Conservation for Wellbeing at London Metropolitan Archives

This blog is by C4W coordinator and paper conservator Helen Lindsay

Session 3, London Metropolitan Archives, 7th February 2020. Protection and looking

The session start time has been moved to 12,30, so the first thing we did was have lunch in the Huntley Room. Then we visited the boxing machine, located in its room high up in the building and full of light. We met Amy, who operated the machine, and watched it robotically crease and cut out the flat box shape. ‘Why is it called a Wrap Lock box? – because it wraps round the book and then locks shut with its tab.

Archive boxes, presents from the Box Machine Room.

It was fantastic to see people become increasing interested in different box shapes, and to share the pleasure of receiving a small archive box as a present. A box you have seen being made is fundamentally different from one purchased from a newsagent.

Travelling through LMAs back regions, we found ourselves in the Conservation Studio. There was an air of anticipation as people wrapped the boxes they had measured last week round the St Luke’s Hospital volumes. Then satisfaction all round as the books fitted snuggly into their new homes. We discussed how the boxes protected the books from handling, dust and even flood water.

Checking to see if the measurements made in Session 2 are accurate, before wrapping the newly made boxes around the books.
Wrapping the books in their bespoke boxes. One of the St Lukes Hospital volumes has a diagram of the brain slipped into the pages.

We were having a tea break in the Huntley Room, when the fire alarm sounded. It was not a drill, so we congregated outside for 25 minutes while the Fire Brigade checked the building.

London Fire Brigade in action -they checked the building and we were soon back in the Conservation Studio.

Back in the Conservation Studio, we moved on to the agents of deterioration, re-written in less technical language than used by professional conservators. At first the group looked a bit bored, maybe tired, maybe thinking they were going to get a lecture.

Agents of Deterioration. The others are bugs and pests; handling and accidents; theft and vandals; fire; water.

However, once we started chatting about bugs, pests, handling and fire the discussion livened up. People sat up in their chairs and started talking and looking. One person said, “do you really spend a whole day at a conference talking about pests, a whole day?” Somewhere between aghast and fascinated.

Fire has changed the chemistry of these parchment pages. One of the Agents of Deterioration.

It’s easy for those of us who work in archives and museums to forget how unfamiliar it is to be behind the scenes for most people.

As a conservator and collections care manager this project is taking me out of my comfort zone, but I am enjoying it. The sessions tend not go to exactly to plan and we have to be flexible – rather like jazz; structured improvisation. And I hope that as the weeks go by the experiences and nascent research emerging from the project will be the beginning of many more C4W workshops.

Helen Lindsay, ACR

Helen is a Collections Care professional and Paper Conservator, who is coordinating Conservation For Wellbeing.

Burgh Castle Almanac Evaluation, First Report by Jane Willis, Willis Newson

Burgh Castle Roman Fort January 2020 by Robert Fairclough

Jane Willis has produced a preliminary report evaluating the impact of Burgh Castle Almanac on participants’ wellbeing. Here are some excerpts from the document, which will be incorporated in a final report to be published in Autumn 2020.

In describing their experience of BCA, participants talked of feeling low at the start of the project. Several of them talked about the challenge and reward of trying something new, learning new things. History and landscape were key themes, with several people talking about the therapeutic impact of being in nature, being outdoors, walking, witnessing the changing seasons. Walking in nature seemed to provide both sanctuary and a safe place to talk and connect with others. Participants talked of both looking close-up, of being in the moment, being present; and of looking out, getting a fresh perspective on life. And across all of these themes was that of friendship: of new friendships formed that made them feel safe, cared for, supported and empowered.The key themes that arose from the narratives were:

Feeling Low “Before I started the project, I actually felt a bit like an injured lion and a bit like you know, really burdened by life” P1“When you are feeling really low you can feel that the world has become smaller and being part of this project is maybe that the world has become bigger.” P1

Worry about the world“What’s going on out there and I should be really worried about this because there is a lot of bad shit going on.” P3

Trying new things“Maybe this is helping me do things for the very first time again” P5

Learning“Discover more. The more you know the better things are for you, aren’t they? Learn.” P2

