I’ve spent this week volunteering at Manchester Archives. Manchester Archives is currently based at the Greater Manchester County Record Office on Marshall Street, just behind the Northern Quarter. Both services will be moving into the newly refurbished Central Library when it reopens in late 2013.

I’ve been interested in archives since my teens.  I collect periodicals and old sheet music; I’m drawn to vintage posters and typography.  I’ve been a library assistant for 4 years and I’m starting an MA in Library and Information Management at MMU this month.  Archives careers are something I’ve always wanted to explore, but it’s been harder to find work experience opportunities.

I’m really enjoying my week here.  I’ve been scanning and photographing broadsides from the World War II era.  I edit the images in Photoshop ready for Flickr and send out a few tweets.

One of the broadsides I scanned

On Wednesday morning I went to The Manchester Room at City Library on Deansgate and learned how to search ancestry.com and view microfilm. That afternoon, I attended a training session on licensing digital archives.  I still found it useful despite being completely new to the field.  Intellectual property, copyright and commercial matters are relevant to library professionals and beyond.   The session was also a great opportunity to meet heritage archivists from other boroughs including Stockport, Salford, Wigan and Tameside.

Photographing items that are too big for the scanner

On Thursday morning, I was given a thorough introduction to family history search tools and had a go at finding documents relating to my own family using different databases.

Picking up the pieces: Clamping and sealing repairs

In the afternoon, I went up to the conservation workshop and spent some time fixing ripped architectural plans from the 1950s of a school in Rochdale.  I really liked this session as I enjoy doing careful work with my hands and it wasn’t like anything I had done before.

Most cleaning is done with... a rubber!

On Friday I shall finish scanning the final batch of broadsides assigned to me followed by some photography of stunning watercolour illustrations in a Sunday School magazine called “Odds and Ends”.

There is plenty to do here and whilst there are many dedicated volunteers there is room for more.  I intend to carry on as a volunteer once I’m back at university: I may even have a project to do that’s very personal and very much my own!  Working here is relaxed, interesting and satisfying and I recommend it to anybody with an interest in Manchester and its past.  It is also a goldmine of inspiration for those studying art, design and photography.

Zooming in with live view whilst turning the lens focus

Anna Vshivkova