Friday, 14 December 2018

Catching up with Nat and Vannis...

As we  near Christmas, we are coming to the end of our time with Natalia Vladinova, our Conservation Intern, and Vannis Jones, our Archives Intern. You can learn more about them here: and here:

We have loved having Vannis and Nat with us, and they have been a pleasure to have as part of the team. Furthermore, they have done invaluable work, both on our Ernst Levin collection (about which we'll be hosting a PhD in 2019 - more next year!) and in finally tidying up our photograph collection, meaning that we have only one way of referencing them (instead of - sometimes - three!).

First of all, it's over to Vannis:

Hi again! As you may remember from my previous blog post (see link above), I have spent the last eight weeks cataloguing and rehousing LHSA’s rich photographic collections. I am delighted to report that I have catalogued and rehoused a total of 2331 photographs and have completely eliminated the legacy numbering system, bringing that ongoing project to a close. Hooray! Whilst there still remain some uncatalogued photographs across the collections, this rationalisation of numbering systems allows our cataloguing focus to now be centred on these unlisted/uncatalogued materials as well as new accessions, thereby significantly reducing our photographic backlog.

In between cataloguing photographs, I have had numerous other opportunities for professional development, from outreach, to reading room supervision, to answering reader enquiries. A real highlight was a commemorative World War I exhibition at Leith Library centred on the Leith Roll of Honour, held at LHSA. The Roll of Honour is a set of five volumes that list the names of all Leithers who fell during the First World War. It was originally held in the war memorial at Leith Hospital, but was transferred to LHSA on the hospital’s closure. I was tasked with creating a display revolving around the Roll of Honour and Leith Hospital. This involved selecting materials, arranging the materials, mitigating risk of damage in transport and display, and invigilating the display along with Louise Williams and Ruth Honeybone on the day of the exhibition. In addition to three volumes of the Roll of Honour, I chose to include Leith Hospital minute books, annual reports, a letter book, and photographs all relating to the impact World War I had on Leith Hospital. With the help of Natalia, I found suitable book cradles and supports for all materials, created melinex covers for the items, and packed them for transport.

Leith Library display
Visitor with the page of the Roll of Honour mentioning his father's military honours

On the day, the exhibition attracted a considerable amount of attention from the local community, particularly those whose relatives had fought in the First World War. One gentleman was so lucky as to find his father’s name in a list of those who had not fallen but had received special honours on the very page I chose to display in the fifth volume—what are the odds? From a professional development standpoint, this was an excellent opportunity for me to speak to members of the public about our archive and its holdings, give an informal presentation on the display to an English as a foreign language class, and to really be involved in the full scope of a public engagement event. It is so special to see people engaging and identifying with the materials, telling their own stories of Leith Hospital and the war, and their delight on finding a personal connection with our holdings. In all, this was an exceptionally rewarding day and one of the most valuable experiences I have had during my time at LHSA.
The Leith Roll of Honour is digitised and available to view online. Volume 1 is available at the following link:

Nat has also been more than busy, as you can read below:

The aim of myproject is for a collection that makes up the family papers of Ernst Levin, neurologist to be surveyed and rehoused in a safe way that makes it very accessible for an upcoming PhD. The collection consists of many loose letters and ones that are still in their original envelopes, lots of greeting cards and postcards, some art sketches, many photographs of the family, and even a sword with a harness. This personal collection is quite unusual for LHSA, and the varied media it consists of makes it a challenging one for rehousing.

A spreadsheet was created that gave me a pretty good idea on the amount of boxes, folders etc. I would need. My predictions on quantity of materials needed for rehousing turned out pretty accurate, but I was in for a surprise with the time I thought each box would take.

Survey table for the collection

The nature of the documents in the collections – letters and personal correspondence between spouses, close friends and family - suggests that people did not just send some information on paper, but small tokens of intimate nature as well, such as photographs, post cards and quite a lot of pressed flowers (even some small packets of sugar). All of these objects require careful handling, as they are fragile and you cannot really tell if an envelope will have any of these or not. That meant that some boxes took a couple of hours, while other could take up to three or four days.

The method for rehousing that was chosen was for each enveloped letter to have its own single crease folder, and larger manila folder would contain a couple of single folders. All of these are stacked and put into an archival box made of acid free cardboard.

Box 5 before rehousing....
And after...

Rehoused box 3 - note housing for notebooks

It did take the full eight weeks of internship for the rehousing project. It also took more than 60 archival boxes and more than 3200 folders to rehouse the 24 boxes of varied materials. That would mean that there are more than 3200 individual letters and documents that need to be catalogued – quite a task for an archivist!

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