Saturday 17th September 2016 saw the AGM of Wiltshire Family History Society at Bromham Village Social Centre. This also marked 35 years of the Society. Happy Birthday to WFHS! Over the years the Family History Society have been a great friend to the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives and have assisted in numerous ways including donations to purchase equipment such as our high specification overhead digital camera.
I went along on Saturday to speak on the future of the Archive Service, and in return was presented with three beautiful book cushions, generously donated by the Family History Society. Please see above photograph courtesy of Jerry King, showing the President of the Society, Mike Stone, presenting me with one of the cushions. The book cushions are designed to support the spine of fragile volumes and ensure they can be read without damaging the document. They are a helpful addition to our stock of cushions – thank you WFHS.
I also enjoyed some of the delicious Anniversary cake which was on offer (see my photo) – worthy of the Bake Off any day!
Last week we were all sad to see County Local Studies Librarian, Mike Marshman retire after 50 years of service with Wiltshire Council. We sent him off in true History Centre style (i.e. with lots of cake!). He will be missed, although we know he'll certainly be back to use the History Centre resources.
Here is his final blog:
Two days after England won the World Cup in 1966 a somewhat callow youth, straight from the local grammar school, started work for Wiltshire County Council at the County Library Headquarters in Prospect Place, Trowbridge. In those halcyon days there were trainee librarian posts so that one was actually paid a salary – around £800 gross against a student grant of £360 – whilst attending library school, which is why on 31st July I completed 50 years with what is now Wiltshire Council. Being now three years past my best by date I feel that it is time for me to retire from paid work, although not from local history.
After managing various libraries and groups of libraries in Wiltshire I became the County Local Studies Librarian in 1988 and now realise I’ve served 28 years in that post. There have only been two of us; John Chandler, now Wiltshire’s leading historian, who established the library in its current form, and me. I think that both of us have found that it’s great to do a job in which you’re really interested and where you continue researching, evaluating, and writing after you leave work at the end of the day.
I was fortunate to have been a member of the team that planned the present Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre deciding that I would work in it for a couple of years and then retire. That should have been in 2009 but I was so interested in the work and activities that I just kept going! Apart from the usual archives and local studies services that we greatly developed over the years the range of our activities here has been quite wide. In the early years we did not have an Education Officer so Principal Archivist Claire Skinner and I visited many local schools to introduce ourselves and explain the services we could offer. We then ran twilight sessions for teachers, went out to primary schools to take classes in the history of their community and the use of sources, and held holiday history activities at the History Centre.
I’ve also happily organised programmes of talks, local and family history courses, tours for local groups, lectures to local societies, and village interpretation days – my own favourite invention. Overall my aim has been to interest people in the history and development of their own communities and give them a sense of place that helps them belong to that community, showing them how they stand at the end of a very long chain of events. More recently we’ve developed events tied in with local authors, with talks and readings along with our own audio visual presentation, Chalk and Cheese, for which I must thank my fellow performers Claire Skinner and Joy Bloomfield, and Roger Trayhurn, former Swindon Reference Librarian.
I like to think that I’ve introduced many new ideas into Local Studies and the History Centre but the most important part of my job has been custodian of the Wiltshire Collection, the largest collection of published material concerning the historic county of Wiltshire. It’s a very important collection and I do not think that a great deal of it will ever be digitised so the hard copy will be all that is ever available – we have some books and pamphlets that are the only publicly available copies, while most of our photographs are in this category.
A big thank you to all present and past colleagues and volunteers in the Libraries and Heritage services with whom I’ve worked over many years and especially to Heritage Services Manager Terry Bracher and Claire Skinner at the History Centre. I also want to especially thank my colleagues in the Local Studies Team, Helen Taylor, Julie Davis, Joy Bloomfield, Brian Shipp, Anna Ervine, Eileen Sutherland, and Janis Packham, who retired before me, for all their support and help over the years.
You’ll find me around in Wiltshire local history in the future – I’ll still edit the Wiltshire Local History Forum newsletter, I’m already booked to give a few talks to local societies over the next year, I have three books that I want to research and write, while those of you who read Wiltshire Life may find even more of my articles in there.
Oh, the cake? Well it’s a closely guarded secret that the History Centre actually runs on a plentiful supply of cakes, chocolate and biscuits; they always seem to be available in the staff room as a result of birthdays, holidays, and other celebrations.