the Cloud 23 bar,                                                     with beautiful views of Manchester at night.



The 2017 ARA Conference: Day 1

‘Challenge the past, set the agenda’

This year’s Archives & Records Association conference was hosted in Manchester, at the Deansgate Hilton Hotel – snazzy!


The conference had different strands for Archives and Records, Conservation, and Digital, and delegates could chose to attend a range of presentations, talks and workshops from across the strands. There was a huge amount of choice which made picking your sessions incredibly hard. (This is obviously not a bad thing, so credit to Andrew Nicholl and the Conference Organising Committee for putting together a fantastic programme). Day 1 for me was spent at the morning’s keynote speech and a panel session in the archives and records strand in the morning, and four different talks from the digital strand in the afternoon.

The keynote speech for day 1 was delivered by Dr Alan Billings, Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire. He spoke about the connection between the archive and social justice, connecting his speech to the miners’ strike 1984-1985, and the pivotal ‘battle of Orgreave’ in June 1984. Alan spoke of archivists as ‘heroes of the people’, the need for truth, and records as essential to identity, trust and healing amongst those involved. For the archivist tasked with cataloguing the Orgreave archive, there was a powerful message of trust in police record keeping, and trust in the archivist in maintaining the public’s trust; narratives of truth depend on an understanding of the archive, and the archivist must therefore be seen as impartial, and perceived as a trustworthy person by both the police and the public.

The Archives and Records panel session I attended in the morning included speakers Professors Luciana Duranti and Victoria Lemieux from the University of British Columbia, and Professor Giovanni Mitchetti from Sapienza University of Rome. The session was titled ‘Globalisation and the Archive Profession’, and the speakers spoke from the perspectives of professional associations, standards, and education. Duranti spoke about identity – individual, professional, organisations, social, and cultural – as being one of the most acclaimed yet most endangered concepts. Professional association identity, she noted, is a paradox. It is both collective and individual, it is both inward and outward looking, it is both defining and defined by culture, and it is enduring and dynamic. Identity is a process of small incremental creeps of change in what we do, how we do it, and why we do it – “change as a recognition of survival and growth”. Mitchetti spoke about issues with a global archive profession, as we are unable to attain a consistent definition of the archival profession due to inconsistent definitions of the activities and functions that make up the profession. Finally, Lemieux spoke about the need for a ‘transdiscipline’, a trend towards computational archival science as a discipline, which she identifies as already in progress, due to the increased technological knowledge amongst archivists infiltrating archival education programmes. With an interest in exploring the archival professional identity, I was pleased to see this themes raised. Professional association development and the influence of digital are usually linked to discussions about the archival professional identity, but I had not considered how inconsistent the language and definitions of the standards relating to archives are. These combined themes are definitely areas to read around further.

My afternoon in the Digital stream was split between hearing about web archiving, and records management.

In the web archiving sessions we heard from Jason Webber from the Web Archiving team at the British Library, and Maria Ryan, Joanna Finnegan and Della Keating from the National Library of Ireland (NLI). Webber spoke about the challenges and opportunities of archiving the UK web due to their ephemeral nature, and the limitations of archiving only the UK web which does not require a log-in. With this point brought to my attention. The ladies from the NLI spoke about their experience of web archiving in Ireland. It was interesting to hear that they were leading the web archiving from a Library, and one of the Irish speakers noted that “the only constant is change, or is that convergence?” – their experience has showed that a convergence of library and archival professionals is essential for web archiving.

In the Digital records management sessions we heard from Meic Pierce Owen from the Perth and Kinross Council, and Professor Sherry Li Xie from the Renmin University of China. Owen spoke about the digital wonderland landscape and the opportunities it offers to archivists and records managers, but he questioned whether the two are viewed from the outside as a strange partnership, or as difference, separate, with different needs and different perspectives. Xie spoke about human roles bring replaced by Artificial Intelligence, and whether we will be replaced by robots. Whilst I think that Xie is right in noting that we have never been serious about technological unemployment – being replaced by machines – I was very surprised to hear that a 2013 Oxford study on automation suggests that there is a 76% chance that archivists will be replaced by robots in the future. In my mind, ‘AI’ stands for ‘Archival Intelligence’, and I don’t think that is something that can be replaced by robots any time soon.

Day 1? Really interesting to see the kinds of topics that the speakers had brought to the conference on the theme of challenging the past and setting the agenda. I for one certainly want to challenge the possibility of being replaced by a robot! I do think that the archival community is a global community, but I do agree that we need to seek cohesive statements or definitions about our functions and activities.




Back to school: what’s coming up!

