6. In the Archive
Craig and Jen are intensively involved in the complex process of bringing this very rich and active Archive service to an orderly and efficient close, so that it can be fully in storage by the beginning of December, and so that it can be transposed and entirely re-born in an all-new setting whenever that is ready. We're also trying to keep up with requests and queries, Archive Weekends and researchers. With so many different kinds of balls in the air, please forgive us if we slip up; and please feel free to patiently remind us of things we haven't done that we said we would do, or if emails, for example, have been missed in the maelstrom. Meanwhile, Debra Lyons continues to bring order into Room 14, materials brought together by the late John Cross for saving and sorting.
If you're a fan of D.W. (Donald) Winnicott - and if you're not, you arguably should be - check out squiggletalks.org.uk. During the course of 2017 PETT partnered with the Squiggle Foundation, supported by a grant from the Winnicott Trust, to bring the 400-plus recorded talks and seminars in the Squiggle Foundation archives to the World Wide Web. We're gradually getting there. The talks come from a wide range of speakers and cover a wide range of topics, demonstrating how rich and vital Winnicott's insights and approach to psychoanalysis are.
So far a hundred of the talks have been prepared and uploaded, with more going up each week. If you're a Squiggle member, you will be able to get a username and password which will allow you to listen online. It is hoped to extend online access in due course, but the recordings themselves are held in the Archive and Study Centre and can be accessed without charge here.
A glorious experience
One of my most glorious archive experiences of all time came in February at the end of the NVC's week-long sojourn at the Centre [See their thankyou and goodbye above].
NVC is a families-based group which has been coming to PETT for many years, filling the place (day and night, when they come) with the sounds of music and discussion and the laughter and play of children running all over the building. To make sure we don't impinge too heavily on the unique transitional community they create while at PETT, while they are here we lock the Archive's front door and come and go as quietly and unobtrusively as we can through the Archive's back door. Sometimes an adult will come into the Archive to chat (entering and exiting through the back door!), and from time to time we and members of the group run into each other in the lively profusion of the kitchen when we go out to get tea and coffee. But for the most part the Group and the Archive are in separate worlds, and we are a clear mystery to the children who - if they notice us at all - seem to take us as part of the local furniture - like the trees on the field, the benches, the hippopotamus, and the stones which get scattered about while they're here.
This time, as the group was cleaning and packing on the final morning making ready to go, I unlocked and threw open the Archive's front door, and wedged it open. If you've been here, you'll know that our front door opens into the Large Meeting Room, which is a big open space where upstairs meets downstairs; the hub in a natural circuit that runs from the Large Meeting Room through the Garden Meeting Room, kitchen, downstairs hallway and main entrance to the building, and back again. It's a public/private concourse where toy cars, bouncing balls, lego, races, and hide n seek have a natural home. Throwing the door open was a quiet invitation to anyone still around to detour from the circuit and explore.
And they came.
The first visitor through the door was - naturally! - a toddler, walking his mother around the building. She hesitated, but he crossed the threshhold, looked, satisfied his curiosity, and continued his journey through the rest of the building. I went back into the office and onto the computer.
I came out when I heard "This is awesome!" and saw three boys struggling with the invisible forcefield at the threshhold. With movement into storage on the top of the agenda, digitisation is the order of the day, and everything was out on the table: reel to reel recorder, DAT, mini-cassete, MiniDisk, audiocassette console, and the whole array of computers and associated equipment, some of it beavering away.
From the doorway Sam said, "I always thought this was a boiler room!" Johnny said "I like the way it smells". Sam had been coming with NVC for six years and really liked it, but hadn't known we were here. Johnny didn't worry too long about the boundary, and quickly came in. There were introductions: Sam was 11, Charlie was 9, and Johnny was 7.
Johnny gave himself a quick tour of the office and emerged with some brass paper clips in his hand ("When I said it was best not to touch anything in an archive without asking first, what did you think I had in mind?"). There was a fascination with the mini-cassettes. I turned on the library lights and they discovered the mobile shelving and the books, and the potential for hide and seek. We discussed the difference between materials which are 'vulnerable' and those which are 'fragile', and were quickly into a surprisingly deep conversation about the danger that magnetic fields present to audio and video recordings, and the fact that magnetic fields are everywhere - in the magnets of headphones and speakers, and wherever there is an electric current. After a while, having come in and filled the Archive with movement and life, they just as suddenly disappeared, and I disappeared as well, back into the office and the computer. But not for very long.
They came back, with their parents. From the office I heard Sam, Charlie and Johnny take their parents on a guided tour. They introduced them to the library, explained the equipment and the work of an archive, and talked about handling and the different kinds of materials. It was a thorough and closely observed tour. I came out and found them comfortable and right at home, and they were part of the conversation about archives and the work that followed. All of us belonged. It was brilliant. Thank you.