CHAIRMAN’S REPORT 2013

 

This is the Thirteenth AGM of the Archive in its present constitution but it should not be forgotten that Janet Smith had begun work several years before. From Janet’s beginnings in a room over the Coach House in the yard behind the Council Offices she moved into a small room on the first floor here in the main building. Over the intervening years we have been given a further room on the top floor for storage and the use of a further room on the first floor as an office. We now have a team of 3 regular archivists supported by a further team of volunteers indexing and computerising our material. The introduction of a website and e-mail has broadened our scope and encouraged enquiries from across the globe.

This year we have welcomed 129 visitors in person plus receiving 68 e-mails and sending 57. Letters and telephone calls accounted for another 5 enquiries. It is interesting to note that, of the people who visited or e-mailed us other than on Heritage Open Days, half were enquiring about family histories and half about local and house history.

Contributions to the Wymondham Heritage Society Newsletter have also been made by several members of the Archive team, furthering our aim of not just collecting documents but also making use of them and explaining Wymondham’s past.

Cataloguing

Our support team has continued with what had seemed the never-ending task of extracting and computerising the data from the Gledhill Collection. The extracting part of this has just about been finished and Terry and Len are steadily proceeding with the computerising part. Attention has now turned to the piles of miscellaneous files and papers dating from the Wymondham UDC days and tucked away in cupboards. Although these had been roughly listed they will now be properly boxed and catalogued.

Deposits

It has always been a pleasure to receive documents and photographs from well wishers and this year has been no different. Paul Hawkins has given us a couple of bundles of papers relating to building developments he has undertaken in the past. Tony has kept his eagle eye on EBay and found a number of items which we agreed to buy including two Acts of Parliament. One relates to a proposal to build a piece of railway which never took place and the other to the maintenance of the Toll Road from Wymondham to Attleborough. We have also acquired documents on brushworking, the history of the Abbey and some account books which throw light on the business of investment in Wymondham in the 19th century. We have also been given a number of photographs of people and events from the past.

Website & E-Mail

As I have mentioned, our website and e-mail account have provided access to enquirers across the globe. Several have been received from New Zealand where two young men from the town emigrated and on behalf of the Church Missionary Society set up and ran missions in the middle of the 19th century. This was of particular interest to me as I had the opportunity to visit those places in February this year.

Terry and Francis have continued their enquiries to try and find a method of putting our database on the internet so that it can be interrogated by enquirers. This has proved extremely difficult but I hope that in due course they will find a cost effective solution.

Shows

As in previous years we took part in Heritage Open Days in September with the Town Council allowing us to be open for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We had 79 visitors over the three days with many of them poring for some time over the photo albums and aerial photos and reminiscing about their past experiences in Wymondham. For the 2013 Open Days we intend to be open for the whole 4 days from Thursday to Sunday.

I have also presented a number of slide shows on behalf of the Archive. These have been to groups of 30 or so local people and have provoked lively discussion. In line with our general policy we make no charge for these shows but we have received modest but welcome donations.

Personnel

Councillor Fernee was Deputy Mayor during our 2012/3 year and since then has been elected as the Town Mayor. I was invited to attend the Civic Reception held by the previous mayor and had the opportunity to have a few words with her. She told me that she had herself an interest in history and promised to visit the Archive as soon as she had time.

I welcome the appointment of Councillors Gardiner and Longhurst to this Committee to join with Councillor Turner and we should be happy to show them the work we do whenever they find the time to come and see us.

As always I cannot praise too highly the team of people, all volunteers, who work for the Archive including Mary the Archivist and John the Assistant Archivist, Tony the Treasurer, Terry & Len who look after data input and the team of people who week in, week out, work their way through the boxes of documents extracting the data. The collective advice and wisdom of the members of the Committee is also greatly valued. To all of them I say “Thank You”.

The Future

When I wrote my first report as Chairman in 2001 I said “At the inaugural meeting it was thought that the Town Council and the Archive might be moving out of the Town Hall to new premises.” That of course didn’t happen but it seems likely that it may actually happen in the near future. This brings me to two points.

Firstly, affecting my fellow archivists, we need to proceed with boxing up the miscellaneous Council Files in various cupboards left behind by the Wymondham UDC so that they are in a fit state to be moved. Indeed we have already made a start on this.

Secondly, for our Council representatives, I wonder if they have given any thought to what papers, files and documents should be preserved when the Offices move. Most of the Council material we currently hold is from the old UDC. The Council does have a statutory duty to keep various papers for laid down periods of time and I understand the Clerk keeps all the Minute Books. But what should happen to all the other paperwork? Once the statutory retention periods expire what should happen to those papers and what about all the other files not subject to such rules? What would Councillors like to be kept for posterity and to illustrate the history of our town? Perhaps it would be a good idea for Councillors to formulate a policy of what should be kept and remain Confidential, what should enter the Archive and what should be destroyed.

Thank you.

Richard Fowle
Chairman

June 6th 2013

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