History“……. found a Roman Coin and I think that was one of the best things.” P4

Landscape“The important thing for me is that it runs all year, so you get to see the seasons change, going from summer into autumn into winter and that gives me a sense of the landscape and appreciating the nature.” P3“I think people talk more when they walk. I can talk better when I am walking along, I don’t know why.” P4

Sanctuary“I have always found calm by water and there’s a spot on the site that I take a little 5 or 10 second clip of, and if I am struggling, I play it to myself just to hear the sounds and stuff.” P5

Look / take notice“But up close here, really looking at life and really being in the moment, that is something I have gained a lot from this.” P3

Perspective“If you took us all up individually to the site, we would all show you something individually, from a different viewpoint. And I like that. We’d all have a different view of the site. And the view from here. When you get up there, the view is just great wherever you look. That is also why ESCAPE.” P6

Friendship“I have made new friends which I never thought I would.” P2

Safety“Joining a club when you can speak to anybody when we are walking round. It is not cliquey or anything like that, its lovely.” P7

Expression and sharing I have really enjoyed it because I am quite an introverted person really, and it’s just nice to be able to chat to people. It’s just very therapeutic. And you can just go up and talk, and you talk about things you don’t normally talk about.” P7


The impacts were then grouped according to theme. The themes arising in order of prominence (in terms of number of stars or number of mentions) were:Friendship / community (6 stars and 7 mentions)

  • Sense of part of a community **
  • Interaction – people *
  • Friendship *
  • Pulled me out of my shell more outgoing *
  • Meeting people
  • When one struggles someone’s there alongside
  • Sense of being a part of something

Wellbeing / change (6 stars / 3 mentions)

  • Changed life ***
  • You feel much better for coming ***
  • I get withdrawal symptoms if I haven’t been for a while

Confidence (1 star / 4 mentions)

  • Sense of satisfaction and achievement *
  • More confident
  • More willing to try new things
  • Sense of achievement

Change in perspective (1 star / 3 mentions)

  • Special things that open up your mind*
  • Opens your horizons
  • Valuing individual perspectives

Access (3 mentions)

  • Access to Museums, Culture
  • I have discovered I enjoy learning (e.g. watching programmes on BBC4 which I would not have done before)
  • Curious about the world around me

Purpose (1 mention)

  • Given me a new purpose for living

Critical Success Factors

Although not initially an aim of the focus group, participants commented on why they thought the project had been successful. They noted that the project felt safe, well managed and well-held, and a place where they did not feel judged. The fact that it was a two-year project also enabled them to feel safe, knowing that it was going to carry on. They appreciated the new experiences it gave them, but also felt that it enabled them to connect with a sense of history, culture and place leading to a greater sense of connection and belonging.Duration (6 stars / 2 mentions)

  • 2-year project – means long enough to forge friendships ******
    • Knowing it’s not going to shut down after a couple of months

New Experiences (5 stars / 4 mentions)

  • New experiences ***
    • Access to museums/galleries for free (low incomes) **
    • Learning
    • Access not just entrance fee – transport/food

Situated in place, history and culture (2 stars / 3 mentions)

  • Local history, place **
    • Learning about culture + place
    • Appreciate landscape/place/history

Safe Space (2 stars / 2 mentions)

  • Safe environment**
    • Non-judgemental’

C4W at London Metropolitan Archives on 24th January. All about Protection.

There’s an update about our latest Conservation for Wellbeing session on the blogsite. Here’s a link

Conservation for Wellbeing begins 10th January 2020

 

10th January 2020

 

Mental Health Project begins at London Metropolitan Archives

 Conservation for Wellbeing (C4W) is a pilot project that combines conservation, archives and mental health. As well as practising conservation, participants will gain behind-the-scenes knowledge of how heritage collections are protected and cared for at London Metropolitan Archives.

This is a completely new way of engaging people who live with mental health problems with heritage and creativity. It includes an exhibition and research into the wellbeing outcomes for participants.

C4W uses original archives from St Luke’s Hospital in Islington, founded in 1751 to look after mental ill people. The hospital closed in 2011 and the archives were deposited at London Metropolitan Archives by Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust.

The project is funded by a grant of £26,400 from the City Bridge Trust.

