Q and A with Danielle Burton, Archive Assistant

This week’s Q and A is with Danielle, who is an archives assistant and has had some amazing experiences in volunteering across the heritage sector. She has kindly agreed to share her experience with us.

Hi Danielle, Thank you for agreeing to take part in my Q and A feature. Firstly can you tell me a bit more about what you do in the heritage and history sector?

 I have my finger in a few different pies in the heritage and history sector at the moment. I started as a summer intern there 2 years ago for an amazing, and now award winning, outreach project where we took archives relevant to local areas to people who would never have seen an official archive space, for whatever reason, and in exchange ask them to leave their story with us. 

My main role is as an archive assistant for the local archives at the Derbyshire Record Office. I officially started working there properly as a one day a week relief back in January, doing bits of any jobs that needed doing and helping to cover break duties on the reception and local studies library desk there. I’ve done bits of cataloguing, organising and locating documents, handling original documents and working with old library stock. So yeah, bits of anything and everything really! From the end of October, I’ll be starting a new role there in a 2 year archive project working with coal mining documents.

You also volunteer, what kind of volunteering do you do?

I first started in the heritage sector as a volunteer explainer, which I guess is a fancy title for a room guide, at my local English Heritage site at Bolsover Castle. That was back in the summer of 2016, whilst I was still on my History course at the University of Derby. I love talking with visitors and helping the castle and it’s history come alive for them. I’ve also helped pass this knowledge of the site onto new volunteers, which is great to see them to retell the facts in their own way. For the first time this year I was asked to give a guided tour, which was a bit scary as I’ve only been used to talking about a few rooms with a few people at a time. I enjoyed it though and hope to do some more in the future.

Another one of my roles is helping Derby Theatre to set up their own archive. I got involved as I have archive experience and one of my lecturers from the University of Derby, and some fellow students were involved. That ones still a work in progress really. 

I also try once a month to go to a church called St Werburgh’s in Derby, which is run by the Churches Conservation Trust. The organisation helps to try and look after historic churches that aren’t used for services anymore. That’s as a sort of room guide again. I got involved with that as the church has some connections to a project I’m involved with Derby Museums too, which I hope to share more info on soon.

What do you think are the challenges facing museums today?

 I think that for museums, and other heritage organisations too, is to do things and show things that prove why they should still exist to try and gain funding. A lot of this revolves around proving that they can make a difference by using outreach and getting audiences, perhaps different ones than the traditional ones, to participate and engage with them.

Why do you think History is important?

 History shows where we have been already. History is not just a subject, although many people view it as such, it spans everything that has already been. This includes the small parts in people’s lives, such as where they live or the people they knew, all the way up to monarchs and governments, as well as anything in between!

What does History mean to you?

 How can I put into words what history means to me? A visitor at Bolsover said to me that they could tell I eat, breath and sleep History and that’s the only way I could explain it. History is something I love because my parents passed it on to me and so in a way it’s quite personal. History is a passion that I don’t think will ever go away for me. I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to pursue degrees in history and then in heritage that have allowed me, and I hope that will long continue, to actually use my passion as a career.

Now for some fun questions. Who is your faviroute person in history?

My favourite historical person is Anthony Woodville, brother to Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of Edward IV. Anyone who knows me will know just how much I love him. It all started around 2013/2014 when I first visited Pontefract Castle, the site of his execution. I asked the staff if they knew where he would have been held while a prisoner there and they knew nothing about him. I left feeling quite upset by that and wondered why they wouldn’t know. That moment sparked me to research into his life and the things I found found amazed me! The image we have of chivalric knights, could pretty much have been Anthony’s CV! He was very cool and is often outshined by his sister. From this research, this year I finally took the leap and decided to finally start writing a book on him as no one has written a book solely on him, only suggesting he was a background character, which is the complete opposite of what I’ve found out!

If you could go back in time where would it be and why?

I have always had a love of the fifteenth century, specifically the Wars of the Roses, so of course I would love to go back! I would choose either Anthony Woodville’s most famous tournament at Smithfield, because it would have been a spectacle to behold, or to his arrest to try and find out the reasons for it, as there is some debate as to why he ended up being classed as a traitor.

For more information on some of the places and organisations that Danielle works with please click the links below:

The Derbyshire Record Office – https://recordoffice.wordpress.com

Bolsover Castle (English Heritage) – https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/bolsover-castle/

The Churches Conservation Trust – https://www.visitchurches.org.uk/

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