This is the second in a series of posts by Paige Wilson and Imogen Bird, students on the MA Modern History. They reflect on their experience of a placement in Special Collections researching and cataloguing files relating to women in the World War Two, Domestic Front series of the Liddle Collection.

Paige: Coming from America, I was nervous about doing a placement abroad. I had previous experience in archives, but coming to another country, I had no idea what to expect. However, when I look back on my placement with Special Collections, it is one of the highlights of my masters’ program. I have not only found a new fascination with archives, but my research and analysis skills have improved more than they did throughout all my undergraduate career.

I loved learning the different ways of cataloguing and the feeling of holding a document from the 1940s. It was a surreal feeling when I held someone’s identity card from 1939 now we are all the way in 2022. I always knew I wanted to work in archives after I graduated, but working in Special Collections solidified that. It is an experience I will never forget.

national identity card from World War Two.
The national registration card of Muriel Joyce Booth (née Moores), Liddle/WW2/DF/002. Image credit Leeds University Library.

Imogen: As a student who did their undergraduate degree at Leeds, I was familiar with the work of, and esteem in which, Special Collections is held. Throughout my undergraduate degree, I did a few workshops in Special Collections looking at material as part of a module, but I was always nervous about going to see material myself. Working with Special Collections as a placement student during my MA has completely changed my outlook about working in an archive.

Archives are a welcoming and friendly space, always willing to help and allow students to make the most of their research. It has opened my eyes to the richness and power of archives in researching and learning about the past and those who experienced it. Once you delve into the material, before you know it hours have passed, and you haven’t even realised. Working in archives has been a pleasure and, it is an experience that I will hold closely in my future endeavours.

Our experience with the Liddle Collection is one we will always remember and we learned a great deal. Having improved our analysis and research skills, we will apply them in our other modules. We were able to help trial a way of indexing using the FAST faceted subject terminology system, which is starting to be used in the archives sector. We encourage all students to do a placement with Special Collections to not only improve your skill sets, but to immerse yourself in history and cutting edge work.