In his first post, Chiron Hayman-Lynch, a student on the MA Modern History, reflects on his experience of a placement:

During my placement with Brotherton Library’s Special Collections, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with access to the Liddle Collection. This series contains an enormous collection of first-hand accounts of individuals who experienced the two World Wars. My specific focus has been on World War One following individual conscientious objectors and the Friends’ Ambulance Unit, a civilian volunteer service set up by Quakers. I have been examining the content of files and items for information on individual conscientious objectors and the types of documents in each series.

In doing so I have documented my findings by creating detailed catalogue descriptions for each conscientious objector’s series. Additionally, when examining each file, I have recorded keywords that have been mentioned so as to map connections between an individual’s archive and an organization. These words are then indexed using the Faceted Application of Subject Terminology (FAST) index system which connects the heading to the relevant facet and URL.

title page of magazine in black and white
Title page of the Friends Ambulance Unit magazine, LIDDLE/WW1/CO/028, Edgar Whittaker Ellis. Image credit Leeds University Library.

As a history postgraduate student, it has been a privilege to gain experience of what it’s like working within the archiving and heritage sector. But particularly so because the placement has been on such a fascinating topic with such a diverse quantity of material. Each series and file offer a captivating insight into the distinctive lives of individual conscientious objectors. The one hundred years that has passed since many of these documents and files were issued has compounded my appreciation for their historical significance.

Developing an understanding of how archives operate regarding the organisation and ordering of files and the classification of archive hierarchies is invaluable experience for a historian. Additionally, getting a sense for how large of a task it would be to preserve, curate, organise and digitise such a huge archival collection was fascinating.