"As a university student I often struggle to engage with a topic without seeing physical evidence from the period. The importance of the archives in this respect cannot be understated."
I was surprised to hear that even the most delicate evidence is scanned and copied and taken out of storage on a regular basis. As a university student I often struggle to engage with a topic without seeing physical evidence from the period. The importance of the archives in this respect cannot be understated. Without the evidence they possess it would be impossible for postgraduate students and school children alike to pursue their chosen topic with enthusiasm.
When groups do come to the archives the Interpretation department select relevant sources and photos and hold a seminar for the students. When I helped with this I was surprised that their entire collection is computerised, however, the evidence cannot be seen on the screen. Consequently it’s always a surprise when the sources are brought out of storage.
One of the most an unexpected, but rewarding activities at the archive is the use of the archives resources to benefit the general public. I was lucky enough to teach some primary school students about the Great Fire of London at the Guildhall Art Gallery. Preparation for these classes depends on the age or interests of the students. In the case of primary school pupils only pictures and some documents were required, but more mature students are given extremely rare material from the archive tailored to their interests.
I expected 500 years to mean very little to them, but in fact one child made a comparison between the ages of some sources. It showed me how important primary sources are in promoting engagement with history. Up until now I have only heard about the Interpretations team teaching, but now I got to see it in action. I asked if I could do it again in another week.