We present a guest blog by Hollie who recently spent two happy weeks with us on a work placement!
When I originally asked to be placed at the Archives I had no idea what I was getting into; the closest I had come to working in an archive was through Ancestry and a trip to Manchester Archives when I was 18. I didn’t know what to expect as it is not exactly a job that many people have, but after my two weeks here I must admit I am going to miss it.
I was welcomed here with open arms (something I was incredibly worried about as I’m a very shy and nervous individual) and I immediately felt like part of the team. The first task I was assigned was to go through and check the WI [Women’s Institute] collection to make sure it was all there and to make a note of anything that had not been catalogued. It took me around 3 days to get through it all and a lot of heavy lifting (I commend anyone who is able to lift these heavy boxes round all day because without my trolley it probably would’ve killed me in the end). The WI collection was interesting, especially the scrap books – I’m a pretty nosey person so I spent probably half my time reading them to see what these women had been up to for the past 100+ years.
After the WI collection had been sorted (I think I should be an honorary member at this point since I’ve gone through all their history!) I was able to go forth and work on family history enquires, something that I enjoy doing in my own time and it was probably my favourite part of the whole experience. I loved being able help people piece together their family history and trying to piece together why X family member was there for one census and then an entire new family joining the household by the next census. It feels almost like you’re trying to piece together the story of an individual’s life and when it’s completed you feel a great wave of satisfaction.
As well as doing family history I was also doing the history of people’s houses (which has now caused my mum to want me to find the history of our house). It is so interesting to see how many families live in these houses before we occupy them and makes you wish the walls could talk.
In my final two days I was sorting through memorabilia surrounding the Second World War as well as compiling a list of evacuees that came to Aberystwyth from Liverpool (particularly interesting as my I’m from Liverpool so it felt like I was doing the history of my own city rather than just trying to type up information from lists). I loved going through the memorabilia (again cause I’m very nosey) my favourite piece from that collection had to be the propaganda posters warning people not to talk of the war efforts in case spies were about, pretty ironic considering almost every piece of technology listens in to our conversations now.
Overall I’ve really enjoyed my two weeks here and I’m going to miss everyone dearly. I never knew what being an archivist was about before I came here but now I do, it’s not just knowing the county’s history but being willing and open to listen to peoples stories about their lives, helping people try and solve the mysteries that are our family trees and trying to preserve the past in the hopes that we can learn from it to not make the same mistakes our ancestors have. I’d like to thank Helen and all the other staff here for being so welcoming and kind to me for these past two weeks.