5. Archive Diary: September/October 2016
As lone-archivist working goes, it has been a busy time.
- A huge thanks to Bob Lawton, for another selfless day of volunteering in the Archive; and thanks too to Jenna Page, just starting her master's in history at Reading, who gave a significant morning of help in cataloguing.
- Many thanks to Trustee John Moorhouse. Throughout the course of this year he has worked assiduously to develop our digital storage capacity, and reconfigure the system accordingly. We now have an additional 2 TB-plus of RAIDed capacity, plus greater administrative control over the workings of the system itself.
- Which has led to a major piece of ongoing work involving all of the Archive's computers, and the expanded digital store, in a movement of files and folders which would give a stop-action film of London rush-hour traffic seen from above and multiplied ten times over a run for its money: hundreds of thousands of files and folders have been examined; tens of thousands of duplicates have been deleted; thousands have been moved, to use the new storage capacity more effectively and systematically. Still ongoing. Roll on December.
- And ongoing thanks to Belinda Boyes, who is re-cataloguing the Mulberry Bush children's files as part of the British Academy funded University of East London/PETT project on Hawkspur Camp and Mulberry Bush School files; and to Helen Moore, patiently cataloguing shelves of publications towards the National Child Care Library project.
- The annual Finchden Manor Old Boys' reunion took place in London on the 18th of September. Following on from the Finchden Archive Weekends at PETT during the year, Craig took advantage of the invitation to take part, arriving late, but into a warm and welcoming group. Finchden was/is a real community, and no two of its members has the same view of it, nor of its Chief, George Lyward, nor of their experience - and that fullness, whether of negativity or love or everything else that makes a living community what it is - gives a sense of powerful vitality to something which formally closed over 40 years ago. Plus music.
- The Archive created a new website, and in mid-October hosted a semi-residential but all-day Witness Seminar event devoted to the Phoenix Unit at Oxford's Littlemore Hospital - a therapeutic community unit which flourished under the aegis of the hospital's initially-new Physician Superintendant Bertram Mandelbrote from the late 1950s to the 1990s. Over twenty nurses, doctors, occupational therapists, art therapists, and students from across the lifespan of the Unit came together in two small group and one large group witness sessions, and plenaries, having earlier uploaded memories and reflections, and post-Phoenix CVs (it had an extraordinary influence on careers) to the website.
- Hot on the heels was an event devoted to the early years of New Barns School, with shared memories by founders, and early adults and children, followed by a celebration of artist Tom Lal, a much-loved presence at the school who died earlier this year. A high-caste Brahmin whose family home and legacy in Lahore was lost in the Partition of India in 1947, Tom ultimately came with a friend to England, where he discovered his love of creating images and sculptures, and of reclaiming thrown-away things into works of art.
- And hot on those heels was the celebration of the inaugural Founders Day at the Pestalozzi International Village Trust (PIVT) in Surrey on October 24th. From 1959 to 1965, The Pestalozzi Children's Village became home to Eurpoean children whose lives had been dominated and defined by World War II and its aftermath, including the surprisingly long-lived Displaced Persons Camps which survived well into the 60s. With the transformation of the Trust and its mission in the course of the 1960s, those early children lost their home, the Children's Village reorganised itself into PIVT, and the Trust itself gradually lost connection to its heritage. The dynamic Early Pestalozzi Children Project has helped to reawaken awareness of its inspiring roots, and on the 24th PIVT embraced its heritage with the institution of an annual Founders Day. Portraits of founders Mrs. Mary Buchanan and Dr. Henry Alexander, and other signficant figures, were hung in the new International Building, and Len Clarke and Will Eiduks of the Early Pestalozzi Children Project addressed current Pestalozzi students, staff, trustees, members of the local community, and a number of fellow Early Pestalozzi Children, having been introduced by PETT Archivist Craig Fees. Food followed. Embracing heritage, with all its negativities and joys, is a major stimulant for growing.
- Followed by an all-day Archive, Research and Strategic Thinking day at Braziers Park in Oxfordshire as part of a Wider Community Weekend, which included an evening talk by Barbara Witemeyer of New Mexico on the life and work of Ernest Thompson Seton - an inspiration for Baden Powell of Boy Scout fame, and countless others for whom a direct relationship with the natural evironment became an essential element in building relationships within and among individuals and communities.
- As well as responding to queries and requests for files,hosting several researchers, troubleshooting and upgrading websites, and all the usual background stuff that goes on in an archive, the Archive has taken in over two dozen new archive accessions, made 20 new audio recordings (not quite as impressive as it might at first appear, as some of those are simultaneous recordings - failsafe back-up simultaneous recordings), and loaned the equipment for another oral history interview; digitised 87 sides of audiocassette and reel to reel tape recordings in the Dennie Briggs Collection, as well as 4 sides from another; generated 54 scans of documents; and took 176 photographs documenting events and places.
As mentioned in the last newsletter, the Archive will be closed during December to help make inroads into the backlogs of tasks which build up when things are as busy as they have been over the past two months; at the end of an intensely busy year.
Hand in hand with the Archive's December closure is the annual cry for help from the Archivist: Craig Fees writes:
- "Please let me know if I promised to do something I haven't; or if you've emailed, written or phoned and had no response...Without a secretary or assistant, I have no one else to blame, and am extremely grateful for the kindness and gentleness of reminders and, more importantly, the reminders themselves".