London Networking Trip
5th – 8th December 2016
Last week – as a change from our usual capers around Scotland – we ventured way down south to a city you may or may not have heard of – London! It was an incredible opportunity to visit a variety of museums and archives as well as meet ex-Skills for the Future trainees to find out about their new roles. We were joined by our Project Manager Jill de Fresnes and our colleague Iain Fraser, Cataloguing Programme Manager.
We set off for King’s Cross from Waverley Station and arrived in London around lunch time. We then paid a visit to the British Library to see their Victorian Entertainments and Treasures of the British Library exhibitions and a few of us managed to visit the British Museum before it closed for the day.
A bright and early start Tuesday morning to make our way to the National Archives at Kew. Unfortunately we didn’t get to take in much of the views on the way there thanks to a very dense misty-fog that covered most of the city (see below). The National Archives are the official archive and publisher for the UK government and guardians of over 1,000 years of iconic national documents. It was a real privilege to be shown around the building and to meet some of their inspirational team members. Melinda Haunton (Programmes Manager, Accreditation) gave us an introduction to Archive Principles followed by a tour of the search rooms and afterwards Outreach Officer Iqbal Husain spoke to us about Outreach and Engagement. We were then given a tour of the Keeper’s Gallery by Exhibitons Manager Juliette Johnstone. It was exciting to see such a large scale archive and it was enlightening to learn about the challenges they face as well as the new developments they are undertaking.
After lunch we went to the John Wesley Chapel and Museum of Methodism. Ex-SFTF trainee Aisha Al-Sadie is now the Learning and Community Engagement Officer here. We were guided around the chapel and house by expert guide Alan Steele who informed us about the life of John Wesley and the development of Methodism in Britain – and with such flair! The Georgian chapel still has some beautiful original features but with later Victorian alterations, and some ingenious seats! A highlight was seeing the oldest surviving late Victorian toilets and urinals in the city – a thing of beauty – which are located in the chapel.
On Wednesday we traveled to the London Metropolitan Archives and met Maureen Roberts and Abira Hussein from the Transforming Archive traineeship. Maureen and Abira kindly showed us around their store rooms and the public search areas and then we had a fascinating discussion about the use of archives in community engagement.
Then we visited another former Skills trainee, Ruth MacDonald, who is now acting archivist for the Salvation Army Archives – another interesting collection of material, spanning far beyond merely religious documents into theatre records, literature, propaganda, family records and emigration records from across the globe.
As so the last day dawned, and we, tired but happy, decided to have a quick pre-train visit to the John Soane Museum – and what a visit it was! We were met by Emma Miles, the Learning Manager, who ran us through the history of the museum and the education programs they run, and then we were let off on our own to explore this fascinating collection. The house comprises the life, work, and collections of Sir John Soane, the prevalent 18th/19th century architect who took the unprecedented step of bequeathing his collections to the British nation via an Act of Parliament, dictating that the house and objects within should be freely available to be seen by anyone who wished to. The result of this is an absolutely wonderful collection that includes true historical gems such as the sarcophagus of Seti I and a series of Hogarth paintings, as well as original and plaster cast renderings of classical architecture and sculpture. All viewed within the architectural achievements of the house itself (purposely remodelled by Soane for the collection), this little museum tucked away Holborn, was a real delight – and as an added bonus, tote bags in the gift shop were only £1! (So we all bought one.)
And with that, our wee jaunt to London was complete – back on the train for a sleepy journey home! Many thanks to everyone who took the time to meet, talk, and tour with us – the work you do is inspiring, and we look forward to seeing you all at our Skills Final Event in April! 🙂