Over the following academic year, I have three core modules and one optional module left to complete. The Creation and Capture core module focusses on the creation and capture of records and information within organisations in the course of their business, and records management approaches and techniques that can be applied to information created, received and used by organisations in a world of rapidly-changing digital technology. The Curation and Stewardship core module deals with the issues and activities involved in maintaining authentic and usable records over time and through change, identifying the vulnerability of the physical and virtual record, and to develop the knowledge and build skills to ensure that such records are maintained and that the risks to them are properly addressed and managed. The Access and Use of Archives and Records core module reviews the changing concept of ‘access’ to records and archives within the context of UK government policies and international developments, technological developments, cross-sectorial collaboration and community-based archive initiatives. The optional module that I would like to take – Collections Care – analyses in greater detail the challenges inherent in preservation management, conservation programming and the collection needs of library and archival material to include both photographic media and digital records.

Most of the students in my intake last year were full-time students who were completing their MA in a year. However, there were a handful of others in the year-group who had chosen the two-year part-time route like me, so it will be great to catch-up and see how they are. We’ll be sharing modules with this year’s intake, so there will be lots of new people to meet and experiences to hear about. I’m not worried about going back, but fingers crossed that I haven’t lost any essay-writing skills!

It’s going to be another year of hard work, even more so now that I will be fitting in my uni work around my job as an archivist. Looking back on the first year, I think I’ve set myself up pretty well, so I’m excited to start rather than feeling nervous. As for s dissertation? That’s a subject for another day.



Getting ready for the final year of my MA

With the final lecture of my first year back in April and the exam in May, September, and the start of my second year, seemed a long way off. But, September is fast approaching, so I’ve been getting myself back into the swing of all things university.


I really enjoyed the first year of my MA. Sure, there might have been a few tiny, short, and oh-so insignificant moments of ‘why did I chose to do this’, and ‘no-one needs to know this much theory’, and ‘there is not enough coffee’, but on the whole, I loved it. Mainly because I was finally studying something I cared about and wanted to do, and when you care about something you’re studying, it makes life that much easier.


Considering how much I was worrying about exam and somehow managed to pass (with merit!), I’m feeling less pressured going into my final year than I was at the start of the first year, but we all know that if you do not study, you shall not pass! So, I’m cracking the whip and getting on with a bit of reading and research in advance. Hey, it can’t help to start early, right? Plus, starting early means that I also have time to Google for appropriate study-themed memes, and we all love a good meme.


So, this sunny Saturday, when I could have been out and about enjoying London whilst it’s finally sunny again, I took myself off to the UCL Science Library to immerse myself in books, and boy did I choose the best day for it. The archives library room was quiet, lots of free desks to choose from, and blissfully cool. If you’ve ever visited the room during term time, you know that this would not be the case. I searched the library catalogue, selected books from the shelf, and enjoyed a very productive afternoon of research and note-taking. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed being on campus and in the postgrad mentality. The only downside was choosing a stack of the heaviest books imaginable to bring home and peruse over the coming weeks.

Armed with some research material, I finished off a great day of studying by taking myself off to my favourite Portuguese café for a large glass of white. Who knew research could be so civilised!


Contact: learning

The Teams Archive Collections: Trinidad & Tobago

The Teams Archive Collections is a new series of blog posts for 2017. This series explores the different collections held by the Archive, and sheds some light on the life of Teams.

For those who don’t already know, I am solely responsible for the creation of the Teams of Our Lady Transatlantic Super-Regional Archive, a digital archive, comprised of documents and images collated over the last 60 years. (For information about Teams of Our Lady, please visit the links at the bottom of the page).

Teams in Trinidad and Tobago

‘Trinidad & Tobago is a country in the West Indies comprising of two islands, and is close to the coast of Venezuela. A former British colony, the main language is English. Back in 1983, a priest from Trinidad read about Teams, and thought it would be good for married couples in his parish, and wrote asking how to set a Team up. The first team was piloted by post, by Jim and Theresa Pratt, who lived in the North East of England. The number of Teams increased over the years, and eventually Trinidad and Tobago became a region’.

(Antony and Janet Denman, Northampton St. Thomas team).

The Trinidad and Tobago Collection

I have a bit of a personal connection as I have had the opportunity to visit Trinidad and Tobago twice whilst my parents attended International Gatherings there. The islands are amazing: beautiful beaches, fantastic Caribbean climate, wonderful food, and lovely people.

The collection is made up of material relating to the history of Teams in Trinidad and Tobago, minutes from regional team meetings in Trinidad and Tobago, and regional reports. The collection has been catalogued and digitised in its entirety, according to ISAD-G, the International Standard for Archival Description, and has been arranged into 3 series:

  1. Historical material
  2. Minutes
  3. Reports

The archive would welcome the opportunity to expand the Trinidad and Tobago collection, and can be contacted by e-mail:

Contact the blog:



Teams GB:

Teams Transatlantic:

Equipes Notre-Dame:

Young Teams of Our Lady: