The Harrow Local History Collection & Archive


Stacey Anne Bagdi - Collections & Exhibition Officer (Curator)
Kelly Accetta Crowe - Digitisation Project Officer

Stacey Anne Bagdi, Collections & Exhibition Officer (Curator) and Kelly Accetta Crowe, Digitisation Project Officer, talk about their work with the Harrow Museum Collection and the Local History Collection & Archive. The collections have been moved to several locations throughout the years before finding its current home within the historic site of Headstone Manor & Museum.

With the thousands of papers, photos and maps that make up the collection, Stacey and Kelly put in a lot of work into cataloguing and archiving their material. There is much local interest in the collection, and the team have managed to utilise their ongoing digitisation project in order to remain accessible to the public during the course of this year.

Photo courtesy of © Harrow Local History Collections & Archive



Film Collection:

Online Collection Catalogue:

Online Exhibitions:

Bomb Map on Layers of London:

Please Note: This is an automated, machine-generated transcription. We have presented this 'as is' and have not undertaken any editing.

hello and welcome to the max communications 2020 podcast a series of podcasts where we explore various archives and collections my name is faith williams and i'm joined today by Stacey Bagdi who is collections and exhibition officer at hudson manor museum and kelly aceta crowe who is digitisation project officer for the same and they work with the harrow museum collection and the haro local history collection and archive hi ladies would you like to introduce yourself and talk about the collection you're working with yeah i'll go first um my name is stacey mbagdy as mentioned i'm the curator at headstone mana museum i manage both the museum collections and archive collections and i'm kelly aceta crow and i'm digitization project officer which incorporates both collections as well focusing on getting those onto our online catalog and scanned and imaged into our database so you're based at hudson manor well at the moment you're based at home but normally you make a manner how do you spend an average day then in each of your roles so um yeah we were thinking about this i mean it's quite difficult to kind of stay an average day especially during these circumstances and i mean kelly and i kind of look at our average days more than average week and you know things can change uh per day and per hour sometimes within our roles um so i mean generally in in the week and per day we try to kind of split our time up because we are a small team and we tend to have about two days per week of answering inquiries on the site and that does take up a majority of our time and we're quite lucky to get quite a few inquiries based on our collections we do have quite a lot of support actually through our um uh support from paid assistance and supporting volunteers as well yeah we have um we have those volunteers in and they're a huge help for us especially shout out to marilyn who's been uh taking on our inquiries while we've been kind of trapped at home because she has a good prior knowledge of the collections we also do some um volunteer work in general so we supervise volunteers who are auditing and inventorying our collections at the moment one of the big challenges we have is that we don't have a complete vapor paper-based catalog for the archive so there's been a lot of inventory work and i can't do that by myself so the volunteers are in almost every day of the week normally when we're not in lockdown um we spend a lot of time clearing backlog as well so the archive collection continues to get donations and um when the museum was being redone and reopened a lot of those new donations kind of were paused they were accepted but not cataloged so we do a lot of time with the backlog that we're trying to clear and we're also doing a lot of remote volunteering now so our days are still kind of supervising that a bit especially we're trying to get all of our accession registers digitized so that we have that record which is one of the more important things that a museum owns their accession registers so what type of material is in the collection because it's got a long history of all coming together and then of course you just said you're still collecting yeah so i guess this might be the best part to kind of tell you all about the history of our collections um so we know that there was a collection in existence by 1948 when the wheelstone library opened as a brand new library and from that point it was given a permanent home in the central reference library at gaton road and that happened in 1968 and this is when the first local history librarian was appointed that's quite a significant time within our within our collections history and um in 1972 it then moved to the civic center library in december of that year and i think a lot of people actually remember it being there we get a lot of inquiries you know we remember it being in the civic center library and it's quite difficult for us to kind of answer some of those inquiries because things have changed since then because now actually it sits at headstone manner museum after the civic center library closed in october 2013. um and you know it was the best move for us um in terms of that that move over to the museum because for the future survival of the service and and generally accessibility when the museum formed in 1986 we um we had a lot of basically a lot of items that were deposited that were also archival in its purest form so actually having both collections now in one place allows us to understand it the other and use both collections in our work especially exhibitions and inquiry so yeah and