Working at Home
- 15th May 2020
Like many of you the last couple of months have been rather strange, and we are adapting to new ways of working. The Hive closed in the middle of March, but with ingenuity and commitment our staff have continued to work. We’ve been asked by a number of people what we are doing so thought we’d let you know what we’re working on.
We have been working at home, so are limited in what we can have there, and working conditions, but people have been amazing in adapting to circumstances. Quite a few staff have children, so are juggling child care and home schooling with working! In some cases cats and dogs are keen to lend a paw too. Depending on the team it is either very different work or pretty much business as usual.
With the closure of The Hive the 12 miles of archives are now closed. However we are adapting to the situation and working on important tasks which will benefit our visitors. We are focusing on collections work, on catalogues and indexes (although without the actual documents). There are many archive collections which have been catalogued but needed checking and uploading to the online catalogue, so they are available for you to search. So far over 100 are now live, including County Council departments, parish records, local societies/clubs, family records, postcards, DVDs and CDs. Look out for a feature on this in more detail soon.
Other staff are working on oral history collections, on the transcripts and making them ready to be made available. Someone else is working through a diverse range of original and copies of programmes, journal articles, diaries, newspaper articles, archaeological reports to see what we already have and what we may want to add to the archives. We also have a small number of volunteers who can continue with their indexing at home, such as the absent voters indexes, and we are supporting them remotely.
Enquiries continue to come in. Although we can’t look at the archives, microfilm and local studies library, we can still advise about our collections and provide information about remote indexes and the types of resources we have.
Anyone who has been on a Behind the Scenes Tour will know we have specially equipped conservation and digitation studios. Those staff can’t work at home, can they? The answer is yes. Rhonda and John have been incredibly creative and managed to set up at home to enable work to continue. Obviously we can’t quite manage to do everything we would have done, as they couldn’t take everything home, but Rhonda is still working on some account books as part of the Market Gardening Heritage project, and John is converting oral history tapes and taking digital images. He also managed to send over an oral history clip to Channel 5 for a VE Day programme a couple of weeks ago at short notice.
After a period of all site work having been suspended we have now started to return to the field working on a case by case basis where we feel we can maintain the necessary precautions.
However, as we frequent explain, digging is just one part of archaeology. Sites need to be written up to enable reports to be written, and for the site archive to be created. Site staff have been working on this paperwork side, catching up after a busy few months on site, and making sure as much as can be completed at the moment is done.
Our finds and environmental specialists work on what has been brought back, and our illustrators draw selected items, work on plans, and drawings, as required. Back in mid March they took large numbers of boxes home to work on. Rob, one of our Finds Archaeologists, has already reported on what he is doing, which included juggling childcare and writing a report. Other finds staff are doing similar, writing up reports and other colleagues are helping out with washing, marking and processing finds. Our illustrators have also been busy, turning rooms into temporary studios.
A new member of staff has just joined us, Kerry, who is our new Archaeological Archivist. She’ll be working on ensuring that the archives for excavation projects, which consists of the written reports, plans, photos and artefacts, are ready to be transferred to the relevant museum. It’s great to have her with us but a little challenging do remote inductions and when a lot of what she’ll be working with is still in The Hive.
Most of our work is done as part of the development process, and we tender for archaeological work that is required as part of the planning process. With planning applications continuing to be processed we are still tendering for work for the future.
With recent changes in Government advice around the Construction sector, we are looking at returning to some sites. The majority of our work is linked to development, with archaeological investigation part of planning conditions, so where sites are resuming we have been asked if we carry it out. We are currently looking at each of these sites, on a case by case basis, to work out safe working practices for staff and anyone else on site in light of the latest guidance.
Historic Environment Record & Advisory
The HER and Advisory team, unlike other teams, hasn’t seen a great deal of change through lockdown. We cannot provide the public front desk in The Hive and we cannot check the sources and references that we sometimes need, but the bulk of our work has continued largely unaffected. One of the advantages of having a joint software platform for the HER is that it is already set up for remote working in order for the districts to access it. This has meant that we have been able to transfer to home-working with minimal disruption. Work includes:
- Development Management planning, reviewing planning applications how it may affect the historic environment.
- Working on some of the County Council’s larger strategic projects and Green Infrastructure planning.
- Preparing statements for each of the promoted sites in the County’s emerging minerals plan, both for the Historic Environment and Landscape.
- Our Historic England funded projects have also been progressing as planned. The NRHE project, which involves integrating data from Historic England into our database requires no additional resources other than access to the HER and the internet. The other project on 20th century non-domestic buildings and public spaces was submitted to Historic England just before lockdown. The documents are now back with edits and comments, some of which will have to wait until it is possible to access resources in The Hive again.
- Ensuring that our Online Archaeology Library, which closed down after almost 15 years, is still be accessible via the Archaeology Data Service.
Learning & Outreach
We are carrying on with some projects, such as Market Gardening Heritage and Heritage at Home, where we can work without physical public interaction. A lot of Market Gardening Heritage Project had just finished, such as oral history and history research, so we are working on turning this into an exhibition and other resources, and some other work can be postponed for a while.
Oral history clip on wallflowers, which we have been working on
Some planned projects have been postponed, and all our workshops, talks and tours are on hold for the moment.
Recognising that many parents are desperate for home schooling resources we have been adapting some of our resources for this, such as the Victorian Worcester session. We are also taking an opportunity to revisit some of our other school workshops.
If you follow us on social media you’ll know we’ve been continuing to share stories, updates, historic photos and tips. We’ve been topical by sharing stories such as VE Day interviews on VE Day. To help people carry on (or begin) research we’ve featured different remote indexes from our website, as well as guidance on where to look. We’ve also been in touch with Ancestry.co.uk and Find My Past to secure access at home. Previously you had to be in The Hive to take advantage, but we’ve worked with them to obtain to access to Worcestershire people. Our 70 page Research Guide has been downloaded many times in the last few weeks which is great to see.
We’ve also been is discussions with several people about projects, either as part of emergency Covid-19 funding, or looking at the future when they hope to submit project applications for when the situation changes. If you’ve been thinking about a project with history/archaeology link, using resources here or using the skills we have, we’d love to speak to you.
So we are still very busy!
We are keeping a close eye on official announcements and we are gathering health information and advice from similar organisations from elsewhere in the world for when we are able to resume different aspects of our work and ways to ensure we make it safe for staff and customers.
In meantime keep looking at website, exploring resources there, and keep an eye on our social media for updates.