13,142 catalogue entries, cataloguing some 36,566 archival items. This is a prodigious body of work by a young archivist who joined us towards the end of 2011 for three months, and has been with us ever since. Thanks to a substantial series of grants from the Richard Crocket family, another from the Mulberry Bush School, and the Trust's own resources, we have had the pleasure and privilege of Matt Naylor as part of the Trust team since November 2011. We learned this week that all the available funds have now been used; and unless something completely unexpected happens, Matt will be leaving us mid-way through January.
He will be deeply missed. In recent weeks his deepening knowledge and understanding of therapeutic communities have led to the discovery of a number of exciting and even important documents: letters and articles whose significance he now recognises, and can bring to wider attention. Archivists with an understanding of the material passing through their hands in this field do not grow on trees: Knowing that previously unknown correspondence between Richard Crocket and Maxwell Jones is of special interest is a major acquisition of learning; spotting a letter from Tom Main about the origins of the term "therapeutic community" and knowing researcher Tom Harrison would be extremely interested in it...Who could possibly want to lose such a valuable and growing colleague?
He has come to play an essential role in working with and alongside volunteers, and in diving deep into collections such as Ralph Gee's, with whom he recorded a unique interview while he and Ralph explored Ralph's papers. His technical and I.T. skills are an icing on the cake, although their value to the team is not to be underestimated; any more than the flexibility which was a consequence of having a colleague who could cheerfully work on later, open up earlier, or be there - and therefore making sure the Archive was there for researchers, enquirers and volunteers - when others couldn't, making more fieldwork and visits by them possible; not to mention freeing up others by doing fieldwork of his own. He also has a usefully bizarre sense of humour, and a generous willingness to share his green tea.
We are often told that no one is irreplaceable. The financial situation means we can't put this to the test, even if we wanted to. What we can be certain of is a deep absence. Matt will be missed. Having grown up on the American cartoon show Rocky and Bullwinkle, and given Matt's sense of humour, a part of me is expecting Rocket J. Squirrel's co-star Bullwinkle J. Moose to appear and pull something remarkable out of his hat. Bullwinkle would say "Look, Nothing up my sleeve!" with a flourish, and then "Hey presto!" and plunge his arm into his top hat. You could never be certain what would emerge. I want to say "a bit like Matt", but that wouldn't be entirely true; Matt certainly never pulled a rhinoceros out of his hat. On the other hand, whatever you throw at him, something surprising and special always emerges. The magical archivist; and by that definition, irreplaceable.
- Craig Fees