Written by previous head of the volunteer archive group, Peter Johnson:
When responsibility for the Museum buildings in Burlington Street was transferred to Weston Town Council in 2011 some major changes occurred.
The reserve collection was carefully removed and transferred for safe keeping to the Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton. Along with these items went the majority of the Museum’s records and documentation. However a total clearance was not required and an interesting selection of items remained in store at Burlington Street.
A small group of volunteers who had previously been working at cataloguing the archaeology collection realised that some of the remaining records were of great interest to local archaeology. We gained permission to work on this material and others joined us. We managed to gain a little storage space and restore its original arrangement by parishes. The material was catalogued and much of it scanned.
It soon became apparent that much of the other material was also of interest. On closer inspection it became clear that a significant amount of this had been accessioned and belonged with the Archive material which formed part of the North Somerset collection. This was now being conserved and looked after by the Heritage Centre. After consultation with Amal Khreisheh (Museum Officer) and Jane de Gruchy (Archive Officer) this accessioned material was identified, separated out and transferred to Taunton
The remaining non-accessioned materials consisted of a medley of books, documents, photos, journals, audio-visual materials and maps. Some items which had not previously been accessioned were deemed worthy of transfer to Taunton Archive.
The original team of archaeology enthusiasts was joined by others, many of whom made a major contribution to completing that task. Others helped catalogue the books and scan the photos and for a couple of years volunteers had an opportunity to work at close quarters with some really interesting material.
But the arrangement was only ever going to be temporary as the working conditions were far from ideal. Archive volunteers produced material to support the HLF bid and in the end we were pleased to learn that it had been confirmed. The hoped-for refurbishment was to become a reality. So in 2015 time was called on the exercise by the closure of the Museum and the start of work to prepare it for its next reincarnation. This is due to be revealed to the world in 2017.
Some might have hoped that there would be a place for study and research in the new facility but that seems unlikely in the current climate. Many of those who worked on the archive are now helping to support other areas of the Museum’s activity, including the Writing and Outreach teams.
We now look to the future with enthusiasm. Once the books and other materials emerge from storage there will be a basic resource for volunteers to work on. Furthermore Weston has an excellent Local Studies Library at the Town Hall and one hopes that it will be possible to develop some joined-up thinking between the Library, the Museum and the Heritage Centre to facilitate further study of our local history.