Who said archives are outdated and old fashioned? - Meet our new archivist

Nov 10 2016

Matthew is on one of the archivists who work across Hampshire Archives and Local Studies and Wessex Film and Sound Archive  and here he explains the breadth of work involved in archives.

Matthew, 27, always loved history from a young age, so it’s no surprise that he studied history at the University of York. He then took time out to travel the world and explore different cultures, history and traditions, with South East Asia being a highlight.

Back in the UK, Matthew volunteered with Shropshire Archives for eight months cataloguing local historical documents and photographs.

Matthew explains: “It’s quite a special thing, seeing and touching such old documents and photos. It was amazing to see how certain locations change and evolve over the last century or so, documented by the photos.”

A traineeship with The National Archives then followed, along with 12 others who were seconded to various archives. Matthew was placed with Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, and set on a community archive project for the chocolate box village of Lacock.

Matthew worked closely with a team of dedicated volunteers to collate over 500 photographs and documents about local Lacock life, which were loaned by residents so that they could be copied and uploaded to a dedicated website.

During this time, Matthew, and his team of volunteers, spoke to over 50 residents to record their unique memories and recollections of moments in time, not just on a local scale but against a backdrop of important historical events such as the Second World War. Matthew realised that oral history was an aspect of archives that he really liked, as it was a way to hear stories that were not necessarily recorded elsewhere.

He said: “I’ve heard funny family anecdotes to moving and poignant stories of loss and grief.  Oral history really captures the emotion of these memories from sadness to laughter. Everybody has a wonderful story to tell, and it’s essential that we capture them before it’s too late.”

That traineeship year cemented Matthew’s decision to become a fully fledged archivist, which meant completing a Masters degree in Archives and Records Management at the University of Liverpool.  The course covered modules including how archives interact and collaborate across national boundaries, and palaeography – that’s how to read old writing, in layman’s terms.

A highlight of the year was a two week placement in Athens, Greece, with an institute for advanced research, The British School at Athens where Matthew helped catalogue historical papers and visited the world-famous historical sites.

He adds:  “It was a wonderful opportunity to go travelling and explore a new city while gaining valuable experience of working in a totally different environment.  Working in archives does provide you with some unexpected opportunities.”

Looking forward, there is a wide range of work Matthew will be involved in for Hampshire Archives and Local Studies, including:

  • Explore Your Archive, archive awareness week, 19 - 27 November
  • an archive ambassador workshop at Hampshire Record Office on 24 November
  • new exhibitions and talks for 2017
  • working closely with several different Hampshire community groups.

If you’d like to learn more about local and Hampshire history, visit Hampshire Record Office on Sussex Street in Winchester, free of charge, from Monday to Friday, between 9am and 5pm and the first and third Saturdays each month between 9am and 4pm.

If you could travel back in time which culture and century would you pick and why?

Since I’ve just moved to Winchester it would have to be the 9th century in Britain to learn more about the Vikings and if they were really the brutal marauders as history depicts.  Also to see King Alfred and his burning cakes and the resistance against the invasion.

If you could meet a historical figure (dead or alive) who would it be and why?

Joan of Arc.  I studied her at university and would be fascinated to talk to her and discover whether she really heard God.  Did she make it all up?  And whether she felt betrayed at the end when she had been sentenced to burn at the stake.

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