How I Started – Jessica Page

Information professionals recount their early career experiences.

This time: Jessica Page, Boots Archives and Records Assistant

I was overwhelmed with joy when I received an offer of a place to study a Masters in Archives and Records Management at University College London in September 2013. Next year, I look forward to taking full advantage of being in a vibrant city where there are numerous opportunities to attend seminars, conferences and gain experience in a variety of Archives.

In September 2012 I began a twelve-month placement at Boots Archives and Records Office. The placement offers a valuable insight into how a business uses its archive collection and manages its records. My daily routine involves arranging onsite and offsite retrievals and storage of records. I act as the point of contact for our internal users and our third-party storage providers. This involves organizing services and answering retention queries. Part of my role is also to support the Data Protection and Subject Access Requests Boots process. I have independently organised a number of Archive projects, including listing title deeds and organizing store anniversaries.  The store anniversary programme is an annual project, which involves coordinating with stores, our PR department and in-store marketing in order to promote the heritage of the company to customers. A number of stores will be celebrating their anniversaries in June and July of this year. The large store on Queens Street in Cardiff has a long history and they will be celebrating 100 years this July.  This type of event is a credit to the company’s history and their success as a high street store. Outreach events are a key activity with Boots Archives and I have supported a number of events and displays, including helping to establish a library at a school and supporting a TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) event held at the University of Nottingham. The Archives are also preparing for a Company Museum by auditing, photographing and improving the description of each item in the collection.

In the remaining four months of my placement I will be assisting in the management of events celebrating the 150 year Anniversary of the birth of Florence Boot, the wife of Jesse Boot. She was an inspirational character who had innovative ideas that impacted the company’s image and concern for the welfare of its staff. Florence Boot was responsible for buying new lines of toiletries and oversaw the introduction of books and cafes in Boots stores. She also introduced toilet requisites, compacts, handbags and perfumes aimed at female customers.  These helped Boots shops develop as department stores and attract upper and middle class customers. The welfare of women was Florence’s primary concern. She insisted that female factory workers for Boots were given a cup of cocoa first thing, as some female workers were beginning work without breakfast. I thoroughly enjoy the varied work I have been involved in during this placement. I was also surprised and pleased to be given substantial responsibility over my own tasks and projects. Overall, I have gained a wealth of experience from this placement and a strong appreciation of the commercial and evidential value of an Archive and Record Office to a business.

During my placement, I have had the privilege to attend the Business Archives Conference and the East Midlands Business Archives Conference. At these conferences I gained knowledge of challenges faced by other Business Archives, as well as issues surrounding Digital Resources. The use of Digital resources and implementing digital preservation systems is an area I would like to experience myself, especially as technology advances and becomes a larger part of everyday life. I have also had the opportunity to visit the London Metropolitan Archives, the Laban Archive, Nottinghamshire County Council Archives and Nottingham University Archives.  These visits allowed me to see varying sizes of institutions and draw comparisons.

I would recommend that one interested in pursuing a career in Archives and Records Management also join the Archive Trainee’s Group (1) and attend their meetings.  So far, I have attended two meetings. The first meeting was held at the Kew Gardens Archives and the second was held at Alnwick Castle Archives. These meetings were very valuable as I learnt more about the courses on offer, how these particular archives were being used and by whom as well as meeting people who are in the same position as myself and learning about their experiences.  The Archives, Records Management and Conservation (ARC) magazines (2) are also useful to anyone looking into a career in Archives and Records Management. The magazines explore a number of current issues and numerous archives, ranging from business archives to community archives. Recent articles in the February 2013 issue of ARC magazine concerning international affairs have interested me and encouraged me to consider a long-term aspiration of investigating how the establishment of Archives and Records Management can improve education standards and help discover ways in which a country can be helped and developed.  For example an Oral History Project in a remote community of Northwest Ecuador portrayed how the establishment of a medical clinic impacted people’s lives and decreased the number of cases of Malaria. The African Textbook Project is another positive initiative to provide textbooks concerning Archives and Records Management to African institutions; this will hopefully aid the development of education and preservation of information and records.

Prior to my placement at Boots Archives and Record Office I had work experience at a variety of archives. At the Parliamentary Archives I obtained valuable information concerning the growing importance of Digital Preservation and the use of EDRMS (Electronic Documentation Records Management Systems). Other knowledge I gained concerned public services, current outreach projects, increasing use of social media and the construction of exhibitions. One day involved helping to supervise a filming piece produced by the BBC and a tour of the archives. At Chester Archives and the Parliamentary Archives I carried out independent cataloguing tasks, using CALM software to input details of Local Parish Magazines and the House of Lords and Commons papers.  At the Borthwick Institute I used EAD editor to update details of documents of South African Studies on the Archives Hub. I gained experience of using microfilm and preparing documents for an exhibition at the People’s History Museum, called ‘Death and the Working Class’.

Overall, my work and educational experience have fuelled my passion for a career in Archives and Records Management. I believe it is essential to preserve documents and records for further generations to examine and investigate. The role of an Archivist has a strong influence over the future representation of societies and objects and it is this that makes the profession so essential. Records Management is also vital to the efficiency and the current and future accessibility and circulation of information in an organization.

 Jessica Page, Boots Archives and Records Assistant

References:

(1) For more information on the Trainee’s Group visit http://www.archives.org.uk/si-new-professionals/trainees.html

(2) Some back copies of ARC magazine are available at http://www.archives.org.uk/publications/arc-magazine.html

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