4. A busy time in the Archive
Reflecting on the past, looking ahead, and preparing the future take a surprising amount of time, especially if you have a full plate in the present! Here is some of the feast that has been on the table over the past four months:
An immensely rewarding time!
- Grendon oral history project. It has been 55 years since HMP Grendon opened as what is still Europe's only all-therapeutic community prison. For its first 20 or so years (there was a difficult interregnum after the second Medical Director, Dr. Jillett, died unexpectedly) it was a Medical-led establishment. In a radical change, from 1984 it has been led by a prison service Governor. All five Governors who have served since 1984 are alive, well, and active, and at the instigation of the first - Michael Selby - we have been invited to carry out a series of targetted oral history interviews with each. It is under-way! What a wonderful learning experience, and - rather pleasingly, from a cricket aesthetic point of view -, the interview with current Governor Jamie Bennett was number CF1234.
- Additions to the oral history collections. The Grendon recordings contributed to a total of 28 new recordings added by the Archive to the collections during this period. We now have well over 3,000 audio and video recordings in the oral/visual history collections. Archivist Craig Fees's contribution to this is currently four shy of 1,400, divided between oral history interviews proper, recordings of events and occasions, and occasional simultaneous recordings of events (especially in big rooms, with recording devices placed at either end).
- Researchers and Visitors.
- The longest-travelled researcher during this period was Lisa Farley of Canada's York University, who spent several days with us, and with Barbara Dockar Drysdale, Squiggle Foundation recordings, and things Winnicott generally. Caryn Onions of the Mulberry Bush School visited the collections, as did Cynthia Cross and Charles Sharpe, and officers of the Metropolitan Police.
- We always look forward to the now-annual retreat of the Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile (please check out their website HERE), who shared more than a week with us this time; the Wennington School Old Scholars Association Committee shared part of a weekend with us, and the Association's liaison with PETT, Richard Schofield, visited more recently; Joan Pritchard, former Chair of SEBDA, brought the new Chair, David Colley, to see the place and to meet the Archive and Study Centre; Diana Menzies and Kingsley Norton gave us an overnight visit to pilot a future Henderson Hospital Archive Event; and HMP Send's Vicky Gavin and her husband Stephen dropped in with Carolyn Mears (with thanks to Stephen for the photographs with this newsletter!).
- Former assistant archivist Matt Naylor spent 10 days here digitising audio and photographic materials from the Institute of Our Lady of Mercy archives (see webpage link above).
- Caldecott Archive Week. One of the richest Caldecott Archive Weeks yet - they continue to grow and teach in so many ways. Recordings, scans, cataloguing, transcribing, enriching our world.
- Funerals and celebrations. For Caldecott's James King in Kent, PETT's John Cross in Gloucestershire, New Barns's Liz Lal in Warwickshire, and Caldecott's Bob Lawton in Wales. Emotionally it has been a tough year.
- Learning and Discovery. But of course it has also been a learning time. Assistant Archivist Jen Galloway has expanded her repertoire of knowledge through a Fundraising Workshop and a Preventing Pests Workshop, and she and Archivist Craig Fees both attended Gloucestershire Archive's groundbreaking Child Care Records Conference. Craig also had two days in Edinburgh with the annual meeting of tutors for Dundee University's Centre for Archive and Information Studies.
- Ending with a bang: Oral History Events at PETT and Birmingham University.
- We took advantage of a precious visit by PETT Fellow Carolyn Mears to hold two oral history events around traumatic experience and oral history theory and practice generally. Under the auspices of the Oral History Society's Psycho-Social Therapies and Care Environments Special Interest Group we held a one-day seminar at PETT, with psychiatrist and Squiggle Foundation Director Adrian Sutton, Carolyn Mears, psychiatrist and PhD student Tom Harrison, archivist Craig Fees, and (by video link from London), oral historian and broadcaster Alan Dein: very lively, trenchant, and successful.
- Carolyn was then the key-note speaker on the following day, in a day-long seminar on oral history held in the post-graduate centre at the University of Birmingham. The seminar was elegantly organised by Kanako Kuramitsu of the School of History and Cultures at Birmingham University, chaired by Tom Harrison, with Prof. Jonathan Reinarz, Prof. Sabine Lee, and Craig Fees as discussants. Kanako presented on her experience in interviewing children born of consensual relationships between Japanese fathers and Chinese mothers during the Japanese occupation of China during the long Second World War, and her colleague in the Children Born of War Network, Lisa Haberkern, presented her experience of interviews in relation to a displaced persons camp in Poland.