C4W is run by The Restoration Trust, in partnership with London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), St Mary Abbots Rehabilitation and Training (SMART) and the Institute of Conservation (Icon) with research support from University College London (UCL).

Meeting fortnightly from January to May, a group of 8 people from Kensington and Chelsea who are in contact with St Mary Abbots Rehabilitation and Training (SMART) will learn paper conservation skills from professional conservators. They will exhibit their work at LMA, SMART and other local venues. Outcomes research will be published online and in professional journals.

The Restoration Trust manages the project. The Restoration Trust’s innovative culture therapy projects help people with serious mental health problems enjoy heritage, art and culture in a safe, effective and interesting way.

City Bridge Trust funds the project. City Bridge Trust is the funding arm of Bridge House Estates. It was established to make use of funds surplus to bridge requirements and provides grants totalling around £20m per year towards charitable activity benefitting Greater London.

London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) hosts C4W, and participants will learn skills from staff in the Conservation Studio. LMA is committed to making its collections available to as many people as possible. LMA is free to use and open to everyone.

St Mary Abbots Rehabilitation and Training (SMART) supports C4W participants.  SMART works closely with the providers of statutory services, such as local community mental health teams and day services in Kensington and Chelsea to develop a more holistic approach to support people with mental health needs.

The Institute of Conservation (Icon) assures C4W quality through its accreditation scheme and oversight. Icon is a membership organisation and charity which brings together those with a passion for the care of cultural heritage. It is the professional body for conservation of cultural heritage.

University College London (UCL) researcher Dr Linda Thomson provides research guidance drawing on her expertise in measuring the wellbeing outcomes of heritage engagement. Art therapist Daisy Rubinstein will carry out the research.

For more information about Conservation for Wellbeing contact Laura Drysdale: laura@restorationtrust.org.uk | 07740844883

 

Conservation for Wellbeing Session 1, London Metropolitan Archives 10th Jan 2020

People came from SMART’s base in Chelsea by the Number 19 bus to LMA at Farringdon. The session began at 11.30, when we met at the Huntley Room, then Caroline de Stefani, Head of the Conservation Studio, took us on a tour of strong rooms with new and old roller racking. Climate is controlled by the building’s thermal mass to be at a regular temperature of 17 degrees, with relative humidity of 45 – 50%. We also went into a film store, where the temperature was lower to reduce relative humidity, trying to slow deterioration of the film stock. We broke for lunch, then went into the Conservation Studio, where Caroline showed us the wet area, demonstrated a humidity chamber for working on parchment, and identified some of the equipment, including guillotines, presses, and a book measure. She introduced us to a colleague, Georgia, who talked about a volume she is starting to work on, and also showed an ‘after’, a re-bound and cleaned set of document. We then looked at 19th Century volumes of documents from St Luke’s Hospital – registers and case books, as well as photographs from Banstead Hospital in the1920s and 30s. Next session will involve making boxes…

C4W forms in the Huntley Room at London Metropolitan Archives – questionnaire, timetable, introduction, consents, enrolment, leaflet
Evelyn in LMA Strong Room with tall roller racking

 

Tom in LMA Film Store – cold and smells of vinegar – acetic acid off gassing

 

LMA Conservation Studio Manager Caroline De Stefani describing how parchment is made and conserved

 

Georgia, LMA conservator, showing a volume that she will be conserving

 

Looking at St Luke’s Hospital records in the Conservation Studio

Human Henge final gathering at Stonehenge 12th December 2019

Human Henge’s final gathering took place at Stonehenge on 12th December, on the approach to the Winter Solstice.

It was a worthy celebration.The weather was terrible but the craic was the tops.

Credit Steve Woodhouse

A group of 25 people, including members of the Stonehenge and Avebury groups, people from the partners and project board members as well as our wonderful Facilitators Yvette Staelens and Danny O’Donoghue, met at the Stonehenge Education Room at 7.30.

We travelled by bus up to the Stone Circle, where we spent an hour wandering, singing, learning, photographing and sheltering.

Then we were back in the Education Room for hot drinks and bacon/veggie rolls.

The welcome from Stonehenge staff was wonderful. Thank you English Heritage.

