Placement Review: Georgia Wood, Digital Archivism Activism

Georgia Wood is an Archaeology student with Cardiff University, who undertook a paid heritage placement with WCIA over summer 2022. Here Georgia reflects on her work experience.

As Digital Archives Officer at the Temple of Peace, the primary goals of my placement were to make the Temple archives more accessible to the public through searchable online platforms, and to create an organised inventory of the Temple’s collection of objects and artefacts.

An existing archives spreadsheet with over 1500 entries had been started in 2019, which included a basic profile for most of the archives in the attic, belonging to the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA), and its predecessors Council for Education in World Citizenship (CEWC), and Freedom from Hunger Campaign (FFHC) . This information provided the backbone for most of my work on the archives. Firstly, I cross checked the information on the spreadsheet still corresponded with the physical archive, and thankfully these matched virtually perfectly. However, it soon became clear that archives from the United Nations Association (UNA) and League of Nations Union (LNU) – older predecessor bodies – were in a state of disarray, and under-represented on the spreadsheet.

After much research and debate over which platform to use for uploading the archives data to a public space, the National Archives’ ‘Manage Your Collections’ format was singled out as the best option – being both budget-friendly and accessible enough to optimise public access to the Temple’s archives. Although the original spreadsheet provided a good amount of information, the formatting needed to be altered to fit requirements of Manage Your Collections metadata, which automatically uploads information using a pre-defined spreadsheet (this enabled our own fields to match those displayed to and searched by the public) . This entailed some weeks of toil to translate the information on the original spreadsheet into the approved format, and fill in gaps to guarantee the highest quality archive catalogue was uploaded into the public sphere.

The next considerable task was to digitise the huge volume of League of Nations Union archives, and consolidate the already-catalogued material into a ‘fonds’ style Manage Your Collections spreadsheet. The sparsity of this collection’s cataloguing quickly became visible, so the decision was taken to completely re-catalogue and re-organise the LNU archives. Although time-consuming, the decision was ultimately worth it, as some of the Temple’s most important archives dating to the early 20th century origins of Wales’ Peace bodies – previously uncatalogued – are now boxed appropriately in the Temple Library itself, and searchable to the public via the National Archives website.

Unfortunately, swathes of the United Nations Association (UNA) archives remained uncatalogued at the end of my placement due to sheer volume – though this will provide a good opportunity for current and future volunteers!

Another helpful tool I began to develop was a concise version of the new archive spreadsheet, that précised the subject of each box, and gave a date range as well as location reference. This document is essentially a prototype that gives a format for volunteers to follow when completing the tool and will eventually provide a quicker solution to finding archival material than combing through the huge new master spreadsheet, which now includes almost 2000 entries.

Georgia surrounded by volunteers participating in WCIA’s ‘Archiveathon’ over August 2022

The other main focus of my placement was to create a comprehensive inventory of the Temple’s objects and artefacts, with a view to upload these items onto People’s Collection Wales. All objects, from artefacts relating to the various organisations that were based in the Temple, to original furnishings, were organised into a spreadsheet that met the metadata formatting requirements for People’s Collection Wales’s ‘bulk uploader’ (which enables multiple collections to be processed at once). This is accompanied by an inventory of the Temple’s artefacts and objects in the approved format of the Collections Trust, creating a catalogue that has an emphasis on regular updates and improvements.

Alongside the role, I was called on to give ‘Temple Tours’- a task not specific to my job, but an integral part of explaining the heritage of the Temple of Peace and its collections to visitors. I ended up leading bespoke tours for both the Kazakhstani Ambassador, and the US Cultural Attaché to the UK, as well as numerous other guests to the temple.

Overall, this internship placement has given skills, confidence, and a depth of knowledge I could not have previously imagined. It has developed my ability to independently assess situations and create a plan of action, as well as improving my leadership skills in a professional environment, in particular through training and supervising other volunteers and being part of the wider WCIA team. The placement has helped me develop various technical computing skills using Microsoft Excel and WordPress, such as creating and navigating large coherent worksheets as well as altering and producing website pages. The placement has also taught me how to use sites which are transferable for many occupations working with archives, such as the National Archives and People’s Collection Wales.

WCIA heritage placements Georgia Osborne (left) and Georgia Wood (middle) with Heritage Advisor Craig Owen, sharing a joke in the Attic Archives Store on their last day at the Temple of Peace
WCIA’s Archiveathon Volunteers, with Georgia Wood 2nd from RH with Placement manager / Heriotage Advisor Craig Owen

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