In September 2015, a team was put together to sort and maintain all the records gathered since YAT was established in 1972. The project began with Giulia Gallio and I becoming Archive Interns, and we were later joined by Adam Raw Mackenzie who would concentrate on digitising our collection.
Gaining control of the YAT archive is no small task. The amount of paperwork created by even the smallest archaeological site can be considerable, and members of the York Archaeological Trust have been working tirelessly on such projects for what is only a little shy of half a century. These years have seen monumental changes to both our discipline and our way of life, and these changes are reflected in our collection. While recent records can be easily called up on modern databases and network drives, the archive holds plenty of material contained by floppy-discs of unusual size, video-tape formats that were not lucky enough to become as well known as VHS or Betamax, and a round, flat tin containing a reel of thirty-five millimetre film. Rumour has it that there is even a wax phonograph cylinder somewhere among the shelves which contains the Trust’s first ever visitor-attraction audio-commentary, though others argue that this is probably somewhat apocryphal.
With such a rich resource, there was no shortage of work for us get our teeth into. We began by familiarising ourselves with the collection, which years of occasional relocation had scattered across our various sites. We tracked down piles of paper that had been hidden under distant desks and atop crumbling shelves. We forced our way into abandoned rooms and deciphered coded, shorthand instructions in our quest for total information awareness. Calls were sent out to those no longer with the Trust, and they responded by returning yet more boxes. In time, we were sure we had gathered all we could, and so set to work creating a catalogue of everything we had found.
Accessibility is among our highest priorities, and in time this catalogue will be made available to all who wish to search through our archives for themselves. We have already scanned thousands of images in the creation of a digital image catalogue, and we hope to one day have an archive database that contains our entire collection of records. The road to such ambition is made of smaller steps, however, and in the meantime we organise our efforts between continuing with this cataloguing and answering requests from both internal and external customers. Texts have been based upon records pulled from our acid-free boxes. Reports have been illustrated with images picked from our towering filing cabinets. Museum displays have been compiled from our diverse range of video footage. If anyone wants anything from our archive for any reason, then we will set out to find it.
In April 2016, Giulia and I were given the role of permanent Archive Assistants. This has allowed us to continue working with the archive, our wonderful volunteers, and everyone else in the Trust. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but are relishing the opportunity to make the archive all it can be. Return to this page in the future, and I can tell you all about it…