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Archivists on Lockdown: The Beginning - By Sierra McGee and Jess Hooley

Amidst another Covid-19 lockdown, nine Archive and Records Management students from Aberystwyth University take on the task from last year’s group: cataloguing, preservation and conservation of the material taken from the Great Abbey Farmhouse, located in Mynachlog Fawr.

An unconventional method had to be undertaken for us to complete this project. Dr. Sarah Higgins spoke to other faculty members, as well as receiving permission from the university and the Strata Florida Trust to give us the materials recovered from the farmhouse, which allowed us to work from home.

On January 27, 2021 the nine of us met with Dr. Higgins via Microsoft Teams to get instructed on what was expected of us during this project. We are expected to re-package and catalogue all materials by May. We arranged with Dr. Higgins during this time to have our boxes delivered to our homes on February 2, 2021.

The team went through the box of materials, as they were split up in educational, community, and financial categories. Elfed Selman, the project manager, cleaned off mold from his materials as part of the process of preparing materials for packaging and cataloguing. He considered it to be a great learning experience that will prepare him for his future job as an archivist.

After team members went through their own individual boxes, we met each week on Microsoft Teams from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. to discuss the following:

- Developing a step by step plan for the project

- Preservation and Conservation

- Cataloguing Scheme

- Privacy

- How to work together efficiently without being able to meet

Working on a major project during the lockdown and only being able to meet virtually has not proven to be as difficult as we initially thought. Shannon Parsons says this project has been a “interesting and challenging experience, but a good opportunity to develop remote team-working skills”.

To keep our archive material in our houses or dorms, we had to sign waivers provided by the Strata Florida Trust, to ensure the safety of the documents. We agreed to not touch the material without washing our hands first and not to keep our boxes on the floor. Jess Hooley was a bit stressed with keeping the box in her room. She handled photographs, and therefore had to be careful about not having the temperature too high in her room, and with cleaning down her desk before laying the photographs down.

While there were many challenges presented to us during these uncertain times, our team has done a phenomenal job with staying on top of our work and deadlines. This group has been a blessing in disguise, as many of us were already good friends before we were assigned to this project. This allowed us to feel relaxed around each other, helping us to work together efficiently.

Please stay tuned for our next blog post!

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