The Bar Convent regularly hosts students at various stages of their education, from school pupils on work experience to those working towards a PhD. Matthew Roland and Joanna Meredith, MA students on the Cultural Heritage Management programme at University of York, recently did a 2 week work placement in the Archives. They were given the task of sorting through the papers of the late Sr Gregory Kirkus. Matthew has been sharing his experiences with us:
“Neither of us was sure what to expect when we were starting, but after being introduced to the collection we were working with and general archiving techniques by Bar Convent Archivist Dr Hannah Thomas, we were ready to begin the process. We were assigned the task of assessing, arranging, and conserving the personal papers of Sister Gregory Kirkus, an instrumental figure at Bar Convent who sadly passed away in 2007 leaving behind boxes of documents such as postcards, photographs and cassette tapes.
Everything was uncatalogued and jumbled to begin with, and the room we occupied for two weeks seemed to get smaller with each box that we tackled. We started with the smallest box before working our way through to one of the larger ones which contained around 800 postcards, which we read individually and, in some cases, had to get translated from German.
After sorting through everything multiple times to narrow down the categories to just seven for hundreds of documents to fit into, we decided on the following:
• Postcards and Cards
• Works by Sister Gregory
• Correspondence with Sister Gregory
• Dolls Houses
• Condolences and Obituary
• Photographs of Sister Gregory
We disposed of documents which we did not think would be helpful to keep. For example, around 500 of the c. 800 postcards were either blank, simply wishing Sister Gregory a Merry Christmas, or only mentioning the weather.
Once everything was sorted and these categories had been established, we produced a list summarising the contents of the collection according to archival standards and descriptions. This is a 5-page document enabling researchers to easily locate the information they require in the future.
From our involvement archiving the personal papers of Sister Gregory, we formed impressions about her life and personality. Later, when speaking to sisters and staff members at Bar Convent, we discovered that these impressions were quite accurate!
The placement has helped us to further our understanding of the role of an archivist. It also taught us how vital it is to learn about all the different aspects of heritage, if we want to make a career in this area. We are both very thankful for the experience at Bar Convent, which we believe will be invaluable to our futures.”
By Matthew Rowland