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Working Without Objects

Poster featuring a police officer in uniform and the text 'London'
Poster featuring a police officer in uniform and the text 'London'

Written by
Hannah Grout
Published date
27 March 2020

With the current COVID-19 pandemic causing disruption to the daily lives of many of us in the UK and across the world, the Archives and Special Collections Centre (ASCC) was not alone in making the difficult decision to close last week.

Although it’s currently unclear when we will be able to re-open to visitors, staff are still very much at work behind the scenes to keep operations going. We are working remotely, so don’t have access to the physical archives and collections, but there is still plenty to do from our makeshift home offices.

So, what do archivists and curators do if they can't get to the objects they look after?

The first week of working from home has involved lots of communication between members of the team, ensuring that we can overcome various IT challenges to enable us to work effectively, as well as keeping our spirits high during this transition. We have supported each other in this, and are grateful for the amazing help from our colleagues in IT.

Now that we're settling into thinking about how to keep going with our workplans, and how we can continue to support our students, we are using this opportunity to catch up on general tasks as well as thinking creatively about how we can respond to the current situation. Some examples of what the team are currently working on include:

  • Monitoring our enquiry service and answering your questions as best we can at this time, so if you have any queries do get in touch:
  • Designing online learning activities and creating teaching resources so we can continue to deliver classes and workshops online to students, many of whom will now be participating from overseas.
  • Cataloguing ILEA Collection records from digitised versions of the material.
  • Remotely supporting students who have been working on projects with the archive this term.
  • Reviewing existing cataloguing and listing work.
  • Working on our social media content and strategy – look out for campaigns and takeovers on our Twitter and Instagram over the next few weeks.
  • Researching and writing blogs/articles.
  • Editing the ASCC webpages.
  • Undertaking online training in tools and softwares that are becoming essential to our remote working.
  • Continuing to prepare and upload digital materials to our digital preservation system.
  • Processing ASCC user and retrievals data.
  • Reading up on subjects relevant to our collection areas.
  • Reviewing/updating our working documents.
  • Creating research guides for our collections, and reviewing existing user guides for the archive.
  • Continuing our professional development through a variety of online courses, webinars and resources.

As well as this we are holding regular online meetings so the team can keep in touch and stay updated. Our WhatsApp group is also a great place to share pictures of new kittens and the view from our 'office' windows! Everyone is working incredibly hard to adapt to the new environment, and some really interesting work is already starting to come out of this unprecedented situation.

We will be keeping you informed of any updates to the ASCC service through our social media accounts (links at the top of this page).

Many thanks to you all for your patience and understanding during this time - stay connected and take care!

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