Archive Training Day - 15th October 2018 (By Jennifer)

On Monday 15th October 2018, a group of us got a minibus to Warwickshire County Records Office for archive training.

When we got there Rob, who is a senior archivist and Amy who is a learning officer, introduced themselves to us and we went into the tea room and were offered refreshments. Rob asked us what we think an archivist does and then explained it to us.

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After a discussion about what an archivist is, Rob and Amy showed us around the strongrooms and we saw how they operated the shelves. Amy pressed a button and then Rob was able to the move the shelves, this is to make more space and make it easy to access the archives. Rob explained that the strongrooms have to be kept in and cool environment, and holes put in the boxes to prevent damp and preserve documents.

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We had a look at both of the strongrooms, one was more modern than the other one. Afterwards we moved to the search room, and we looked at various old records such as the map of Solihull, a recipe book and a thieves album. When we had a talk and a look at the documents we went back to the tea room for refreshments.

After we had a break we went back into the search room, where Amy had an activity for us. There pictures of various people for us to look at in a prison, which was Cape Road prison. Cape Road prison used to be where the Records Office is now. We were then each given a small bag with replica seals in them that would have been used on documents. We each had some clay and pressed our seals on to it, I quite enjoyed this activity and it could be a good way to relieve stress!

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Then we went into the next room and we all sat around the table, working in twos. We had to guess a mystery picture, looking closely at all the details in the picture, until we eventually got all the right pieces and had a group discussion about what we think the picture is. We then broke for lunch.

After lunch we had a look at the documents from Middlefield, there was an 1869 election list dated Thursday July 1st. There were children on the election list, and it stated how much parents had to pay for their child/children to stay there, and whether the children were voted into Middlefield.

We also looked at newspaper articles that were from Middlefield’s own records that they kept, which I thought was really interesting that they kept records of events that had taken place over the years. We also saw various other documents from Middlefield such as a register and a case book. In the case book you had the details of who was living there, payment, date of election, date of discharge etc. It was like a medical report as there were various medical things that they recorded about the person that had been admitted into Middlefield.

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I was quite interested to see all the names that Middlefield used to be known as and the dates when the names changed, especially where it first started (Dorridge Grove), and it really makes you think of the views of other people and how peopled have been labelled with the various names that Middlefield has been called until it finally became Middlefield Hospital.

We also looked at a records book showing various items that needed to be ordered such as cutlery, teapots, polish etc. There was also a log book of visitors dated June 1910, which was like a feedback book from when you visit places. I thought all these documents from Middlefield were very interesting, and it brought more light to the sort of place that Middlefield was and how the residents might have felt living there.

After we looked at the documents and had a talk about them, Amy had an activity for us to do. We were put into pairs again and we had to sit on chairs with our backs behind each other, one person had to describe the picture following on from what we learnt in the previous activity, to look at every detail in the picture not just the main part.

One person described the picture and the other had to guess what was being described. We showed the person we were working with afterwards and then we swapped over, who was describing and guessing.

I found this activity hard and was concentrating a lot to try and hear what was being said, I only got some words and it made more sense when I saw the picture. I didn’t say anything about my hearing because it wouldn’t be much of a guessing activity if I could see the picture the person was describing if I was facing them, so I thought I would try and give it a go. Overall it was a good activity to get us thinking about what is in all of the pictures and not just the main parts that first draw the eye’s attention.

Margaret and I both noticed that our pictures looked the same and thought that they were in the same room, one was an art class and another a tailor’s class. After the activity we rejoined back on the table and discussed our pictures, as we all had different ones.

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(Photo reproduced with kind permission from Warwickshire County Records Office)

We were surprised to learn that all of the pictures were taken in Middlefield Hospital in around 1910, we discussed each of our pictures and then we shared the photos around. Some of the pictures really made you think about life there, one was of the ward bedroom and there must be 8 beds that we could see in the picture, no privacy or your own personal space. Rob and Amy very kindly allowed us to keep the pictures, we thank you for that.

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(Photo reproduced with kind permission from Warwickshire County Records Office)

The archive training has been a really thoughtful but enjoyable event, as it gave us more to the life of Middlefield Hospital and the living conditions for the residents living there. You could really imagine how they must felt being there and not having their rights to have space/privacy and being a part of the community.

Thank you Rob and Amy for delivering the Archive training, I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot more about how to find documents.

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