Essex Record Office achieves Archives Accreditation

We are pleased to announce that ERO has been awarded Archive Service Accreditation. This scheme, led by the National Archives, is the UK national standard for archive services, and defines good practice and agreed standards for services across the UK. To be awarded the status, archives must complete a thorough assessment of their service, which looks at an organisation’s ability to develop, care for, and provide access to its collections.

How do archives celebrate? With cake!

This award is being made in our 80th year, and is perhaps a good moment to reflect on the continuity and change of the last eight decades. Would our first County Archivist, Fred Emmison, who was appointed in 1938, recognise the ERO of today?

Our core purpose has remained unchanging: to preserve the archival heritage of Essex, for both present and future generations. The collections have, of course, grown and grown over the years, and by the late 1990s had outgrown the space we had at County Hall, necessitating the move to a new, purpose-built archive building at Wharf Road in 2000. In our new home, we have 8 miles of shelving, a spacious Searchroom, and on-site sound and video, digitisation, and conservation studios.

In this photostory, we take a look at what has changed, and what has stayed the same.

Searching for answers

For nearly 80 years, researchers have been visiting to ERO to use our collections. The environment may have changed, but the quest to find answers to research questions is as compelling as ever.

A view of an early ERO Searchroom

A later Searchroom at County Hall

The latest incarnation of the Searchroom at our Wharf Road building. Researchers today can enjoy the advantages brought by a digitised catalogue of our own collections, as well as digital access to many nationally important sources.

Storage solutions

In our County Hall home, the documents were kept in controlled conditions in the basement, and were ferried up to the Searchroom in a dumbwaiter. In our Wharf Road home, we had much more space to expand – although even more space will be needed in the future!

Document storage in the basement of County Hall

One of the repositories at Wharf Road

The clip below from a video made about the ERO in 1989 shows how documents used to be retrieved for researchers:

Taking care of the past

Specialist conservation care for the documents in our collection is a vital part of our work.  Many pieces of equipment (e.g. presses, book binding equipment) have followed us from home to home, while other equipment (e.g. video microscopes) and techniques have evolved over time.

Conservators at work in the ERO Conservation Studio in the 1960s or 1970s

The ERO Conservation Studio today. The move to Wharf Road brought the studio into the same building as the rest of ERO’s operations for the first time.

Education, education, education

Education is at the heart of ERO’s existence. In the past and now we have encouraged and welcomed groups from schools and all forms of other educational organisations to discover more about the world around them through the collections we care for.

A schools session being delivered at Ingatestone Hall, where ERO’s education service was based for many years.

A school visit to ERO in 2017. School groups can visit ERO, or we go out to deliver sessions in schools.

Exhibitions and events

Alongside providing access to records in the Searchroom, the ERO has long had a programme of exhibitions and events to showcase the fascinating things we look after.

The Queen visiting an ERO exhibition.

Members of the public at Leigh-on-Sea on the Map in 2017

Digitisation

Perhaps the biggest change for ERO has been digitisation. We have moved from handwritten and typed catalogues and indexes to an online catalogue with digital images and recordings of some of our records, which can be accessed around the world.

The beginning of the computer age at ERO

Today our Digitisation Studio can produce hundreds of high quality digital images of our records every day.

With a strong history behind us, the ERO team will continue to do our best to look after the unique items in our care, and make them available for as many people as possible to use and enjoy.

If you’ve not been to the ERO Searchroom before, or would like a refresher, do join us for our next free Searchroom Tour on 7 August 2018.

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