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Introducing Chris: The Archive’s new Gemfinder

This week we’re excited to have a new member of the team on board: meet Chris, our brand new summer intern! Chris is a second-year History student at Reading University, with aspirations to become a future archivist. His previous volunteering placements at Canterbury Cathedral and Berkshire Record Office have encouraged Chris to develop a real passion for archiving.

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“I love how personal archiving is,” he explains, “it’s fascinating to discover personal stories and trace someone’s whole life through records. I like finding out how people’s personal lives tie in with historical events, all blending together in an intricate tapestry of history and heritage.”

Introducing Chris goes hand in hand with unveiling some more news: we’re proud to announce our new project, Gems of the Archive. Building on the excellent writing and research created by our previous intern, Lydia, the project seeks to attract people who have a broader historical interest – or maybe whose interest in history is yet to begin. Chris will be taking the lead on this project over the next three months, delving into the veritable Aladdin’s Cave of the archive to find interesting ‘gems’ that will strike the attention of people who may not already be mills and milling enthusiasts. The gems will showcase the work of the Archive, highlighting fascinating pieces of history in order to draw in people who may never have considered the importance of mills.

One gem Chris has been working on is the ‘Gingham Girl’ full-page advertisements found in the Northwestern Miller Magazine, which market old, used flour sacks to housewives to make into attractive, gingham outfits for themselves and their families.

Chris is delighted with this find:

“These adverts are fascinating as not only do they tell a story about the social state of America at the midpoint of World War II with its appeals to be thrifty and frugal, but they really bring home how intrinsic mills and milling were to everyday life. It’s wonderful to have these kind of gems to help modern people connect to historic accounts, and make them seem more real and relevant.”

“I’m looking forward to making the Mills Archive interesting to everyone,” says Chris. “Before I came here, I didn’t really appreciate the significance of mills – they kind of blend into the background of the everyday heritage of our nation. I’d like to help others to understand what a relevant and important role they’ve played throughout history.”