Exploring York and York Exploring

I’ve been at City of York Council for a month now, so what have I been doing? Well, my main focus has been to get a better idea of what non-civic archive collections we hold. Over the past month I’ve worked my way through a total of 1,023  individual archive entries, relying mostly on the original accessions register. I’ve then been recording the type, dates, size, ownership and level of detail that has been recorded about the collection.

I’ve chosen to record this information in a spreadsheet as it’s easy to use and move data around into other ‘sheets’ when you need to create themes or different sections. It’s the digital equivalent of sorting out boxes in a room!

I’m a massive fan of colour as a way to visualise links between things and to highlight priorities.  Each colour represents a different type of collection and I’ve used a traffic light system to make it clear, at a glance, what collections will need exploring in more detail.

Still from the accessions audit spreadsheet
Still from the accessions audit spreadsheet

With each collection ranging in size from just 1 piece of paper up to 30 boxes,  it’s important to find new ways to make these diverse collections accessible to our users. Through  dividing collections into clearly defined themes we aim to make it easier for our users to explore a new side to York’s history. So at the end of the initial audit of the collections I’ve divided the non-civic collections into the following themes:

  • York Individuals and Families
  • York  Businesses
  • York Charities and Voluntary Organisations
  • York Events and Local Culture
  • York Artwork and Photography

These themes are still subject to change and it might be that as I move collections around and get a chance to explore the physical records, which are held off-site, that I discover some of these themes are too broad, too specific or that we need to add additional ones.

Using themes will also make it easier to  identify where our collections are weakest, and where we should be looking to actively collect. We hope that through supporting local community groups we can expand the reach of the non-civic archive to reflect ‘all communities and cultures, past and present’.

Reading in York Explore Library
Reading in York Explore Library

I’ve also been busy researching a bit more about the history and culture of York using the resources in York Explore library which is especially important as I’m new to the city. I’ve also been reading about other archive outreach projects and best practice guidance to better understand how we should scope our own project. We’re keen to avoid using previous projects as a framework for our own as the needs of each community is different, so we’ll be taking the time to find out exactly what York’s community groups need and then use other projects and best practice guidance to support our ideas.

All of this background work is time consuming and involves a lot of reading, but it’s an essential part of the project which will enable me to work with our communities in the best way possible so that they feel confident in my knowledge and skills.

Look out for further posts as I develop the themes and begin to explore York’s community groups. As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

7 thoughts on “Exploring York and York Exploring

  1. When looking back it is a good idea to go to visit homes for the elderly, or organisations who deal with the elderly in social services.
    Old people can recount many things, their memories from their childhood and youth can reveal a great deal of things that have been forgotten or overlooked.
    My grandparents and my parents had many memories of their youth that they related to us as children.
    As a child I roamed York at will with my brother usually. we went to the new free museum and walked the walls, roamed the Shambles, Alleyways ‘
    off Goodramgate,and Petergate. We were free to go round the Minster too, no charge at all. Reading the old tombstones and looking at the wonderful windows. We went to church in Holy Trinity in Micklegate, and had meetings at the Jacobs Well nearby. The Market was held in the
    big area in front of M & S right down to Browns the big clothing shop.
    The Park behind the Minster and the little street with St. Williams College too attracted us. Going back home via the city walls usually.
    Our doctors surgery was in Stonegate, Dr. Wilfrid and Dr. Harry Gosling
    we paid in those days and made Saturday vistts with a payment wrapped up in the bill each week until it was paid off.
    The schools were good and gave us a good grounding. I attended Scarcroft, then Priory St Higher Grade School for girls.
    we left at 14 with enough knowledge to hold down a job. I started as a receptionist at a doctors surgery in Blossom Street, He worked long
    hours with 3 surgeries a day and then all his visits to fit in between.
    I left at 7.30pm having worked from 9am and then had to run to night school 3 nights a week to learn office skills.
    Life was busy but York always had something to offer, the cinemas and
    dance halls were popular. The nightly dances were packed with
    young people. plus the forces members. Many a marriage started
    there. ‘Girls going off after the war to Canada or America, France etc.
    I now live in the USA and I never forget my life in York

    1. Thanks Audrey for your comments and memories, it’s so interesting to read about your time in York. You’re right, the memories of the people are so important and we should capture them. That’s why we’re looking to work so closely with communities, as it will improve our knowledge and understanding of the city beyond the history books!

      1. York had so much to offer families, the freedom to walk about the city
        and return home safely. The strays with their endless football, cricket,
        running about and walking the dog, the swings too were always occupied . Going the rounds of the big stores on Saturdays, To church
        in the lovely Holy Trinity in micklegate on Sundays with sunday school afterwards. Young Peoples Union, Girls Friendly Society , Young Wives fellowship and Mothers Union All well attended.
        The cafes too. Bettys and Terrys for a coffee whilst shopping.
        Stonegate, Petergate Coney Street always attacted shoppers at the weekend. We walked Woolworth, M & S and BHS too Boots too.
        Brown Bros. & Taylor all part o f a weekends shopping
        The parks with their chlldrens playgrounds usually had a queue for the swings.
        Rowtrees, Yearsley and the indoor pool on St. Georges field all well used. We swam in the river too near Ouse Bridge, got scolded for that. Yorks museums are wonderful The Castle Museum was
        a wonderful place for kids and it was free. I loved the Street witth its shops, the fire station and the carriage and horse, well patted by children.
        The scariest bit was at the front of the building in a corner where I was told that executions were carried out.
        The big Coop store in Railway Street, Boyes on Ousebridge with
        its lovely Christmas Grotto each year, they did a really good
        Saturday I loved to go to York Station and watch the trains,
        standing near the big steam engines as they got up steam, noisy and
        scarey at times. Massive trains.
        The walk on the river path from ousebridge to St. Georges field was
        popular, we used to watch the moored pleasure craft and rowing boats coming and going. I never got to go in one.
        There were horse and carriage teams standing near the Museum Garden front waiting for people to go off for a leisurely ride past the minster.
        Does any remember The Misses Campbell, the two ladies who ran a chaotic toy shop next to Ron Buckles bakery in Micklegate it was a treasure trove of old toys.
        Charlie hornton the newspaper man with his big voice going along
        delivering his papers morning and night, he had a shop too I believe.
        Doctors used to visit in my youth. They looked after the families and sent their accounts which were usually paid in small amounts
        at the surgery. Doctors saw many people in a day at their surgeries,
        Audrey Richardson

  2. Hey Sarah,

    As you dig back into the archives you’re going to find a lot of handwritten records, and medieval dialects that are not immediately comprehensible. These will require careful transcription work, probably an extensive amount of it. It will include work of an analogous nature to the Birth Marriage and Death records that have accumulated.this past 500 years. For example Lancashire has 14 million BMD records. Through the Online Parish Clerk project (www.lan-opc.org.uk), they have transcribed about 7 million so far, across all 400+ parishes. Since the records had previously been microfilmed, the records are transcribed by volunteers all around the world. It is a crowd-sourced project, with high-quality results.

    It might be a good example of how to get the earlier York records transcribed and brought before a wider audience.

    Personally I am very interested in reading about records from the time when Richard of Gloucester was Lord of the North.

    Stephen Nightingale,

    1. Hi Stephen – Thanks for your comment, I’d heard of this project and you’re right this is a really interesting way to get people involved with archives, especially as it doesn’t rely on volunteers needing to travel to a particular location. We’re going to be looking at ways to create new and wider reaching volunteer projects, so as we discover more about our holdings we’ll be able to get planning! We’re also going to be making the catalogue searchable online so you’ll be able to find more out about the items in the collection.

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