Sam Mutter – Digital Heritage Placement Blog

In June 2023, I started my internship as Digital Heritage Officer with the WCIA, after completing my insight placement just days before. I applied for this position after hearing an internship was being offered during the summer months, and as I had immensely enjoyed my time working with the WCIA up to that point, I felt that it would be an exciting progression that would allow me to continue the momentum I had built up working in the archival sector.

The job at hand however, would be an intense step up, as through my previous work with the Minnie James Collection, I had been working with just over 100 files, whereas this internship would have me reviewing and archiving up to 10,000 completely new files and documents. Specifically, I was tasked with going through an assortment of unorganised files, designating suitable names for each and separating them out into already existing collections, as well as creating all new collections when necessary. Once this was done, I was to upload this colossal new batch of files to the People’s Collection Wales, so that anyone could freely access them. Initially, the sheer scale of this task seemed almost insurmountable in the months I had to complete it, however, through extensive planning, organisation and compartmentalisation, I am happy to say that this once daunting task has been completed and the collection of new documents are now readily available to the public through the People’s Collection Wales.

The first step I took on this long journey to completion, was to consolidate all the files onto one thumb drive, as they were initially scattered across multiple drives and cloud storage devices. As tricky as this task was considering the number of files that had to be moved, once this was done I was able to set about giving each file a suitable name. Luckily, many of these documents were best consolidated together in longer multi-part files, which allowed me to name many larger batches simultaneously. Nevertheless, this stage of the process was undoubtedly the longest, spanning a month and a half of work, but by learning some new time-saving tips and tricks along the way, I was able to complete this stage of the task relatively simply, whilst heightening some valuable skills in pre-emptive planning and organisation. Moreover, during this relatively passive stage, I was constantly thinking of ways to approach the next task, which would involve sorting all these documents into suitable collections. 

Whilst this was all happening, I was invited to attend a work trip to the National Library in Aberystwyth, so I could talk through my plans with one of the People’s Collection Wales team. I cannot overstate how valuable this trip was, as through it, I was able to gain a greater insight in how a large scale archive such as the National library functions, as well as become accustomed to and contribute in professional strategy meetings within the heritage and archival sectors. Furthermore, the building itself was incredibly beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed walking around it with my colleagues, where we even discovered a display for the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition, which the WCIA had helped to uncover. As I have been able to garner such worthwhile experience this early into my career, work trips such as these will undoubtedly aid me significantly further down the line. 

Once back in Cardiff, the final stage of my internship could begin. My task was now to efficiently catalogue the now fully named documents into suitable collections, and to create some broad descriptions that could be used for each in the uploading process. This was relatively pain-free, as I was able to use Excel and its shortcut functions to streamline the process. It was important to get as much useful information down as possible at this stage, as it would make the uploading process far swifter if I was assured that I had everything I needed to simply copy and paste it across with little confusion. Luckily, because of this prior preparation, finally uploading the files to the People’s Collection Wales was simple and immensely satisfying, seeing months of the planning and work pay off with each successful upload.

I would like to thank everyone at the WCIA for their support and wisdom during my internship. My time at the WCIA has been unbelievably enriching for me, and I truly believe I have become a far more confident and capable person because of it. I would love to continue to work with this wonderful organisation in some capacity further down the line and I am excited for whatever the future holds next.