i guess the type of material we have um is quite interesting it ties into that history as well so in the beginning because it was kind of um a catch-all collection you were getting tends to be a lot of personal donations so people's collections of postcards or photographs or diaries scrap books we have lots and lots of scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings um and then over time as it got more and more incorporated into the actual council's library service you also started seeing more official type of materials getting deposited so we have lots of council minute books and old rate books for the predecessors of harrow council um and then at one point i think there was a bit of a feeling of um kind of being overwhelmed because it had a local history librarian for a while who wasn't a properly trained archivist and so we got a lot of definitely archival material that was pre-19th century and a lot of that ended up going to the london metropolitan archives where they could properly care for it so we don't have all of that material a lot of times when people come to us looking for earlier stuff we redirect them to the lma but we've there's been the continuous collection of this kind of mix so we do have mostly paper-based items um like i said photographs uh record books great books diaries that kind of thing but we also have a lot of film um and negatives so we have a collection of films that are actually up online and and can be viewed on the london screen archives website and that's been really great for us because people have been able to find them more easily um and actually one of them a clip of them was recently featured in uh an itv documentary which is great um and uh there has been a bit of rearranging going on with the types of material we have as well where now that we're under one roof with the museum anything that's kind of more three-dimensional object based has maybe shifted a bit over to the museum rather than staying with the archive but we are kind of working our way up to getting most of this available online when it can be so we do have some of our maps which we have quite a large collection of maps we have those online through layers of london um we're starting that partnership including our one of our bomb maps so we have a wide variety of types of objects both personal and more council-based material so you said you get a lot of inquiries what kind of uh research are people undertaking um it's largely personal a lot of the inquiries we get are related to family history or um perhaps people wanting to see what their house looked like back in the day and that's really fun actually for us to track that down because there's a very large amount of emotion tied to responding to those inquiries but we also have some professional inquiries coming in we recently had an architectural historian interested in some of the houses an arts and crafts architect built in harrow and we've had a woman who was doing her phd on the emergence of council housing in the early 20th century so that was really interesting to contribute to as well um and we also have some council inquiries that come internally so when they want to do projects concerning um housing or advertising they often want photographs of the borough from older days and that's really nice to kind of feel like you're working with your other colleagues to promote the importance of the archive how large is your archive how many items roughly do you have do you know um we don't actually no because uh when it came to us from that central library that um or the civic center library sorry that stacy mentioned earlier unfortunately it was kind of a bit of a rushed job and um there had been some catalogs and lists in the past shout out to bob um who's the librarian who was there for almost 40 years working with the local history library and he did a really great job um kind of providing these little guides but because it wasn't ever treated as a proper archive there was never an actual archival catalog made for it um so we've been doing a bit of snooping around in what we have over the last year and i think the conservative we're looking at several hundred thousand individual objects um we recently discovered three boxes containing at least 70 000 individual photographic negatives so that was just three bucks uh so there's a lot in there and that's you know we're trying to reach out to partners and volunteers who are interested in helping us inventory this because there's a lot of treasures we know that are in there i mean when you said there was a back clog i think the good thing is that they are kind of departmentalized i mean we know where things kind of sit we we do have a certain section for for our photographer photograph sorry in our books so i think that that does make it easy and we have quite good storage uh but yeah with the museum collection as well we probably have well over a hundred thousand i think the museum objects have at least thirty thousand objects and records in there so we have we kind of deal with the big substantial collections which makes the job a lot more exciting you know there's definitely more stories to discover there would you say that's your biggest challenge kind of this wealth material that's sort of suffered a bit from being moved around a lot until it's found at home or is there other problems you've come across um yeah i think um for me it certainly was when i came in i was brought in to digitize the material but um it's very difficult to digitize material that doesn't have a object number or catalog number because how do you then put on the system for people to find so that's been a huge challenge for us and uh i think there's been a bit of it's been shifting so when it was part of a library