Twice a year the Archives and Collections Committee (ACC) run a study/work day at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum.
The study/work day is based on two topics: care of the archive collection, particularly the Ronnie Tylecote photographic archive and care of the slag collection. After brief introductions the day will mainly consist of workshops with ‘hands on’ work. In the archive with sorting photographs and assisting with storage for the safe care of the images, and in the warehouse sorting, identifying, re-boxing and cataloguing the Tylecote Slag Collection.
The date for the next event is the ...
To be confirmed! But will be held at The Long Warehouse, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, Telford, Shropshire TF8 7DQ.
Having enlisted as a volunteer with the Ironbridge Gorge Museum to be involved with industrial archeology projects in the Gorge, I was forwarded the notice for the Historical Metallurgy Society Archives and Slag Collections open day. As a conservator specialising in metals, I have known about HMS for many years, but the open day, held almost on my doorstep, sounded intriguing, too good to miss, and provided the spur to join at last.
The day started with a welcome and brief introduction to the archives from Louise Bacon to the small group of us attending the open day, some like myself, new to the Society's activities and others who were established HMS activists. Louise gave us a description of the archive and its care.
David Dungworth followed with a description of the slag collections and for those of us new to the HMS, it was fascinating to learn from the two speakers, how much has been achieved in such a relatively short time, and it was pleasing to learn that there is such a close collaboration between the Society and the Ironbridge Institute.
Despite the two introductions, I still did not quite know what to expect when we were about to start the hands on workshop sessions. It soon became apparent though! I started with the paper and photographs group and a daunting quantity of partially archived material, mostly photographs, with some notes and a few reports that comprise the Tylecote archive. The earlier archiving had assembled the material into logical associations, but it needed our second sweep to refine it into directly related material, and for me at least, there was lots of 'ah, yes, this photo of a hole in the ground with a bit of a lintel is the same as one I saw earlier but from a different position - now where did I put that?' Very quickly we started working as a team, cross checking with each other, and the personal recollections of the 'old hands' were invaluable, often making sense of indecipherable images. Gradually things started to fall into place, and even link up with objects the slag collection group were finding.
After a break for lunch, a visit to the Museum of Iron and a walk around the old foundry site with Shane Kelleher of the Institute, who gave us an insight into the objects on display, the history and archeology of the site, most of us swapped activities and I went into the chilly stores to pick though boxes of slags, ores and a few bits of actual metal.
The materials are all part of the Tylecote Slag Collection, which is a distinct historical collection housed at the Institute, but owned by HMS, as opposed to the National Slag Collection, which is owned by the Institute, although both the Institute and HMS have a say in what is added to the National Slag Collection.
The Tylecote Collection was kept in an ad hoc selection of boxes in the Institute's stores. In the boxes were plastic bags of samples, labelled in various ways and our task was to catalogue them. The samples were re-bagged in numbered bags which corresponded with new archival boxes and the information was entered up by David Dungworth on a database as we progressed. Deciphering some of the labels in, shall we say 'distinctive' handwriting on damaged labels was a challenge, but again, the 'old hands' were often able to come to the rescue, recognising a vital clue and recalling a past expedition.
I thoroughly enjoyed the day, it was informative, fascinating, friendly, there is much more to do, but there was a sense of making a useful contribution and a job well done. I was a bit worried about how I'd tell my friends at 'The Golden Ball Debating and Philosophical Society' how I had spent my Saturday. Given the potential for puns on the main object of our attention, there aren't many ways that don't leave you open to ribaldry, but, to their credit, they didn't sink to the occasion and were genuinely interested - a bit mystified, maybe, but interested.
Review written by Andrew Naylor for The Crucible 83