Blog: How we are getting on in the archive

Our first two groups of archive organisation volunteers
Our first two groups of archive organisation volunteers. Left Photo clockwise from the top: John, Samphire, Steph, Maggie and Percy. Right Photo clockwise from the top: Rachel, Jackie, Barbara, Christine, Anne and Sue.

Gillian is working with teams of volunteers in the West Sussex Record Office to sort through and list the 1,000 boxes of paper files which constitute 50 years’ worth of potential material for the Chichester Festival Theatre’s archive – the keystone of the Pass It On project. As the first team of volunteers finish their term, Gillian reflects on the initial three months of organising our archive:

It’s the end of a little era. The first two teams to sort and box documents and files belonging to the Chichester Festival Theatre have now completed their time. They have done sterling work and I shall miss them.
We have made excellent progress. We are attempting to separate all the paperwork relating to the history and development of the Theatre from that which is perhaps not so significant and needs only to be kept for a short time. The newly sorted documents will become the new Chichester Festival Theatre archive, to be stored at West Sussex Record Office and will eventually be available for viewing by the public.

The type of documents that are being sorted include the day-to-day paperwork related to the running of the theatre, for example, Box Office returns, minutes of meetings, building maintenance and theatre licences. More interesting material includes the wonderful costume and wig bibles, press cuttings and publicity material. The volunteers never knew what they might be presented with when they arrived, but they good heartedly took on any sorting task, even the most mundane or challenging ones.

Apart from having a happy social time, our volunteers also had the opportunity to learn how documents are formally archived and about the history of Chichester Festival Theatre. On her final day, Maggie, a regular at Chichester Festival Theatre productions, said that she had watched a performance of Barnum with completely new eyes. I know what she means.

Many thanks to volunteers Ann, Christine, Sue, Jackie, Barbara, Maggie, John, Percy and Steph, and also work experience students Chloe, Samphire and Rachel. All of them had to be guinea pigs while we worked out an efficient sorting and recording method when each box was opened and looked at. Now and then we shouted “all change!” and suddenly they had to do things differently. In spite of this, they were extremely good humoured, bonded well as teams and there was a lot of fun and laughter.

A  warm welcome to the next two teams. Pass It On!