Archives Projects: Collections in Focus

On the Drawing Board

In 2018, Explore York Libraries and Archives received funding from Archives Revealed and the City of York Council to catalogue and repackage the City of York Architects’ and Engineers’ plans [1801-2000s].

The collection comprises thousands of drawings covering all aspects of York’s built environment including: civic buildings, housing, bridges, sewers, parks, transport, the city walls, street improvements and more. Many of the drawings are works of art in themselves; others offer a new perspective on the city. Together, they provide a unique resource for charting the changes to York’s architectural heritage over two centuries.
Fundamental to this project was a new way of working with volunteers, who were responsible for listing and repackaging the plans with the oversight of an archivist. Overall our 34 volunteers:

  • contributed over 2600 hours of their time
  • listed over 10000 individual plans
  • repackaged over 600 boxes of archives

This approach allowed us to catalogue a large number of plans over a short period, thereby making these wonderful drawings available to all.

Past Caring

In 2016, Explore York Libraries and Archives received a grant of £156 560 from Wellcome, the world’s largest health charity, for a two-year project to catalogue and conserve the healthcare and Poor Law records of the city. The project included the archives of the York Poor Law Union and Workhouse [1830s-1950s], York’s Medical Officer of Health, the Department of Health, and the Department of Housing and Environmental Health [1850s-1970s]. Together, these collections comprise over 1500 volumes and 350 boxes of material. Encompassing nearly two centuries of social, economic, and public health history, the records tell the story of York’s struggle to improve the lives and health of its citizens against the backdrop of rapid population expansion, inadequate housing and unemployment.

The aim of the project was to make these extraordinary records accessible to everyone. A professional conservator treated the collections and, in September 2018 we launched a fully searchable online catalogue. To achieve our aims, we enlisted the support of a team of over 30 volunteers who helped to list, clean and repackage the collection. Since their release, these collections have become the most requested material in our reading room. Our audio-drama, The Nuisance Inspector, is based on these collections. And Clements Hall Local History Group has been carrying out extensive research on our Poor Law collections: Clements Hall Local History Group – Making ends meet on Nunnery Lane: revealing local poverty in the Victorian period.