Behind the Scenes…Shelving Project part two

Monday was the big day for the shelving project as the installers arrived with the new shelving early in the morning.

By mid morning one side was completed and the other under way and looking very smart and by lunchtime it was all done!

All that was left for us to do was to clean the new shelving down and fill it with our document and newspaper collections.


It took a team of four to put everything onto the new shelves on Tuesday and the result was well worth it.


Our newspapers can now lie flat on their shelves, and the documents boxes are no longer piled on top of each other. There was also space for us to place the RAF Chivenor Collection onto individual shelves rather than storing them in boxes which were too large and heavy for one person to handle. This means the collection is now more accessible to both staff and users.


The work to improve the way we take care of our archival collections doesn’t stop with the shelving project. We can now start to plan and carry out a programme of replacing the old boxes with new archival ones, reducing the weight of the boxes (some of which are rather heavy!) and ensuring they items are just generally better stored. While we repackage the collections we will also be able to assess which items are in need of some tlc by conservationists and if there are any items which need more specialist storage.

Part of our Lethaby Collection is already in archive boxes and we hope the rest will be stored in archive boxes in the near future (Lethaby was a prolific writer and some of his boxes are amongst the heaviest on our shelves!)


This post wouldn’t be complete without a few before and after pictures side by side to really appreciate the changes, nor would it be complete without thanking those who were involved with the project. The staff of Rackline who provided the shelving , CDL Southwest our contractors who took away our old shelving and laid the groundwork for the new shelves, and last but not least, a huge thank you to the staff and volunteers who helped to move all the collections and newspapers.

…Barum Athena



Behind the Scenes…Shelving Project part one: It’ll get worse before it gets better

If you’ve been following us on social media you will have seen that we are closed to the public for a fortnight while we carry out some essential work in our stack.

For the last 29 years, our North Devon Journal newspapers have sat on the shelving unit which was built for us before we moved in. Over the years, however, the newspapers have shown signs of deterioration due to the conditions in which they were being kept and the document shelves surrounding them have become full.

So, over our closure period this year we are taking out the old, outdated shelving and replacing it with new archival shelving which will enable us to look after the items in our care much better.

Before we get started here are a few before images of the document area…

Before we could do anything, we had to move everything off the shelves and into other spaces within our stack. It took four of us half a day to move everything out of harm’s way and dismantle all the old metal shelving.

The following day, contractors came in to remove the old wooden storage unit which had housed the newspapers and discover what lurked behind it! This is the it’ll get worse before it gets better point of the project…

If you’re wondering what we did with all the newspapers and document boxes, they’ve been stored in the aisles between the book shelves!

The rest of this week has seen the floor and wall sorted out ready for our new shelving to arrive and be installed on Monday. Then the task of filling the new shelves can begin, visit us next week to find out how we get on….

…Barum Athena

Behind the Scenes…A New Look for the Department

For the past fortnight we’ve all been busy re-organising the layout of the public area and creating more space in the stacks, strongrooms and offices thanks to help from our South West Heritage Trust colleagues from both Exeter and Taunton.

Here are few before images of the public area:

The first few days saw all the books packed away for safe keeping, the pictures taken off the walls, furniture moved away from the walls all in preparation for redecorating.

Then the hard work began, everything had to be moved to their new locations, including the microfiche and film readers, the book shelves, card index drawers, computers and map cabinets.


After two weeks of hard work we’re still putting books back on shelves, reconnecting computers, working out where our new tables and chairs are going to end up and more besides!

Behind the scenes the Record Office have been installing extra shelves in the strongroom and creating more work space for volunteers.


We on the other hand have taken the opportunity to re-organise the office and our own workspace. The stationary cupboard has never looked so tidy!

We re-open at 10 am Wednesday 2nd November – come and see how it has all come together…

…Barum Athena

The End of an Era

We are saying goodbye to one of our colleagues from the North Devon Record Office – Colin who is leaving us today.

Colin, in his own words, “came up with the documents” from the Record Office in Exeter over 28 years ago when the North Devon Record Office was being set up and has worked in the department ever since.


Colin (centre) and Les (former Athenaeum librarian) on the enquiry desk together

During his time here he has worked with three Athenaeum librarians, four North Devon Record Office archivists and five Local Studies librarians. Not to mention over 17 assistant librarians, archive assistants, and volunteers.

