PLANNED ENVIRONMENT THERAPY TRUST ARCHIVE AND STUDY CENTRE

Director’s Report to the Trust for the Meeting of 8 February 2005

Covering the period November 2, 2004 - February 4, 2005

 [Context: Responding to financial downturn, and following an unsuccessful major fundraising bid, PETT felt cost-savings were essential and took the decision to make the Archivist/Director redundant, proposing to manage the pared-down Archive facility through volunteers. The Archivist/Director, Craig Fees, was tasked with preparing the Archive for the transition. A.T., mentioned in the report, was originally a volunteer in the Archive, who was subsequently hired as a member of the whole Conference Centre team, including the Archive.]

 

0. Preamble

 

All things being equal, this will be the last, or possibly the penultimate written report that I will make to the full Trust, - the fortieth; and it joins the forty given to the Management Committee since its establishment in 1997, and the other papers and reports on various ideas and issues which I have prepared and been asked to prepare since the Archive and Study Centre was created. Needless to say it has been difficult to write, for many reasons.

 

My aim, as a trustee of various trusts, including one I helped to found (which has recently been awarded a major Lottery grant, he says proudly) has been to prepare the kinds of reports I would wish to be given, raising issues, laying out information in a regular and detailed way, giving the Trustees tools to make informed and effective decisions. But the reports have been a crucial tool for me as well. By and large this has not been one of those Trusts which has governed and guided itself through position papers prepared by Trustees or reports by outside consultants, with orientation packs to situate new Trustees within established policies and background briefs. One learns about the Trust and one’s role in it primarily by taking part in its decision-making, through belonging to and participating in it. In a similar way, the reports I have prepared, and the Trustee’s responses to them, have been crucial in telling me which way the Trust wished to develop; the boundaries of the remit and the nature of my job; what it was happy with, what it would support, how it wanted the Archive and Study Centre to develop. The three main foci of the Archive and Study Centre, for example – therapeutic community for adults, therapeutic community for children and young people, and progressive/democratic/alternative education – came not from a specific policy paper or from me, but directly from Trustees – John Cross and Robert Laslett with David Wills’ papers, Bob Hinshelwood sending me to see Maxwell Jones and David Clark, Robert Laslett liaising with Jonathan Croall about his A.S. Neill papers and, prompted by Jeremy, to see John Lyward. Had the Trust’s composition been slightly different in the early days of the Archive and Study Centre we might have found ourselves concerned even at that point with that class of therapeutic communities which are specifically related to substance abuse.

 

Although the creation of an Archive and Study Centre/Conference Centre is not entirely uncharted territory – there are certainly many models in North America, from roadside pioneer museums to the mammoth Harry Ransom Research Centre in Texas (of which we are a mini-examplar) – the creation of this one has been a bit like a Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Archivist’s/Director’s reports are a kind of record for the sponsors back home of the discoveries being made, and the territory being covered. This report, and possibly the next one, are being written from a position of reflection. The journey is still going on, but the paddles are in. Not entirely, because we haven’t reached the end of the continent yet, and there is a forward current and discoveries still to record for the moment. But the charts are there, and being put into order, to be picked up by another team when and if the time comes (see especially section 6, below).

 


6. Transition

 

6.1 Continuity of Care and Concern

 

The loss of [A.T.] from the overall team was an unexpected set-back. Although not explicitly discussed in these terms - but given the extent of over-subscription among other members of the team, and her role within it - , I had made the assumption that she would be an explicit bridge of knowledge and awareness in the transition, and had been introducing her to procedures and processes, sources of information, locations and rationales, priorities and tasks in hand to enable her to support the transition. Given her interest in archives, and her plans to go on an archive course, she was in many ways an ideal bridging figure.

 

Given the complex and sophisticated nature of the task it will require a qualified archivist to step in and run even a pared-down facility, whether full or part-time; and [A.T.]s presence would have made their life, and the transition, considerably easier. On the bright side, having worked in the Archive before other demands took her away, Maureen Ward fortunately will be able to reconstruct much of it, and much can be re-constructed by a trained person through the various handbooks, logs and registers, and physical logic of the Archive.

