I’m Head of Collections at a wonderful Cathedral, home to medieval manuscripts, early printed books, archives, and a museum. Previously I managed Special Collections at a 1960s technical university, with particularly important modern archives. I’ve actively contributed to heritage professions, learning from others and sharing my own experiences as honestly as I can.
The first edition of the Handbook grew out of my old blog, “Collections in a Cold Climate”, reflecting on the challenges then facing us in Special Collections:
“Times are hard: we face cuts to public services at a time when mass digitisation even of early books means that stakeholders may see our work as irrelevant (isn’t it all scanned in?). Not so, I think the future for Special Collections will involve more emphasis on artefacts, stories, and nodes of expertise, rather than being a place in which historic texts are accessed. I argue that we can continue to bring collections and people together by effective marketing and advocacy, and by exploiting the unimaginable possibilities of social media and other exciting new technologies. Oh, and collaboration, with all kinds of partners.”
Ten years later, times are even harder and much more turbulent: not only are we coping with a global pandemic but huge change in politics, economics and technology. In the third edition of the Handbook, I consider the impact of these changes on our work, and how we can continue to keep our collections safe and widely available. It is a complicated picture and in places a very positive one: there are many reasons to be hopeful about the future of the work we do.