Chu-Can do anything! Our visit to the Churchill Archives Centre and Churchill College Libraries

On 11th March, the trainees got together once again for an exciting visit to the Churchill Archives Centre, as well as Churchill College Library. We were met by the lovely group of Archive staff who led us to the conservation studio. The conservator was hard at work doing some paper repairs using a very fine Japanese paper. Despite its fineness and fragile appearance, the long kozo fibres in this kind of paper make it both strong and pliable, perfect for repairing holes and tears in all kinds of paper. He also showed us a binding repair he was working on. Instead of repairing the spine of a large book with leather to match the leather binding, he was using a much thicker version of the Japanese paper, carefully painted to resemble the blue leather used to bind the rest of the book. This was a technique none of us had seen before and we loved hearing about how these kinds of repairs take place. Most of the work the conservators deal with is preventative work – especially when it comes to storage. When items are accessioned, they are carefully stored inside acid-free folders and boxes to prevent further damage, which hopefully saves conservators from doing more intensive reparative work in the future.

Next, we were led to the strongroom where many of the Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher items are kept. The archivists had kindly taken out some collection highlights to show us, including Thatcher’s own toy cat, Stanley, and her handbag, along with pictures as ample evidence that these were in fact the Real Deal.

Stanley the cat, who lived at 10 Downing Street with Margaret Thatcher.
(Below) The actual handbag of Margaret Thatcher (and the actual thumb of the Pembroke Trainee).

I asked whether the archives centre has a formal acquisitions policy, and we were told that the collection was initially centred on Churchill and his friends/associates, as well as other UK Prime Ministers. Now, it focuses more generally on modern political and scientific papers; as the Archives Centre website outlines, ‘Our collections encompass the personal papers of individuals who made and remade British domestic politics and international relations, advanced scientific knowledge, and who observed or transformed society, economics and culture.’

One of the archive assistants also pointed out that the centre has an unusually large naval collection relating to Stephen Roskill, who was a Senior Research Fellow at Churchill College, as well as a senior career officer of the Royal Navy, and who served during the Second World War.

One of the strongrooms in Churchill Archives Centre.

We spoke briefly about how digital archiving works, as this seems to be a growing concern among archivists with the rapidly evolving world of digital media. The archivists mentioned that there are various floppy disks and other kinds of data-storing hardware at the archives centre, which are proving difficult to draw information from. The concern with digital media is that technology will change at such a rate and in such a way that material stored in a certain form might eventually become inaccessible – which also makes investing money in certain technology or data storage an inherently risky process. For now, the team at Churchill store digital archives like emails in three copies, all hosted in separate locations, to ensure they are not lost to data breaches or corruption. It’s an aspect of archive work I had not considered before as most of the archives at Trinity predate digital media, and only exist in hard copy. I don’t doubt, though, that digital archives will present some new and compelling challenges to the archivists that work with them as time goes on!

Churchill Archives Centre Reading Room.

As we wandered up to the Archives Centre Reading Room, the team noted that, upon his death, Winston Churchill’s official papers were taken to be stored in the National Archive, while only his personal papers are kept at Churchill Archives Centre. I think we all agreed that the personal papers are far more interesting anyway!

For example, we were shown a copy of Churchill’s rather concerning school report from April 1884, which stated that his general conduct was ‘very bad’, that he ‘is a constant trouble to everybody, and is always in some scrape or other’, along with the comment that ‘he cannot be trusted to behave himself anywhere’. Not the most encouraging review of a future Prime Minister!

I wonder how he would have fared in comparison to the ‘Leadership Qualities’ drawn up to compare Margaret Thatcher and Neil Kinnock, which lists ‘Ruthless’ as one of Thatcher’s principal qualities, with the caveat ‘don’t desire, but suspect necessary’.

Another highlight from the reading room was “Bomb-proof Bella”, a photograph of an adorable and quite nervous looking dachshund who survived three trips to Dunkirk aboard the HMS Sandown!

“Bomb-proof Bella”.

The trainees also enjoyed this survey of young people’s ‘perceptions of the future’, some of which were bang on (like the prediction that ‘people will go abroad much more than at present’ and that ‘most roads will be choked with cars at nearly all times of the day’). Only 59% of people thought that ‘every family will have a telephone’ and fewer still believed that ‘men and women will take equal shares in housework and looking after children’ (45%)! Looking at some of these surprising and often disquieting predictions was a harsh reminder that we have come so far in many ways, and not so far in others…

These were predictions from 1970 about the year 2000. Here are some library-related predictions from the trainees about what life will be like 30 years from now, all the way in 2054:

Harriet predicts that ‘in 30 years’ time, they will still be publishing Rainbow Magic Fairy books.’ (what a blast from the past!)

