Friday, December 24, 2004

Palaeography

We're sorry if mention of this word is misleading at this point but we just thought we ought to put it somewhere, as it doesn't get much mention in archives circles or conferences, etc., nowadays.

Continuing professional development

For some time this society has been watching the debate on this topic in our kindred body, the Society of Archivists.

Never have feelings been so passionate on both sides of the debate. The degree of resistance to the proposal for compulsory CPD has led to its shelving, to the great relief of many members, and the irritation of others.

Benedict Crumplethorne decided to interview some of those affected, representing each side of the divide.

First we spoke to Garth Bland, County Archivist of Loamshire and an inveterate opponent of CPD. Garth has 25 years experience in the profession, 15 of them spent at Loamshire. He rarely attends professional meetings or conferences as he is responsible for a busy, under-staffed and under-funded direct public service. His budget has been cut by 50% in the last 6 years. He works for some of the week in the public searchroom, is increasingly busy in obtaining outside funding and in directing the work of small but committed staff.

His achievements to date include organising the move from the old county record office in Shire Hall, Bloggsbridge to the present building. He has specified two capital schemes, introduced limited records management and a state-of-the-art database system. He has little time for leisure, works 6 days a week and takes only part of his annual leave entitlement.

I'm delighted Garth told us. How could I have benefitted in any way? Would the Society have supplied archivists on secondment to cover the time expended? He added I don't mean to sound arrogant, but how would any gains be balanced against the huge amount of disruption caused to my service?

Garth's blood boiled over when he considered who might have been mentoring him. Who would they have sent? Another county archivist with equal experience? And why have him mentor me and not me him? Or a less experienced archivist?

Garth added I suspect compulsory CPD is merely a smokescreen to disguise the fact many of the Society's members are not qualified archivists. What point is there in having compulsory CPD if so many members are not even qualified archivists?

Next we spoke to Jacinta Sprout-Davies, Assistant Archivist under Priscilla Dyke at Norrey Record Office. Jacinta has been qualified for two years now having previously worked for the European Commission. She is a graduate in sociology, holds the postgraduate archives diploma and the Diploma in Advanced Political Correctness from the Institute of Political Correctness in London. During her student vacations she obtained valuable experience of dealing with the general public at McDonald's.

Jacinta is particularly upset at the demise of compulsory CPD and was all set to mentor Garth Bland.

I am devastated she told us. I have so much to offer and am fully trained in my duties. My work is made so much simpler by having manuals to refer to. Although none of us among the mentors has actually worked in a busy under-resourced front-line service, we must endeavour to maintain standards. Garth would have enjoyed my gentle leading, challenges to his preconceptions and our totally fresh approach.

We asked Jacinta if she might have benefitted from being mentored by Garth. Definitely not, she asserted. That would only have resulted in me being influenced by his old ways. Besides, he is known to be reactionary and anti-progressive.

The situation is being observed.

American controversy

Our cousins in the Society of American Archivists have expressed anxiety about the suitability of the new US National Archivist.

Allen Weinstein, US National Archivist


Read more

See also When is an archivist not an archivist?"

Security issues

We bring you updates on the security of archives.

Peter Bellwood, a former landscape gardener from Colchester, Essex has been convicted in Swansea Crown Court of stealing antique maps from the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth, which has tightened its security precautions as a result.

While the issue might be seen as a bibliographical one at first glance, it should be remembered the National Library of Wales is also an archive repository.

Equality for male archivists

Garth Bland, County Archivist of Loamshire and tireless campaigner for equality of employment rights and promotion prospects for male archivists, is livid.

He has contacted me to say he has been reading that obligatory fountain of all knowledge for archivists, The Daily Telegraph. The paper reports (23 December 2004) that the House of Commons Trade and Industry Committee is launching an inquiry into why women are falling victim to sex discrimination.

I can't see the issue, he tells me. The archives profession is largely populated by women. Some of the most senior members of our profession are women. My county is completely surrounded by women county archivists and all my staff are women.

We decided to investigate Garth's claims.

In neighbouring Pebbleshire Belinda Blinkinsopp is county archivist; in Upshire Hyacinth Haugh-Peake in principal archivist; in Westshire Davina Floggett is county archivist; in Groomshire Lucinda Bannister is principal archivist; in Wessex Angela Frump is county archivist and in Norrey Priscilla Dyke is county archivist.

Our investigations will continue.

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