Wednesday 30 June 2010

Dispatches From The Summer Assistant #1: Visiting archives

Television programmes often create an image of archives as rather serious and slightly intimidating places. Having visited various archives around Scotland, I started to reflect on the different experiences visitors have.

Many archives require visitors to book in advance. The reasons for this may include the size of the searchroom, the number of staff, ensuring that the information is held in the archive, the size or fragility of many archival items etc. Many archives provide a document delivery service every 15 minutes, so booking items in advance ensures that you won’t be kept waiting. In our archives searchroom there are normally two members of staff on the desk, so one is usually able to get records fairly quickly.

Visitors to Orkney Library and Archives do not need to book in advance. Our collections on microfilm are very popular so readers may wish to book microfilm readers to ensure that they are not disappointed. If visitors can’t find what they are hoping to see in our archives, they may be interested in the books in our Orkney room. This is a reference room with books on various subjects relating to Orkney and Shetland.

The images you see of readers handling documents in archives tend to show them wearing gloves. Friends have joked that white gloves are the missing link between archivists, snooker referees and mime artists. Archives are unique and valuable items, so all archives take care to preserve them which is why we ask readers to use pencils. In our archives white gloves are optional for anything post-1800.
Visitors may often come in after looking at books in the library downstairs. We have regular exhibitions and hope that all visitors can find something of interest.

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Let Me Introduce You...

If you are tiring of reading about Lionel Ritchie, soap operas, cakes and grumpy diatribes about less-than-perfect customers (what's wrong with you?), then prepare for a breath of fresh air each Wednesday. We have, for the first time in four years, a Summer Assistant to help us during the tourist season and this fellow archives assistant shall be guest posting on the blog once a week for the duration of his stay with us.

Our guest blogger has experience of working in repositories which are very different to Orkney Archive but the rumours that he has more archival qualifications than at least two of the present staff are terrible lies and shall be stopped.

It is yet to be seen how much of a veil our new blogger wishes to draw over his identity so I shall reveal nothing more about him (or her, or him...). I can say only this: he has the hair of an eagle, the eyes of a leprechaun, the speed of a golf cart, the agility of Anneke Rice, the wit of a mongoose, the temper of a mid-career systems analyst and the same jacket as my brother. I leave you in his strangely shaped, yet capable hands....

Monday 28 June 2010

He Was Not Amused

Today in 1838, Queen Victoria enjoyed her coronation. The Orcadian papers were not established by this date, but we do hold copies of an earlier paper, The John O'Groat Journal, which contained a full very full and frankly put description of events.

I have learned that the Queen's train bearers had fabulous names like  Lady Mary Augusta Frederica Grimston, Lady Caroline Amelia Gordon Lennox and Lady Mary Althea Beatrix Talbot and that two Dukes kissed Victoria's left  cheek at some point in the ceremony. Everyone then sang 'This is the day that the Lord has made.'

Whoever was the royal correspondent for the paper was very sniffy about both the coronation and the royal family in general.He did find Victoria "Liberal minded and amiable" but said of the festivities, "Nothing could have been more amusing and less instructive than the entire ceremony. It bore about it evident marks of belonging to a rude and untutored age, when  might was right and a sperstitutious but imposing religion was in the ascendant. Instead of such ceremonies being got up in that solemn and striking manner which such occasions demanded, they consisted merely of glitter, pomp and mummery - they were looked upon in no other light than an idle piece of pageantry, which, while it afforded amusement, deceived people at the same time."

The author of the article then goes on criticize the reign of George III, "The national purse was drained to the dregs to minister the wants of a youthful Sovereign, and a young and inexperienced Monarch, never blessed with any great share of brains, was transformed into a demi-god by the hollow flattery of his councillors and the silly adulation of his people."

And his successor George IV? 

 "A Monarch in whom the prominent vices of a Sardanapulus Henry the Eight and Charles the Second were distinctly marked had also his coronation. His babyish mind clung to this raree show as if it were to gain him the lost affections of his people...ceremony was heaped on ceremony, mummery on mummery." He then goes on to call the recent King depraved, a dupe and a tool (yes!). By the way, I just looked up 'Sardanapulus' and it means 'luxuriously effeminate'.