It’s 3 years since the first Human Henge group met at Stonehenge in October 2016. There was another group in January 2017, and one at Avebury in January 2018. This gathering was the last of 3 successor meetings.

We didn’t see everyone we know from the programmes at Stonehenge on December 12th, some people aren’t in touch, and some people didn’t feel well enough to come along.

But we learnt great things about how people have used Human Henge. Two people are running wellbeing groups of their own, another is setting up an art and walking group; so already around 40 people who struggle with their mental health and isolation are regularly connecting with others. One person has got a new job involving nature and wellbeing that will have a significant impact on his local community. Two people are at university. One person is volunteering with the National Trust and another with Salisbury Museum. One person is having a baby, another has been baptised, and some people have made enduring friendships, including with members who attended other iterations of the programme.

So its goodbye for now, but not for ever. There will be more gatherings, hopefully in Avebury in the summer. And there will be more Human Henges or similar in other places.

Credit Steve Woodhouse

 

A View from the Ground

John Durrant wrote a wonderful piece about Burgh Castle Almanac for the Norfolk Archaeological Trust blog. Tod Sullivan took the photo. John has his own very interesting blogsite called Living With Mental Health. Thanks to John, Tod and our great partners at the Norfolk Archaeological Trust who own this amazing Roman fort on the Norfolk Broads. You can find out more about the project at www.burghcastlealmanc.org

Hello everyone, I hope you are all well and enjoying good mental health. I’ve been asked to write for the Norfolk Archaeological Trust about the Burgh Castle project I am involved with.

The group is called The Burgh Castle Almanac group. We meet up in the village hall at Burgh Castle each week and walk up to the castle where we take fixed spot photographs around the site. This is all over the year, and you can see the changes in the site over the different seasons. We have all been given some cameras, so we can take different photos throughout the site.

I can remember my first session. I didn’t really talk to anybody, as it was a new group, with people I had never met before, and I feel awkward and anxious in situations like this. But everyone within the group acknowledged me, which made me feel at ease and the facilitators made me feel welcome, and ensured no one was left out.

This project has had a positive impact on my mental health. It is a two-year project, which I think has helped me a lot, because when I get used to something, it can suddenly stop, which can have a huge impact on my mental wellbeing. Causing more anxiety and stress because it has stopped and there is nothing to soften the impact. But with this project, you have time to get to understand how things work and you know when it will finish, and things are put into place to help the transition to not doing it anymore.

I think this is how more projects should be run. People with mental health have good days and bad days, and with a long running project, such as the Burgh Castle project, it helps people in a much more positive way. For instance, if you can’t make a session because of any issue, you’re not kicked off, or moaned at, like I have experienced in the past. And you’re never judged for not being able to attend.

I’ve completed activities I never thought I would do. Arty stuff, a walk on the river Thames and attending the Houses of Parliament. I’ve also been able to blog about my experiences and thoughts of the things I have done and seen, which in turn has helped me with my mental health journey.

I can say that this project has brought out the best in me. It has taught me that anything is possible, I am referring to the arty things I have been involved with, trust me, art and me are not best of friends, but to try and complete the little projects, was and is a huge achievement for me, especially as it has taught me to be more patient with myself, and control my anger a little bit better than before. I won’t be painting for any art gallery or making any arty things soon, but I did it, and surprisingly I enjoyed it. I have to admit, I am rather chuffed with the wooden spoon I whittled!

It’s not just the projects we get to do that makes this such a fantastic experience. Burgh Castle is a beautiful site, and the photographs we have taken do not do it justice. I have always been interested in the history of things, and this has been a pleasure and a privilege, being a part of this group.

Would I recommend this project if it was offered to you? One hundred percent yes, not only for your mental health but for the knowledge you learn from the site itself and the projects you take part in. The team that organizes this, are fantastic, I cannot praise them enough.

I think I may have gushed enough about this, but I am very passionate about how this has affected my life, so please bear with me.

I will leave you all now, feeling positive and happy, and I wish you all a great mental health, wherever and whoever you are.

