How much the profession has changed in the last 30 years!
Let's go back well before the emergence of an organised community archives movement with the formation of the Community Archives and Heritage Group in 2006 (while celebrating their more recent uplift into formal recognition by the Archives and Records Association!). And then us go back even further, the better part of a decade before the formation in 1996 of CHARM, the Charity Archivists and Records Managers Group.
When the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre sprang to life back in 1989, membership in the Society of Archivists was closed to us. Fortunately, both the British Records Association and the Society of American Archivists (!) were welcoming, and we benefited from their resources and a sense of collegial enterprise.
Even worse, in a more practical way - for a neonate charity archive not even at the fledgling stage, which was trying to achieve the highest possible archival standards from the outset -, none of the archival equipment suppliers in those pre-Internet days would give us an account or, indeed, the time of day: we were too new, too unknown, too eccentric to the established models of archive institutions to be taken seriously, barring turning up at the door with cash in hand, quite literally. The exception was Mark Vine at Conservation Resources UK.
He could be prickly, but Mark knew his stuff and listened; worked with our novelty, and the financial peculiarities of a small charity; and helped us to become established. He played a key role then and thereafter.
Mark was a conservator by profession, and apart from giving us a hand-up and a break, was an immensely helpful and knowledgeable guide to processes and procedures. The technical section of the Archive's early professional library was stocked in large part from his recommendations; and if you went to one of his road shows, or visited the company's old Pony Road premises in Oxford, he would usually take all the time and care you needed, to explain materials and the conservation principles behind them. The Conservation Resources product catalogues came with a lengthy and detailed introduction to paper management in particular, which was a reference work in its own right: It had nothing obvious to do with sales, and everything to do with building an informed and educated client base. I shared it with more than one prospective donor, to help them understand the care, thinking and costs that would go into storing and looking after their papers.
As a side-light: When the Society of Archivists' Film and Sound Group sought commercial sponsorships to help us with the Society's 50th anniversary oral history project, "Celebrating Memory: An oral history of the Society of Archivists and its members", Mark was the only one we approached who responded: Conservation Resources generously funded recording equipment, which we were able to loan out and spread the project. Mark himself had fascinating memories and experiences, which he shared over the phone but never recorded; perhaps something retrospective is possible, if only in interviews with those who worked with him.
Mark Vine left Conservation Resources somewhere around 2007, but there has been a remarkable continuity in the people there - Pam, Sandra, John, Sean - , and a corresponding continuity in the sense of personal attention, support, and working-with to find solutions. A great big thank you to Mark for those critical early days of trust, belief, respect, and support; and a great big thank you for the Conservation Resources team today, who were part of that early time of necessary welcome and generosity, which helped the Archive and Study Centre past even the fledgling stage, and into flight. A gift you probably didn't know you were giving, and in your care continue to give.
Conservation Resources boxes in action.