The tabloids of today are pussy cats compared to this!

This issue of John O'Groat Journal also contains a description of a duel between Lord Castlereagh and "a Foreign Nobleman" which came about after the lord had "been taking some unpardonable liberties" with the nobleman's wife. He was shot through the wrist for his trouble.

We hold issues of The John O'Groat Journal from 1836 - 1855.

Saturday 26 June 2010

What a Wicked Game to Play...

Shocking news. The library copy of Orkney Today has gone missing today! 'Surely no-one would steal a newspaper from a public library?' I hear you muse, 'such a thing would be both a) ridiculous, as the paper costs less than a pound and b) evil.'

But apparently, newspaper thievery has been going on for ages! So much so that The Orcadian has to be kept beside a member of staff at all times! The paper is now attached to a piece of elastic which is connected to a special belt worn by whoever is on the desk. This has led to several staff members being dragged into the foyer and some people just let go of the paper when they are finished, letting it smack into the face of whoever is wearing the belt, but it is worth all of this trouble to keep a copy of our local paper available for all who wish to peruse it.

I phoned up Chris Isaak just now to wish him a Happy Birthday, told him of this outrage and he was as shocked as I was, if not more. In fact, he made up a song expressing his confusion about the matter. It's a little derivative of his old material, but I didn't tell him that...

Friday 25 June 2010

School's Oot

There is one irritating thing about working with so much interesting stuff. Quite often, I will find something hilarious and/or terribly interesting that I wish to spend more time on, but because it is irrelevant to the current query, this brilliant gem is placed back on the shelf, slipped into a drawer or closed back up in its box and I promptly forget where I found it.

Part of the reason for starting this blog was to highlight the great finds which would otherwise just be a snigger to oneself or a thoughtful but brief conversation between two colleagues.

One such item, which I wish I could find again, is a school log book kept during the tenure of a young school teacher from South who was put in charge of a very small school and could not handle it at all.

She was horrified by the state of the room, appalled by the filthy (to her mind) children, some of whom suffered from nits whilst she was there, and unable to stand the cold Orcadian climate. The log book, which was meant to be a dry record of the attendance and general advancement of the pupils became a sort of diary that reminds one of a Victorian novel in which the ingenue heroine is forced to live with wicked, deformed relations who mean her great harm.

The young teacher spends her days huddled up in front of the fire, swaddled in blankets and blocking all the heat coming into the classroom. She faints every time she sees a dirty palm or a nit on a scalp. The logbook is liberally sprinkled with exclamation marks and great underlinings of sentences. Most entries end with the phrase " I fell into a swoon!"

Her poor pupils seem most bemused by this odd young woman who will not teach them but lurks by the fire and passes out when she sees "great beasts of lice marching up and down the partings in their hair!!!" (or so I recall).

The children are very kind to their nervously exhausted teacher and wave away her infrequent offers to take their turn at the fire. She often "falls into a swoon" at the sight of nits on the head of a child who has come up to see how she is doing.

Soon enough, the parents and school board come to hear about the situation at the schoolhouse and red pencil marks underline and circle the young woman's more hysterical and unprofessional remarks. Eventually, the teacher is removed and her small, sloping, scratchy writing is replaced with the firm hand of her replacement.

There is a school theme to this day's post as today is the last day of Summer term in Orkney. Eager little tykes trundled up Clay Loan with wheel barrows filled with shiny red apples with which to shower their darling teachers and said educators made sure to bring their special weeping handkerchiefs for the final farewells.

Us non-teachers are not at all jealous of the fact that these professionals are about to embark on six weeks of day time telly, barbecues and lying on the sun-lounger, full of gin. As those on holiday parade past our places of work, ice cream in hand, comfortable in the knowledge that they are being paid for doing so, we shall feel nothing but amiable, not-at-all bitter, pleasantness.

N.B. The photograph chosen to illustrate this post is a class from Evie school and is definitely NOT the teacher and class described above.

