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Opening Up Archives is diversifying the archives profession by providing an entry into the sector for those who have not followed a traditional qualification route.

Instead of focusing on specific qualifications, the programme seeks people who can bring talent and energy to the archival world, who are keen to develop their skills, who want to engage with their local community, and who want to create better online services. It also encourages archives to recruit a broader range of skills, with staff that is more reflective of their community.

This is a collaborative project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, The National Archives and several archive services from across England. The programme is for 13 full time, one year workplace traineeships in a range of specialist areas at host archives in London, Manchester, Leicestershire, Surrey, Tyne and Wear, Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire.

Trainee specialisms include:

  • online engagement and digitisation
  • community engagement
  • digital preservation
  • digital preservation and online engagement
  • collection development and community engagement
  • interpretation skills
  • interpretation skills with a minor in online engagement and digitisation
  • community and online engagement and digitisation

Recruitment for the 2013 intake is now closed.

Contact the Programme Manager (Opening Up Archives) for more information about the scheme.

Meet the trainees

Read posts from trainees on The National Archives' blog, or find out more about some of the trainees who are undertaking placements in 2013 as part of the Opening Up Archives programme.

    Stella Matthews, 2013 trainee at West Yorkshire Joint Services

    'I applied for this traineeship as I believe that it will give me an opportunity to use and build upon my existing skills whilst at the same time gaining new ones. Having previously gained experience within the archaeological, museums and adult community learning sectors, the chance to work within an archive setting really appealed to me as I would be gaining experience in another section of the heritage sector.

    'I'm really looking forward to seeing the similarities and differences between how archive staff tackle the barriers to education, learning and outreach compared to how museums and archaeological units would approach the same problems. I'm also enjoying the opportunity to learn about archives in general and archival collections and their development, as before this traineeship I was reasonably unfamiliar with both.'

    Burt McNeill, 2013 trainee at Leicestershire

    Burt McNeill

    'Over the past 20 years I have had a number of jobs, all of which I'd place in the supporting people sector - e.g. prisoner resettlement, older people's benefits uptake, homeless support, support for dual sensory impaired people. During this time my interest in historic things has grown, particularly with regard to social history, the built environment, local history, work and industry. Eventually I began a project in my own time to record memories of the British United Shoe Machinery Company. It's been a lot of fun; time consuming but very rewarding. I've learnt so much and met many lovely people.

    'This Archive traineeship is an opportunity for me to completely change my career path and to start working on matters that really interest me. I am looking forward to learning and developing new knowledge and skills, and producing quality research work that will hopefully be useful for others.'

    Emily Meritt, 2013 trainee at Northumberland and Tyne & Wear

    Emily Meritt

    'Since a young age I have worked in Visitor Services in many cultural venues in Newcastle upon Tyne. I have principally worked in visitor services at Northern Stage Theatre to assist the public in their access to and experience of the Arts in this region. This work also supported me well through my A levels and degree.

    'While completing my degree in Commercial Photographic Practice here in my home town of Newcastle upon Tyne, I became a volunteer at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums in my final year. This was principally to lend a hand as a commercial photographer. However, my work as a volunteer helped me realise my passion and skill for digitisation and audience engagement using historical photographic collections found in the Tyne & Wear Archive. Since then my work has been solely committed to the use of historical photography, its potential as a creative resource and the power of online engagement.

    'After one year of intense work in this field I am thrilled to have the opportunity to further my professional development and discovery and gain the specific training I need to move archives into the digital age.'

    Francesca Taylor, 2013 trainee at Borthwick Institute for Archives

    Francesca Taylor

    'I am one of two Opening Up Archives trainees based at the Borthwick Institute for Archives in York, where over the next year I will be working on transcribing and digitising early modern church visitation records. I have always been passionate about the importance of our past and protecting it - I recently completed an MSc in Palaeolithic archaeology and had been volunteering for two years at the Natural History Museum in London conserving bones from archaeological sites.

    'Being able to work in a heritage environment alongside material I had not really encountered before (written historical records) is an opportunity I could not miss! Aside from learning new skills like palaeography and Latin for our main project, I am also really looking forward to organising events that will not only promote archives but get people excited about our rich cultural heritage and the importance of preserving it.'

    Kerstin Doble, 2013 trainee at Borthwick Institute for Archives

    Kerstin Doble

    'I am working with The Borthwick Institute for Archives at York University on interpretation and online engagement projects. An essential part of my traineeship is learning to read medieval and early modern handwritten documents, in particular the early modern ecclesiastical records of Yorkshire. I will be creating an online digital repository of Archdeacon Visitation records, 1598 - 1690, to open up the these fragile primary sources of social and family history to wider research outside of the archive.

