Hi my name is Christine. Having made the decision to retire from full time work two years ago, I discovered that Bury Archives were looking for volunteers to work on the WW1 project. Having studied History and English, a keen interest in my own family history and having a little more ‘me’ time, I thought this opportunity might be right up my street. I saw it as a way of using my free time in a meaningful way whilst giving something back to the community. I completed the paperwork, went along for an informal chat and that was the start of an interesting alternative to paid work.
Initially I worked on the WW1 project, extracting information from local newspapers about soldiers, their experience’s and all too often their demise. Every time I captured an image of a soldier and with one click, saved it to the pen drive, I felt a sense of how quickly such young lives had been snuffed out in a split second. Poems, letters, advertisements and the effect the war was having on industries made interesting reading and added a real sense of the effect of war on people and places. having worked on this project for over twelve months it was time for a change.
Other volunteers were steadily working their way through a mountain of archive boxes containing a whole range of information totally unrelated to the WW1 project. My next task was to input the information they extracted onto a data base. week after week I sat quietly on the computer typing away and as soon as I saw the end of one file, the volunteers had catalogued yet more!
Three months ago I was asked if I would like to get involved in the latest project, Made in Greater Manchester. This involves volunteers from various Archives across greater Manchester working together as a team to catalogue specific archives from a locally based company. I have attended two morning courses held at Manchester central Library, one an insight into cataloguing and the other about digitisation of images and documents. Both courses were informative and also gave me the opportunity to meet other volunteers across Manchester. It seemed strange revisiting central library again after so long as this was where I had my first job after leaving school in 1970.
Back to the MiGM project. In Bury we are working on the archives held for Thomas Robinson and Company Limited who were bleachers and dyers. I have had my first taste of opening an archive box and wading through the papers and samples looking for items of interest. I have found many samples of materials including some flannelette printed with little characters e.g. Bo Peep, rabbits etc. which transported me back in time when such material was used for children’s pyjamas back in the 50’s and 60’s. Another interesting discovery was that Thomas Robinson were forward thinking and clearly valued the importance of its employees’ suggestions. I have found several suggestion slips completed by individuals and if management felt the ideas were viable, the Company gave the employee a bonus. I am really looking forward to finding out more about the company at the archive boxes reveal more gems as the weeks go by.