There’s no “I” in team.
I remember seeing Robin Patel’s post on social media for “Raiders of The Lost Archive” asking for volunteers to become involved in a community project. It was a chance to learn how to archive and index artefacts, learn skills in digitization, become involved in heritage and understand its role in the community. It sounded important and worthwhile.
I was already involved in another project, stumbling my way through some very old documents held in a private collection, trying to make sense of how to best sort and catalogue them. So when I saw Robin’s post, I thought that I might just learn something which I could apply to my current project. (And, I will confess, the play on words reference to Indiana Jones captured my attention. Huge Harrison Ford fan. Except in Star Wars. Sci Fi is a bit alien to me.)
I contacted Robin, who emailed me back with information on the first session. I still wasn’t entirely sure what I was signing up for. I did suspect that it would be very technical and all a bit beyond me but I decided to at least go along to the first session and see what it would entail.
Armed with a shiny new notebook,(don’t tell me not to take notes because it’s all in the handouts) new pen, bottle of water and sookie sweeties, off I went to the first session of “Raiders”.
I remember that first session quite clearly. There were about twenty people in the room. I don’t cope well in a crowd. This was a crowd. It was too hot in that room. (I am very claustrophobic.) I had gone on my own and I knew nobody. I began to regret going. We were all seated around a table and Robin asked us to introduce ourselves and share our early experiences of going to the Cinema and what we hoped to get out of the project. I don’t do public speaking. I was on the far side of the table. Plenty of time to sneak out and leave. I could feel the panic begin. I knew that if I left the room, there would be no going back. Instinct told me to stay. (I could just say something quickly. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t waffle. Just speak.) Face the fear and do it anyway.
I stayed. I spoke. And I can’t tell you how glad I am that I chose to stay.
Part way through the session, Robin gave us a “brain break” and it was over coffee that I first met Norman and Archie, the people who were to play a huge part in my life for the next few months.
And then, Robin produced the Shares Book and the Shareholders’ Ledger. This was the defining moment for me. (Like Indiana Jones finding the Ark of the Covenant!)Not tablets of stone but pages of beautiful handwriting dating back to 1912, and names, lots of names. A snapshot of the past right in front of me and Robin allowed us to turn the pages!( I can’t explain the excitement I feel when I look at old documents, it’s like a fizzing anticipation inside of me, the electricity that Billy Elliot speaks about.) For me, two names jumped off the page: Frederick Rendell Burnette and William D’Arc. Robin had talked about Fred in his presentation and here he was in the book. (Norman and I were convinced that William D’Arc was a stage name.)
So that’s how it all began. I couldn’t wait to get home and start researching these people and discovering their stories.
Throughout the project, Robin has allowed each one of us to play to our strengths and indulge our passions. Very quickly, we became a team of core volunteers.
There have been lots of ups and downs along the way. Lots of frustration and lots of Eureka moments. Frustration when I couldn’t find a death or marriage listing. Frustration when someone should have been in the 1891 Census but seemed to have dropped off the face of the Earth. The Eureka moment when I discovered that William D’Arc was a real name and the story of the D’Arcs was about to unfold. The Eureka moment when I discovered that Frederick Rendell Burnette was a fake name and was one of several fake names he had used over his career.
For me, personally, I have loved being part of a group of like – minded people. I have loved the support and encouragement of Norman, Archie and Jan. I have loved feeling that I’m not the only Anorak in the room. I have made some great, new friends. And Robin pushed me out of my comfort zone quite a few times…I have learned how to archive and index, I can find my way around Google Drive, I can enter data on a spreadsheet, I have learned how to handle and store artefacts correctly, I can upload files, I can import media and I have even learned how to “do” a Blog. My team mates have been incredibly patient with me and my lack of techno – skills.
I have loved exploring the stories behind the people of the Picture House. I especially loved being part of Frederick and William’s life for a short time. I have loved unravelling their past and telling their stories.
I have learned an incredible amount about Campbeltown’s history, heritage and people. It has been a privilege to have played a small role in helping preserve it.
But most of all, I have loved being part of Robin’s team. A team that has made me feel valued.