MEMBERS of local interest groups have been seeking expert advice in a meeting with archivists from the Hampshire Record Office in Winchester.

Participants included village historians from both Ropley, near Alresford, and Broughton, near Stockbridge, who face the task of sorting large collections of photographs and other material collected over the years.

Also present were staff from the Andrews’ Endowed Primary School and Treloar School, College and Trust, both in Holybourne, near Alton, but separate institutions.

Headmistress Maria Lloyd is making plans to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the primary school, which was endowed [in 1719] by local benefactor Thomas Andrews for the education of local children. Archives have revealed that as well as leaving money in his will he also bequeathed the school a London pub. Treloar’s, too, has strong links with the capital, tracing its origins to 1907, when Sir William Purdie Treloar, Lord Mayor of London, started a “Cripples’ Fund” to endow a school in the country for young people with tuberculosis.

The enthusiasts for were attending one of the Archives Ambassador courses held by the record office. Archivist David Rymill covered oral history, which he said was a business “full of surprises”. He told how on one occasion he went to record a man’s work with local Scouts, only to be given detailed account of his 30 years working in a bank. And on another he interviewed a headmaster who told many interesting stories, but could never remember names. It was fortunate that his wife was present and could fill in the gaps.

The course was organised by principal archivist Heather Needham, who advised participants how to digitise their collections. She said that it is important at the beginning to gain a good working knowledge of the scope of the material and then to digitise it in batches, perhaps by subject. Flat-bed scanners can be used for papers, but books needs to be digitised “from above”, either with sophisticated costly machines, or with DIY kits involving a standard digital camera on a stand.

She emphasised the need to keep back-ups of digitised products – even back-ups of back-ups – and to try to avoid making “copies of copies”. Solid-state hard drives are best for digital storage but may need replacing every five years. Cloud storage may be suitable, though it is worth exploring the various kinds available – public private, hybrid and community.

A useful guide to the use of cloud storage by Charles Beagrie Ltd can be found on the website of The National Archives.