Connecting with family and Glasgow history on work experience placement

This summer we had secondary school pupil Rachel McKenzie with us for a week’s work placement. In this post she shares some of her experiences. Thank you again, Rachel, for your hard work and enthusiasm!

As an enthusiastic history student, I was thrilled to get the opportunity to work in the archive, and it has been a very positive experience for me. I loved being able to work with some of the archive collections, and to see the history of the University and of businesses in Glasgow.

University Chapel (our ref. BUL6/5/48)

University Chapel (our ref. BUL6/5/48)

At the start of the week, I wasn’t sure what to expect from working here, but it has been a very valuable experience, and I have learned a lot about the kind of work done in archives. Over the week, I have worked in the searchroom, shadowing the searchroom assistant, and in the storage rooms helping with document delivery, which has given me a better idea of how the archive helps researchers and the public with their enquiries. I have also learned more about the preservation and storage of different kinds of documents, and have helped to label and organise them. Finally, I have been checking descriptions of items in the Inventory collection of the University’s oldest documents, and I have loved being able to see the documents and feel so connected to Glasgow’s past.

I was excited to be given the chance to work with such a large variety of items. I was able to work with letters concerning the University library from the seventeenth century, dinner party invitations from the 1920s, architectural plans of the University buildings, photographs of Clyde-built ships and University sports teams, and posters for trade unions from the 1970s. I was so excited to see all this history, stretching over centuries, right before my eyes.

Working at Templeton's (our ref. STOD/201/2/16/2/4/2)

Working at Templeton’s (our ref. STOD/201/2/16/2/4/2)

I didn’t anticipate that I would feel such a personal connection to the archive collections, but I found many links to my family’s history and to local history. From my parents, who were married in the University chapel, to my gran, who worked in Templeton’s carpet factory, I felt that I was very close to my family’s history in a way that I hadn’t expected to be. The business history also had more connections to the city I live in than I thought it would. The collection of 1970s UCS work-in posters I came across was fascinating to me, as it showed a period of recent history which still feels very present living in Glasgow today. Heavy industry and its decline have shaped Glasgow, and the posters were a strong reminder of an uncertain and turbulent time in Glasgow’s history, which many still remember, and also of the cultural movement which grew out of that time, which has been a key part of Glasgow’s history. Another aspect of the archive’s collections which has been interesting is the role of women at the University and in work. The growth of the female student population can be seen as the women’s matriculation records expand year by year, and the archive also has many photographs documenting women at work in the Glasgow industries.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my time at University of Glasgow Archives, and it has been a very useful and interesting experience.

Categories: Archive Services

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