Five Weeks Working From Home: An Update

By The Staff of West Sussex Record Office

Last week Immie gave a wonderful update to what she had had been working through in the time since the Record Office staff have been working from home. We thought we would give other members of staff the chance to crow about the work they have been doing these past weeks. So without further preamble, here’s what our staff are up to, in their own words, as well as certain animals that have been aiding (or hindering) progress.

For myself, I have been working through our storage catalogues for district and borough councils, updating changes, re-formatting in excel and word, and noting any discrepancies between the hard and digital copies. Our aim down the line is to streamline access to storage locations of our records and it is the perfect job for putting on headphones and blasting music to. Additionally, I have been running through our internal filing AV system, looking at what files and folders and perhaps redundant or need adjusting. Finally, I have been going through our Searchroom Supervisor Folders, aka the instruction manual for every question we could ever be asked from the general public (or so we hope). Much of it is out of date or now the information is held online, so much weeding and streamlining has ensued.

Abigail Hartley, Searchroom Archivist


What have I been doing? A very good question, well it has been putting card indexes on to CALM of 17th century Doctors and Teachers.  The Doctors cards were interesting as they came up with quite a few words along with some of Tim’s handwritten they were quite difficult to decipher, like chirurgeoy, or chirurgeon and apothecary along with phisick or in some cases a different spelling of phisick. There was one reference to the “infected with the sickness” i.e. Plague of 1609 in Westhampnett, and also quite a few Midwife references.  When I had got through the Doctors cards I thought it would get easier, but there were still words to decipher, like teaching the rudiments of Latin, and the teaching the 3 Rs. It took me a little while to workout what teaching W/O licence was until it was written out in full, teaching without licence, very simple when you work it out. Moving onto Parish storage catalogues now.

By Ian Pennicott, Searchroom Assistant


As the Diocesan Record Office, WSRO holds a vast collection of Episcopal records dating from the 14th Century. Bishop Bell arranged for the first deposit of Episcopal archives in 1951. The first printed catalogue of the Episcopal records was published in 1966 and there have been many more deposits of records since then expanding the size of the collection. The collection is stored in well over 1500 boxes in the Record Office strongrooms, probably a huge underestimate.

The storage catalogue for this ever-increasing collection are constantly being up-dated and the hard-copy, in daily use for production in the Searchroom, is heavily annotated. I have taken on the task of revising the storage catalogue for this invaluable collection, a highly used resource for researchers.

In doing so, I am also trying to improve certain entries on the CALM catalogue system to, hopefully, facilitate online searches. I am also logging various queries I have noted in order to investigate and hopefully remedy once the Record Office is open again.

I am enjoying this task, I am learning too, and I anticipate it will prove to be a job well worth having done when we return to retrieving documents from storage for our researchers.

Susie Duffin, Searchroom Assistant


My time has been taken up by editing and uploading larger collections that have been compiled by the volunteers. These collections will need additional checks and will be available to researchers later this year. I’ve returned to the collection of the artist Claude Muncaster. He was famous for painting watercolour seascapes and landscapes, sometimes by Royal Appointment, from mid to latter part of the 20th century. I have gone through his correspondence, prints of artwork and papers relating to exhibitions he was exhibited at. My work has continued with the hundreds of photographs and slides donated by one of our regular researchers. These range from images of Chichester to the history of the south coasts smaller settlements, such as East Preston and the Witterings. Many of these images were taken from early to the late 20th century. Amongst them, early postcard photographs showing buildings and road layouts which have now disappeared or much changed. I’ve completed uploading to CALM the series of correspondence relating to the collection of David Harris, local political activist and academic of the mid to late 20th century. Finally I have also started the process of checking through the diaries of Dorothy Longley, who was officially recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the longest living keeper of a diary, c2002.

Nick Corbo-Stewart, Archivist


Updating a storage catalogue that contains 55,000 entries? Challenge accepted!

