Sunday, 2 September 2012

Goodbye to the Archives and Special Collections Service, Tremough

After a fantastic nine months, my traineeship has far too quickly come to an end. It's been the best possible experience I could have hoped for, for which I must give all my thanks to my manager, Sarah.  The last year has furnished me with experience of most aspects of the archive profession and has allowed me to go on some great trips visits and training opportunities. I couldn't mention these without mentioning the Erasmus placement I undertook in July to a university archive service in Berlin. Not only did I get to visit a city that I've always wanted to go to, but I also gained experience of an archive in another European country, which is probably quite unusual for someone in my situation.

A highlight of the year has been working on the Tom Cross Archive catalogue. Tom Cross was a painter and Principal at the Falmouth School of Art (predecessor of University College Falmouth) in the 1970s and 1980s. The collection includes some beautiful sketchbooks, copious amounts of research on artists and art history, and fascinating material relating to his published work. I felt I'd really got to know him through the Archive, and certainly learnt a thing or two about art! I was completely overwhelmed when I was presented with one of his paintings as a leaving gift, kindly donated by his wife who I came to know quite well through my work.

A real achievement has been the initiation of a Social Media policy for the Service. This was something I'd been keen on from the start, and the first step was setting up this blog. The major breakthrough was our Twitter Project, which launched in June. We've been watching our followers steadily increase ever since. There is no doubt that there is a lot of work involved in keeping up a successful Twitter profile, but it's been a great way of promoting our collections and networking with other archives and archivists. I will certainly be keeping an eye out on future #CornishWordoftheDay tweets; these have been my favourite to write, with words like 'silly-wig' and 'popey duck'! (Follow @FXArchives to find out what these mean!)

Despite the perfect Cornish summer I was looking forward to never quite appearing, I've really enjoyed living here. Making the move from south-east London was a bit of a culture shock, but actually a very pleasant one. On the rare sunny days, it certainly all felt worth it when I could spend my lunch break wandering around the beautiful grounds at Tremough. I've also met some fantastic people here, and would like to thank the whole of the Library and Information Services team for making me feel so welcome.

I'm very sad that this experience has come to an end, but can't wait to begin my studies at UCL in a month's time and begin the next stage of my career. I would like to say a final thank you to the Archives team, especially to Sarah, and I wish the next Intern the best of luck.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

New Professionals Summer Seminar

Last Friday I travelled up to Manchester to attend the Archives and Records Association's second Summer Seminar for New Professionals. It was set to be a great day of networking and interesting talks, all set in the very impressive John Rylands University Library.

The first talk was by Fran Baker, who works in the Special Collections in the Library and has been working on a project to preserve the digital correspondence of Carcanet Press. I was really intrigued about how such a seemingly large and complex task could be undertaken, but hearing about all the various stages in the process made it seem a lot more manageable than I had thought, from initial surveys to transfer, accessioning, and documentation, to eventually making the archive available online.

I was really interested to hear from various recruiters there tips on applying to project-based roles, since a lot of jobs aimed at newly qualified professionals at the moment are project based. It was reassuring to hear the advantages to this kind of work, for instance that you can get a wider breadth of experience, you get a new perspective on the profession on each project, and you can be more selective in your approach and choose a role that matches your skills.

The day ended with a discussion on the future of the Archive Sector. As predicted there was much debate on Archivists increasingly needing IT skills and the willingness to accept advances in the digital aspect of the profession. another interesting point was that Archivists increasingly need to have the ability to network with people outside of the profession, i.e. people who work in other areas of your institution. This is particularly important at the moment were the need for advicacy is so strong. It was generally thought that pre-course level would be a good time to get this experience.

The seminar was a really great place to meet people in a similar situation to me and also to hear the experiences of those who have qualified and gone on to find work. It is certainly reassuring to know that there is a support network in place for those entering the profession. I will definitely be getting involved in future New Professional events and would urge anyone who's a trainee, student or recently qualified to do the same!

