CHAIRMANS REPORT 2014
Welcome to the Fourteenth AGM of the Wymondham Town Archive. The life of such an archive as ours is, of necessity, a regular routine of dealing with enquiries, whether arriving by e-mail, telephone, letter or personal visitor as well as cataloguing material. This year has been no different although on some Tuesdays we will see no visitors or enquiries and we can progress with indexing and on others we may be seeing visitors and answering e-mail enquiries the whole time.
This year we have welcomed 206 visitors in person plus receiving 86 e-mails and sending 67. Letters and telephone calls accounted for another 10 enquiries, an increase of roughly 10% on last year. It is interesting to note that, of the people who visited or e-mailed us other than on Heritage Open Days, roughly half were enquiring about family histories and half about local and house history. Overseas enquiries have come from the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Japan. Some visitors have made a point of visiting Wymondham for the express purpose of tracking down their ancestors.
Contributions to the Wymondham Heritage Society Newsletter have also been made by several members of the Archive team. We aim to not just to collect documents but also to make them available to explain Wymondham’s past.
Our support team continues with the task of extracting and computerising our collection.The extracting part of the Gledhill Collection has been finished and Terry and Len are steadily proceeding with the computerising part. Attention has now turned to the piles of miscellaneous Wymondham UDC files and papers. Although these had been roughly listed they are now being properly boxed and catalogued. A start has also been made on bringing the documents in “Janet’s room” onto the computer system. Since we only operate for 3 hours a week (although Terry and Len do work on extra days of the week) this will inevitable be a long process.
The photograph collection continues to grow and we currently have 1850 on the index as well as many which are in individual boxes with material to which they relate. In addition we also have nearly 800 slides which have been scanned and a few hundred more which although indexed in their boxes have not yet been scanned and added to the main database.
As usual we have received a number of documents and photographs from well wishers. Paul Hawkins has given us some more bundles of papers relating to building developments he has undertaken in the past. Tony has been watching EBay and found a number of items which we agreed to buy. Peter Parkes has also supplied some documents relating to the history of his shop as has David Standley.
Website & E-Mail
Terry and Francis continued with their enquiries to try and find a method of putting our database on the internet so that it can be interrogated by enquirers. However Tony suggested we contact Netmatters, a firm originally based in Attleborough but which has expanded into new premises in Wymondham. Initial consultations with them seem very encouraging and have resulted in a detailed specification and quotation. The Town Council have now allocated funds to cover the quotation for which we are very grateful. We now have to follow up the initial discussions to ensure that we shall get the system which we seek.
Our computer “died” during the year and had to be replaced. The new one does seem to be causing us some problems since it has a habit of closing down the database without warning and on a seemingly random basis. It does however seem that this problem stems from the fact that Windows 7 does not work as well as one might expect with our program which is now some 12 years old. The Netmatters system works with data being stored in “the Cloud” and we hope this will solve the problem.
We again took part in Heritage Open Days in September with the Town Council allowing us to be open for the four days from Thursday to Sunday. We had 102 visitors over the four days with many of them poring for some time over the photo albums and aerial photos and reminiscing about their past experiences in Wymondham. We have confirmed that for the 2014 Open Days we again intend to be open for the whole 4 days from Thursday to Sunday. Last year’s booklet incorrectly showed our opening days and was late being delivered. The organisation of HODs this year is by a different group and it is to be hoped that it will be much slicker.
I have also presented a few more “slide” shows on behalf of the Archive. These have been to groups of 30 or so local people and have provoked lively discussion. In November I presented a show in the Abbey on behalf of Abbey Funds where there were some 80 people present. In line with our general policy we make no charge for these shows but we have received modest but welcome donations.
The Wymondham Cluster schools have been putting together a presentation commemorating the start of WW1 under the expert guidance of Anna Brett the Extended Schools Co-ordinator and Belona Greenwood the Artistic Director. The Archive has supplied photographs of the period to help the pupils and I have given presentations to the High School and Wymondham College. The culmination of this effort is to take place on Saturday 5th July at the Regal Cinema and I would encourage everyone to call in there if they possibly can.
There was a Community Day in October and the Archive put on a display in the Market Place in the afternoon although it has to be said that the weather was not very helpful.
Councillor Fernee was Deputy Mayor during our 2012/13 year; she was Mayor for the following year and is now Deputy Mayor again. I am pleased to welcome her as one of the Council’s representatives on our Committee along with Councillors Turner and Longhurst.
The team of people, all volunteers, who work for the Archive include Mary the Archivist and John the Assistant Archivist, Tony the Treasurer, Terry & Len who look after data input and Sheila & Michael who week in, week out, work their way through the boxes of documents extracting the data. Their hard work is much appreciated.
During the year we have been joined by Sue Traferri, Susie High and John Ayton although Susie has had to drop out through ill health. Barbara Myhill has also had to leave us for the same reason after several years of hard work cataloguing and latterly on this Committee.
I thank all of these people whose efforts carry forward the work of the Archive.
Last year I commented that there seemed a possibility of the Council relocating. That idea seems to have receded further but I still think that the call that I made then for the Council to formulate an archiving policy should be pursued. Nothing from the Council’s records and files has been added to the Archive since 1974 and I am given to understand that much of this material may be stored in buildings behind the Office. If the Council does move one day then there may be a rush to clear these premises and either files may be thrown away without consideration or more relocated than is necessary. A coherent policy created after careful consideration would help Archive staff and Office staff to decide what to keep and what to jettison. This Archive is of course, at its core intended to be an archive of the Council’s history as well as that of the Town.
It has become apparent that the Constitution requirement to hold an AGM in June is rather restrictive, it being a holiday month. With this in mind, and subject to the Council’s approval, I would propose to ask the next Committee Meeting to approve a variation to the Constitution to the effect that the AGM must be held “…within 3 months of the end of the Accounting Year” which is the 31st March.
July 1st 2014