Volunteering at the University of Northampton Archive Part 1: the College of Education Collection

Starting Out in Archives

My first experience of an archive was when I first started volunteering at the University of Northampton Archive (UON) back in 2012. I spent a few months volunteering for one morning a week alongside my full-time job as a Team Supervisor in a call centre. I didn’t enjoy the call centre work (it was only meant to be temporary) and so I’d gone in search of something more exciting. I spent my time at the archive working on the College of Education collection, some of which had already been catalogued by another member of staff. The series within the collection included committee minutes, College publications and prospectuses, and a large scrapbook of photographs and newspaper clippings. My task was to work through the various series, remove metal and plastic content (staples, paperclips and poly pockets) and update the online catalogue down to item level using the Archon cataloguing system.

In 2013 I applied for an Archive Assistant role at the Heritage Motor Centre (now the British Motor Museum), and was successful (yippee), although being a full-time role, it meant that I had to leave the UON archive. I worked in my new full-time Archive Assistant role for almost a year and a half before returning to the University of Northampton to finish my undergraduate history degree. Gaining the degree meant that I had the necessary qualification in order to apply for an MA in Archives & Records Management, which I am now studying at University College London.

Whilst back at Northampton for my undergraduate degree, I also returned to the archive to take up my volunteer role in the archive once again. The College of Education project that I had previously worked on had been left untouched, so I continued to work through it, providing basic conservation and adding the remaining items to the online catalogue. The last item I worked on in this collection was a large scrapbook that was put together by members of the College during 1971-1975. The scrapbook is full of newspaper clippings, photographs, student magazines and programmes for student shows and performances. This is my favourite item in the collection. It’s a really lovely item to flick through, and it provides a great insight into the activities of the College in the early 1970s (and some of the haircuts can be quite amusing!)


Not just a great item to look at, the scrapbook provided an opportunity to learn more about Conservation. The metal and plastic content had to be removed, just like the other series in the collection, but the scrapbook was held together as a large booklet, with three big metal pins holding the pages together. These metal pins had to be removed in order to prevent rust further affecting the item. Inside the scrapbook were some further issues to be appropriately dealt with. The items put into the scrapbook were glued in, and as the glue had degraded over time, some of the newspaper clippings had peeled away from the pages and had become loose. To prevent these clippings from becoming lost or damaged, they were placed in Melinex pockets, but kept in the same page of the scrapbook that they had originated. Some of the clippings had only partly come away, and if I had tried to pull the newspaper away from the page they could have ripped and become damaged. In this case, they were left as they were. The scrapbook is stored flat on a shelf in the archive, and access is monitored in the reading room, so in turn, the condition of the scrapbook and its contents can also be monitored.

The next project I worked on was the Northamptonshire Grammar School collection. Pop back soon to hear about the excitement and complications of 1980s technology.

Many thanks to the Records Manager for allowing me to write some blog posts about my experience.

If you would like to know more about the College of Education collection, or any of the other collections held by the University of Northampton’s Archive, then please visit the archive website.


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