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  • Work Experience Placement

Work Experience in the Archives

Updated: Jul 22, 2022

A handwritten poem with a stylised floral border
An illustrated poem from the Blandyke Papers, May 1909

Last week, GSCE student Deimantas Kaleininkas carried out a week long placement at the British Jesuit Archives. In this blog post, Deimantas reflects on his experience.

On the 11th of July I began my week of work experience with the British Jesuit Archives. I had never considered archiving as something I wanted to do for work experience and was unsure if I would enjoy it but now at the end of this week I definitely feel the opposite. I have always been interested in history and have thought about pursuing a career in the field after my GCSEs and the week here at the British Jesuit Archives has really opened my eyes. Throughout the week, I was introduced to many activities such as repackaging, indexing, digitising, calendaring and cataloguing old materials like photos, books, and construction plans.

On my first day, I was toured around the archives and introduced to the welcoming archives team. I was then given my first task, which was to repackage and index the Blandyke Papers. I found the Blandyke Papers really interesting as some of the books that I repackaged went as far back as 1905! Some of the books had really beautiful illustrations and some had an incredible range of topics from things like Chemistry and Science, Philosophy, Literature, and so on.

A box with its lid open revealing photographs in plastic sleeves inside. A selection of photographs has been removed and spread in front of the box.
Some of the photographs Deimantas re-packaged (ref. 32/3/3)

I also later learned how to properly preserve old photos, more specifically the photos of the canonisation of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales who were canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1970, which felt really surreal to look at as it was such an important event. The photos of the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica were really sublime to see as I’ve never been to the Vatican City myself. One of the more interesting things I did was cataloguing and listing the construction plans of St. Francis Xavier College in Liverpool. Seeing the illustrations of the plans to expand a building, or the elevation of a specific part of the College, felt really cool to see. They dated as early as 1875 so it really felt awesome to see these completed plans as it were 140 years ago.

A rectangular sheet of tracing paper with the bottom left hand corner missing. On it is an architectural diagram of a building
One of the St Francis Xavier School plans listed by Deimantas
Several small letters layered on top of each other in a volume
Some of Fr Gallwey's letters (ref. MSB/82)

One of the most difficult tasks that week was calendaring, which involved deciphering the handwriting of the letters the Gallwey Correspondence, and writing a brief summary of the letter’s contents. I found reading the actual handwriting the most difficult as I struggled to make out so many of the letters and words and how they were written during the 19th century. Many of the contents within the letters involved accounting and money around England, more specifically the North of England and St. Beuno’s.

The highlight of the whole week was working with the antiquarian books. It felt astronomical to be around books that have existed since the 16th and 17th centuries! One of the books had used a medieval manuscript and a book cover and I feel privileged to have been able to hold and see something so authentic and old.

Close up photograph of an open book. On one side shows 16th century text and the other side is a medieval manuscript.
The medieval manuscript used to cover a 16th century volume (ref. A/182)

Overall, I really enjoyed my week here at the British Jesuit Archives and it has really opened up ideas for a future career involving history. Many thanks to Lucy, Rebecca and Mary for giving me this opportunity to work alongside them in their incredible archive.

If you are interested in carrying out a work experience placement or volunteering with us, please contact us.

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