CHAIRMAN’S REPORT 2018
It seems hard to remember what the archive was like at our first AGM in 2001. The inaugural meeting had been held in February 2000 and we were thinking about acquiring a program to catalogue our collection. Subsequently, of course, we found that there was no existing program available and we had a bespoke one written to our own specification, this being subsequently replaced by our current on-line system.
We had received the large collection of additional documents from Mr Gledhill’s house and the additional room on the 2nd floor had been provided and fitted out that year.
An interesting paragraph in the report 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. During the year it has become apparent that this will not be happening, at least in the short term, and we shall be remaining where we are for the foreseeable future.”
At long last, after 18 years it seems that the Council, and we with it, will really be moving but more of that later.
Visitor numbers this year totalled 89 which included 54 people making actual enquiries and 35 people attending two NAHRG study days at which I provided a Powerpoint “slide show” and whose day included a visit to the Archive and the Museum. In addition, we had 26 internet enquiries and a couple of additional telephone callers. The split was typical at 61% for local history enquiries and 35% for family history. We recorded 91incominge-mails and 53 outgoing.
In addition to our individual contacts we also provided a selection of photographs to Dispatch magazine as well as helping the on-line Wymondham Magazine. The Bawburgh History Group paid us a visit to see how we operate as they are just getting started and don’t as yet have any experience to call on.
Vintage Day 2017 was a great success with good weather and a crowded town centre. We had a display in the Baptist Church and talked to a great many people and spread the word about the Archive.
Our team of helpers and data inputers have now increased the total of digitised documents to 30,000, recording nearly 40,000 people’s names and 2,000 place names at the date of this report. It should also be remembered that we have a roughly similar number in the card index system.
Over the years we have built up a collection of photographs and digitised images. This year Terry has begun adding the photograph index to the database and is already more than half way through this task.
Tony has been diligent as ever in keeping an eye on material coming up for sale on eBay and we have purchased a number of items to add to the collection. Donations of photographs and other documents have also trickled in.
Website & E-Mail
Our Public Access seems to be working well and we have received enquiries from several parts of the world, particularly Australia and New Zealand.
I reported that last year we had been having some problems with the database. These have now been resolved with NetMatters although there are still one or two improvements that we may want to consider commissioning in the near future.
As mentioned earlier we did not open for Heritage Open Days but we did take part in the Vintage Day being put on by the Town Team. We have booked a “pitch” in the Baptist Church for this year’s event in September. There was also the two presentations to NAHRG in the Abbey which generated visitors to the Archive on those days.
Michael and Sue began entering data under Terry’s guidance last year and they have enabled the work of entering material on the database to proceed at a much faster pace.
As I have been pleased to say on previous occasions I express my thanks on behalf of the Committee to all those who work tirelessly for the Archive and this include members of this Committee as well as our team of helpers who quietly get on with cataloguing on Tuesday mornings and enable us to increase the size of our database and its availability to the general public worldwide.
Earlier, I recalled the thought at our first AGM that a move to new premises was being considered although it didn’t then seem likely to happen in the short term. Well, the move is now a very real probability. The Council has commissioned Architects to design the new building and a planning application is now before South Norfolk’s planning department for consideration.
Earlier in the year I was invited to sit in at a meeting between the Architects and the working party of councillors responsible for implementing this. The plans for the building include a storage room for the Archive on the ground floor of 34m2. This I believe, if shelved out efficiently should just about provide sufficient space for the existing material plus a little more for expansion. The new Council Chamber will however be on the first floor and if we are to use that for research as we do now then there may be quite a lot of going up and downstairs with boxes. There will however be a lift. I do not anticipate that we shall wish to leave things like our card index in any other room and thus all our material will need to be kept in the room and got out as necessary at the start of Tuesday mornings.
At that meeting I supplied the Architects with a brief indication of the way in which the room should be laid out and I am pleased to say that a further meeting a few days ago I attended briefly when it was explained that there would be air conditioning and humidity equipment provided which should enable us for the first time to keep our documents in a properly controlled environment.
We have no definite date for moving but at present rate of progress I would guess at Autumn 2019. We do however have to step up our boxing activities so as to be ready to transport everything to the new building. We were able to obtain a grant for £1,000 from the Rookery Business Park Solar Farm at Besthorpe and as a result we now have a considerable quantity of boxes of various sizes.
Finally, I would like to record my personal thanks to Trevor Gurney, the Town Clerk for his continued support for the Archive and ensuring that our interests are considered when the new building is designed.
Chairman June 26th 2018