I am currently studying history at the University of Reading, and have just finished my 2nd year (unless something disastrous has occurred). Like many before me, I have come to the archive in order to gain experience, but also to give something back to an organisation which has preserved an essential part of our heritage: mills. I had never really thought of mills as such a rich area for research, but over this past week that perception has changed exponentially. Milling is a fantastic area for research and I feel like more people, especially aspiring historians like myself, should know!
The volunteers and staff at the Mills Archive Trust have all shown an immense amount of passion for the work they do, all guided by the same vision to best preserve the history of milling, and showcase that to the public. They have welcomed me with open arms, and made me feel really welcome working at the archive.
But what you all really want to know is, what am I doing? What does being a library development intern at the Mills Archive involve? Well, quintessentially, what I am doing is making the digital library ‘cleaner’ and easier to navigate, in preparation for the new separate library platform launch.
So, techy stuff basically.
So what have I been up to in my first week? On my first day, much to my surprise, I wasn’t marched down to the kitchen to make tea for the whole office. I had even been practicing my tea and coffee standard the night before, to ensure that I impressed! But alas that didn’t come into fruition. Instead, much to my delight, I was introduced into the world of milling, and the work that the archive does to preserve it. I was given a tour of the library by our librarian: Elizabeth, who explained the challenges of cataloguing books, such as when their content overlaps. I then started to work on ‘cleaning up’ the library (digitally that is) and have been progressing faster than a windmill in a storm thanks to the help of Ron and Elizabeth.
Another thing which has struck me this week is just how clever and knowledgeable everyone is. I think I had learnt about 20 new words in the space of an hour when I was working with Elizabeth, documenting some new books which had just come in. In that hour I had probably learnt more words than I did doing 2 years of German at school! Everyone seems to have their own area of expertise, hence I suppose why the Mills Archive Trust has been so successful over the years - and will continue to be.
I have also thoroughly enjoyed coming into Watlington House each day, which is home to the Mills Archive. It has a beautiful, picturesque back garden which is the perfect background for a cup of tea in the summer sun. One of the main reasons why I want to pursue a career path in heritage and had applied for this internship, was the fact that I didn’t want to dread coming into work each day. I didn’t want to spend my life living for the weekend. With this internship, I can already tell that this is the career path for me, I am excited about coming into work each day and over the coming weeks to help the archive to succeed in its aim to create a more ‘user friendly’ digital library.
So that’s all for this week’s edition, join me in my journey in the coming weeks to find out what I have been up to! And as they say in German, adios!