Today I had a behind the scenes tour at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO). Being behind the scenes is something I image most artists relish and I am no exception. Susan, Principal Archivist at NRO was a great tour guide and once in the strong room we talked about the purpose built nature of the building. The previous record office was in the basement of the Norwich Central Library which went up in flames in the 1990’s.
The strong room in which we stood was one of three, all containing documents pertaining to all aspects of Norfolk life and history. I was interested in how the information was organised and if the archive numbering system related in any way to the Dewey library system. There is no connection but there is a standard system but the actual numbering system is up to the individual archive. There are conventions which state what must be included: Title of the Document, Date, Level, Reference, Extent and Archive Creator. Understanding, interpreting and responding to different processes and procedures is what I find so interesting about working in new situations and with people from different knowledge and professional backgrounds.
Susan pulled out a number of document boxes for us to have a look at. One of which included a document which had been looked at by Francis Blomefield who wrote the County History of Norfolk. The documents that Blomefield looked at in the 18th century can be easily identified in the archive as he marked each one with a small circle with a cross inside. This idea of being able to track who has looked at documents has been re-invented (as marking marks are no longer permitted!) – each document taken from the archive strong room is recorded together with the name of the person requesting it. In the future someone may be interested in the names and number of people who have viewed a document in addition to the content.