12 February 2019 by Rachel O'Malley
Volunteers are an integral part of National Museums Liverpool, and without them, important work would not be able to take place. As part of the volunteer spotlight series we are meeting up with volunteers who have been making outstanding contributions to the organisation and finding out more about the work that they do.
This month, I had the pleasure of meeting Randa Craig, a volunteer with the Maritime Archives and Library, whose enthusiasm for the role was clear from the get go! Randa was introduced to National Museums Liverpool and volunteering through a friend in 2012 and began working with the Archives in 2014. Her first project was working with Paper conservation: cleaning glass plate negatives from the Stewart Bale collection.
Randa told me that it is exciting to be surrounded by beautiful art and that it is a privilege to be so close to the works. Randa has continued to work with the Stewart Bale collection within Archives, as well as working with a number of other photographic collections. The Stewart Bale collection is a large internationally important photographic archive of mostly negatives. Randa has copied and imputed to database more than 7,000 records from the Bale client registers which has created a subject index, making it easier to search the collection and is a significant step forward in making the collection more accessible. One of her roles has been to research an important photographic album dated c1860s – 1880s that had very kindly been donated to the Maritime Archives, it had previously belonged to a member of the Brocklebank shipping company. The album depicted a grand tour of the Far East, Egypt, Canada and Europe, including some loose images of the UK. Randa’s task was to identify and source additional information about them including location and photographer. Being able to work with such amazing images has satisfied Randa’s love of photography!
Randa’s love of photography is extended further than the walls of National Museums Liverpool, she is also a practicing photographer, documenting objects with a focus on colour, shape and the abstract – she even uses her images to create her own Christmas cards! She is also on her second year of a jewellery making course which feeds her need to create, having seen her jewellery work I can say that she is a very talented maker!
Aside from fulfilling her love of photography, Randa has been extremely lucky to have found many personal connections in her research, including a photograph in the Keith Lewis collection of a paper mill in Holland that was actually part of her Mother’s family! The mill was set up for a celebration that was in fact her Great Uncle’s 85th birthday!
Randa was asked what would surprise us about her and it turns out that she is a bit of a daredevil! Despite hating heights, Randa abseiled down the Anglican Cathedral to raise money for the Whitechapel Centre, a homeless charity. As part of a New Year’s resolution she set herself the challenge of doing something she had never done each month, which saw her zip wire down Church Street! Last year, she read a new poem every week.
Making sure that Randa’s time volunteering runs smoothly is down to Anne Gleave, Curator of Photographic Collections who appreciates the support that all volunteers offer to the organisation. Anne is part of a small department which has large collections, there is often not enough time to complete all the things that they would like to, but with the support of volunteers the collections can be made accessible sooner, improving the public offer. Volunteers are provided with support and training, as well as access to our diverse collections and being able to go behind the scenes in the organisation. Randa has been able to learn a number of new skills including how to handle and correctly store photographic collections and how to use MIMSY, plus the opportunity to meet experts who work at NML and to meet other volunteers within the department.
Anne also wanted to take the opportunity to thank the other volunteers whom she works with, including Phillip Collins who very kindly donated photographs to the Maritime Archives that he took of the Albert Dock during the period of its dereliction and later renovation during the 1980s, which he sorted, rehoused and imputed to database; Mary Pascoe who has been working on the Stewart Bale Collection imputing the content of the London client registers to database to improve collection accessibility; and Ann Bridson who has been cataloguing the photographic archives of the Harrison Line shipping company.
It was amazing talking to Randa and Anne. Randa has such a love for her work which is clear, she says
“I have a responsibility and I want to do the best that I can while I’m here”.
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