'Archives Taster Weeks' initiative awarded Archive Pace Setter status

'Skills learned will be treasured'  - RBS Group Archives project delivers 'bestpractice training'

The Royal Bank of Scotland Group Archives has been awarded Archive Pace Setter status for its ‘Archives Taster Weeks’ initiative.

The initiative was conceived to do three things:  to improve, among researchers, the awareness and understanding of business archives; to help students by giving them tailored, worthwhile work experience; and to improve the accessibility and usability of one of RBS’s archive collections.
RBS Group Archives had offered occasional work placements before, but these had been limited and largely taken up by those ‘with the know-how and courage to approach us’ says Alison Turton, Head of RBS Group Archives. ‘The scale of the Taster Weeks allowed far more students, with no previous experience of archives, to get involved’.

‘RBS Archives Taster Weeks’ is being hailed as a practical and inspiring example of delivering national strategic ambitions for business archives,  embodied in both Scottish and English/Welsh national strategies,  by developing partnerships, sharing best practice and offering training.

rbstaster200x227University students at Edinburgh University’s School of History & Classics were offered week-long work experience in the archives, under specialist supervision. They worked on cataloguing part of a unique but unlisted collection of 27,000 seventeenth and eighteenth century banknotes, bills and receipts.‘ A key aspect of the project was the provision of a series of formal, taught sessions on such topics as palaeography and the principles of information management and archival preservation - the idea was to couple hands on experience with an insight into the theoretical archival framework.

Over 50 students expressed an interest in the ‘Taster Weeks’ and an open day was held to give more information and answer questions. After the open day, six places on each of the five Taster Weeks were offered over summer 2012 on a first-come-first-served basis (to ensure students were self-selecting.) 90% of the places were taken within 30 minutes of booking opening.

A total of 150 days of experience were provided, making the initiative ‘long-term, intensive and large-scale’. All the students enjoyed the Taster Weeks, commenting in feedback that the ‘skills learnt would be treasured’ and that ‘this type of experience is extremely helpful’. Changes were made constantly to improve the weeks for each new group of students and RBS Group Archives’ social media presence was used to report project progress and create a real sense of achievement for the students who took part. In addition, part of an important series of records was fully catalogued and has since been used by researchers for the first time.

There are now 19 Archive Pace Setters. Applications to the scheme ended recently. A full evaluation of the 4 year initiative will be undertaken next year.

Photo shows an undergraduate student from University of Edinburgh at work during one of the RBS Archive Taster Weeks