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World War I in the Archives

Volunteer Ashleigh Jackson has been researching WWI for her summer placement. Ashleigh is a History and English Literature undergraduate student from the University of Edinburgh.

Over the summer, I have been based in the archives of the Natural History Society of Northumbria. Upstairs on the second floor of the Great North Museum: Hancock, the welcoming library and archive store is home to thousands of books and documents. I have been working with June Holmes, the Natural History Society’s Archivist, researching a project on the First World War.

I set out initially to research the experiences of members of the Natural History Society and their experiences during the war. A major limit to this research was the lack of a roll of honour. As a result, there was no pre-existing record of those members of the Society killed during the war or those who fought. Consequently, I read through numerous volumes of the Natural History Transactions of Northumberland and Durham. These books contain the reports of the council which occasionally reference the ongoing war. These reports provided me with an insight to the impact of the war on museum work. The financial impact of the war was of concern in these reports, which included copies of the budget and society’s finances. This enabled me to consider how the war destabilised the museum by damaging the Society’s financial position.

The archives of the NHSN store a number of relevant documents for this project. For example, when researching Katherine and Marjorie Hancock, who volunteered as ambulance drivers during the war, June was able to dig out a collection which included the medals of the sisters as well as numerous original photographs. Therefore, the archive is home to a wealth of documents that tell stories of the experiences of the First World War. The project has ultimately comprised a series of articles, posted on both the TWAM blog and the NHSN blog.

Joan H. Proudlock, the author of the unpublished biography of George W Temperley visited us in the archive. As part of the project on WWI I researched Temperley, who lived in Scarborough during the war and witnessed the raid that occurred in December 1914. Joan helpfully supplied us with further information about Temperley to contribute to the blog post.

As well as this project, I have also been assisting the Society’s Archivist June Holmes with trips and visits to the archive and museum. In doing so, I have been able to work with a diverse range of different people including school groups as well as more mature groups.

Ashleigh Jackson

Read more of Ashleigh’s work here.

The Hancock Museum c.1929, NHSN Archives