Space Age Car Maestro

Look! This man MADE HIS OWN CAR and it looks awesome! This space-age car maestro is named Bill Johnstone and this photograph was taken in August 1960.

Thursday 24 June 2010

Pedants unite!

Our new favourite blog:

327 is the new 40!

We received an enquiry from a customer who bought one of our delightfully practical, yet stylish 100% cotton bags (a snip at merely £2).

The bag carries a copy of the Library and Archive logo which includes the date 1683. Our enquirer was wondering if this referred to the inception date of the library as she had been unable to find information on our website.

Orkney Library does indeed date from 1683 which makes it the oldest public library in Scotland. We have addressed the lack of historical information with a new page relating the story of the service. Click here to read it or click on History at the top of the page.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Great Tait!

Cataloguing more Margaret Tait papers today and noticing that everything was done in her own way. Letters about copying negatives and chasing up fees are firm, clear and unyielding, interviews and film shoots are painstakingly planned and everything from the posters, to the programmes to the promotional leaflets and calenders are designed and made by MT herself.

True, this probably had a lot to do with economics, but it is obvious that Tait was an auteur through and through. She seems like the type of person who, even when making a simple cup of tea, would have a highly individual and personal vision of the outcome of the project.

Even the language used on the posters and invitations for the Rose Street Film Festival of 1955 was very her: she describes Rose Street on the poster as "the long, low street of pubs in at the back of Princes Street.", and directs visitors up to her projection room thus; "up two flights of stone stairs and follow the smell of coffee."

Here is a handmade leaflet to promote her films mixing text, handwriting, film stills and sketches...

..and I also found a lovely little twiddle of water-colour on the back of an envelope.

Reference D97/24

Monday 21 June 2010

Fly Me To Dunoon

Today, in 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk upon the surface of the moon. All over earth, human beings huddled around their glowing television sets to watch this unprecedented event unfold. It was immense; a historical moment which no-one would ever forget.

"How simple to commemorate this day," I thought, "I shall simply post whatever the Orcadian and its letter-writing readers had to say about such a momentous symbol of human endeavour. I shall check the relevant paper immediately."

Above, you can see the cover of The Orcadian which succeeded the moon landing. The main stories are about the proposed flying doctor service, council house allocations and the Junior Inter-County Sports tournament between Orkney and Shetland. The front-page photograph is of a child jumping over a stick. Not, you will notice, a man walking on an orb hitherto undisturbed by a human toe.

Puzzled, I turned the pages, gradually coming to the end of the next week's paper. No mention. Not a word, sentence or picture.

Not being an Orcadian myself, I wondered if, for some reason, Orcadians were just not bothered by this event that had transfixed others. I put my query to a Very Orcadian Colleague:

"No...", he mused, "we did know aboot it. But all the Sooth papers probably had it covered, so they'll hiv thought 'Why bother?'"

"Ah" I said, "perhaps I should check the paper before the moon landing as there were probably anticipatory articles in the run up to the event"

"Ah no", VOC demurred "that wouldna be the Orcadian way. We would hiv all been waiting to see if it actually happened first."

"I see," I said. "Do we have any spacey things to post today then?"

I was directed to the photographs of Sandy Wylie, former technician at Kirkwall Grammar School and an inventor and photographer of note. he took some beautiful photographs through telescopes and lenses (which he ground himself) and below you can see his images of stars and the moon.

Saturday 19 June 2010

Reality Bites

 We are frequently able to fill a blank in a family tree or answer a customer query but a lot of the time we hit a dead end. Sometimes these dead ends can haunt you, and you wish that you could uncover the truth that has slipped through the cracks in time.

I recently had a query from a gentleman whose ancestor died on Orkney after taking (being given?) an overdose of an epilepsy medicine. She was not from Orkney and neither was her husband who was left with two children. They were not even listed at the house they were staying in, so what were they doing there? Her husband was a doctor; was it foul play? Her medicine could also be used to treat depression, had she been sent to Orkney to recuperate after a breakdown? I fear that I shall never know the truth.

