Thursday, 21 July 2016

M&S and ITV Archives - a jolly day out

A few weeks ago I organised a trip to Leeds for the Archive Trainees group and we visited the M&S company archive and ITV's archive. I took the opportunity to visit contacts at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Northern Ballet too and it was a great day for seeing the attraction of the north and the collaborative nature of work outside of London.

The lovely Leeds train station

At the M&S Archive, a group of around 20 trainees were given an introduction to the company archive and a fantastic insight into how a business archive works alongside a permanent exhibition space and being open to researchers.  They have a partnership with the University of Leeds, on whose campus they are based, which allows them to facilitate research and student research, which sounded like a really productive and healthy relationship.

A lovely board in the exhibition inviting public responses to M&S

One idea that I really loved was that there are archive ambassadors throughout M&S, who advocate for good record keeping in all areas of the company.  This is so useful when the archive team is obviously relatively small compared to the whole of M&S and not located in the head office.  The Archive also runs really interesting programmes working with dementia patients where they use their archive of clothes and related items to spark memories from their past and they also work with schools using virtual classrooms and on-site visits.

A beautiful collage of store fronts displayed alphabetically
by town, shown in the exhibition area

It was really helpful to hear why they archive what they do and what areas of their collection they are missing items, especially in men's clothing.  I was fascinated by all of the technological records that they hold as M&S has been heavily involved in innovation in food and clothing technology.  I would never have thought of this and was thrilled to hear that this is available to research.

We paid a visit to Dusty Bin, oh and ITV
The trip to the ITV Archive was very interesting as the Archive has come into existence as a result of rights management requirements.  This is a different approach to many archives and the group was blown away by the complexity of the rights management situation and how integral it was that this information was looked after.  The tour of the stores was fantastic, there are so many tapes and formats of film!

Just a shot of some reels...
The stores had unfortunately been affected by the Boxing Day flooding in Leeds and they were in the process of fitting an early flood detection unit and new flooring.  It was interesting to hear about a disaster recovery process and get a handle on just how long this sort of process takes.  It was surprising to hear that there is less focus on heritage at ITV than on rights management to make content available.  They are not open to the public for research and so this visit was really useful for showing the trainees how different every archive can be.

I suppose that the best thing about the trip to Leeds was the very fact that these sorts of trips are possible.  I organise around 4 to 6 events for the Archive Trainees group a year, we are an informal group focused on providing visits, talks and networking opportunities for those thinking about joining the archive profession.  We visit many archives and many of the course directors come in to speak with the trainees and volunteers to give them a better sense of how to get into this profession.  Our next trip will be to the Parliamentary Archives in August and, as the group organiser, I am in the lucky position of being able to tag along.  We really are very lucky to be working in a sector where people are so willing to open up their archives to help educate others and welcome like-minded individuals in to discuss the challenges and opportunities our work throws up.

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