The section for New Professionals can be found on the ARA website here.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Time flies!

Not sure how this has happened but I only have two weeks left of my Traineeship! The last few weeks have flown by and I can't quite believe I'll be starting the Archives and Records course in a month's time. I've still got lots of odds and ends to finish off, like the finishing touches to the Tom Cross Archive catalogue and the Intern Handbook I've been putting together. I'll be working hard over the next two weeks but I'm feeling confident I can get it done. I'm going to be very sad to say good bye!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Berlin: Day 5

As expected, the last day of my placement at the University of the Arts Berlin Archive came around far too quickly. In the morning I was given a tour of the other University buildings to gain more of a sense of the history of the Schools. They are located about a ten-minute walk away from the building I'd been working in where the Archives are held. There is a complex of three buildings: the original schools of Fine Art and Music built in 1902, and the modern Concert Hall. The original concert hall was built as part of this complex in 1902 but was destroyed during the Second World War. Both buildings are still used for their original functions - for the teaching of music and the fine arts. Walking around the Arts building was particularly interesting. Dotted around the building were examples of different styles of architecture for the pupils to study - medieval, baroque, classical etc. This pair of neo-classical pillars appeared at the top of a staircase:

Example of neo-classical architecture at the Fine Arts building
© Mary Allen
The style of the two existing original buildings from 1902 is Baroque, but I found this medieval-looking doorway at one the back entances of the Fine Arts building:

Another example of architecture at the Fine Arts building
© Mary Allen
It was an interesting day to visit the Fine Arts building as the whole University had just been opened up for the 'Rundgang' - end of year exhibitions and shows. The previous night the building had played host to a huge party for students and members of the public for the opening night. The morning we looked round the evidence of the night's events hadn't quite been cleared away and there was a certain amount of hopping over beer cans to be done!

Back at the Archives Dr Schenk showed me some early examples of student artwork. One was a project by students in 1898 to re-design the room that belonged to Martin Luther in the Luther family home in Wittenburg. This sketch shows how the room looked at the time:

Sketch of Martin Luther's room, Wittenburg, 1898
© Mary Allen
The next piece shows the design they came up with:

Design for the room of Martin Luther, Wittenburg
© Mary Allen
I decided to look up the Luther House to find out some more information. I came across this site which shows how the room looks today and was rather excited to see that it looks pretty much identical to this painting! So it must have been used for the reconstruction of the room.

I loved this etching from the 1920s, which is best viewd close-up to see the detail which is incredible considering it is a relatively small image, about as wide as an A4 sheet of paper:

Student work from the School of Fine Art, 1920s
 © Mary Allen

Detail from the image above
© Mary Allen
 This is a carictature by German artist George Grosz while he was at the School:

Caricature by George Grosz, c.1910s
© Mary Allen

Grosz became famous for his savage caricatural paintings of Berlin life in the 1920s and was a prominent member of the Berlin Dada and New Objectivity group before he emigrated to the United States in 1933. After his emigration, Grosz rejected his earlier work and caricature in general.

I was also shown this very important and incredibly poignant file which lists all students of Jewish descent at the Art School between 1933 and 1937. As soon as the Nazi Party came to power in 1933 they began to focus on limiting the participation of Jews in public life. One of the first laws passed, in April 1933, was to restrict the number of Jewish students at schools and universities.

File listing puils of Jewish descent at the College of Fine Arts
© Mary Allen
This page from the file shows how a family tree was drawn out for each student. Jewish parents or grandparents were coloured in red. If it was found that the student was Jewinsh, they would also be coloured in red. It seems from this page that those with one Jewish grandparent were not considered Jewish, and those with two Jewish grandparents were generally considered not Jewish although there is one exception here.

