Welcome to the Fifteenth AGM of the Wymondham Town Archive. As in so many of the previous years most of our activities have been quite routine in nature. Enquires came in as usual and most of them enabled us to provide some information. Occasionally we were able to provide details that surpassed our enquirers’ expectations. One such was the 80 year old e-mail enquirer who wanted to know what information we might have on Cullyer’s Yard (behind what was Stone’s and then Reeve’s printing works in Town Green). When we were able to send him 3 photos of the cottages that were there before demolition in the 1960s he was “Speechless with delight”.
During the year we have had 177 visitors in person plus receiving 92 e-mails and sending 69. Some of the e-mails related to administrative matters such as arrangements for our new Public Access Database, of which more later. Letters and telephone calls accounted for another 3 enquiries. It is curious to note that, this year, of the people who visited or e-mailed us other than on Heritage Open Days, roughly a third were enquiring about family histories and two thirds about local and house history in contrast to last year’s enquiries which were split roughly 50/50. Overseas enquiries this year have come from Australia and Canada.
Members of the Archive team continue to make contributions to the Wymondham Heritage Society Newsletter and Mary, John and I belong to the History Committee of the Society which in February launched its new book Wymondham in the 19th Century in Maps which included many items from the Archive collection.
Out of the blue, in January we learnt that we were included in that months “green token” collection at Waitrose. This is very welcome and produced £260. Our grateful thanks to them.
As always, our team of dedicated volunteers work away each Tuesday morning in the Council Chamber teasing out the names of people and places from our documents. The work begun last year in processing the old Wymondham U.D.C. documents continues and occasionally adds little nuggets of information to our knowledge of Wymondham’s history.
Slides keep turning up in odd corners of the archive and these are being scanned and indexed. Currently we have 1644 processed and a few hundred more still to go. This can be a slow process since the aim is to identify each view and record its address so far as possible on the database. Similarly where people appear their names are recorded. Unfortunately there is very little room on a slide mount to record much and often there is nothing, leaving us to scratch our heads and resort to Google Earth to identify the location. By contrast, the collection left by the late Harold Walton that I am currently working through is in proper slide boxes with location and date of each slide shown.
Terry and Len who enter on to the computer the details of documents from the sheets prepared by our team are enjoying a brief “holiday” just at the moment. Our new Public Access Database has been updated with the latest edition of the existing database but until this goes “live” it isn’t being updated. For the moment I can tell you that more than11,000 documents are recorded as well as nearly 20,000 name entries and more than 1,100 place entries. Janet’s card index is still the record system cataloguing the contents of “Janet’s Room” but we have started adding this material to the computer record.
As usual we have received a number of documents and photographs from local people. Christine Buckton has given us a number of documents relating to the activities of the Red Cross in the 1930s & 40s and John Gardiner and Mike Signey have let us have several items from their collections. There have also been a number of other useful donations during the year and we are grateful to them all for bringing them to us.
In addition, we have bought one or two items being sold on E-Bay but we do restrict ourselves to only acquiring those items which add to our knowledge of the Town’s history. On the photography area we try to encourage people to let us have pictures of current and recent activities since these will, of course, be the history of tomorrow.
Website & E-Mail
A year ago I reported that Tony had introduced us to Netmatters, a Wymondham software company who had organised the NAHRG website for them. Since then the project has moved forward to the point where our new Public Access Database is almost ready to go live. The software engineer at Netmatters was tasked with producing a system whereby the database we had constructed 12 years ago could be replicated so that researchers could access it via the internet. Over the last 12 months this has slowly taken shape. It has involved many hours for Terry and myself logging onto the emerging system to see whether it did what was required, analysing the problems where the system did not work as expected and reporting back to Netmatters. Several face to face meetings were also needed. The result now is that work on the program has been completed and tested and we are just sorting out details of hosting before we go live to the public.
Members here today are welcome to have a look for themselves after the meeting.
As we did last year, we opened the Archive for Heritage Open Days in September from Thursday to Sunday and received 121 visitors. Thursday however was noticeably poorly attended and we have decided that we shall take part in HODS 2015 but only for the 3 days Friday to Sunday.
During the year we had a visit from the Reepham Archive. This is newly formed and they were looking for advice as to how to go about recording their collection.
In March there was a ceremony at the War Memorial to celebrate the life of Harry Daniels V.C. I attended the various preliminary meetings and the events on the day to represent the Archive. Anne & Adrian Hoare have produced a pamphlet containing Harry’s life history and one of the presentation copies is now in the Archive. Further copies are on sale in the Museum.
In February we were sad to learn of the death of Janet Smith at the age of 83. Janet was the founder of our Archive in 1990 and worked in it until ill health and advancing years forced her to give up in 2010. She was also a stalwart of the Wymondham Society, later the Wymondham Heritage Society and WHS has decided to commemorate her contribution to the Town, the Society and the Archive with a plaque to be fixed to the door of the room where she first worked here in the Archive. It will be known as “The Janet Smith Room” and the design is currently under discussion.
The elections in May have meant a great change in the Town Council and Councillors John Turner and Diane Fernee who have been the Council’s appointees on this committee have not been re-elected. Francis King has also decided not to stand for re-election to this Committee at this AGM and I would like to thank them all for the work and advice they have contributed.
Councillor Chris Longhurst who has been with us previously has been re-appointed and he is joined by new Councillors Sharon Wyer and Jack Hornby. Welcome to them and we look forward to working with them during their terms of office.
As always I must pay tribute to 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. Their hard work is much appreciated. Thank you to them all. Without their hard work and dedication our Archive would not be the success it is today.
This year we shall see the introduction of our Public Access Database. This will have many benefits, not least of which is the freedom from the very frequent glitches on our present system caused by an apparent conflict between the version of Access used to create the program and the latest version of Windows. The new system will enable our people to enter new data from more than one PC at a time and from any location whether at home or in the Archive. Hopefully this will speed up the processing of the material not yet on the system. Our other indexes of photographs, slides, maps etc. can all be progressively added. From the researchers’ point of view, it will enable them to search our database themselves and discover all the documents we hold which may help their projects. They can then tell us which documents they actually wish to see and we can quickly supply them either as original documents here in the Archive or by copies by post or e-mail. At the Committee Meeting which follows this AGM we shall discuss the fees which we will need to charge for these services.
This promises to be a very exciting year.
June 2nd 2015