In the recent months, the Archive has been particularly busy collaborating with the University of Reading on their Careers and Experience Fairs, hoping to spread the word about our work and the good that can be done in the heritage, and even charity, sector.
On Wednesday 30th September, our Information Manager, Elizabeth Trout, volunteer Alex Keane and myself donned our Mills Archive badges, gathered the literature and banners we have to inform the public about what the Archive is all about, and set off for the University of Reading’s ‘Experience Fair’ on the beautiful Whiteknights meadow.
The Fair is the University’s way of bridging the gap between the thousands of students on campus and some of the vibrant and interesting organisations and small companies that Reading is home to. Lots of part time volunteering and job opportunities were being pitched all afternoon. As there is always a vast number of new students rearing to get involved at this time of year, the Fair is a great opportunity to spread the word about some of Reading’s smaller organisations and companies; hidden gems if you like. I remember the feeling well from when I first moved to Reading two years ago; wanting to get involved with as many things as my University timetable would allow, be that societies, sports, or volunteering.
The Dome, which functioned as the venue, is not a futuristic building but a temporary, largely circular, inflatable building with a red carpet – as you can see from the picture it looked like a giant igloo! It has been suggested that it would also make a great bouncy-castle or slide…
The Archive had been allocated a spot next to the entrance, a great location, and there was quite a buzz all afternoon. Our stall had a lot of footfall and genuine interest from students from all kinds of disciplines, which was great to see. Most students had a humanities background but other students came to see us from Graphics, Business and Finance, Agriculture, International Relations and even Biochemistry. We had lots of students actively engaging with us, one remarking it was “the best stall they’d been to all day”!
There were numerous students who came up to us to talk about our work at the Mills Archive, as well as the Heritage sector more generally; all eager to learn more and discover a new potential avenue of work.
The last week in October was also host to another Careers Fair, this time with the focus on graduate jobs. The Archive was invited to speak not only about what we do internally but also the way the Heritage sector works in a broader way. Lots of the students who came to speak to us were not only unsure about what they would like to do once they graduate, but also were not aware quite how much goes on in the sector (even what archives are)! We were fortunately placed next to the Museum of English Rural Life, which is technically part of the University, and is also home to the University’s Special Collections, so were able to collaborate to some extent. We also found out lots of interesting information about how their organisation is run, while referring students to each other to find out more in our aptly termed “heritage corner”.
While I know from experience already that getting into the sector professionally is competitive – especially regarding funding or a lack thereof – we hope to have sufficiently enthused people about the importance, benefit, and joys of working with the fascinating and unique collections that museums, archives and libraries all hold and work with!
Elizabeth has promoted careers in libraries and archives at career fairs at a local school and the University over the past few years. No matter what subject someone is studying, she can always find a way to persuade them that they could use their degree to follow a career in archives, libraries, museum or information work in general.
We were able to intrigue and inform them about the detective work that’s involved in an archive, as well as the work that happens here to preserve original material and enable access to the invaluable stories of our milling heritage. These were both great days for meeting lots of new and enthusiastic people. Watch this space for some new volunteers soon!