    'Working with visual items in the archive such as paintings, maps and photographs also allows me to draw upon my knowledge of art and visual culture. I previously worked in the exhibitions team at Tate Modern, and the traineeship enables me to use and develop my research and production skills in a new context. Over the year I look forward to initiating projects that creatively share the treasures of the Borthwick Institute with audiences locally, nationally and online.'

    Michelle Huxter, 2013 trainee at London Metropolitan Archives

    Michelle Huxter

    'I've been working at London Metropolitan Archives since April and have really enjoyed assisting with school groups, community groups and starting to develop my own ideas and events.

    'I've worked in seasonal or temporary roles for the National Trust and St John Ambulance since leaving university in 2011. I've also worked for the National Citizen Service, supporting 15-17 year olds in developing vital skills for life after school. The one thing all my jobs have had in common is interaction with members of the public and as I've always been incredibly interested in history, I jumped at the chance to work with the archives to get more people engaged with their heritage.'

    Nicky Crewe, 2013 trainee at Manchester

    Nicky Crewe

    'I used to live and work in Manchester and coming to work in the archives here has been like revisiting my own past. Some of the connections were predictable but others have been surprising. My previous area of research will form part of the proposed display for Archives + when it returns to the newly refurbished Central Library in Spring 2014, so there's also a strong sense of legacy for the future as well as revisiting my past. It's also an unusual experience to be involved in an archive that's on the move, entering a new and exciting phase of its own existence. The work I am doing towards displays and exhibitions will be part of that legacy too.

    'I've worked in local libraries, an independent museum, historic houses and as a heritage tourism guide. I did an MA in Folklore and Cultural Tradition as a mature student. I'm so thrilled to have this opportunity to learn more about how archives can move into the digital age and reach out to communities they represent. There's a huge shift from the traditional image of archives, white gloves and hushed search rooms, to using social media and outreach work to share the wealth of information and interest contained in our collections.'

    Portia Tremlett, 2013 trainee at Surrey History Centre

    'My traineeship will be focused on community engagement and collections development. I have had no previous experience of archives, so I am excited to be able to experience them. I work in the learning and museums team at the Surrey History Centre, but throughout my placement I will get a chance to work in a variety of different areas. I am hoping to gain a great deal of knowledge and experience in education, communities and museums work, as this is the area of work I would like to go into, but I am very enthusiastic to be able to have a chance to be part of all the work that goes on within an archive and heritage centre.

    'So far I have been involved in creating educational activities for children and schools and some work within events. I have also been able to develop my own exhibitions and projects, and as part of developing collections, I am learning digitisation. As the year goes on, I will get a chance to work in the archives, go on an archaeological dig, and gain some work experience in museums. As I come from an anthropological background I am very excited to get the chance to work with communities. I am also very eager to develop my skills and strengths in the educational field. Mostly I am looking forward to getting a chance to experience the many different aspects of heritage work, so I can then choose which path I wish to take, and have that experience to back me up.'

    Sam Bairstow, 2013 trainee at Gloucestershire Archives

    'My Opening Up Archives traineeship is based at Gloucestershire Archives, focused on online engagement and digitisation. I've rarely used archives or historical materials in previous roles, so I've had a lot to learn about my new working environment. My first few weeks have been very busy. Alongside getting to know the friendly and supportive staff here I've been meeting community groups and volunteers pursuing their own local history projects and interests. I've been working with the outreach team to create online learning activities, helping to upload new content to project websites and I have recently been evaluating online resources, from the perspective of a new user. 

    'My background in education will be useful as I contribute to an upcoming workshop on preserving digital materials, and in drafting training manuals for online activities, but there are so many new areas that I am keen to explore. I am looking forward to learning more about the world of archives - its range of roles, activities and collections - and to developing my skills in the year ahead.'

    Victoria Unitt, 2013 trainee at Leicestershire

    'I have held various posts throughout my career, from ticket tout, to fruit picker to petrol pump attendant! However, my main career path has been in education, mainly as a classroom teacher. I thoroughly enjoyed the teaching aspect of my job, especially delivering the history curriculum.

    'I have always held a passion for all things historical, especially social history, and have been involved in my local historical and archaeological societies for a number of years. When I decided upon a career change, the Opening Up Archives traineeship seemed a perfect introduction. I am interested in absorbing as much as possible about digitisation techniques and am hoping to eventually combine my learning on this traineeship with my past in education.'

    David Wood, 2013 trainee at Nottingham Archives

    'I've a peculiar background; as a freelance community arts worker and writer in all kinds of environs, designing and creating new projects and coming in with great gusto. Now at Nottinghamshire Archives, I'm taking on new skills (e.g. paleography, historical document handling and archiving digital documents) as well as devising potentially new ways to approach heritage.'