Sometimes we wish that we had not heard the endings to stories.

Those family history queries which tug your heartstrings are usually the ones to stay with you: the pensioner who is looking for the siblings she was separated from when their mother was no longer capable of caring for them; the family historian who traces their line to an unmarried girl who was rejected by her family for bearing an illegitimate child; the teenage boy who went missing whilst lodging away from his islander parents in Kirkwall and whose body was eventually found in Kirkwall Harbour.

Some of the reading here can be very sad and it is often hard to pass on information to our customers.

Luckily, all this is balanced by the joy when someone finally finds an elusive relative or when we are able to produce a photograph of an ancestral home. Orkney archive is generally a cheerful place to work and always interesting. There are millions of stories and personal histories contained within the piles of boxes, books and papers and it is a great privilege to be able to uncover some of them.

Friday 18 June 2010

Rant For A Reverend

Whilst perusing our D10 collection, which is a box full of miscellaneous papers collected by a Kirkwall cabinet maker James Tait (yet another example of a useful collection pulled together by an amateur historian), I found a letter addressed to the Procurator Fiscal by a South Ronaldsay minister named John Gerard regarding the way that unwanted pregnancies were being dealt with in his parish.

Some of the ministers who we read about were very kind and understanding to unwed mothers in their Parish. Thomas Kay of North Ronaldsay, for example, allowed a young mother to baptise her illegitimate child in 1873 and persuaded the rest of the session that she was to be treated decently. Gerard, or "Old Gerard" as he was known begins his letter "Queen Anne put unmarried women to death who concealed their pregnancy - What is now the punishment, if any?"

Gerard was described as a passionate man, or, as my boss put it when I showed her the letter, 'crazy.' There is a lot of underlining and exclamation marks in the letter as he lists examples of abortions and illegitimate births in his Parish and tells of the young couples whom he has forced to marry, one girl whom he has dragged "politely"straight from her birthing bed.

There is one somewhat amusing tale of a girl who, Sonia-Eastenders-style did not realise that she was pregnant, took to her bed with pains, got up when the "curmurring in her guts" had stopped and then angrily demanded to know who had put a baby in her bed.

There are some very horrible tales within his letter, however, of infanticide and children being abandoned which I shall not share as they really are distressing. Gerard seems to have no sympathy for these girls who must have been terrified to find themselves in such a situation and whose fear of exposure drove them to terrible, previously unthinkable acts.

I took a look at Goodfellow's Two Old Pulpit Worthies of Orkney which contains a biography of Gerard. Chapter titles include 'His Hasty Temper and Passionate Nature', 'His Ideas of Women', 'His Strange Antics',and 'His Scathing Rebukes.'

Goodfellow claims that Gerard "had a warm and kindly heart." Examples of his kindness include, warning men to marry a woman who is not "an old hag as ugly as sin", who has a good inheritance but to choose Prudence over Piety as, although a pious woman is ideal, you don't want to be stuck with a "regular Tartarean" (OED definition: 'a vixen or shrew.')

Gerard further demonstrated his warmth of heart when a neighbour's pig wandered onto his lands. Gerard shot it with his gun and then demanded that his neighbour collect his pig. He did not tell the poor man that he had shot the animal, however, and the farmer was confronted with a carcass when he was expecting to pick up a live animal.

When Gerard found the sheep of another neighbour grazing upon his lawn what do you suppose he did? Why what any reasonable man would do, of course; he whipped out his pocket knife, slit the poor sheep's throat and hung the livid remains upon his fence to warn others against repeating the neighbour's mistake. Sensible, measured and not at all weird.

He also congratulated a woman of his acquaintance for having a big mouth saying " I dinna like wee bits o' prim prinket mouths. Commend me to a leddy wi' a mouth could swallow a cod." Charm personified. She must have been thrilled.

The only thing I like about Gerard is that his funeral addresses used to have "Greet here" in the margin at sections where he wished to move his audience with a well-timed tear.

