One of the aims of the Jesuits in Britain Archives is to support individuals who are considering a career in the archive profession by offering experience in the form of volunteer or work experience placements. Interest in these roles has been gradually increasing so that this summer we have already taken on three work experience students. Lizzy was with us for one week in June, and in this blog post talks about her experience.
In the last week of June I undertook work experience in the Archives of the Jesuits in Britain. I am looking to pursue a career in archives, and this was my first work placement to gain insight and experience into the day-to-day work of an archive. During the week I was given an introduction to the processes involved in archives and tasks in cataloguing, repackaging, palaeography and adding to a calendar of a bound volume of 18th century manuscripts.
For one of my tasks I had the privilege of delving into the very first volumes of the Blandyke papers to work on an index for these volumes. Previous blog posts featuring the contents of these papers have spoken about their origin, but to briefly recap, the Blandyke papers were founded in 1888 at St Mary’s Hall, Stonyhurst, and they are wholly manuscript journals containing seminary student’s essays on a diverse range of topics including history, literature, liturgy, philosophy and science.
The index details the volume number, date, essay titles and authors along with notes on distinguishing features of the paper, and will act as a finding aid for the numerous volumes that are housed in the archive. One of the difficulties is working out the names of the authors where either the signature is illegible or they have only signed their initials, so other resources that are held within the archives are sometimes needed to try and work out who wrote them.
As a graduate in theological studies I found it particularly interesting to read what topics these seminarians chose to reflect upon, for example, ‘Probabalism’, ‘Preaching as an Art’, and ‘Central Asia’, and the further discussions that took place in follow up articles or in the ‘Letters to the Editor’ at the end.
I think my favourite feature was the article on ‘Electric Light’ by T.W. Morton, which was a reflection on the anticipation of this ‘perfect illuminant’ and the history of its development, complete with scientific explanations and diagrams. T.W. Morton is presumably Thomas Morton, one of the seminarians who founded the Blandyke Papers, and there is a letter on the inside cover of the first volume commending him on this achievement.
For this placement, I travelled in from Canterbury, the Parish of St Dunstan’s, not far from the cathedral, and I was informed during my final lunch with the Jesuit community that a pilgrimage had recently taken place to Canterbury, including St Dunstan’s. I was also reminded that St Dunstan’s is where the head of St Thomas More is believed to remain; and I understand that the Archives of the Jesuits in Britain holds copies of official documentation that were sent to Rome at the time of his canonisation and beatification as well as a piece of his cap. It was great to realise these connections as I came towards the end of my placement.
I really enjoyed my week in the Archives of the Jesuits in Britain and being part of the Jesuit community: I felt very welcome and feel that I have had a good introduction to working in an archive to take with me.
If you are interested in volunteering or carrying out a work placement with us, or would like more information about the work of the Jesuits in Britain Archives in general, please contact us.