I met Julian Warren for a tour of the Bristol Record Office today. We viewed several of the storage areas and I spent some time in the search room looking at postcards.
I’ve always been interested in the structure and mechanics of the archive, in particular how the material is stored, ordered and classified. This interests me as much as the artefacts themselves. Also, there is something very interesting (and almost ritualistic) in the process of visiting public archives; the locking up of coats and personal items before entering the search room, the use of pencils only, the numbered seating arrangements. I am intrigued by the journey from store room to search room. Visitors to the BRO access the archives on-line catalogue on computers in the search room and complete a slip with the desired documents number on and which is passed to the staff at the desk. The archive assistants (in their dark red lab coats) then disappear to a room behind the desk to collect the items from the storage areas. The visitor waits in the specified numbered seat to retrieve their items. The archive assistants deliver the items and then the visitor is permitted to study the artefact in detail. When such work is completed, the visitor passes the items back to the desk, where they are taken back to their home in the storage area and lay dormant until another such visitor may require them.
The BRO holds a vast amount of material relating to Bristols heritage. Julian was quick to point out that research undertaken on the Vaughan postcards would certainly be aided by the other documents that the BRO holds. The materials have a relationship.