Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Borthwick Move 10 years on - Gazing back at St Anthony's

Gary Brannan (Access Archivist and formerly Archives Trainee 2004-5)

I was just 21 (horrifically young, with a taste in fleeces and baggy cargo trousers – it was the early 2000’s, we did things differently there) when I arrived at the Borthwick Institute for Historical Research at the start of a warm September in 2004. 

I was the new Archives Trainee, and I was nervous. St. Anthony’s Hall on Peasholme Green, York, was somewhere where I had spent a few happy months researching my undergraduate dissertation the previous summer, and during that period something had got under my skin that had made me come back.

I knew that I was starting at a pivotal time in the Borthwick’s history. The Institute, as the sign on the door reminded me, was closed, about to move to brand new premises on the Heslington campus.

Well, that's me told.

It’s strange to think that it’s just about 10 years today since the first documents were carried from the old building to the new. The moving process had started in early October with the move of a lot of furniture and library stock, but the 15th October 2004 was the last day for the collections at St. Anthony’s. Monday 18th was The Day the Documents Moved. And they didn’t stop moving for well over a month and a bit, to 2 miles of new shiny shelving.

I was there that day, with my tiny digital camera - a very small (but at the time, really quite cool) item– hence the quality (or lack of) of the images. The camera didn’t have a flash and had a ridiculously long exposure, so a steady hand - and subject – was required, especially when shooting in low light levels. Really, the lens and processing in the camera will now be beaten by the cheapest smartphone – but I’ll wager that they don’t come with a cool like LCD screen you can slide over the viewfinder! 

Obviously,  22-year-old-me was a bit snap happy, but the images below give a flavour of that heady time, of the old Borthwick, its creaking floors, draughty windows, beams soaked in history, and mysterious, untraceable footsteps in the distance.

Lots of people were taking photos at the time, so I’m sure over the next few months of other photographs will emerge, but these images mean a lot to me. For once thing, they mark the start of my journey in this career.

10 years later I’m back as Access Archivist, and it’s really quite an odd experience - as an Archivist – looking back on the images. Day to day I’m dealing with our medieval collections dating back to the 11th century, but the images I made then remind me that we’re all making, shaping and recording our personal life stories and sometimes, it’s fun to look back – before looking forward.

The images below are only a small part of our story - you can find much more on our website

The Hall - full of boxes as part of the packing up process!

The view through the cage door into the bottom of strongroom 1

The downstairs of strongroom 1 - all our parish collections ready to go

The see-through floor, which I never really got the hang of...

Map storage

Conservation, pretty much all packed up and ready to go...

The courtyard, accessible only by a very narrow passageway to the right

And there she lies - the searchrooms were the line of windows facing the camera!

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