He has helped train many of us over the years and despite his aversion to computers has even taught this librarian a thing or two when it comes to dealing with a certain well-known piece of spreadsheet software.


Colin on the enquiry desk

The man who hates fuss, is also a little camera shy, but we have managed to scour the archives for these gems – I even managed to get this one earlier!


Colin on his last day

He will be sorely missed by staff and searchers alike – although he has threatened to return as a volunteer in the near future!

Barum Athena

Behind the Scenes – Armed Forces Exhibition 2016

Last week saw us and the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon at the North Devon Veterans’ Association’s Armed Forces Exhibition. Held over three days at Pilton Community College the exhibition included hundreds of stories from past members of the armed forces, as well as displays of equipment used by both former and current personnel. There were also displays from RMB Chivenor and other local organisations.

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Setting up the display

Together with the museum we put on a display containing items from our collections. From a piece of an aircraft which crashed during World War Two, to a helmet dug up from Saunton Sands where training for D-Day took place, and some exquisite needlework created by a wounded World War One soldier and sent home to his wife.

We also took along some stories of some of the World War One soldiers we have been following in the local newspapers. Men like Mervyn Ninnis who was in the 2nd Devonshire Regiment, Fred and Reg Priscott, the twins who served with the 1st / 6th Devons at the Battle of Dujailah, Lt.Col. Oerton, who wrote about the 1st/ 6th Devons experiences at Dujailah and the Cater brothers Frank and Wilfred one of whom served in Gallipoli.

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Our joint display – you can see the two helmets in the background along with a piece of aircraft from a crashed World War Two plane.

The first two days of the exhibition was open to the local schools and over 1,500 students came along. Many of them were fascinated with the objects on show and the stories behind them. Many of them thought the needlework had been done by the Queen, or an elderly mother or aunt and whilst several of the girls would have loved to receive such a gift from their boyfriends, the boys weren’t so convinced!

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Julian from the Museum of Barnstaple talking with a couple of students.

The third day was open to the public and coincided with Armed Forces Day. People were encouraged to talk to the many veterans who were there. We had some fascinating chats with members of the public, veterans and current personnel over the course of the three days.

As part of the exhibition, we have been posting some of the stories we used in our display. Both the stories of Mervyn Ninnis and the Priscott Twins have been posted already with more on Lt. Col. Oerton and the Cater brothers to come in the next few weeks.

…Barum Athena

Behind the Scenes…Stocktaking 2016

Behind the Scenes…Stocktaking 2016

Ever wonder what we get up to when we close for stocktaking? Well here’s what we did this year…

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Thanks to our staff and volunteers we checked our collection of Barnstaple Postcards, 12 of our original document collections, accessioned and catalogued 37 items into our library collection and checked and tidied the general pamphlet collection.

We also took the opportunity to have our first ever in-house training session for staff, volunteers and directors.


While storm Imogen raged outside we started the day by doing a detailed tour of our online catalogues, followed by an in-depth walk through of our stack and the North Devon Record Office’s strong room. Once the tour was over we let the directors and volunteers loose in our stack to explore all of the wonderful items we have on our shelves – you never know what you may find there!


After an excellent lunch, provided by Sheppherd’s we moved onto cataloguing books onto our library catalogue and scanning images.


During the cataloguing and scanning session this lovely note was found stuck inside a copy of RN Worth’s Tourist’s Guide to North Devon – I don’t think the person who wrote it was very impressed with the author!


“It is easier to find fault than to amend: but it does strike me that of all the fools who have taken to compiling of Guide Books Mr. R.N. Worth is the most irritating. He is a “F.G.S., & c.”, and is therefore obliged to display at least as much knowledge of Geology, “&c.” as the “Fellows” of such “learned” societies, &c. may be supposed to possess. His philology (included, I suppose, in the “et cetera”) is particularly astonishing – he derives the familiar “Tor” from Thor! & is especially keen upon what he calls “Keltic”. His stupendous ignorance of matters literary is evinced every where E.g. upon p.60 where he gives Shebbeare the authorship of Chrysal (really Ch. Johnstone) and describes drunken Capern, as a “more famous worthy”, and styles him “The Devonshire Burns!!””


We (and by we, we mean the Librarian) also took the opportunity to re-organise the most important part of the office – the filing cabinet (and yes it did take the whole fortnight to sort out!).

Another successful stocktake over with we can now start planning for next year’s…Barum Athena