 

Having recently spent a day helping to solve and circumvent problems serially thrown up for those working on the new brochure by the computers and software in the office computer network highlighted the need for someone ideally on the day-to-day team with knowledge of the system, the programs on it, the programs needed, and a repertoire of problem-solving knowledge in relation to computers and software generally.

 

6.2 Progress

 

6.2.1 De-Craigifying: taking the ghost out of the machine

a. Personal stuff.

For a time there was a steady use of materials I had gathered for my PhD, both by a Japanese anthropologist and people from Chipping Campden. To make it accessible, I brought it over to the Archive, where it was stored in an upstairs room. When construction began, in anticipation of the Archive disaster of 2000, it was covered in plaster dust, creating a daunting task of assessing and cleaning several hundred tape and video field recordings, as well as a considerable volume of notes and books. Given other demands I set that aside; and added more personal material over time. There wasn’t as much of the latter as I had anticipated, and during the Christmas holidays most of that was simply thrown away or otherwise disposed of. With the help of my children, we also came in during the holidays, cleared the upstairs room of the research materials, cleaned, and began the process of assessing what is there. We have also taken out a personal table used as a work-surface in the Archive office, and placed all my personal material in the emptied small office (the room adjacent to the library stacks) ready for the next holiday bash. In that sense my personal presence has been minimized, contained, and can be dealt with quickly as necessary.

 

b. Making life simpler: Computers

There are three networked computers on the Archive and Study Centre side, each of which has its own history and idiosyncracies. My main computer, for example, will no longer read CDs or floppy disks once the machine is booted (although, fortunately, it will still write CDs), and one has to circumvent this through the capacities of the others. (The potential cost of repair has deterred attempting to have it fixed).

 

As far as the computers go there are two main task in terms of the transition. One is to remove and save onto CD any files which are historical rather than current, or intended either for the archives or the survey (web-sites of different therapeutic communities which we have downloaded, for example). Judging what is no longer current, given changing needs and queries, is not an exact science; but with [A.T.]’s help we set up a CD cataloguing system which should in practice make retrieval of saved material easier, and slow and steady progress is being made on this front. As the computers hold a lot, and as each file has to be assessed, and in some instances translated into other formats, this is a time-consuming process.

 

The other task is to create a folder and file structure on the computers the logic of which is self-evident, simple and comprehensive, so that it is independent of my knowledge of where and how I have filed this or that, or where this or that type of file should be found. The basic outlines are now there, and I think ultimately the system itself will become a kind of tutorial for a new archivist.

 

 

6.2.2 Paring Back

One of the main tasks in preparing for the transition is to pare back the work of the Archive and Study Centre to its core essentials.

 

Although it feels a bit like asset stripping, and something is inevitably lost in the Trust losing its role as an intersection for communication and information, divesting the Archive and Study Centre of tasks which are not central to the management of the archive and library collections is an essential part of the transition strategy.

 

At the beginning of this process several weeks ago the Archive and Study Centre ‘owned’ and managed thirteen email discussion groups and moderated two; it subhosted and/or maintained eight web-sites. By the end of the process the aim is to reduce involvement to one email group, the main responsibility for which however will be borne elsewhere; and three web-sites, two of which will be shared or passive responsibilities.

 

A. Email Groups

At the moment, the situation is as follows:

 

I have closed down the following email groups:

 

 

Created

 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2003

ATC Constitutional reform group. Gone

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2000

ATC journal Editorial Group. Gone

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2002

Editorial group for proposed special issue of the ATC journal dedicated to therapeutic community in North America. Gone

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2003

ATC Training Group. Gone

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2002

CHG Special Interest Group. Gone

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

1998

Society of Archivists Film and Sound Group Committee. Gone

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2003

Gone

 

I have transferred Ownership, and ceased to be Moderator of:

 

Created

 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

1999

Charity Archivists and Records Managers Group. Gone

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2002

CHG Education Directors and Managers Group. Gone

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2002

CHG Finance and Administration Directors and Managers Group. Gone

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2002

CHG Training Directors and Managers Group. Gone

 

I have ceased to be a Moderator (having originally created the group, handing over ‘ownership’ to Sue Matoff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. when I left the Steering Group)

 

Created

 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

1999

Gone

 

At this writing I am still the Owner and/or Moderator of:

 

Created

 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2002

Going

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

1999

Going

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2004

This group was created by Ian Milne as ‘owner’, and should have a number of Moderators to share the burden by the time of the transition. Hold

 

 

B. Web-Sites

ATC: Association of Therapeutic Communities. I created this site in 1999, largely handed it over to Sue Matoff when I left the Steering Group, and took responsibility for it when I was part of the ATC Admin team. Having come off the Admin team, I maintained the job page and some of the directory until recently; but all web-site functions are now being passed to the Admin team. Going.