Information taken from Two Old Pulpit Worthies of Orkney by Alexander Goodfellow, 1925 and Orkney Archive Reference D10/20.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Catalogue Under 'Irritation'.

Ha ha, sometimes the driest of archives can reveal the funniest flashes of humanity. I am currently plodding my way through a very dry set of day books for a company which I shall not name.

Painstakingly compiled pages of facts, figures and dates appear one after the other in small neat ink writing. At the bottom of one page, however, after the day's log has been signed and its top duplicate filed away, the boss has wearily scribbled in pencil "workers b*ggering about as previously."

Little did he know that this small act of irritation would make someone snigger over half a century later. So come on! Let us amuse our descendants by slagging our co-workers off in our day books, logbooks, receipt stubs and small pieces of paper stuffed under desk tops and filing cabinets.

This will of course be less funny if said co-workers find your scribbles, so be discreet, Orkney Archive accept no responsibility for loss of job, life or social standing.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Orkney at the Festival

Today the marvellous Edinburgh International Film Festival begins its 2010 season of features. The EIFF always supported the work of Orcadian film-maker Margaret Tait. They showed a retrospective of her shorts in 1970, her full-length feature Blue Black Permanent opened the festival in 1993 and another retrospective of her work was shown in 2004.

Reference D97/23/14

At Home With Faber

Orkney Library and Archive now have 2 blogs! Please welcome At Home With Faber . This is an online reading group of new and classic books provided by Faber publishing house. Books shall be posted out to participants and their reviews and opinions shall be shared on twitter, facebook and the new blog.

This should be particularly appealing to library members who live on the islands and cannot get into Kirkwall for the in-house library reading groups at Kirkwall and Stromness libraries.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

GWA (Geeks With Attitude)'s Ode To Archiving in Honour Of Ice Cube's B'Day

You are about to witness the strength of geek knowledge...

Straight outta storage, dusty letters from dead dudes,
Catalogued by geeks with attitude
When I'm called on, I get my gloves on,
Open the folder and get my read on,
You too sir, if you read the rules
The archive staff are gonna hafta come and shush you,
If you chat, or get a mobile out,
If you eat a twix or a bun, we'll throw you out,
Readers start to grumble, they wanna copy stuff,
Over five percent and man you've had enough!
Goin off on an archivist like that,
When all she doin is protectin old tat,
So give up the phone,
I'm just doin my job, so no need to moan,
Here's a heavy weight to keep yo stuff flat,
It's in old writin, how you like that?
Paeoleography is the name,
It's just part of the archivin game,
Me n you can make it out, no maybe,
I'm takin records out the box, daily,
Yo weekly, monthly, yearly,
Until them dumb, dusty letters read clearly,
And I'm there with the archival sticky tape,
Sir, you can't fix like me,
So when I'm in the searchroom, you better wait,
Coz archivist is packin up stuff,
As I leave, believe I'm clompin,
But when I come back, I'm comin straight out of storage...

Rapped to the tune of Straight Outta Compton by NWA. There can be no youtube link to such a profanity filled song on this innocent blog, (and our firewall restrictions make it hard for us to access anything related to NWA.) but you probably all own it anyway, I am sure.

Fame at Last #3

The Orkney Library and Archive got another mention on national radio yesterday afternoon. Our twitterer, Stewart (tweeter? twerson? twerp?) was interviewed on the Book Cafe about his fantastically successful twitter page for Orkney Library which has 636 followers at time of press.

If you missed his performance, simply click here to listen again.

 Any listeners of a sensitive disposition should avoid as some deeply crude and offensive language was used and if you have an opinion on anything, then it was challenged in a most insulting manner.

Monday 14 June 2010

Have At Thee, BBC's 'Who Do You Think You Are'!

A celebrity walks into an archive, or a quaint country home. A cheerful archivist greets them pleasantly, offers them a seat and immediately opens a book the exact page on which said celebrity's ancestor's details are recorded. The television/film/musical star sits rapt as the librarian/archivist/historian weaves a wonderfully detailed tale catered solely for this particular person's family history.