Anna predicts that ‘there will be a new system to rival Dewey.’ (Let’s hope so!)

And I (Liz) predict that faculty and department libraries will slowly evolve into “hub” spaces, and focus on health and wellbeing, as well as study!

After we had enjoyed some more archive highlights, the Churchill College Librarian kindly offered us a tour around the student libraries. We began in the Bracken Library, the entrance hall of which was home to a glorious display commemorating Neurodiversity Celebration Week, as well as a seed library! Here the students can help themselves to the range of flower and vegetable seeds which they can sow into small beds on their windowsills. (Very jealous that we don’t have this at Trinity!)

Dominating the Bracken Library was a vast and beautiful tapestry called ‘Etoile de Paris’ by Jean Lurçat, who donated it to the college in 1961. Under the watchful eye of the tapestry’s woven cockerel, the librarian explained that the Bracken is where the sciences and social sciences collections are kept, and that everything in Churchill is catalogued according to the Dewey Decimal system.

The arts and humanities collections are housed in Churchill’s other library, the Bevin Library. The entrance to this part of the building was host to yet more delightful displays, this time for Women’s History Month. The trainees were especially fond of the whiteboard asking for song recommendations by female artists for the Library playlist. (We even contributed a few tunes! If you’re curious, the final playlist can be found on Spotify here!)

In the Bevin, students were enjoying some more relaxed seating in the company of Churchill’s library mascot, Chu-Can the Toucan. And if that wasn’t enough, there was even a box of Pet Rocks leftover from a wellbeing event, which now live in the library for everyone to enjoy! Needless to say, the trainees were thoroughly obsessed, with rocks, with Toucan and with the library as a whole.

After some tea with our wonderful hosts, the archives team, we wandered on to our next trip of the afternoon at West Hub! We want to thank the incredible staff at Churchill Archives Centre and Churchill College Library for kindly hosting us.

Decolonising through Critical Librarianship with Library Graduate Trainees

On Friday 23rd February, the Cambridge Library Trainees came together for an online workshop led by the fantastic team behind the Decolonising through Critical Librarianship project. They began by introducing themselves and the work they do, all of which and more is collated on their website. The website is a rich and imperative resource for Cambridge librarians – especially those of us who are newer to librarianship and would like to know more about decolonisation and its importance as an ongoing practice in collections management. The University Library also recently established a Decolonisation Working Group, a separate group which works closely with the Decolonising through Critical Librarianship group, with an aim “to formulate guidance and policy for decolonisation work within Cambridge libraries and commission specific pieces of work to help encourage and embed best practice” (from the group’s Terms of Reference).

We began with an illuminating talk from Eve Lacey, Librarian at Newnham College, about decolonisation within cataloguing and classification. She spoke about the difference between widely used classification schemes, like Dewey Decimal, versus local schemes. The latter are much more adaptable because they are not subject to the often limiting categories of a standard system; they can change and evolve organically with collections, which makes them far more amenable to reclassification projects, such as those undertaken with the aim of decolonisation. This is why many Cambridge libraries use local schemes. Newnham library, for example, uses Dewey categories as a guideline, but classify under a local scheme which has made it possible for productive changes to be made. Eve gave a great example of this: the ‘Asian and Middle Eastern Studies’ section at Newnham was recently changed to ‘Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literature’, so more interdisciplinary texts were not omitted from relevant sections like History and Anthropology.

She then usefully spoke about the distinction between bibliographic description and subject description. Bibliographic description refers to the features of an individual book within a library, such as the classmark on its spine label. In an in-house scheme, this might contain coded information and innate bias based on the location of the book, the kinds of books it is shelved with and the subject classification it is given. These features can be problematic where, even if the item itself does not contain harmful or offensive content, the association of, for example, homosexuality with criminology (as was once standard) based on the item’s classmark/location creates difficulties. It is this kind of problematic tangle that changes like Newnham’s reclassification of AMES seek to allay. Subject description refers to standardised systems of things like subject headings, for which Library of Congress uses controlled vocabulary. As a result, Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) limit the ways in which we can organise by subject, and they can often be slow to change and update offensive terms. A recent change saw the term ‘slaves’ become ‘enslaved persons’ to humanise the people to whom the term refers. In 2021, a group of students at Dartmouth College lobbied the Library of Congress to change the subject heading ‘illegal aliens’, which they felt reflected an unnecessary negative bias. The LCSH was eventually changed to ‘non-citizens’ and ‘undocumented immigrants’ after the students’ journey of activism, which was recorded in full in their fantastic documentary, Change the Subject (2021).