Jewish students at the College of Fine Arts
© Mary Allen

The last student on the page is Charlotte Salomon, a student of painting at the College of Art. Despite German universities restricting their 'Jewish quota' to 1.5 per cent of the student body, Salomon was able to get a place at the College in 1936 and continued to study there until the summer of 1938 when she was forced to leave. After this, she lived in the South of France as a refugee until 1943 where she painted a series of 769 autobiographical paintings entitled Life? or Theatre?. In 1943 she gave the work to a trusted friend asking him to keep it safe. That same year was transported to Auschwitz.

Charlotte Salomon, Jewish student at the College of Fine Arts
© Mary Allen
There have been many exhibitions of Salomon's work since the 1960s, including an exhibit at the Royal Academy, and plays and films written about her life.

Germany has a fascinating history and it was interesting to see how it has shaped the country's archives, particularly in the modern era with one extreme dictatorship being replaced by another as seen through documents like this and the archive of the Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship.

By the end of my placement I felt I had learnt a lot about the Archive at the University and German archives in general. A lot of their theory and practice is very similar to ours but it was interesting to learn of some differences, like their Archive Law and the way of referencing their collections. I think having knowledge of these will be really useful while I'm doing my MA. I would totally recommend a placement abroad to broaden your knowledge of archival theories and practices if you ever get the chance. I would also really recommend a visit to Berlin: it's a fantastic city and I can't wait to go back one day!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Berlin: Day 4

For my fourth day at the University of the Arts Berlin, Dr Schenk had a rranged for me to visit the Archive at The Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship.

The Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship, Berlin
© Mary Allen
The SED (the Socialist Unity Party of Germany) governed the German Democratic Republic (GDR) from 1946 to 1989. The Foundation, established by the German Parliament in 1989, deals with the repercussions of the SED's politics on Germany as a whole since reunification in 1990. They support research into the Soviet zone of occupation in East Germany, the GDR, and East Central Europe and aim to raise public awareness of such dictatorship. The Foundation promotes the special recognition the peaceful revolutions of 1989 deserve in the efforts to overcome Germany and Europe's postwar divisions. Key elements of the Foundation's work are encouragement and support.

The Archive of the Foundation was established in 2000 and documents the oposition and resistance and the political persecution and opression  in the GDR. Among the collections is the Archive of Supressed Literature of the GDR. The literature of the GDR is far more diverse than one might think from the published material, which was highly censored and subject to political restrictions. The purpose of the Archive is to give a more informed view of the literary culture of the GDR and poses as a counter to the official literature of East Germany. A particularly moving peice I saw in this collectin was the notebook of a political prisoner, Edeltraud Eckert. Eckert was imprisoned in 1950 aged just 20 and sentenced to 25 years of forced labour after she became involved in an anti-Communist group. She was allowed this notebook and used it to write poems. Sadly, she suffered a serious accident while she was working as a mechanic in 1955 and died just three months later at the age of 25. A book of Eckert's poems and letters, A Year Without Spring, has been published by the Archive using this material and is part of the Silent Library series in which 20 books are to be published.

Anti-Communist magazine Die Tarantel from the 1950s
© Mary Allen
Another large collection is the archive of artist Roger Loewig. He was arrested in 1963 by the Stasi after putting on a private exhibition of his work which, from the regime's point of view, was of the wrong subject matter, being critical of the state of affairs in the GDR, and was charged with anti-state activity. He was held for a year without trial before West Germany paid for his release and was then sentenced to two years probabtion for agitation and propaganda endangering the state. All his paintings, essays and poems were confiscated. Eventually he resettled in West Germany in the 1970s and continued to paint and held exhibitions almost every year until the reunification. He was the first German artist to be exhibited at the National Museum at Auschwitz. Many of his paintings line the walls of the Foundation, while many more are kept in the archive store.

The Archive contains an Amnesty International Archive which includes letters from anti-Communist individuals and parties, the bulk of which come from North America and Western Europe, dating between 1975 and 1985. These letters were sent to the Minister of the Interior of the GDR, the State Council, the directors of prisons, and many political prisoners. Amnesty International frequently accused the GDR authorities of violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and campaigned for the release of political prisoners.

