When I interviewed for this job Adam Rowe (SEWBReC Office Manager) and the rest of the panel seemed pretty reluctant to show me the true extent of Dr Mary Gillham’s archive. I was handed a few items to look at and hands were waved in vague directions when pushed on the subject.
While my eyes widened when, on my first day, shown the 150 000 wildlife records, 14 000 slides, and multiple diaries that make up the bulk of the archive I swiftly came to realise what an interesting and varied resource it actually is… and how fortunate I am to immerse myself in it every day.
The challenge of the project – getting it all digitised inside of two years is not to be sniffed at. In these first weeks of the project the team of volunteers and myself have been working hard to get the systems in place to help us to achieve the targets of this Heritage Lottery funded project. We have also begun thinking about how to achieve the other aspects of the project such as the outreach events, oral history recording and botany mentorship scheme.
Never having met Mary Gillham it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that we are holding in our hands the life’s writing of a real person. We have Mary’s school exercise books from the 1940s and the hand written notes detailing wildlife records and hospital appointments in the last months of her life – and everything in between. The one thing that returns to me when reading Mary’s notes is how engaging and accessible they all are.
Our goal, then, is to make the archive widely available by digitising it but also to capture the personality, good humour and spirit of the author and continue her legacy of promoting wildlife to a new generation.
Find out more about the project on the Project page!