A Truly Insightful Experience by Katherine Mycock

Katherine Mycock, a former placement student at our Labour History Archive and Study Centre, reflects on her work over the past few weeks…

Given the task of securing a work experience placement as part of my undergraduate History degree with the University of Exeter, I set about researching numerous institutional archives, museums and heritage sites. However, it was the focus on providing the working class people a voice that really drew me to the Labour History Archive, already of personal interest to me; I decided that the archive was where I wanted to be.

Based at the People’s History Museum in Manchester, the archive is home to over 80,000 photographs and an impressive range of documents from the political wing of the Labour movement through to leftwing pressure groups and extensive personal papers of radical politicians and activists.

Having been fortunate enough to have spent the last week in the archive surrounded by such fascinating history, I have truly gained an experience that I shall never forget. Working alongside Julie Parry (Archivist), Darren Treadwell (Archive Assistant) and the team of volunteers I have gained a most wonderful and valuable insight into the inner workings of the archive.

I have certainly been kept busy throughout the week with various interesting and practical tasks; from endeavouring to investigate and carry out enquiries for members of the public to sorting and re-filing an array of documents from different sources. I even got to wear the white gloves that feature in BBC programs!

I found working with the photo archive the most fascinating area of all; a photo really does speak a thousand words. Working with the photographs I found myself on more Archive placement 2than one occasion getting lost in the lives of those featured in the image, although time consuming such identification with the people of the past has inspired me to go further in this field of public history.

This week has also highlighted the dedication and commitment of those involved in the running and maintenance of archives. Archives are undoubtedly a ‘Labour’ of love; from the time consuming nature of cataloguing to the devotion of creating an accessible space which allows members of the public to utilise the services and information on offer- the labour archive certainly provides Manchester and indeed the country with some such fantastic services.

Working in the archive has provided such a great foundation of knowledge and experience in the area that I urge you, if you are interested in the working class people of Britain or fancy an eye opening experience to visit both the Labour History Archive and the People’s History Museum.

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