As an A-Level student interested in studying a history degree course at university, over the last year I have given the idea of acquiring suitable work experience quite a lot of thought. A history degree can lead you to many eventual professions, but I ideally was looking for an experience that was directly involved with history. Therefore, when I received confirmation that I could have work experience at Ceredigion Archives for a week, I was overjoyed as it seemed like a perfect opportunity for such an historical work experience.
However, as excited as I was at the prospect, I did also approach the week with some trepidation. What if the level of historical knowledge I currently possessed would not be up to scratch to be able to work effectively at the archive for the week? Having never been to an archive before, would I be able to successfully understand and complete tasks I would be given by the staff?
Thankfully, I can report that my worries were unnecessary, and that my week at Ceredigion archives provided me with the wonderful experience I had hoped for. I was welcomed by the archive team and instantly felt comfortable working there. Only on my first day, I was entrusted with a client’s enquiry and through that I was shown how to search for select people’s gravestones using burial ground recordings on microfilm, search for families in censuses online at ancestry.com as well as in physical records, and use other online databases and original 1880s newspapers to discover more on individuals, such as births, marriages and deaths.
After an insightful first day in which I had already been given more of an experience than I had expected for my entire week, I was shocked and delighted to be given a different look into archive work on my second day. This time, I was set the task of listing the parochial records of St Matthew’s Church, Borth. I was thrilled to be allowed to undertake such a task by myself, and through the two days I spent working to list every item in the collection, I was able to handle almost one hundred different original documents, including letters, form of faculties and service sheets from the early 1900s.
During my final two days working at the archive I helped with the archive’s project to document each week of the First World War from one hundred years on. Once again I was honoured to be allowed such a role in the preparation, as I was given more practical assignments to get on with myself. One example of this was when I was able to look through more old original newspapers to photograph relevant articles relating to the war effort for use on a bulletin board outside the archive door itself and in the other Ceredigion Archives blog, Reporting the Great War.
Though my week at Ceredigion archives was short, thanks to the excellent team there I was given a full insight into what working at an archive entails and it was an experience better than anything I could have hoped for when I first applied. I really couldn’t recommend it enough to anyone interested in – or currently taking – a history degree in university who’d like an experience working in an historical environment. Thank you to everyone there for such an enjoyable time!