it was more people could browse and look through it but now that we've really like looked at it and decided it is properly an archive that needs actual cataloging um there's a lot of time being spent on that and we definitely kept getting more material as well so even that first deposit that came over from the closed library after that they closed a second library whose basement was full of more material and we also received some material from other council departments who were looking to downsize their personal archives in that department so it's a continuous influx of material and we can't pause that influx in order to catalog because then you might miss out on something that really needs to be taken care of so we've had a bit of a challenge with that for sure but we have some really great um people that have helped us out with advice from other boroughs shout out to brent and hillington burroughs for helping us out a lot at the beginning um and we also i think one of my bigger challenges as well is learning when to teach things apart and when to reintegrate them so previous librarians liked to make all the photographs in one section even though that meant that it might have been pulling apart someone's original deposits that they gave and they're in order of their material so we have a local um author called emware and he gave us a large deposit and some of the pictures have been pulled out to be put in other locations so we're attempting to reintegrate them so i think that's been my biggest challenge but i think stacy has them too yeah i was just gonna kind of pick up on that i mean the the size of the collections that are our challenge and i think as as a curator i manage both collections it is a challenge but you know it is also quite exciting and i think one of the other challenges to be honest i mean we are quite a small team um we are quite a small service within the larger council service and it can't be quite difficult to kind of push our way at the top um so we are kind of recognized internally and externally but we do have a lot of support like kelly said we go to sector support bodies um but yeah i mean i guess one of the other challenges is you know this time has been quite challenging for us we've had to adapt and be quite flexible within our services and the outputs that we deliver for our audiences so we've gone digital now we've done a lot of exhibitions that are quite digital and that itself i think is quite a challenge for us i mean we're quite flexible and we're quite able to adapt to new technologies but you know it's always challenging especially during these times so yeah i think there's always challenges but we're we kind of look ahead to as much as we can yeah it's been kind of thrown in the deep end this year but it you do already have that digitization project going on so you did have a bit of groundwork yeah we're definitely lucky i mean i'm personally lucky just to have kelly um on our on our hand and you know her own personal skills in in that department allows us to push it further you know than we could have done otherwise but yeah we're always looking for new ways to kind of make our collections more accessible to digitalize them um so yeah always on the lookout for those opportunities what are you what are your current plans for the digitization obviously sort of an online catalog might be the most obvious thing but you just you just said uh online exhibitions things like that are there other sort of directions you would like to take the collection in yeah i think our biggest thing is because we're such a small museum and it's such a small service is just collaborations so obviously with yourselves and for our photos that's going to be really great for us to kind of get more more eyeballs on our images and we're also working to reach out to other copyright owners of some of the material we physically own uh to find out if they are interested in doing any type of collaborations we've got some old newspapers that we're hoping might be promising in that direction and we'd like eventually to kind of do some crowdsourcing for metadata so um by being able to put our images online on you know places where you're able to leave comments or add tags we can then ask the public to kind of help us identify things because i live in harrow and i have for the last seven years and stacy's kind of a new transplant to hero but obviously there are some people who remember how it used to look and they can identify things in the images and and documents a lot faster than us so that is i think something we'd really like to do if you feel like they're part of the work that we're doing for sure do you feel as though you benefit from being in a historic building like hester manor do you think that that's made a difference to how you view the collection or how other people view the collection um i think it has allowed us to kind of approach it in a bit more of a holistic way i think as we said bringing both collections on one site now is definitely allowed us to gain a better understanding of just the general history of harrow to be able to use collections in in more ways than we have done has been quite um beneficial for us so you know when i do plan exhibitions for example you know the archive is very much at the forefront of that um planning stage you know it's not really a separate collection in that respect and you know within a historic house it kind of lends itself to being you know respected and to be able to you know have on your fingertips you know we do invite a lot of people to visit our site um you know and in the future we do hope to kind of open our stores up i think that's something we're quite eager to do once we've sorted out a few other hurdles we're quite keen to bring people