Next in our “A Day in the Life” blog series is Jennifer Whitby, an Archivist with a working background in finds, fieldwork and museum work. 

Like many I have been working a mixture of home and office. This describes my typical day in the office for an archaeological archivist.

I arrive fairly early to the office. Any time after 7:30 – 8 depending on traffic and how long it takes to warm my car up as I live out in the countryside so tend to have temperatures under 3°C for the past month. After checking in and unloading the boxes of archives I had been dealing with I fire up my laptop. 

Dealing with digital archives at my desk

Dealing with digital archives at my desk

All the emails that arrive after I switched off yesterday start appearing. Most are general office ones but thankfully I have replies to some queries I had sent out. These range from project status to confirming whether a report has been approved. Some are from managers trying to track down project folders so that they can be written up or used for reference. Others reference missing digital archive components that are required as per the guidelines of the repository that will eventually store the archive.

Sorting paper records

Sorting paper records

The archives at Wessex are prepared to national standard which are then tailored to each repository’s requirements for acceptance. These normally consist of ordering the physical paperwork in a certain order, storing any digital data with the Archaeological Data Service (ADS), and the finds in a certain way. What is included in the archive also depends on the repository and so sometimes I need to chase certain bits of paperwork that need to be included. This may be because they were removed so that they could be referenced for something. Occasionally I will have to create this from scratch as unfortunately it was not done at the time of fieldwork. 

An ordered archive

An ordered archive 

Marion Plumer, from the field team, has been helping us prepare a series of archive for Winchester. She has a couple of questions about what should be included in some of the archives she has and how to deal with certain pieces of paperwork. These are normal questions that I normally face when preparing archives, so know the solutions well. It is a great opportunity for a member of the field team to see what happens to their records after a project and to see what another department does. Archives are not for everyone. You have to be organised, observant for mistakes, and good at puzzle solving. After all the guidelines are the picture on the box and the archive is the puzzle to be completed.

Preparing documentary archive

Preparing documentary archive

I’m contacted by my fellow archivists regarding some problems they’re having and need me to check while I am in the office. They also help with a couple of minor issues I was having by suggesting solutions I hadn’t thought of. As a team we’re always help each other out.

A quick break. A lovely hot chocolate. And on to my main task of the day; finish a particular archive. This archive just needs some paperwork printed, the digital side confirmed, and then burned to disk. It is so satisfying to be at this final stage; burning the digital, printing the last of the indices, everything is labelled, ordered, and in its document case. A quick update of the records and ta da! One archive ready for deposition in the new year once the repository is open once for collecting.

Burning to disk

Burning to disk

After lunch my line manager stops by for a catch up. It’s a chance to keep her in the loop on the things I’ve been working on and any problems I have encountered. We discuss the ongoing problem of microfilming (which is still required by a couple of archive stores) and what I hope to achieve over the next week before I am in again.

Scanning A1 drawing Scanning A3 drawing

Scanning A1 and A3 drawings

Final push of the day and I’m onto trying to finish my next archive. There are some missing pieces to the digital archive copy so time to scan, scan, and scan some more. I also print off the report while I have access to the printer. I update the various trackers on my progress and outstanding tasks still to do.

More scanning

Yet more scanning!

Home time! Time to pack up, update the trackers as to which archives I have with me, and sign out. I say goodbye to those still in the office on my way out and head on home.

by Jennifer Whitby, Archivist