What a year 2017 was!
The ARK started the year in a very purposeful manner, closing its doors to personal visitors so that all of the collections could be inspected for condition, packaging and location during the 2 week stock take. It was the first time that we had undertaken such a task, which, although a full-on experience, was one that we found incredibly useful as it gave us a greater insight into the condition and status of the collections, so much so that the process will be repeated in 2018 (put 22nd January-2nd February in your diary…)
At the same time, the ARK loaned exhibition material to the Council of Christians and Jews in Liverpool, which was shown at Liverpool Cathedral to mark Holocaust Day. This opened up the information gathered as part of our HLF supported Huyton Camps project to yet another diverse audience who were able to connect with the experiences of internees.
February was a busy time, which saw a team effort result in the local history reference stock held at Huyton Library being transferred to the ARK, where these books are now safely stored for posterity (and researchers to study!). We also opened our doors to staff from Knowsley’s branch libraries, who were given an insight into the workings of the archive service and a chance to see some of the wonderful treasures in the collections.
The Heritage Lottery Fund supported projects have made great progress during 2017. The retro-conversion of the paper-based catalogue to Calm, an online, accessible database and the community engagement projects both gained momentum, aided by our magnificent volunteers, who regularly and generously give their time and expertise to support the ARK.
Children from St. Anne’s Catholic Primary School in Huyton worked incredibly hard, researching the history and impact of the railways in Huyton. The result was a stunning documentary which is both informative and entertaining. Watch it here, if you haven’t already:
Meanwhile, our borough-wide music project, ‘Rock the ARK’, got off the ground with some eye-catching exhibitions in our library spaces and an invitation to vote for your favourite Knowsley related pop song. It was an impressive roll call of Knowsley talent, with T’Pau, The La’s, Black, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and more besides in the running for the top slot. Who won? Well, we’ll find that out later…
The ARK hosted many visits from students, school pupils and local societies over the course of the year, providing an introduction to the ARK, research sessions and interactive explorations to enable people to access the collections and interpret that information in an appropriate manner. We also went out on road, visiting groups in their own spaces – for example, we helped Beavers, Cubs and Scouts in Prescot to achieve their Local Interest badge, entertained Halewood U3A with our 1990 Pop-up Slide Show (which recreated an original local history talk delivered by the former Principal Reference Librarian, the late Mr. T. W. Scragg) and evoked musical memories at Stockbridge Library’s reminiscence coffee morning. In another first for us, we were delighted to be invited to present a talk on the ‘Highlights from the Prescot Archives’ to the 13th Annual Prescot Festival of Music and the Arts.
The Heritage Lottery Fund supported projects continued to grow throughout the year. Links with the Alumni of Kirkby’s Malayan Teachers’ Training College, which operated on the site of the former Royal Ordnance Factory hostel in Kirkby Fields from 1952–1962, culminated in an emotional return of some 38 of the former students, many of them now octogenarians, to the site of the College to unveil a commemorative plaque which describes the history of the site. This visit, on 30th – 31st August, coincided with the 60th anniversary of the announcement of Merdeka (independence) for Malaya (now Malaysia). Old friendships were rekindled and new associations forged in what was a most inspiring and uplifting experience for the Alumni, local residents, ARK staff and volunteers. The legacy of this project is clear: links between residents and former students and their families have been created, and the ARK is now recognised as the official repository for material relating to the MTTC and the Alumni Association, underlining the international importance of the collections, which will continue to be a focal point for researchers of the College in the future. Watch the events unfold in this short film:
August saw The Challenge newspaper publish the first of a monthly series of articles submitted by the ARK which explore different aspects of the collections. So far, we’ve covered diverse topics such as the Malayan Teachers’ Training College, Knowsley’s sporting legacy, tales of mystery and celebrating Christmas. The January issue is due out now – look out for our article on sales and shopping in Knowsley, explored through the prism of the archive collections.
The big headline for 2017, however, has to be the ARK’s attainment of Accreditation from The National Archives, which was announced in November.
The Archive Accreditation Scheme is a national award which is only given to archive services after a rigorous inspection process which closely examines all aspects of service delivery, from policies and procedures and conservation work through to customer service, access to the collections and community engagement. Happily, the ARK was awarded full accreditation status, giving our communities that quality assurance that the archives are being managed, cared for and made available to the very highest standards.
November was also time to join in with the national campaign, Explore Your Archive. We ran an open day and 2 film show sessions, which featured the short films created through our HLF supported projects – Erich Kirste’s moving recollections of life as a WWII Prisoner of War in Huyton, ‘Chuffed to Bits’ which explores the impact of the railways on Huyton and Roby through the eyes of pupils from St Anne’ Catholic Primary School and ‘The Malayan Connection’ which celebrates the return of the former students of the Malayan Teachers’ Training College to Kirkby.
Our HLF supported projects continue into the 3rd year of the programme, with more exciting opportunities for our communities to get involved in activities around sport (our sporting heritage project, ‘This Sporting Life’, is about to kick off…) and education (‘History Detectives’ will create local history materials for use in schools) plus our music project, ‘Rock the ARK’ will be finalised (by the way – the La’s won the public vote).
The collections will be much easier to search and be much more visible as we go live with the catalogue – keep a look out for details of the launch of Calmview, which will allow researchers to explore collections online.
So: 2017 was definitely a landmark year for the ARK – but there’s so much more to come in 2018!