Giulia moved to the UK from Italy to study for a BA in Archaeology of Ancient Civilisations at the University of Liverpool, followed by an MSc in Human Osteology and Funerary Archaeology at the University of Sheffield. She has taken part in several archaeological projects in the UK, Italy and the Middle East in a variety of roles, before joining the Jorvik Group in May 2014 as a Visitor Experience Host.
Diary of an Archive Intern
At the beginning of September 2015 I started working with York Archaeological Trust in the role of Archive Intern. My duties, which are shared with Louis Carter, include the scoping and sorting of the Trust’s archive, which encompasses over 40 years of the Trust’s history from its foundation in 1972 to the present day. As the Trust’s activities and scope have increased over the years so has the archive, which includes records and forms from the thousands of archaeological sites it has investigated as well as documentation related to the planning, opening and refurbishing of the Trust’s museums and attractions in York.
This wide array of material has been boxed, stored and moved several times since the Trust was founded and is therefore in need of being reorganised. Our main objective is to catalogue the contents of all the archive boxes and to create an online database which can be easily consulted by employees, external researchers and students. This will allow for a wider dissemination of the information contained within the archive and, once complete, will hopefully be a useful resource for those interested in the archaeology of York and its environs.
The large amount of boxes seemed a bit daunting at first, so we started by dividing our workload into smaller tasks and identifying the different types of records present: while the majority of the information is on paper there is also a large amount of data in other formats, ranging from photographic negatives and slides to CDs, microfiches, different types of video tapes and floppy disks and even a 35mm film reel! Having identified all these materials, we spent some time thinking about the best way to catalogue and present them in an organic and intuitive way. With the help of a dedicated team of volunteers we then started sorting through the paper archive box by box, listing the contents of each on a spreadsheet: this is easy to consult and allows us to quickly locate and retrieve the relevant documents when requested. Our first task was to catalogue the material related to a number of York’s Roman period sites which the Trust is currently studying as part of its Resilience project, such as Tanner Row and Wellington Row. At the same time, we are also tackling the photographic archive by creating a digital catalogue and identifying damaged or missing items. As in the case of the main archive, the photographic archive includes images from a wide range of the Trust’s activities, from excavation photos to images of Jorvik’s Viking Festival. I particularly enjoy working with this material because I never know what part of the Trust’s history the next series of images will cover: my favourite find so far is a beautiful series of black and white prints which chronicle the restoration and reconstruction of Barley Hall in the early 1990s.
While working we are continuously updating our list of prioritised sites according to the needs and research interest of different departments within the Trust. Over the next few months we plan to complete the catalogue and to digitise as many of the images as possible; we will then turn our attention to the numerous video tapes, CDs and floppy disks in our archive boxes and attempt to convert their contents into readable digital files. Another challenge, of course, will be to ensure that the digitised data will remain readable in future years so that it continues to be of use to staff members and external researchers alike.
Working with YAT’s archive has provided me with a fantastic opportunity to enhance my knowledge of its activities, and to appreciate how the Trust’s archaeological recording system has changed over time. In addition, my role has given me the chance to develop my skills by assisting with other curatorial tasks, such as the installation of a new skeleton and coffin at the Jorvik Viking Centre; given my interest in human osteology I feel extremely lucky to have had such an opportunity. As a Visitor Experience Host at Jorvik, it was also very interesting for me to discover more about the way the Centre and the other Jorvik Group attractions have evolved over the years: I look forward to more exciting discoveries over the next few months as we make our way through the many, many boxes in the archive rooms.