Amnesty Internation Archive at The Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship Archive
© Mary Allen
 On a more light-hearted note, an item I particularly enjoyed in the Archive was this poster, which was part of a campaign to save the East German Traffic-light Men:

'Save the Traffic-light Men' poster
© Mary Allen
Prior to the reunification of Germany in 1990, the two German states had different forms of Ampelmännchen (traffic-light men) - those in West Germany being rather similar to ours in Britain, and those in the East in the form of a man in a hat. The Ampelmännchen became popular in East Germany when they were introduced in the 1970s and are one of the very few features of communist East Germany to have survived with their popularity unscathed. After the reunification there were attempts to standardise all traffic signs to the West German forms, leading to calls to save the East German Ampelmännchen. The protests were successful and they were returned to pedestrian crossings, including those in the western districts of Berlin.

The Ampelmännchen became a mascot of the East German nostalgia movement, Ostalgie, which became popular about a decade ago. The movement was not without its controversies and there were some pro-GDR artefacts, like T shirts, in the Archive. I asked the Archivist if these were serious or supposed to be taken as a joke, to which he replied that they were "a very bad joke". It does seem inappropriate to be sentimental about life in a regime were people were killed for trying to escape and persecuted for disagreeing with the ideology. But for the most part Ostalgie is a nostalgia for the things people grew up with, like the traffic-light men, rather than wanting to re-establish the GDR.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Berlin: Day 3

On day three at the University of the Arts Berlin Archive I helped with a project to repackage teaching aids that would have been used in lessons at the School of Fine Arts in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These teaching aids were enlarged images from published books that the School would have bought and held up in classes to teach from - a predecessor to slides and PowerPoint presentations. We were working with aids that would have been used in Architecture lessons.

Architecture teaching aid from the 19th C
© Mary Allen
These had previously been kept by the library so each folder of teaching aids had to be checked off against a list made by the Librarian, cleaned, repackaged and recorded in a new list for the Archive. The date of each aid could be estimated using the School's stamp which was stamped on each folder and item.

19th C School stamp
© Mary Allen
This example is from the 19th century as (although it's hard to see here) the writing at the bottom of the stamp says 'Berlin'. The School moved to Charlottenburg in 1902, so those from after this date will also have 'Charlottenburg' on the stamp.

The teaching aids are evidence what students were being taught and how. There are many photographs of buildings in these files, including important examples of buildings and architecture in Germany which have since been destroyed either during the Second World War or at other times, so these are important evidence of the country's historical topography. Student work has been found among the teaching aids, some of whom went on to be famous artists like Karl Freidrich Schinkel, an architect and designer who designed the famous Altes Museum in Berlin.

Example of student artwork used as a teaching aid, signed W Lange 1895
© Mary Allen
In the afternoon, Dr Schenk showed me some more interesting articles that could be found in the archive, including the sculptures and original photographs of Karl Blossfeldt (see earlier post Berlin: Day 1):

Sculptures of Karl Blossfeldt
© Mary Allen

And he demonstrated the efficiency of the filing systems of German offices in the 19th and early 20th Century. Anyone who worked in an office at this time kept a Journal of every single letter sent and received. Each letter would be filed in an Akta (file) as and when they were received or written (for those written this would be the third carbon copy - the first being sent and the second being filed in its appropriate subject folder). There would also be an index which lists each person they had corresponded with and gives the page numbers of their entries in the Journal. The Journal, in turn, tells you where to find the letter in the Akten. Phew! This system worked very well in the 19th century, but began to lack efficiency in the 20th and would obviously not be very practical nowadays, what with all the emails that whizz about, but it certainly must make the Archivist's job very easy when cataloguing 19th century correspondence!

