Blog: Sophie’s Week

Blog: Sophie’s Week

15 June 2020

Sophie Dickson, SCA Summer Intern 2020

My second week has been rather sleepy as the current world events rumble on. The adrenaline from first week jitters has worn off and I feel that I have come to be settled in my role. Working as an intern for the Scottish Council on Archives has been incredibly rewarding and insightful to what I am actually capable of and has taught me skills that run deeper than those that are purely professional. My internship has changed my perceptions on achieving success which had undeniably been warped by the constant pressure to work continuously at university. I have taken on a healthier outlook to both success and the work-life balance as I have realised that I can still feel successful, even with allowing time to rest. It has also given me a structure, one which makes me feel infinitely more productive, something which can only be invaluable during times of lockdown and isolation.

Through routine engagement with our archives, I have found myself considering the implications archives have on our daily lives. I have come to understand how archives are key to a healthy society by recording our cultural heritage and assuring access to our individual and communal history. Most importantly, archives hold the words and actions of larger governing bodies to account, which is integral to recording the events in times of national, and international crisis. Internet archives are especially important for upholding accountability in the digital age as what is said online is alarmingly easy to retrospectively adjust, perpetuating the issue of ‘fake news’. As my awareness increases, I have come to appreciate just how important it is for the public to consider the importance of archives themselves, and to maintain high expectations of transparent and unadulterated information.

Additionally, through observing the current conversations taking place within the archive communities, I am beginning to understand the issues of the climate crisis faced by archivists today. The issue of carbon emissions was discussed in the fantastic Scottish Council on Archives podcast (listen here) in which guest William Kilbride, Executive Director of the Digital Preservation Coalition notes the issues relating to storing the mass scale digital internet records that our media-centric society produces. When the carbon footprints of our phones are the same as a fridge-freezer, it is mind-numbing to think of the carbon footprint that is produced by the number of servers needed to keep up with the production of digital records. With the gradual digitisation of physical archives, the issue of sustainable storage is as important as ever in attempts to mitigate the drastic effects of global warming.

On a less serious note however, through assisting VisitScotland in updating their ancestral tourism contact database. I have been updating the contacts of places that are familiar and relatively local to me in the northern region of Scotland, which meant visiting their websites and to comb through contact information. As I browsed, it was wonderful to see smaller heritage groups and museums adapting to the social distancing regulations, producing online activities so visitors can remotely retain access to important archives and records. From all the changes that the current COVID-19 situation will trigger in our society, I hope that archives, museums, and galleries can continue to engage remotely with visitors and improve accessibility, giving everyone the opportunity to access what they have to offer.

I will be continuing next week to compile a database of useful contacts for archives to involve themselves with ancestral tourism, and work alongside VisitScotland in updating their contact database for engagement in ancestral tourism.