After Eve’s talk, Frankie Marsh, Assistant Librarian in various STEMM Libraries, spoke about information literacy and decolonisation. Information literacy refers to the ability to search, manage, and use information e.g. on databases or catalogues. The ways in which we teach library users information literacy is suffused with our own personal biases and those of the institutions we are involved with. Frankie asks, for example, what the implications are of using only mainstream subscription databases, and information published in global north or written in English (as is the case for many educational institutions in the UK). Building on Eve’s points about the importance of classification, Frankie shared an example of how a reclassification project became a vital learning opportunity for students at the Scott Polar Research Institute. The Scott Polar was using categories outlined by the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC), which, like Dewey, often used outdated terminology. By involving students in the decolonisation of one of the Polar collections as part of an information literacy workshop, the staff were able to be transparent about the issues surrounding outdated and offensive UDC terms like ‘eskimo’, and make changes which informed, and were informed by, the Part II, PhD and post-doctoral students involved. (You can read more about the workshop in Frankie’s excellent blog post!)

Spine labels with outdated terminology in the Scott Polar Research Institute (source: Decolonising Polar Library classification workshop – Decolonising through critical librarianship (

I will reproduce a quotation by Sandra Littletree and Cheryl Metoyer, which Frankie helpfully uses in her blog post about the workshop: ‘The way we name and classify the world around us is indicative of our values and beliefs. The words we choose to identify elements in our world can illuminate, educate, and elucidate, or they can perpetuate stereotypes and misinformation’ (2015). The ways in which we manage information and the terms in which we present it are all tied up with our own individual biases and priorities. As librarians, it is important for us to understand the role we play, consciously or not, in both limiting and expanding the range of information resources that our users access – and to reflect critically on this responsibility. We discussed how this applies to library inductions and ways in which inductions could be adapted to target gaps in information literacy, which librarians may not realise are there; one idea was to have students submit questions beforehand, to take the lead on what they think they need to know. Peer-led tours, such as tours by older students, who are experienced in using the library, was another idea we discussed. We also spoke about the possibilities of signposting foreign language resources for multilingual students, of which there are many at Cambridge, and not just those studying languages.

Our discussion made me reflect on the way in which I process and display periodicals in Trinity College Library. The majority of serials we receive are in English, but many are foreign language publications which tend to get shelved directly in the basement, whereas many English publications will be displayed in the main library, a more accessible and browsable location. Since the workshop, I have tried to diversify the kinds of journals I display each week and include more foreign language publications, like Lire Magazine and Hermes : Zeitschrift für klassische Philologie. As a graduate trainee, it can be easy to feel like a small cog in a big machine, or that the responsibility falls to somebody higher up to partake in decolonising collections. But by taking my own responsibilities seriously and thinking critically about what changes I can make, however small, I feel that, alongside my colleagues, I can make a positive difference.

The next section of the workshop was led by Clara Panozzo, who spoke about the collection of cartonera books held in Cambridge University Library. She gave some important background information; in 2001, Argentina faced an economic crisis, which led many people to resort to waste picking, particularly cardboard, which could be sold for recycling. These waste-pickers are known as cartoneros (from the Spanish word ‘cartón’, meaning ‘cardboard’). Under these difficult economic conditions, publishing houses struggled to stay open. Two writers and an artist from Buenos Aires came together in 2003 to create an independent, non-lucrative publishing house, Eloisa Cartonera. They would buy cardboard from the cartoneros at a fair price and create handmade, self-bound books, often featuring work from voices outside the mainstream. Since 2003, the phenomenon of cartonera publishing has spread, and there now exist around 250 cartonera publishers across Latin America, Africa and Europe.

In 2013, Cambridge University Library began collecting cartonera books to form a special collection. This means the collection, now at around 300 books, is more diverse and representative of not only Latin American literature, but the forms which that literature takes due to specific socioeconomic conditions. Work has also been done to represent the material carefully in cataloguing and classifying it; for example, the records have been given richer bibliographical notes, subject headings, not only in English, but in Spanish, and/or other languages which relate to the item and its provenance. Care has been taken to provide information about those who decorate and bind the books, as well as the authors and editors of the text. Geographic subject headings are also made to be as specific as possible. The University Library ran cartonera workshops in 2019, allowing people to come together to learn about these incredible objects and try their hand at making their own. (Read more about the workshops here! You can also learn how to make cartonera books by watching this video.)

