Friday, 28 August 2015

From student to aspiring archivist: part 2


In my first blog for LHSA I talked about the journey from my time there as a student to my current role as a trainee. In this follow-up piece I will cover some of the exciting opportunities and valuable experience which my time here has provided me with.

Firstly, I would like to thank the LHSA team for having made me feel so welcome during the time which I have spent here so far. From allowing me to take part in the weekly team meetings to involving me in the renewal accreditation process (of which I will speak a little more of later in this blog) I truly have felt like an equal member of the team from the outset. Something which I feel that the CRC as a whole excels at and I know that everyone I have spoken to who has worked there, both past and present, feels the same.

Secondly, I would like to apologise in advance if this blog seems a little dryer than the last. The reason for my literate paranoia is that one of my duties as a Skills for the Future trainee is to keep a monthly learning log listing what I have been doing, experience gained and how I will put this into practice. It sometimes feels like I am making a hand-list of my own activities, which indeed I am, I guess, for future reference an ease of access. However, I promise to try my hardest not to fall into log mode and put you into sleep mode!

One of my main duties at LHSA has been working on the Norman Dott project cataloguing his case notes. I won’t go into great detail here about his ground breaking neurological work in Scotland and other elements of his distinguished career as this has been covered in other blogs. For me, however, it has given me the opportunity to work with LHSA’s unique methodology of cataloguing case notes using Encoded Archival Description (EAD), made me more experienced in writing XML and helped me to understand of the issues and precautions which must be considered when cataloguing more sensitive archives. Another benefit of this has been the massive boost to my medical knowledge and vocabulary as well as discovering some rather unusual conditions such as clawfoot and Paget’s disease (the former I had the pleasure of googling just before lunch). Some of the human stories to be found within the collection are fascinating and at times deeply moving: even when trying to remain objective and professional it would take a heart of stone not to be touched by them. There have also been some rather “out-there” cases, such as the travelling businessman who suffered from sore feet the moment he arrived back in Edinburgh yet was effected by this in no other place which he visited – one wonders if there was another reason behind this, of which I will say no more! Overall, I feel highly privileged to have played a small role in this project and I feel that it will make a great addition to my CV.


Patient with an Edinburgh allergy! (LHB1 CC/22/PR4.40)

I have also had the good fortune to receive conservation training for half a day each week with the very talented Emily Hick, whose work on LHSA's HIV/AIDS collections has been a real eye-opener for me in terms of developing new ways of housing and preserving non-traditional archival materials - from condoms to watches. My duties have been a bit less creative, but have introduced me to the fundamentals of surface cleaning and rehousing materials in preparation for long term preservation within the archive. I have also removed more staples in the last two months than I have in my entire life – and the strange thing is that I find this very therapeutic!
 
 
The CRC conservation studio
Lastly, as mentioned above, I have been trusted enough to be involved in LHSA’s accreditation renewal process for which I feel truly honoured. Not only has this introduced me to the Archive Service Accreditation Standard and its benefits, it has also allowed me to develop my knowledge of how an archive is managed from the top to the bottom, from the store to the search-room and everything in-between. I have enjoyed being a part of this so much that I have asked to continue working on it even after my time at LHSA comes to an end. So to wrap up I would like to thank Ruth, who had the idea to include me after I showed an interest in the accreditation process, and Louise for all her help and advice.

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