Between January and March, I had the pleasure of working with The National Archives as part of my ‘Writers in Residency’ module of the third year of my degree. I had taken part in several classes about using archival material to create play scripts, but I never had the opportunity to work in a setting quite like The National Archives.
Working with the documents has been a really challenging and thought-provoking experience. Having the documents digitised allowed us to research lots of different stories and events without hindering our experience. With such a range of sources – podcasts, videos, posters, lessons on medieval art – I found myself easily immersed into the world of the past. With letters and transcripts accompanying them, I felt like I knew the people in these events on a personal level.
Some of the benefits of working virtually have been the people who have supported and welcomed us throughout the two months. Having the opportunity to meet with various passionate archival experts alongside the easily accessible website has made this experience great. The challenges of working virtually with the archives is how overwhelming it can feel with the amount of sources there are – you often wonder where you should start.
My advice for anyone working with the archives would be to enter the project without a preconceived idea and expectations of yourself. Allow yourself time to explore different sections of the archives – you will usually find that you steer towards a topic or event naturally and it might not be what you would have expected. This will give you the opportunity to challenge and improve your skills, working on something perhaps out of your comfort zone.
Download an extract from Abbie's play (PDF, 113KB)