Supporting documents are plucked from thin air, photos appear at the click of fingers, a previously stern figure weeps thrilling tears because his great granny once had to lift a quite heavy bucket of water. The End

Wrong! If you look carefully, there are book marks in all the weighty tomes which are supposedly lifted from shelves by the archivist for the first time and it would be impossible to give this level of detail without several hours of research beforehand.

Sadly, the curse of WDYTYA? has encouraged visitors to libraries and archives to expect this magical service. They present themselves, tell us their last names and wait for us to produce the book of their family and move them to tears. It doesn't really work like that. Sorry.

When starting your family tree, always do as much research as you can within your own family before trying a records centre. Ask your parents and grandparents (if they are still around) as many questions as you can. Don't just ask for the names of your grandparents' parents; ask about their brothers and sisters too as this will make it easier to find them on a census. Middle names are also useful, as are any professions that you know of.

Take your research with you to the archive. We have several visitors every year who describe the reams of research and acres of carefully compiled scrapbooks that they left at home in loving detail. We need to see them.

Lastly, research takes a lot of time. Some of our visitors have been doing their family history for 10 years! Sometimes people are lucky and their relatives had an unusual name, were landowners or didn't move around very much and so can be traced easily from census to census. everyone else has to work at it. (It is fun though, you feel like a detective.)

Two particular episodes made every one here swoon with rage. First, was the Matthew Pincent episode where he was traced back to God. Don't get me started on that.

The second, was David Mitchell's episode. The morning after it aired, three of us all burst into the search room at 9am and shouted at each other "that lady was keeping Church Records in her HOUSE!"

Saturday 12 June 2010

Collectors, In Praise of.

Some of our most fruitful, well used resources are amateur collections of material compiled by people who just had an interest in a subject and pursued it doggedly.

Above you can see a page from a WW1 scrapbook made by a man named John Fraser. The book begins in March 1914 with newspaper cuttings about the weather and items of general interest. As war broke out, however, Fraser starts to clip articles and photographs of Orcadians serving abroad. If a soldier was mentioned in dispatches, injured, killed, promoted or just mentioned, chances are that they appear in this book. Fraser even provides an index at the back.

Because we do not hold service records here, this book is always fetched when relatives of WW1 soldiers visit us in search of information. Just last week, a Canadian gentlemen who had only half an hour to spare, managed to find both great uncles and a grandfather. This book was never officially commissioned and perhaps no-one but John Fraser knew about it while it was being made, but it has proved it's worth time and time again.

Comparable archives include the entire Ernest Walker Marwick Collection, which consistes of over 70 boxes stuffed with notes and essays on folklore, tradition and Orcadian culture and Magnus Spence's collection of similar materials on geology, botany, meteorology etc...

Reference: D1/692

Friday 11 June 2010

Weel Kent Tom Kent.

Today is the 195th anniversary of the birth of Julia Margaret Cameron, photographer. To celebrate, here are some images from a well-known Orcadian photographer, Tom Kent. These images can be found in the publication Shoal and Sheaf which was written by former Head Librarian of Orkney Library, David M. N. Tinch.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Inter-blog discussion...

See the fabulous Archives and Auteur's reply to one of our posts from last week here.

Let's Get, Let's Get, Let's Get, Let's Get Rocked!

Today is Cole Porter's birthday. We could celebrate by putting on an archives based muscial featuring witty, pun-filled adaptions of his songs.

But it is also guitaring pioneer Les Paul's birthday and we would rather celebrate that by removing the cardboard guitars and mandolins from the Orkney Folk Festival display and rocking out with them whenever there are no customers to be seen.

If you too like to 'rock,' then we invite you and your colleagues to print out the mandolin above and pretend to be either Prince, Slash or Eddie Van Halen. Only we can be Les Paul.

The display is also in honour of the St Magnus Festival for which we also have a dedicated exhibition in the library foyer from the 15th of June.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

George Modesty Brown

While looking through the Stromness Town Council Minutes for 1969, I have found a nice little mention of George Mackay Brown.

