Goodbye 2017 – Hello 2018!

2017 was another interesting year which kicked off in February with our shelving project. Over the space of a fortnight and with the help of some willing volunteers, the shelving which was used to store our archival items was emptied, dismantled, the area behind it made good, new shelving installed and the items placed in their new home.


As with most projects we had the “It’ll get worse before it gets better” moment after we had moved everything off the old shelving and cleared the space before we brought in contractors to prepare it for the new shelving’s arrival. However, that soon disappeared the following week when the new shelving arrived and we were able to put everything we had been temporarily storing in the aisles between the book shelves onto the new units. Within a week of the new shelving being installed we saw just how much of a difference it had made and we are still reaping the benefits of the project.

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A few weeks later we were joined by Indgio for a week’s work experience who spent some time playing detective by researching her ancestor, Nancy Drew. By using online resources available via the North Devon Record Office and items we hold in our general collection, Indigo was able to find out about Nancy and her family who lived in Hertfordshire.

Soda Syphon

We also had an interesting donation to our collection, a Dornat’s soda syphon, which has a fascinating link with the building we now occupy. We also started to take a look at some of the items which are on loan to other institutions in our Beyond the Library series. The first item we looked at in detail is a favourite of ours, the 18th Century Oil Painting of Barnstaple which now hangs in the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.


June saw us and the Museum attend Armed Forces Day for a third year. This time round our hosts for the two-day event were RMB Chivenor. It was great to be able to take some of the items from our Chivenor Collections “home” to the old airfield.

Barnstaple (Colour)d

We also saw more staffing changes this year. As a result of the Barnstaple Library staffing restructure we said goodbye to several members of our partner department, Barnstaple Local Studies Library,  including Local Studies Librarian Deborah Gahan. We now have three part time local studies library staff; Sue, Rob and Ley, who have all been with the department for several years.


Towards the end of the year our Assistant Librarian, Sandi, started to research the role of women in World War One as part of our project to commemorate the 100th anniversary. She wrote the first two posts of a new series focusing on the role women played during the war, the first focusing on the social standing of women before the war and the second on the Women’s Forestry Corps.

One of Lethaby’s many sketches in our collection [B70-3a-11]
2018 will be a special year for us as the Athenaeum will be celebrating its 130th Anniversary as well as 30 years of working alongside the North Devon Record Office and Barnstaple Local Studies Library. We have lots of plans in the works to celebrate our anniversary starting with our new look blog, which is 5 years old this year!

2018 will also see the 100th anniversaries of Women’s Suffrage, the founding of the RAF and the end of the First World War all of which we plan to commemorate.

Our first event of the new year will be our annual closure period which will take place from Monday 22nd January to Tuesday 6th February. The closure period allows us to do some much needed stocktaking as well as catch up on work we have been unable to do during the course of the previous year. You will be able to follow what we get up to via our Twitter and Facebook pages.

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As well as celebrating and commemorating we are also introducing a new trial research service. You will now be able to book one to one sessions with one of our team to help you with your research within the department. For more information about this new service email us at

…Barum Athena

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