Archive News October 2018

On Friday 5 October 2018, the Archive was entrusted with all the British Motor Museum social media feeds for the day for an event we named Archive Live! Although we were only in control for six hours, this was a major undertaking which had taken a couple of months worth of planning and preparation beforehand.

The concept was dreamt up by Luke of our marketing department. As our tagline on the blogs page says; 'an archive is something of a mystery to most people'. He thought it would be an interesting idea to dispel myths about cobwebs and dust by allowing people a peek behind the scenes. It isn't possible to let the public into the Archive store for a look round because it needs to be kept at a constant temperature and humidity. Too many people, and the environment would destabilise very quickly. Instead, we thought we could bring the Archive to the public by making a series of films and providing an opportunity to ask the Archive team live questions.

Our videos were created by another member of the marketing team, Hannah, who is an expert in filming and editing pieces like this. After much discussion we chose three subjects. As most people have never seen the inside of an archive, we decided that Archivists Charlie and Mollie would host a tour. We thought this would take about five minutes but it ended up being over twenty which, impressively, was filmed in one take by our camerawoman.

Take a Tour of the Archive...

We felt another good subject would be to demonstrate how we process donations from collection to reboxing, and by chance we had just received a major donation of over 100 boxes which represented the entire history of a local company, Noel Penny Turbines, which was based in Coventry. We were therefore able to film Charlie and Mollie going to collect the boxes in their 'raw' unsorted condition from a garage in Coventry, bringing it to back the British Motor Museum, and starting the process of appraising, sorting and reboxing so it can be added to the Archive Collections. 

Watch how we process donations...

Finally, we thought we would showcase the work of our in-house Conservator, Cath, so she could demonstrate how she goes about preserving the Collections for future generations. For filming, she chose to undertake the professional cleaning of one of the interesting notices we have, which came from the Longbridge factory. It used to hang over the Conveyor, warning people of the danger if they got too close to the edge! Naturally, during its life in the factory it has become covered in oil and grime, and Cath also explained why it was essential for the longevity of the notice to remove substances which contained nasty chemicals and could harbour bugs which might eat away at the base material.

Watch the process here...

So, after all this preparation, at 10.00 am on 5 October Luke logged us in to the museum's Twitter and Facebook accounts and Archive Live! officially began. Our pre-prepared videos were uploaded at intervals throughout the day and we waited nervously for the questions to start coming in.

Our first question came via Twitter regarding the upcoming Warwickshire History Fair and we were pleased to confirm that we would be attending the event with some archive material for the public to view. We also had a number of questions from Facebook on multiple posts, so we had to make sure all of them were answered! These included questions on our donations process - in particular magazines and brochures, what records we had for specific factories, what was the oldest item in the Archive and how did we preserve it? The theme of preservation came up often throughout the day, in response to the video of our conservator's painstaking work cleaning the Longbridge sign. We also were asked how many boxes were in the archive - fortunately we had completed an audit earlier in the year and didn't have to run around counting them all up before the end of the day! The answer, if you want to know, is 23,332 at the time of writing.

Perhaps one of the most interesting and unusual questions was if we could suggest a car which might make an interesting background to a novel or short story. While this divided us initially, we finally decided on the Wolseley Gyrocar designed in 1912 by Russian Count Pyotr Shilovsky. Alongside the questions we got lots of likes and positive comments from both individuals and other organisations and many people followed us during the day. We were very proud to have one of our videos retweeted by The National Archives with the words 'nother great example of #NewinArchives'. David Hannah from Ohio tweeted; 'very impressive, thanks for the tour'. The Bus Archive commented; 'this is a really excellent account of what an archive is all about'. And Gurpreet Bharth exclaimed 'WOW! that's a lot of boxes…'.

Having started the day with some apprehension, we ended it feeling the experiment had been a great success and hope that everyone who followed us enjoyed seeing something different. You can catch up with any of the videos you may have missed on YouTube.

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