When I finished the MA two years ago I wanted to work in children’s publishing. But I soon came round to realise that although I am still very interested in the works currently being published for children, it was the history of writing for children and sense of the past that really appealed to me.
I couldn’t get enough of leafing through the beautiful old volumes in the children’s literature collection at Roehampton University Library and realised that there were many other special collections and archives of this type, ranging from the Richmal Crompton Collection and Froebel Archive at Roehampton, to the large archive at the Seven Stories Museum in Newcastle. This got me thinking about working with aspects relating to history of children’s literature, rather than the current world of children’s publishing.
History has always fascinated me and I gradually came to realise that I could pursue a career working with artefacts, documents and ephemera relating to the history of books written for children.
And this pointed me in the direction of archiving —-
The career path to becoming a qualified archivist is relatively structured, or certainly appeared so to me, after experiencing the more haphazard entry process to children’s publishing.
Several universities offer postgraduate courses in archiving and records management, which are recognised by professional bodies such as the Archives and Records Association.To be accepted on one of the courses a level of experience is required of working in an archive, which can be either paid or voluntary.
So for the past year I have been working voluntarily in three different archives, two of them closely linked with the world of children’s literature, so I have been able to draw on my experience from the MA.
At the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden I’ve been helping the archivist there catalogue their collection of manuscripts, photographs, letters and mementoes from Roald Dahl’s eventful life. Transcribing his letters home from boarding school has been particularly exciting as they provide the backdrop for much of his classic autobiography ‘Boy’.
Mary Evans Picture Library in Blackheath, London, houses a huge collection of historic prints, books, posters and magazines, as well as a large collection of children’s books. While helping file and sort images there I’ve come across all sorts of interesting things – including a collection of over 200 editions of Anna Sewell’s ‘Black Beauty’, ranging from a first edition to very recent ones.
I’ve also been volunteering at my local archive in Aylesbury, held within the Records Office for Buckinghamshire.
I’ve really enjoyed my time at all three of these places and feel quite privileged to have seen and worked with such a fascinating range of material.
This year of experience has paid off as it has lead to my obtaining a place for the Postgraduate Diploma in Archiving and Records Management at University College London, which I will be starting this September. I am really looking forward to a fulltime position in one of the many archives throughout the UK.