Monday, 31 January 2011

Volunteering at Westminster

Joe Davidson, former head boy of St Edmund's College, Ware, has been volunteering in the archive as part of his gap year. We aren't locking him away in our dark basement office for a whole year as he is off to work in a museum in South Africa in three weeks.

Joe has been carrying out simple preservation work on sacramental registers and checking that they are all shelved in the right order! He has also done some transcriptions and appraisal. In the picture above, he is listing a collection of photographs from the 1982 Papal Visit.

As we are a small archive which only opens three days a week, places for volunteers are limited. However, we are always happy to receive CVs, especially if you are thinking of a career as an archivist, so we can get in touch if a vacancy arises.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Great and Manifold Blessings

The world of religious archives is, at the moment, getting excited about Cambridge University Library's exhibition marking 400 years since the publication of the authorised version of the Bible. More information, including captions from the exhibits, is available here .

The exhibition also contains two early printed editions of Catholic translations by Gregory Martin, The Holie Bible and The New Testament of Jesus Christ, one published at Douai in 1609 and the other at Rheims in 1582. Together, in a revised version by Bishop Richard Challoner, these remained as the standard Catholic translation, the Douai Rheims Bible, until the 20th Century.

You may also enjoy the 'Wicked Bible' and the 'Unrighteous Bible' so called because of the accidental ommission of some key words. If only we could still fine people half a million and throw them into prison for bad proof reading...

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

2010 in Figures

Archivists can do just about anything. Certainly, working here requires a wide range of skills from bleeding radiators, changing lightbulbs and oiling swords to deciphering the handwriting of successive Cardinals and being able to work out where the really exciting letter which is neither addressed, dated or signed might possibly come from.

However, the one thing they don't teach archivists is maths. Nevertheless, here are our visitor statistics for 2010 which may or may not be accurate:

Over the year, we had 152 visits by 79 users, 10 of whom visited more than once. Of these, 68 were new visits (that is, a completely new user, or a user visiting for a new research subject) and 84 repeat visits. This is slightly down on last year's figures but we were closed in January for stocktaking and August-September for the training of new staff.

Our collection most in demand is the Parish Registers, which has been used by 29 visitors, mainly for family history which continues to be a popular reason for visits. Nearly half of our researchers do not have an academic or business affiliation. The A Series, including letters of the Vicars Apostolic of the London District, is our most popular collection for academic researchers. One collection which remains popular every year, although not strictly archival, is our complete set of Catholic Directories. These are getting harder and harder to find in major libraries but remain on open access shelves in our reading room.

I could provide the full figures with tables and pie charts but I think those can wait for the next advisory council meeting!