He had recently been awarded a Scottish Arts Council award and the councillers wished to mark this in some way. GMB was known to be very modest, however, and the council had no wish to embarrass him.

It was decided that 'a letter of warm congratulations' would be sent to the author.

Monday 7 June 2010

Hark children! The bells, the bells!

A customer found this photograph in the Horne Photographic Collection. It looks like the still from an utterly  terrifying horror movie. The baby looks posessed and terrified by something to the right while the older child has noticed another foe, lurking, off to the left. I hope that it all ends well.

Our photographic archivist has supplied a short biography of David Horne here.

Friday 4 June 2010

This is Intolerable #201

Friends, I was unsure about telling what I am about to tell. I did not want to encourage this type of behaviour, nor turn your gentle stomachs but, quite frankly, I cannot get it out of my mind.

We had a staff meeting this morning and talk turned to unacceptable behaviour in the library. You may believe all libraries to be quiet temples of learning where all comport themselves with grace and composure, but you would be wrong. The entire rich, gross tapestry of life can be found within these hallowed walls.

One member of staff began to tell of the time that she found some lost property. It was a brief case. A fancy briefcase. Said member of staff took this object into her office, admired the shiny leather and, hoping to find some owner identification inside, plucked open the polished gold clasps.

Inside she saw, a pile of 'jazz' mags. And. A. Poo.

The entire contents of the briefcase were drenched liberally with urine.

The poor woman wept into a delicate, lace handkerchief as she told of this event which has led to several years in therapy and terrible, terrible nightmares for all members of staff who were on that day.

Just in case it is not clear, this sort of thing is unacceptable in Orkney Library and Archive.

Thursday 3 June 2010

We were all in the news, with our terrible trews...

Good Lord, what a festival of bad trousers choices is contained within this single photograph. Our photo archivist just rushed through shouting "Bay City Rollers trousers!" and I vaulted over a desk to shove it in the scanner and share this horror with our readers.

The photo is filed under 'architecture' but it should surely be assigned to whatever the Dewey Decimal number refers to 'Crimes Against Innocent Fashion.'

From left to right we can see, said Bay City Roller trews which I still cannot believe existed, some oddly tapered trousers which seem to be just legs with no crotch; the travesty which is plus-fours, flares; some fashion forward harem pants,and... the three on the right are alright, I suppose...

If you also enjoy sneering at the fashion choices of people who are probably perfectly nice and upstanding, there is plenty more where this came from in the Orkney Photographic Archive.

Letters, Lovely Letters, Part 2.

Yet another delightful epistle from overseas this morning. This card is from Norway and not only contains a tiny painted square by an ex-mariner but the stamps have flowering rosemary and chillis on them.

 Do other countries actually have nicer stamps than ours or do they just seem exotic because they're foreign?

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Summer Term

It is very definitely the Summer Season now. Liners are in the harbour, accents are Kiwi or Canadian and we have less time to devote to research, cataloguing and administration. We even have the windows open.

Topics being researched in the search room today include Stenness school, Westray family history, Victorian fashions, the masons who constructed St Magnus cathedral and whaling disputes in the Sheriff Court.

At the moment I have two tubs containing moths on my desk which were handed in to be identified by our BioDiversity officer. This does not freak me out in the slightest.

And the fact that I found a moth hole in my jumper this morning has not resulted in my staring coldly and bitterly at these two fascinating examples of Orcadian Natural History. (It was new, you monsters.)

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Amazing Rap About Archiving.

Perhaps only people who work in archives will find this funny, but Dee Dee at Derangement and Description has made us snigger this afternoon.

Year Of Orkney Dialect Winners.

The Folk Festival is over and all the fiddles have been packed away, how sad. We can still enjoy the winners of the Year Of Orkney Dialect poetry competition,however, which were debuted at one of the Festival Farewell concerts. The poems were very well received and are of excellent quality.

The winners include a few of our customers and it is wonderful to see this new side to them. Personal favourites are Marlene Mainland's haiku about cattle (High Coo), Fran Flett Hollinrake's Assipattle and the Mester StoorWorm and Jane Harris' Me Laand.