The Lambton Archive – a summer internship

Summer intern Iris Leussink looks back on two months spent working at Palace Green Library

For a lot of people in Durham, Palace Green Library is a bit of a mystery. Some of my friends, even those who have studied and lived in here for four years, have never set foot in the building. Before I started, I had only been here once to see a rare book for my History dissertation. So I’m writing this blog post to give you an idea of what an internship at an archive might look like in practice.

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Graduate intern update: Beth

Graduate intern Beth Hall updates us on what she’s been up to in the last month or so…

Hello, it’s Beth! Back again with another update from my Archives and Special Collections internship.

I promised an update on my time with conservation in my last post, and what a fascinating couple of weeks it has been.

We kicked off with a tour of the building, with a view to look at the conservation measures that we have in place to keep the collections safe. We have pest traps around the building (not necessarily to catch all the insects we might have here as you might think, but to monitor their levels and where they are likely to be found), which are mostly by the strong rooms where the collections are kept. We also have temperature and humidity monitors that make sure the environment for the collections are stable. These are regularly checked, and radiators come on if humidity levels get too high to make sure everything balances out!

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Graduate intern update: Beth

Graduate intern Beth Hall updates us on what she’s been up to in the last month or so…

It’s been nearly three months since I started here at Palace Green Library in Durham, and time has definitely flown! My mornings are spent helping out in the search room to make sure our readers and collections are well looked after. It’s still quiet in Palace Green while restrictions are still in place and students are enjoying their summers, but there’s still been a steady stream of reprographics requests and enquiries to take care of to ensure researchers still have access to our collections remotely. I haven’t seen this building in its fully populated state, so I’m intrigued to see what it’ll be like in here once the students are in!

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Intelligent, demanding, and meticulous: getting to know Bishop John Cosin

Over the last year, History PhD student Lily Chadwick has been cataloguing the correspondence of Bishop John Cosin, founder of Cosin’s Library on Palace Green in the centre of Durham. Reading through his letters, she caught a glimpse of his personality.

Cataloguing the correspondence of Bishop John Cosin over the course of the last eight months has provided considerable insight into the personality and mind of one of Durham’s most imposing figures. Certainly, there are limitations to the source material, which mean that we cannot draw definitive conclusions about Cosin as a person.

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The miraculous cure of Sister Aloysia Gonzaga O’Connor: Spotlight on the collections

One of our archivists, Dr Jonathan Bush, retells the story of a miraculous cure that stunned doctors and caused quite a stir in 19th-century England. The account of Sister Aloysia’s healing is found in the archives of the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, which Jonathan has been cataloguing.

The substantial archive of the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, dating back to its foundation in Liege in 1642, documents the rich and colourful history of an English convent abroad. The records in the collection tell the story of the community in Liege, its evacuation to England during the turbulent years of the French Revolution, and its subsequent flourishing as a school and convent at New Hall, near Chelmsford, Essex.

One of its more remarkable personal stories concerns the extraordinary ‘cure’ of Sister Aloysia Gonzaga O’Connor. News of the case caused something of a sensation in a country where Catholics and their tales of ‘miracles’ were treated with suspicion and derision by a predominantly Protestant media.

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Conservation training during Covid-19

Katie, one of our conservators based at Palace Green Library, is studying for her ARA certificate in Archive Conservation. A significant element of her training is getting practical experience – not the easiest thing to accomplish at the moment. But last year, in between lockdowns, she managed to head to Flintshire Record Office for her placement with Conservator Mark Allen. In this post, she shares the results of her training.

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Journeys: Reading the World

This February saw the launch of our new online exhibition Journeys: Reading the World, showcasing material relating to travel and tourism from our rare books, archives and manuscript collections. David Wright, Assistant Curator (Exhibitions), gives us a preview of the exhibition, which we would encourage you to visit for yourself.

There is a certain irony to us launching an exhibition about the pleasure, value and excitement of travel when are all mostly stuck indoors, unable to venture much further than the local supermarket, but so far visitors seem to be finding it a pleasant escape from the mundanity of lockdown.

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#Hist2020: History Day 2020, celebrating our collections

Every year University College London organises a day for academic, cultural and heritage institutions to come together to showcase the enormous range of historic collections in archives, libraries and museums. In pre-Covid times, the day would be held at Senate House and would be attended by anyone in London with a serious interest in historical research.

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Robert Chapman and his plea to the bishop of Durham

Simona Martorana is one of a small group of intrepid Durham University students wrestling with medieval handwriting. They are guided by Michael Stansfield, Senior Manager of Archives and Special Collections, normally in person, but over the last few months online. During these palaeography sessions, students catch a glimpse of a past world through the many stories that surface in our archival sources. Simona discusses a document from the Durham Cathedral Archive, which our staff look after at 5 The College.

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RLUK Collections: a virtual tour of our shared treasures

Durham University Library and Collections is a member of Research Libraries UK (RLUK), a consortium of the most significant research libraries in the UK and Ireland. As many members entered lockdown in March, Dr David Prosser (Executive Director of RLUK) took a virtual tour of RLUK member’s special collections via Twitter (#RLUKCollections), including those at Durham University, to highlight just a small selection of the extensive, diverse, and unique collections held within the member libraries and archives.

We have (with permission) highlighted here Durham’s brief entry, and provided links to each of the others, as an opportunity to quickly sample some of the many treasures held within the British Isles.

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