Sunday 26 January 2014

Explore Your Archive - a box takes shape

Work had begun to identify and digitise the records that would tell our story. We wanted to produce authentic copies to get as close as you can to exploring archives without the need for supervision. It had become obvious that our box should be a medicine chest, so we set out to find a portable (and cheap) storage solution.

After, fitted with custom-made cabinet doors to add to the excitement! 

The five drawers gave us the structure to develop key themes around John Haygarth’s work, Chester Infirmary, vaccination and fever, with a drawer left over to add leaflets and badges. We also needed a variety of formats and items so that there would be something for everyone, wherever the box might be. As the plans, photographs, pamphlets, patient register pages, hospital management minutes came together the joy of unpacking a ‘Jackdaw’ file came back to me – it might have been 40 years ago but I could remember the hands-on documents experience of primary school history. A potential 'just me then'. What would our audiences make of it?

Friday 10 January 2014

Explore Your Archive - an idea takes shape

Our plans for joining the new national Explore Your Archive campaign took shape in an archivists’ meeting. We could certainly aim to create a story box, recruit archive ambassadors and join in the national campaign week in November, but at the same time staff and outreach resources had been committed to our key summer events ‘Helping Cheshire Remember the First World War’. With this in mind our story box would need to be self-contained, self-explanatory and closely targeted to a new audience.

We quickly found our local hero, Dr John Haygarth, who not only innovated isolation wards for fever patients at the Chester Infirmary in 1784 but carried out statistical analysis of the health of Chester’s population. His work had been of regional and national significance. We knew that the infirmary’s patient registers had been used within the past year in talks to introduce the new Clinical Outcomes unit at the Christie hospital in Manchester (Haygarth and his colleagues had been collecting state of the art patient outcome data in the 18th century!). One of our parent council’s new Public Health director had visited our searchroom to consult Medical Officers of Health reports from when public health had last been the responsibility of local government. So we had prospective ambassadors to champion our archives. A chance encounter at a staff meeting gave us a contact with Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust who could perhaps help us with the kind of venues we were after. But they needed to know more about the format of the box …