kind of behind the scenes and i think yeah being on a historic property also an ancient monument site definitely adds to that value wha t is your sort of i mean you must have when you curate exhibitions and stuff there must be themes you go for or objects you like to include what is your personal favorite um well we we were talking about our most interesting objects from the archives and if kelly wants to start that off um well i guess we recently found uh it had just it's not it wasn't lost let's just say i don't want to get anyone to get the wrong impression it wasn't lost it was just um rearranged and we couldn't find the shelf but we recently rediscovered our um our enclosure map from 1817 which is the original parchment map uh for when hera was enclosed and that's pretty great because it being the original it's just beautiful to look at it's very well done and also um it's pre uh the 19 or eight sorry 1845 enclosure act so it's it's quite an early one and um harrow doesn't have any kind of tithe map or anything from earlier or that era so this is like the go-to earliest map of harrow kind of thing and we get a lot of requests for it and when we rediscovered it one of the things that we were looking to do was to hopefully get it digitized um which fingers crossed that will be happening once the lock down uh kind of eases and people can get in that's the layers of london project that we're working on but i just find that map so incredible because it was kind of what shaped the burrow um when it was enclosed and um there it is right at your fingertips like opening it was quite an amazing experience for us so we haven't included that in exhibition since it is so fragile but the hope is that once we do get it digitized it can then be just available and used in many ways as well as reproduced and that would be well that would be great for me anyway because i really enjoy that piece i think um just on the back of that i think for me when we do exhibitions we recently did our ve day project and that exhibition will go up in january it's been delayed but it will go up in january fingers crossed and but that you know that exhibition allowed me to kind of dig deep into our photography collections within the archive and just being in front of a cabinet and you know opening jaws up is quite exciting and you know i really enjoyed that aspect of our archives and you know we haven't dug down deep enough to uncover all of them so i'm quite excited to see what else comes up and yeah photos just tell so many different memories i think actually we were using one of the photos um of a ve day street party for our poster in when we were doing a call for memories and someone actually emailed back and said oh that's my family and the photo and you know things like that you know really excites her so yeah i think for me for photographs are really quite key to kind of bridging that gap that's great that you have community feedback on those kind of things you know you can't research things like oh well that's my aunt sally and things like that how would you know that if someone doesn't tell you yeah we're so grateful i mean this is definitely something we're kind of pushing is memories we've done a lot of all histories recently and i think you know when i do plan exhibitions going forward it's kind of an element i always want to include is memories so you know next year we have an exhibition about nature and however you know it lends itself to many different avenues for people's memories of just like their local park or their local nature reserve you know kind of just adds that depth to an exhibition that you know i wouldn't be able to find otherwise you know in a book or something so yeah for me that's kind of is at the heart of everything we do now so what do you have available to view online that you've digitized then so actually we've recently had our online catalog revamped by axial um we have this thing called calm view and it looks really swanky and new now so i'm very excited about that so we don't have a ton of stuff online because of that new revamp at the moment but we hope that when we launch it in the new year we will have at least um at least a thousand records on there for people to go through uh one large chunk of those are the objects that are in the house have all been photographed and obviously very detailed um data entry for that so there's a lot of three-dimensional museum objects that are on the list and some archival objects that have come out of that that are part of the permanent collection but at the moment what we're tackling is a series of photographs from um penner which is an arie apparel very historic and a lot of photographs a lot of interest in pinner there's still a historical society that's very active so our goal is to get those pictures up so that people can enjoy kind of having a browse on that um in the new year and then recycle through those cabinets that stacy is talking about with the photos they're organized by um town within the borough so our pinner was our first kind of test for how the digitization project will go and then we're going to hopefully move on to span more and then continue through the other towns and get those on there um so keep an eye out basically is the end because in the new year there'll be a lot more things heading up onto the online catalog how fantastic thank you stacy and carol it's been wonderful hearing about the work you've been doing you clearly work well as a team and you've got a lot of plans for the future your collection is huge i wish you the very best of luck getting through the black clock it sounds like it will be a daunting but fun task i'm sure you'll turn up loads of treasures in the meantime thank you for having us thank you thank you so much bye