Blog: “Open the Box” – Scanning sessions at the Record Office

Every Wednesday, Marilyn and Sue (some of our scanning volunteers) arrive at the Record Office in Chichester and set up for a session of digitisation (this is where we create digital versions of archival documents and items through computer scanning and Photoshop editing). Using a detailed record list which our archive volunteers fastidiously create every Monday with Gillian Edom, our archive training officer, they identify what’s most interesting, culturally significant or even what has been requested by researchers. They pull out specific boxes from the archive and begin to scan the hidden treasures inside…


1973 Seagull Rehearsal Notes
One of Sue and Marilyn’s scans – Rehearsal notes from ‘The Seagull’ (1973) “Need to have a practice with stinkbombs” (click image to enlargen)

Sue and I started our scanning experience for Chichester Festival Theatre in 2013 and we have to say, felt very privileged to be able to scan some of Leslie Evershed-Martin’s scrapbooks at what was his Chichester home. We did the scanning in the dining room; above the mantelpiece was a very impressive portrait of Sir Laurence Olivier (known as Larry to Leslie Evershed-Martin and friends). We felt he was keeping a watchful eye on what we were doing with the scrapbooks. The books were very enlightening and included a very valued account of fundraising, first productions, and the casts, programmes, after Theatre party invitations and press cuttings from the 1960s – 1990s. Sue and I have now been dispatched to the Records Office for our current scanning adventures, which so far have been very interesting and varied. One of our more recent scanning sessions included an annotated script, production photos and press cuttings of The Seagull produced in 1973, which we believe maybe used for inspiration by the Theatre’s Young Playwrights scheme. All in all, I can’t wait for what’s next to come for us.

1973 the seagull production photo
Sue and Marilyn scan photo negatives from ‘The Seagull’ (1973) (click image to enlargen)



If you can remember as far back as Michael Miles Take your Pick game show, you will know that it always ended up with either “take the money, or open the box?”   Boxes could be great things or not so great things! Volunteering has been a similar experience, except by default we have to “open the box”! Marilyn and I are scanning items from the archive to make them readily available online at some point in the future. The first few weeks were huge fun; boxes contained photos, programmes, scripts and all sorts of interesting ephemera. It was rather difficult to stop “oohing” and “ahhing” and keep scanning sometimes. Each week a new excitement…that is until we got to Box 56! Oh boy, two hefty books entitled Bills of Quantities – one for the original Theatre build, one for the extension built in 1966*. Some 300 odd pages to scan with riveting headings such as reinforced concrete, drainage, etc.!   Our bubble had burst! However we have now finished them and are once more looking forward to “opening the box” next week and find out what new joys the CFT archive has in store for us.

*Why is this of interest or importance? As our RENEW build comes to a finish, the comparisons between the original build and the renovations of the Theatre are of extreme relevance, not just to the Theatre’s history and development, but architecturally, due to the Theatre’s Grade II* listed status. A celebratory book of the RENEW project will be published in due course…who knows, maybe Sue and Marilyn’s scans will be featured!