Archives 75 – Victoria Bryant, Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service Manager
- 27th April 2022
In 2012 Worcestershire Record Office and Worcestershire Historic Environment & Archaeology Service merged in preparation for moving into The Hive together. Victoria Bryant was appointed manager of the service, with Adrian Gregson and Lisa Snook (who we’ll hear from soon) heading up the Collections and User Services parts of the Archives. Three years ago she looked back on her time with the Archaeology Service, and now she shares her memories of her time heading the combined service.
I came to Worcestershire in 1988 as an archaeologist working on the Deansway excavations. The Record Office managers, Tony Wherry, Debbie Birch, Elaine Cooper and Robin Whittaker were always very supportive of me particularly from 2009 when I became manager of Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeology Service. Over the years I used the Record Office resources for commercial and research projects and so had some idea of the treasures stored in the strong rooms and the friendly, professional staff who made them accessible to people like me.
I learnt a great deal more working with Lisa Snook from 2008, as she and I were responsible (as part of a large County Council and University team) for working with the architects, developers, facilities management teams etc to ensure that our new home at The Hive met all the requirements of our respective services.
In January 2012 the Record Office and the Historic Environment and Archaeology Service were formally merged and I became the first Manager of the new Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service (WAAS). I was now technically responsible for the archive staff and services. This was daunting but the team were consummate professionals and supported me from the beginning. The new management posts were Adrian Gregson, Archive Collections Manager, Lisa Snook, User Services Manager and Paul Hudson, Learning and Outreach Manager and I will always be grateful to them for their help and support.
In the first six month of my job one of the main issues was the move of WAAS to The Hive. A major challenge for the archive staff of WAAS was moving the History Centre resources from Trinity Street, the contents of the strongrooms from County Hall and a large quantity of archive material held in remote storage into The Hive. This went very smoothly thanks to many months of preparatory work by the team. I would love to say that I had some input into this herculean task, but I am afraid I just observed and was impressed. A good memory of that time was Lisa’s close working relationship with the Utilities Management removal team – so much so that they bought her drinks in the Paul Pry. I don’t think any other member of the County Council/University team was so honoured.
We opened our new service at The Hive in July 2012. I will never forget the sheer joy of being in the building that day. It was the proudest moment of my career. It was wonderful to be working with such amazing individuals from WAAS, University and City Libraries and The Hub.
However, the fallout from the financial crash of 2010 was getting harder and, like all government funded organisations, the County Council had to reduce its spending year on year. The Archive team, using the opportunities presented by The Hive, their professional knowledge, and a refusal to be daunted, developed and delivered greatly increased streams of grant and commercial income.
The grant funded programme led by Adrian increased time for cataloguing, reducing the backlog and so making resources easier to access. Lisa led the development of our front of house and commercial services including the online query system. Paul developed the Learning and Outreach team which became largely self-funded and expanded its remit to cover archive and archaeological projects in The Hive and in the County. Lisa and I developed the new website to promote and sell all our existing and new services.
In November 2013 we became one of first fourteen UK Archive Services to be accredited under the new Archive Service Accreditation Scheme. It was particularly good to hear the feedback from the assessors who were impressed by “the innovative approach of the archive service at The Hive and the speed of service transformation in recent years” .
This would not have been possible without the hard work, dedication and imagination of my colleagues who embraced opportunities and challenges to created such an innovative but robust service.
This was recognised again in May 2017 when were voted the Archives and Records Association Record-Keeping Service of the Year. “Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service was the clear winner of this year’s Record-keeping Service of the Year award. It is not alone, of course, in having committed, professional staff in the local government sector that are determined to maintain a quality service to the wider community in the county despite acute financial pressures. But its range and depth of activities and success in placing itself at the heart of the culture life of Worcestershire are just two reasons that make the Service special”
I retired in August 2019 and it has been a fantastic opportunity for me in the last job of my career to have been the manager of such a committed, innovative and fun group of archive (and archaeological) staff. A massive thanks to all the colleagues past and present who made a difficult time much easier and a particular thanks to members of the Committee of the Friends of Worcestershire Archives for their constant support, friendship and encouragement throughout my time as Manager of WAAS.
The new Library & History Centre, named the Hive, opened in July 2012. Prior to building our archaeologists carried out an archaeological dig as part of the usually planning process, as they would in advance of many development. In this case it was extra special as it was going to be our home! We also included a community dig as part of this, so lots of people came and had a go at digging under supervision, numerous school children came on visits and hundreds came to open days and dropped in to watch progress. The report is now on our website.