Thanks for listening

John

Thank you, Norfolk Record Office and the National Lottery Heritage Fund

We have been incredibly fortunate to partner Norfolk Record Office on three Change Minds courses, and to be working with the Record Office on plans for more archives and mental health projects in Norfolk and beyond. Norfolk Record Office’s whole culture is profoundly inclusive, and as a result people who might not normally visit a record office, or indeed most heritage places, feel welcome to explore their interests in history and creativity at the Archive Centre.

This is the latest Norfolk Record Office blog, thanking the National Lottery Heritage Fund for their support over the last 25 years. Change Minds features in the blog among other great projects, and it’s especially good to read Chris Tracy, Archive Specialist at Norfolk Heritage Centre, on his most memorable moment:

Over the past three years it has been my profound good fortune to have been involved in the Change Minds project, a ‘transformative archival adventure’, which has aimed to support local people living with mental health conditions by helping them to engage with archives and take part in creative activities. Working with colleagues from Norfolk Record Office and Norfolk Library and Information Service, plus staff and volunteers from The Restoration Trust, the project’s lead partner, it has been a privilege, and truly humbling, to assist participants with their research into patients in Norfolk’s County Asylum in the 1880’s, and to lend a hand (however clumsily!) in sessions that encompassed bookbinding, poetry writing and sewing. My favourite specific memory, however, is of the participants creating their own oral history recordings: to see many of them overcome profound trepidation to literally make their voices heard ‘for the record’ was a moving and immensely satisfying experience, and something that I will never forget.

Norfolk Record Office

The first National Lottery draw took place 25 years ago on 19 November 1994. Since then, £8billion from ticket sales has been awarded to more than 44,000 heritage projects across the UK through The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Norfolk Record Office, East Anglian Film Archive and Norfolk Sound Archive were able to build a new home in The Archive Centre, which was officially opened by the Queen on 5 February 2004. Since opening, The Archive Centre has received many accolades and has been described as one of the most modern archive buildings in Europe. Its facilities have enabled the NRO to develop services, including programmes of exhibitions, education and outreach, both within The Archive Centre and across Norfolk.

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Human Henge research nominated for Shanghai Archaeology Forum prize

We are delighted to announce that research by Professor Tim Darvill into the Human Henge project has been nominated for the 2019 Shanghai Archaeology Forum prize.

Tim’s nomination follows interest generated by our Archaeopress publication ‘Historic Landscapes and Mental Well-being‘ which is now available as hard copy and for open access online. More news of that to follow….

Founded in 2013, Shanghai Archaeology Forum is a global initiative dedicated to promoting the investigation, protection and utilisation of the world’s archaeological resources and heritage.

The biennial SAF Awards “recognise individuals and organisations that have achieved distinction through innovative, creative, and rigorous works relating to our human past, and have generated new knowledge that has particular relevance to the contemporary world and our common future. It aims to promote excellence and innovation in archaeological research, advance public awareness and appreciation of archaeology, foster the protection and conservation of the world’s archaeological resources and heritage, and encourage international collaboration and partnerships between scholars and others from different countries”.

One of the Forum’s aims that strikes a particular chord with us is learning from the human past to proactively confront current issues, including social inequality. That sounds like Human Henge.

We hope to know the results of Tim’s nomination in a couple of weeks.

Burgh Castle Almanac at St Benet’s Abbey

Session 40 15th October 2019

Photo credits Richard Godfrey, Louise Fowden, John Durrant, Robert Fairclough, Sue Tyler, Fran Pearce, Laura Drysdale, Tod Sullivan, Phillip Wells

We met on a bleak day at St Benet’s Abbey, the atmospheric ruin in the marshes near Ludham that once looked something like this

and now looks like this.

It is owned by our BCA partners Norfolk Archaeological Trust, and is a thousand years old, as the Benedictine monastery was founded by King Cnut in 1019. The land route to the site is through private farmland, but the ruins are more accessible via the River Bure.

St Benet’s is still used for an annual service in August, and it clearly means a lot to many. We saw inscriptions, gifts and a bunch of flowers with a portrait photo laid in the Gatehouse.

The archaeology of the site is apparent in the lumps and bumps in the landscape, and there are some tempting molehills.

St Benet’s Abbey is wonderfully photogenic and people took some great pictures.

We ended up with a cuppa at Ludham Bridge.