 

FSG: Society of Archivists Film and Sound Group. I created this web-site in 1998, and have maintained it since. I have spoken with the current Chair of the Group, have sent her a set of the web-site files, and will remove the web-site from our server probably within the next month. Going.

 

CHG: Charterhouse Group of Therapeutic Communities: I created this site in 2000, and have been managing it since. Initially, Charterhouse helped with the costs, but since October 2003 subhosting, Domain renewal and upkeep have come from the Archive budget. John Cross has said that Charterhouse have been given money to update the site, and this therefore seems an opportune time to renegotiate roles and responsibilities, and how the site is hosted and paid for. Although I have not managed to get a response after several emails and a phone call, John will be speaking in person with about the web-site later this week. Whatever the decision about future management, for the purposes of the transition it needs to be transferred from the responsibility of the archivist, taken out the subhosting folder on the Archive web-space, and set up with an independent hosting account of its own. Going.

 

Cassel Hospital: I created the Cassel Hospital site in 1999 as a subhosted account, handing it over to the Cassel in the autumn of 2003. When I received an invoice for the Domain Name I was surprised, but paid it; and was more surprised to receive a hosting account invoice. Chasing this up over the past few weeks has been frustrating and peculiar, the ISP having maintained us on their computer as the owner of the site as well as of the Domain Name, despite a flurry of communication about the transfer back in 2003. The Domain Name has now successfully been transferred to the Cassel, but the account still registers as our responsibility. Going? Gone?

 

Wennington School: We took over the hosting and management of this site in 2003, for which the Wennington Old Scholars Association provides funds as well as content and editorial decision-making. Much of the responsibility for the site therefore rests with the Association, and maintaining it in partnership with the Old Scholars should be a feasible proposition after the transition. Holding

 

TC-OF: Therapeutic Community Open Forum. A transitional web-site, discussed elsewhere. Holding

 

PETT: Planned Environment Therapy Trust. I set up the Pettrust.org.uk web-site for the Trust in 2002, as a subhosted account within pettarchiv.org.uk, created in 1996, where it still remains. It has been a relatively static site, the main creative development being the Barns Conference Centre pages, which I created and re-created as that came on stream; but I have not been actively involved with it since, and assume it will remain separate from the archivist’s duties after the transition. There may be something to be said for changing from subhosting to hosting. Development is being looked at by the Conference Centre Group.

 

PETTARCHIV: Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre: When I set up this site in 1996 the Internet was still a new frontier, a technician had to come out to set up the software, and computer memory was still so expensive that we agreed to cut down the Domain Name and went European with ‘archiv’. Although much of the burden of creating new content and getting the face of the Archive and Study Centre out into the world should be taken on by TC-OF.net, if that proves successful, Pettarchiv.org.uk will remain the warhorse of the Archive and Study Centre’s public face and service, where substantial and enduring materials can go. Hold.

 

 

6.2.3 Going Forward

 

a. Pettarchiv.org.uk

I am grappling with the current web-site design, in an attempt to make the fundraising aspect more obvious and effective, and the overall maintenance easier.

 

b. TC-OF

Some years ago Bob Hinshelwood suggested using the ATC journal to publish annual reports and updates from the Archive and Study Centre, and that same motive fed into the suggestion to create a Joint Newsletter. The labour-intensive nature in both, however, got in the way, although the ephemeralness of the newsletter made it somewhat more successful. One of the purposes of TC-OF, discussed in 1.1 above, apart from being a kind of forward camp for the team coming along, is to make sharing information about accessions and developments more immediate, and therefore easier. Some recent accessions to the Library indicate that it may also be acting as an awareness raising service: bringing materials and the knowledge of them to the Archive, helping us to build collections with the expenditure of less energy and effort on our part. Which would be a good thing.