A day in the life of…

Karen Syrett, Archivist/Librarian/Curator at the British Academy

Friday 5 May 2017.

I wear many hats at the British Academy but I’m starting today in my curator’s hat. Since Christmas I have been collecting together a series of articles on the art displayed at the British Academy. Lisa Milroy wrote a great piece about her painting Ugliness, Dawn Adés and Patrick Hughes made a short film about Patrick’s wonderful Studiolo, and members of the Pictures Committee contributed terrific pieces on various other artworks in the Academy’s collection. These are now available on our new webpage which was launched this week. The plan is to add at least one new item each month, so my first job today is to send out some nudging emails to next month’s contributors.

New art webpage www.britishacademy.ac.uk/art

Time now for my archivist’s hat. Over the past few months I have been cataloguing and repackaging the Secretary’s Papers. Yesterday, I completed the last file so this morning I shall finish off the top level description and add the location details to the catalogue. Then, I’m off down to the basement to spring-clean the archive store room – a job that has been on my ‘to do list’ for ages. It takes well over an hour to hoover between all the uneven bricks but by the time I finish I have 3 hoover bags full of dust and detritus – as I said, it has been on my list for a while!









After lunch I pull on my librarian hat and catalogue some books. The books in the Academy’s library either come from our Fellows or from our research award holders. Books that have been deposited recently include Does Terrorism Work? by Professor Richard English FBA and Sleep in Early Modern England by Sasha Handley. Handley’s book was written with the support of a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship and has been nominated for this year’s Wolfson History Prize.

Books catalogued and ready to go on to the library’s shelves

Finally, I set up my first display in our newly acquired display case. I share the case with the Publications Department and it is now my turn to put it to use. Having spent quite a bit of time recently cleaning and repackaging the Secretary’s papers, I have decided to do a display on Caring for the Academy’s Archives. I’d saved some rusty paper fasteners and dirty smoke sponges so I put them into the case along with a blunder trap, a data logger and some melinex. I also include a pair of white gloves with a caption stressing that they are only ever used for handling photographs!

New archive display for the lobby

After all that, there is only one thing left to do – put on my party hat and head for the bar!

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