Looking into Archives

Looking into Archives

It’s very misty and the sea looks pretty choppy and wild, but I am thrilled to be back in Penzance.  Home of the Hypatia Trust, whom I am meeting with later on today.  I’m really excited to be spending time with Melissa and Phil, after quite a while of not seeing them.

I used to stay in their Library as a fellow of Hypatia, at New Mill, and now they have moved into Trevelyan House in central Penzance.  I am excited awaiting hearing all their news, all the updates on the Trust itself and their archives.

Oxygen was partly born in their library at New Mill.

The idea for the tour began with the book Hypatia published: A Very First  History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Cornwall 1870-1914 by Katherine Bradley.  In it was a list of the stopping places that the women took to rally and rest on the Great 1913 Women’s Suffrage Pilgrimage. It looks liked a theatre tour.  How seeds are planted and ideas begin to grow.

Hypatia Trust, Penzance – Wednesday 29th June 2016.

The Hypatia Trust is on the move, with new premises in Chapel Street to house their offices, resources, collections, and for writers, academics, guests to stay will be a final stage, and an onsite archive facility.  This is very exciting for them indeed.

I am also impressed by their new website:  www.hypatia-trust.org.uk

Have a wee look for yourself.

Talking to Melissa about archives and archiving is fascinating and something she is clearly passionate about.  She talked to me about archives that are about a single thing, and how archival subjects as everywhere.

Documents / articles / stories / oral histories / books / pamphlets / zines / objects / photographs

Melissa also talked about archiving as a process of collecting that can be a lifetime pursuit, where odd things that come out, will make it an experience for someone visiting it, of all these things you have collected, one might stand out to someone on the hunt, researching.

“An archive can build a unique picture of someone else.”

This makes me wonder when I think about the possibility of a Rebellious Sounds Archive for Dreadnought in the future.

What might adventuring into this rich archival territory mean for us?

It is envisioned at this stage as a collection, unique here to the South West, one that is also an experience for people to engage with, of oral histories/stories of women’s everyday activism.  So it will build a wider picture or act as a collective picture?

Hearing Melissa speak is really a privilege.  She talked of building Hypatia’s story.  Of what do they pass on if historians are not documenting women’s lives in the way that men’s lives are so readily documented.  She talked about in history how hard it is to find out anything about women; “we might know a first name, but not much more.”

Extraordinary to think that this is the case when we look back.

“An archive is about hints to help find the truth, this is what Hypatia is about.”

So it is beyond the stories we collect.  It goes beyond the name and the person.  Who are they, what have they done, achieved, thought, actioned?

Melissa also said: “get to the tender points which light fires.”  I think this is a beautiful way of articulating the possibility that an archive can bring.

I love that: ‘the tender points’.  

St.Ives Archive – Thursday 30th June 2016


I am here to learn about archives.


Somewhere in my heart I think I am an archivist.

Maybe we all are now.

These quiet meditative spaces that writers love.

I venture to Carbis Bay to visit the award winning St.Ives Community Archive.  Dreadnought and Hypatia Trust both got pipped by this archive in the first Women’s History Network Community Prize in 2014.

So I thought I could learn something from them.

Carbis Bay.

It is a beautiful morning and I travel by train to St.Erth to get the branchlike to St.Ives, and then to travel back to Carbis Bay.  There’s a system.  The train is packed.  St.Ives is kissed by sunshine as we arrive.  The whole bay is beautiful.  I walk onto sand at Carbis Bay.  I have 10 minutes to look out to sea and then I have to use my navigation skills to get to the St.Ives Archive.

Not enough time to take off my shoes and socks.

I am early.

It is uphill.

I take pictures of all the archiving around me.  Boxes and folders are labeled.



This is a living breathing physical archive.

I am about to learn something new.

Janet Axten arrives.

And I learn more than I could have imagined.

I am introduced to the world of community archives and archivists.

Have a wee look at this community venture:  www.stivesarchive.co.uk


Natalie McGrath
Co-Director Dreadnought South West
29th & 30th June, 2016

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