Left to right: a Journal, index and Akta
© Mary Allen

Friday, 20 July 2012

Berlin: Day 2

The Archive team at the University of the Arts Berlin is made up of Senior Archivist, Dr Schenk, and two part-time archivists. On my second day at the Archive, I helped Antje with an enquiry. Antje is one of the part-time archivists who is also working on a funded project, and will be coming to Falmouth in October to work at our Archive Service for a week. An enquiry had been passed on from the Exmatriculation office about a possible past student at Der Berliner Kunstgewerbeschule (the Berlin School of Arts and Crafts) who would have attended in the early 1900s. In essence, this was very similar to the family history enquiries we receive through our Camborne School of Mines archive. For these enquiries we usually look through our student registers for any evidence of the individual, and that is exactly what we did for this enquiry. Being a preceding institution of the University, the records of the Arts and Crafts School and therefore the student registers are held in the Archive. The students were registered each term and their entries include details like name, age, birthplace, trade, previous studies, area of study etc, very much like our CSM registers.

Berlin Arts & Crafts School student register 1901/02
© Mary Allen
 Unfortunately, I was unable to find any evidence of this particular student in the register, but as we always say, this is not evidence of absence! The Archive Service frequently receives internal enquiries such as this, often regarding former students who would like to know what marks they achieved, the dates they attended and so on. This is because they take on almost a records management role by looking after all semi-current student records. The relevant records, once found, are sealed and sent through the internal post. All files sent out are logged in a book and can be kept for up to three months.

Antje also introduced me to her project Music Archives in Post-War Germany, which has been funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) and is being done in collaboration with the Faculty of Music. The result will be an inventory of all music archives and collections in Post-War Germany, Austria and Switzerland that will act as a finding aid for researchers. This will come in the form of a database and a book and will describe the structure of archives and theories like Provenance to help researchers use and understand the archives. The scale of the project is huge: for every institution in the database there is a description - adress, website, who the archive is responible to, history of the archive - and then a list of all the collections that fit into the theme of Music in Post-war Germany within that institution. Selecting a collection from this list will open a new window which tells you its reference, content, dates, extent, finding aids, creater of the collection, history of the collection and an index of institutions with related collections. It really will be an incredible tool for researchers on this subject; all this readily available information will save a huge amount of time and effort.

While looking at this database, I noticed that they use a very simple way of referencing. They use the same tree-structure as us in their arrangement of the archives, but the path through the tree (Fonds, Sub-fonds, Series, File, Item etc)  is not reflected in their reference as ours is. Instead they use only two numbers which seem to basically reflect the collection/series (Bestand) and item/file. Each Bestand that comes in is given the next running number, so that two sibling series might have very different Bestand numbers depending on when it came into the archive or when it was catalogued. For example, this sign shows that on the left hand side of these shelves is Bestand 28, items 5384 to 9585 (click to enlarge):

© Mary Allen
This system does have an obvious benefit over ours in that our reference numbers can get incredibly long and probably seem a bit unecessary to users not accustomed with how and why we give material the references we do. However there is no reflection in the reference of how each collection or series relates to another or the rest of the archive - i.e. its Provenance. As I thought about the advantages and disadvantages of this system I remembered this interesting Blog post I read about whether users really need to know or care about the Provenance of the material they're looking at. Seeing from a reference that there is obviously some kind of heirarchy going on might tempt a user to ask about the material in the next folder, series or even collection and use the archive more laterally, which I think can only be a good thing.

A word which was mentioned a lot on my visit was Zuständigkeit - which literally translates as 'competence; jurisdiction; responsibility'. This is basically a sense of duty which is written into the Archives Act of each State, and comes under Section 2 of the Berlin public records Act. The duty of the State Archive of Berlin is to collect archival material relating to the history of the State, its institutions and its people, and to preserve it and make it accessible. In this way, the Archive Service has a duty to collect, preserve and make accessible the records of the University of the Arts and its predecessor institutions.

Files (or Akten) in the Archive
© Mary Allen