Unlocking the personalities behind the archives…
The Lacock Unlocked project is well under way now and the cataloguing and indexing side of it now has over 30 volunteers. These volunteers are either listing and indexing bundles of documents, or putting information onto our database. It means that instead of unlocking and exploring one thing per day, we are unlocking and exploring six, so to speak!
I love it when the listing volunteers show me something that I had no idea existed, or parts of a story that I didn’t know were there. We keep discovering new words for things and ways of saying them, finding information about places and families through bills, deeds and other items in the archive. I particularly enjoy finding information about people who crop up in the archive, and the example here is a letter from John Ivory Talbot to his cousin Henry Davenport in 1725, which gives anyone interested a wonderful insight into John’s family life, his way of writing, what annoys him (apparently, Henry Davenport’s not writing to him is on his mind!). Just a simple letter like this provides great information about a personality.
We are attempting to piece together many clues and it is fascinating when these jigsaws are completed but also when someone finds a new piece that leads us or them down a different route.
We are trying, as a sector, to encourage people to explore their archive, and this means everyone: not just those interested in Lacock or from Lacock, not just those who are trying to do family history, and so on. The Lacock archive, like so many others, brings people together to explore something that can lead them down many different research routes, and enable people to find enthusiasm for something they never thought they would. This does not just mean the cataloguing and indexing done by dedicated volunteers, but also the many others who will get a chance to access the collection when it is fully catalogued. Without the volunteer effort and enthusiasm the collection would still be available, but not in as much detail or with as much time and care taken over it, and with fewer access routes for all those who wish to find out about a part of the collection.
We are also doing a great deal to promote the Lacock collection and get people interested in the history of the estate through the archive even before it is catalogued. This kind of outreach is very important for us; to try and encourage people to get involved with their own stories to enrich the knowledge we already have and continue, constantly, to have throughout the work we are doing on Lacock.
I look forward to meeting many more people over the next year and well beyond, who will explore the Lacock archive from whichever access route and with whichever particular interest or reason, but with the shared aim of wanting to discover more.