Friday 9 May 2014

Keeping Pace: Dr Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Archive

In your day-to-day life you've probably walked past one of George Pace's buildings before and not realised it. Pace (1915-1975) was a York-based architect who is famous for his contributions to modernist ecclesiastical architecture. Perhaps his strict religious upbringing was the reason behind his career. Upon the death of his associate, Ronald Sims, the Pace and Sims documentation was gifted to the Borthwick. Today, more than 250 rolls of plans, drawings and correspondence lie uncatalogued in storage: it was our job to begin this exciting quest.

As work experience students from the University of York - under the guidance of Dr. Amanda Jones - we immediately got our teeth stuck in (not literally!). Armagh Cathedral was the first building we unrolled. Seventy-seven architectural drawings took us on a virtual tour of the Royal Irish Fusiliers Chapel. The Dean of York personally recommended Pace for this project; this is the foundation of Pace's illustrious career. Some of the most interesting drawings from this roll related to the war memorial design. We saw many designed for such memorials; it served as a powerful and poignant reminder of the lasting impact of the World Wars.

Drawing of detail from Armagh Cathedral memorialDrawing of war memorial for Armagh Cathedral

Another part of our project was to help conserve some of the Atkinson Brierley archives. This involved cleaning the documents using specialised tools. Alex was swept away by, "the cleaning experience. I couldn't believe the amount of dirt that has accumulated on the sdocuments!" Through this, we learnt how important conservation is for the preservation of these valuable documents. We enjoyed working with the conservation staff and current volunteers and through their help and knowledge, we gained a new set of skills in basic conservation.
Cleaning Atkinson Brierley drawings
This was Guy's favourite part," I am currently working on a Masters dissertation on Brierley so the chance to contribute to the preservation of these wonderful documents was really rather special."

In three days, we managed to catalogue 347 documents. This process was one in which the past was unrolled before our very eyes. From memorials to dossals, radiator covers to electrical installations, and candlesticks to altars, we saw the extensive work and skill behind being an architect. Joy particular enjoyed the data collecting. "It is wonderful to think that my work is contributing to the preservation of 'the past in the present for the future'. Through the database, these documents can now be brought to light again and truly appreciated."
Caitlin data-inputting for the Pace project
"I built on my communication and team skills through the data inputting. Also, the project gave me the chance to further my palaeographical skills. This week has been really fun and insightful." Caitlin.

Work experience students study a plan
"Analysing the documents was very interesting. I normally study 19th century architecture, so getting the chance to see 20th century work was fascinating." Rebecca.

Joy holding a roll of drawings
This is how Joy rolls.
What made the experience truly worthwhile is the fact we have made a lasting contribution to the archives. Before we began this placement, we did not truly appreciate the important work of archivists and the volume of information stored. A career in archives is one that should be respected as archivists are making a remarkable effort to preserve our heritage. In fact, we are all interested in pursuing a job in this field. Aoife found that, "all the staff were friendly and helpful, and their career advice was really useful."

For read about the work of former work experience students, look at the posts on the Tuke project last year, here, here and here

Our work experience students
"A fun and fascinating week with a great group of people." Mark  

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