Storage catalogues are vital to everyone who works in the archive; they list the location of all our documents and without them we would be lost; literally. We have both digital and paper versions which means over the years the two versions look quite a bit different from each other, as collections are added to, storage changed, information updated etc etc.

My task while working from home is to update the Additional Manuscript (Add Mss) storage list, which, yes, does have 55,000 documents listed. Luckily many of the numbers are grouped as the storage is the same for multiple documents, this does save me amending 55,000 individual items at least. The main thing is to ensure that the digital and paper versions match and any changes made on one list is replicated on the other. This does mean a long process of cross referencing multiple lists and highlighting anything that I need to go and check when the office is open again. But at the end we will have two lists that identical to each other, corrections and all…..hopefully.

Katie Bishop, Searchroom Assistant


Whilst working from home has been a new experience, some things have remained unchanged – I’m still spending a lot of time replying to emails! However, I’ve also used this opportunity to work on spreadsheets for a solicitors’ archive (Holmes Campbell of Arundel) which one of our volunteers has been listing. I’m uploading the catalogue records into CALM, our cataloguing system, which will mean they can be searched online and it’s proved to be a fascinating project. There’s a huge amount of useful material about property in the Arundel area but also some more unusual things – from reports of the head constable to tense family arguments and even a suspicious name change and imprisonment in New South Wales!

Jennifer Mason, Senior Archivist


My main work so far has involved finding solutions to keep our fascinating Transatlantic Ties project on track. The project aims to digitise all significant documents related to North America held by at the Record Office and put them online. Our project manager Jo McConville’s blog/piece will have more detail.

I have been liaising with and advising Library Service colleagues on various issues and particularly handling their photograph and picture publication requests. Another task is to continue to work on the Worthing Library Community Hub project, compiling a risk assessment report (which didn’t originally include a lockdown caused by a global pandemic!) in particular focussed on protecting the important photographic and rare book collections. Continuing to upload digital content, such as maps, photographs, directories etc, on to a server for researchers of Worthing history, ready for when the refurbishment is complete, is an important aspect of the project. I also have been encouraging over 200 volunteers from previous Library projects and members of over 70 local history societies from across the County to take part in the Record Office’s new project to create a Covid-19 archive by keeping personal diaries, photographs and other records of the lockdown, then deposit them.  

Finally the most recent work is assembling the digital resources we have on VE Day for a blog the Record Office will be publishing in early May. I am in the process of supplying some of these resources to other organisations, notably BBC South East, BBC South Today, Crawley Borough Council, Ferring Film Society, Talking Tangmere magazine (Military Aviation Museum), various local councillors and WSCC County Chairman.

Working from home can be challenging but I don’t miss the 40 mile car journey to Chichester and our WSCC network, laptops and a great deal of digitised content have enabled me to work quite effectively. Two days are never the same and I thoroughly enjoy the challenge!

Martin Hayes, County Local Studies Librarian


The project to extract information from the thousands of railway employee cards donated to West Sussex Record Office by the British Railways Board in 2005 has sadly come to a temporary halt. The six volunteers, who were making such good progress, have had to stay at home rather than spending every Tuesday hard at work in the Record Office. However, lockdown has provided a useful opportunity for me to spend time processing the spreadsheets produced by the volunteers.

Katherine Slay, Archives Assistant


I’m working through the old fashioned card index of West Sussex manorial documents which is in the Searchroom along with all the other old fashioned card index cabinets and is popularly known as the Great Wall of China or sometimes the Berlin Wall. 

The cards are arranged alphabetically by name of the manor and I am checking the document references on each card against the electronic catalogue CALM to ensure that each document on Calm includes the name of the manor and doesn’t just say ‘Court book’ for example without identifying which manor it is for. Manorial documents include things such as manor court rolls, manor court books, accounts, rentals, custumals, perambulations, deeds, admissions and surrenders of property. 

Diane Ladlow, Searchroom Assistant


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