A Day in the Life… of an Archivist

By Nichola Court, Archivist

As a mother to three young children (6, 4 and 3 at the time of writing), coming to work is something of a break from the whirlwind of life at home; a chance to use my brain for something other than citing the members of the Justice League and Avengers teams (amongst many others), locating our vast collection of Disney princess and Barbie dolls’ shoes and accessories, refereeing arguments over who gets to watch what on the television and steeling myself for the obligatory complaints about not liking today’s tea. It’s fair to say that Corona virus has rather rained on my parade.

Now, my workstation is usually my lap and I work my hours where I can, with Barbie’s Dreamhouse Adventures, re-runs of Junior Bake Off or Lego Ninjago babysitting the children, or late in the evening once the children are in bed and the house is at least calm (but certainly not clean or tidy), with one or two cats for company (and one possibly sharing my lap along with the laptop). With my husband seemingly busier than ever and with a job that largely cannot be done out of hours, much of the childcare and ‘teaching’ falls on my shoulders; still, my phonics have come on leaps and bounds and I’m pretty good at my number bonds to 20, too!

Despite the fraught days and late nights, working from home has freed up some time to tackle long overdue jobs which often can’t be given the time and space they require when WSRO is up and running for business. My main task – other than finally completing a report on our pilot education programme – has been to update the County Council’s storage lists. I’ve been working specifically on our departmental records, breaking down the long and unwieldy Word storage list into separate Excel spreadsheets, much easier to manipulate and control. Over the years, records have been moved around and catalogues have been added to, so there are many annotations on our vital hard copy catalogues in the searchroom which haven’t always been transferred over to our electronic storage list.

As a keyholder, I am able to come into the building once a week and this has allowed me the chance to check many queries about locations and ensure that the lists are now as accurate as possible – which is a great feeling. It’s also a great opportunity to have a bit of headspace from the hullabaloo at home and recharge my batteries.

Now the departmental storage lists are finished, I’ll be moving on to storage lists for other aspects of the County Council’s collection. I’ve also got a few blogs to write, celebrating some of our wonderful photographic collections (having already written one on the John Smith and George Garland Photographic Collections), and some catalogues to tidy up. There’s my large talk on the exciting history of women’s suffrage in West Sussex, which needs splitting into two; and three talks which were booked for April – June, which have now been postponed until 2021. There’s yet another storage list to update, this time for Shippam’s, which is a collection I’m lucky enough to work on; and a large and fascinating family collection which is waiting to ‘go live’ on Search Online, once some amendments to the catalogue have been completed.

As an archivist I always say that it’s impossible for me to work from home, mainly because we cannot take our collections home with us. But it seems we are finding more than enough jobs to keep us busy during this uncertain time – jobs which should make our working lives more efficient once we return to ‘normal’ service (or something approaching it). I miss office life and our visitors enormously and I’m chomping at the bit to get back to normal, for a myriad of reasons; in the meantime, it’s been a welcome opportunity to work on some long-neglected tasks.

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