Community Heritage Coordinator Rose writes about our training day at the Devon Heritage Centre…

Last Monday, volunteers from the three project towns spent the day learning about archival and digital research techniques at the Devon Heritage Centre, part of the South West Heritage Trust.

We all gathered in the Outreach room for hot drinks and ice-breaker introductions. Some of us had already met in the café so there was lots of chatter and questions amongst the group discussing the various stages everyone was at in the project.

We were introduced to Brian Carpenter, Community Learning Officer and Jan Wood, Archivist, which included a tour of the centre. The large group was split into two: those who felt they were confident researching and needed a little support and others who felt less confident or a complete novice (that would be me then!). The lovely Jan took the novice group and skilfully guided us all in how to access information from the difference websites. It was really interesting learning about the wealth of information available and the meticulous way and man hours it has taken to make these valuable documents accessible.

The next part of the day was a tour of the building. Brian took us to a room filled with rolled maps. Some large whilst others were smaller. He explained that the temperature of the room is important to preserve the maps and also a lot of the maps are now digitised for ease of access. The next part of the tour was in the area where a lot of artefacts arrive to be processed (including by chemicals if they are in a poor state) or sorted ready to be catalogued for the museum. I asked what the most unusual item they had received was; the staff member explained that a leather pouffee had been brought in by a family; the item was filled with love letters from their grand-parents!

Next up was lunchtime! A few of us hung out in the café area chatting about the morning’s activities and discussing the project. It was great learning about the different towns and how the other volunteers were working together on their research.

The afternoon was spent putting our newly learnt research techniques into practice in small groups. Peter from the Legacy of British Slavery group helped me to look at the various websites such as; in typical ‘technical difficulties’ fashion, we were unable to access information as the websites were proving problematic!!

For the last part of the day we gathered for feedback and questions. I found the day informative and certainly the highlight for me was meeting with the other volunteers. I feel a lot more confident in research skills and knowledgeable about the different sites available. It was also great to meet Lucy Mackeith, another member of the Legacy of British Slavery group,  who is very supportive of the project and has offered advice going forward.

Thanks to Brian and Jan for a super day and Nicole and Sue in the DDE office for arranging the training day. I can’t wait to support my volunteers as they get started on their research!