Archives Forward Plan
- To preserve items relating to the history of the College, selected administrative records, legal documents, building plans, personal papers deposited by alumnae, Fellows and Presidents, and documents relating to the Women's Art Collection.
- To catalogue these to national standards so that they may be readily accessed.
- To make items available (unless restricted) to students, staff and external readers who have good reason to study them.
- To answer enquiries based on the collections.
- To promote the study of women's education
The current situation
This is the first formal plan for the archives, decisions having previously been made as required by the Library Committee and College Council, with occasional reports and requests in the College's Annual Review. The present Librarian added management of the archives to her remit about seven years ago, when the expansion of the Library into a semi-basement allowed the creation of an archive store/ workroom. At first the College provided money on an ad hoc basis, for a short term cataloguing post, a computer, boxing, and expenses of the oral history project. From 2000 part-time assistance with cataloguing has been funded regularly. Fortunately the archives are able to share the Library's scanner, printer and photocopier.
However, the level of funding which this young and under-endowed college can afford is inadequate and is proving a major obstacle to progress. This is now being particularly felt in an area with a distinct time-frame, the project to record the oral history of the College and produce a film for its 50th anniversary in 2004. Recently the College's priority has been major fundraising for essential structural renovation of its sixties buildings (notably a sudden failure of the Library roof) and the resulting cash-flow problems have resulted in strict budgetary control.
Another concern is the limited space for expansion of the collections: material from the college offices, ephemera and gifts from alumnae come in all the time. There has been some overflow into one of the Library stores, and the creation of a paper store for the offices has postponed the time when some of their papers will be designated archives. None of these rooms has temperature and humidity control.
Requests from administrative staff to see documents, particularly photographs (some digital) and building plans, come in regularly. Students of art and architecture from our own and other universities, consult the building plans and pictures. Our documents relating to the foundation of the College are becoming better known and attract visiting scholars working on educational topics. Our artists' archive, complemented by a database of the picture collection, has also been valuable to researchers, enabling us to answer e-mail enquiries and receive visitors. The number of external readers is not large but is expected to grow. Access details are made available on the College website, together with a short account of the collections.
Short Term Plan (Financial Year July 2003-4)
We are in a reasonably good position with cataloguing, having a fairly clear outline of the collection on the 'Cantab' Access database with various printed indexes. Currently there are 2,300 records. However, there is a mounting backlog of material which comes in faster than we can deal with it; ideally we would also like to work through existing records to provide item records in many areas (e.g. the papers of Dame Rosemary Murray, founder President).
Twin aims are to add the uncatalogued material to the database and to improve existing records so that at least one section can be loaded onto the JANUS database of Cambridge archives. Outline records of our main women's collections are already on the Genesis database. Realistically with 7 hours' assistance per week to cover cataloguing and enquiries we can plan for 800 new records.
Storage space will probably suffice for the coming year. More boxing of material should be completed and checks will be made on the environment of the new paper store.
This is an on-going project, but the first priority has been to acquire enough material from the earliest alumnae, Fellows and other associates to make a film celebrating New Hall's fiftieth anniversary. This will be complete when three more key players in the history of New Hall have been interviewed in the Autumn. About half the existing films have been indexed by a volunteer alumna, making it simple to identify clips on a given keyword. We have secured funding from the College sufficient to bring us up to date with indexing but not to cover future videos. In consultation with professional film makers a narrative will be developed and further general filming done to provide continuity.
There has been a request for a display of Archive materials for various events marking the 50th Anniversary. We will need to make surrogate copies of documents and photographs relating to various stages in the College's history and to borrow a secure showcase to display the College Charter. We would also like, if possible, to run video loop material with headphones available and to provide appropriate publicity to attract the general public.
The sums available for these tasks in the College's agreed budget for the academic year 2003-4 total £750, less than what was requested. These sums are broken down as follows:
|video archive project||£550|
|development of the Cantab software||£50|
|P/T archivist's salary (9 hours per week)||£6,000|
Five year plan
Staffing and funding
Increased awareness of the archive may bring in more external visitors, in which case staff hours will be insufficient. Our aim should be to maintain at least our current levels of service and we believe we should also step up invigilation of readers. However, the financial pressures on the College suggest that it will be difficult to achieve an increase in funding although there is some scope for income generation from photographs, postcards and the proposed video of New Hall's history.
The collections are in a relatively good state of preservation, except that some newspaper cuttings are crumbling and should be photocopied on to acid free paper. We rely heavily on the staff of the College Offices to identify material which should come to the archives, and therefore need a written policy to make sure that records sent to the paper store are weeded and transferred to the archives when no longer 'active'. We may receive further offers of donations of papers from Old Members, but we should not accept them uncritically. On the other hand we should be canvassing famous alumnae for deposits.
We will continue with the Cantab database and make our records publicly available on the Cambridge University Janus website. It should be possible to keep this up to date unless large unforeseen accruals come in. For some kinds of material, item records will be added if time permits.
The storage problem will soon become acute and decisions must be made about moving the collection to a larger room. When the College next embarks on building works we should press for the incorporation of an archive room with environmental control. There is no more scope for storage in the Library, unless we regain the front office, but it is still possible to accommodate visitors consulting archives.
While it is crucial to raise awareness within the College of the importance of the archive, we should also be stimulating access to our unique materials from the outside world by improving our website and participating in Janus and other appropriate local or national initiatives.