Clara pointed out, however, that the desire to democratise literature, which underpinned this project, was at odds with how the cartonera books are used, handled, conserved and stored. To keep them in good condition, the books have been stored in acid-free archive boxes, with their bright painted covers all but concealed from view. The tension between making the books accessible and preserving them for future use has meant that the cartoneras have moved quite a distance from how they would have been used and circulated in their countries of origin. By being closed off from people in library storage, the collection in some sense undermines the original ethos of cartonera publishers like Eloisa Cartonera, to make literature as accessible as possible. Furthermore, it was noted that very few libraries – including national libraries – actually host cartonera books in the countries where they are produced and circulate. The National Library of Mexico now has 11 cartonera books, but even this is a small collection compared to that of Cambridge University Library. As a result, the University Library has taken the decision to stop adding to the cartonera collection so that cartonera books remain available to be read and loved by people in the countries where they are made. From someone who had not heard of cartonera books, I found Clara’s presentation fascinating and have enjoyed exploring the collection further by reading blog posts on the library’s language collections blog and the DtCL website.

Finally, the workshop was concluded with a wonderful talk from Jenni Skinner, African Studies Library Manager, about a recent project to digitise the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) southern African collections held at Cambridge University Library. The project, funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, began in 2021, and involved the conservation and digitisation of a vast range of materials, from cartoons, diaries and drawings to maps, pamphlets and photographs. These items hold great research potential but, as a colonial archive, they mostly represent a singular perspective. The project aims, as outlined on the website, are: to engage with groups or individuals in or closely related to southern Africa, to enhance our understanding of the RCS collections; to develop a digital collection hosted via Cambridge University Digital Library (CUDL); to carry out a concurrent programme of conservation, with targeted treatment of fragile items. By digitising items hitherto accessible only to those visiting Cambridge University Library in person, the project team were able to participate in the digital repatriation of items in the RCS collections to the southern African countries from which many of these items originate.

The project did not come without its difficulties, however. Jenni explained that there were some contentions around, for example, how items were selected for conservation and digitisation; by selecting items of a convenient size or format to be digitised first, the process immediately becomes selective and limiting. At the heart of the project was a notion of co-curation and co-creation, but such a collaboration between those involved in the project in Cambridge and in southern Africa proved difficult to co-ordinate. Research was performed by the Engagement Coordinator Chloe Rushovich, to identify gaps in African collections which the project hoped to help fill with digital repatriation. To balance the needs created by these gaps with the abilities of the team in Cambridge to conserve and digitise parts of the collection was itself a compelling challenge. Sally Kent has written a fantastic blog post with more details about digitisation of the RCS collections. Project updates can also be found here, and the digital collection can be viewed on CUDL.

Current Cambridge Visual Culture (CVC) fellows, Kerstin Hacker and Sana Ginwalla, worked closely with the RCS collections for a workshop which they delivered in October 2023. The aim was to engage members of Cambridge University and Anglia Ruskin University in a creative intervention, thinking of new ways to interact with archives. The workshop involved the screening of a short film, An Exhibition That Nobody Will See (available on YouTube) and a display of original material. This was followed by a creative session, transforming copies of archive items and into art pieces by cutting, pasting, collaging etc. to create something entirely new, thereby transforming the ways in which we think about and engage with the material. A full write up of the event, including pictures of some of the incredible work by attendees, can be found here! In 2024, the CVC fellows will be working in conjunction with the University’s Collections-Connections-Communities (CCC) initiative on a new project, ‘Re-entangling the visual archive’. Jenni spoke about what CCC is and the kinds of work it aims to do: it is an interdisciplinary research initiative, aimed at developing new ways of thinking about collections which address current concerns, including environment & sustainability, health & wellbeing, and society & identity. (More can be found on their website).

We concluded the session by reflecting on everything we had heard and learned, and discussing decolonisation practices we have seen in other libraries: St John’s College Library recently concluded a decolonisation project for their collection of Audio-Visual materials; Clare College Library has been reclassifying their history collection, with decolonisation at the forefront of the project; in 2021, Pembroke College Library undertook a reclassification project in their history section (read more here!); Queens’ College War Memorial Library have been doing ongoing work to identify areas where classification schemes are markedly Eurocentric or outdated, even adapting Bliss, a universal classification like Dewey, using local modifications to improve its terminology. This list is far from exhaustive, and library and archive teams are working hard to make changes big and small to continue the efforts of decolonisation throughout Cambridge libraries and archives. The Cambridge library trainees would like to thank the DtCL team for doing such vital work and for running workshops like this, which showcase the work being done across Cambridge and which educate us on how to continue this work in our own libraries.

Laying down the law in Pembroke College Library!

Earlier this month, the trainees gathered once again for a visit to Pembroke College. We assembled in the law library, a lovely space which was beautifully ordered and organised (very apt for a law library!). There, the Deputy Librarian gave us an illuminating talk on law librarianship and how it differs to other kinds of library work, like public and academic. Being a law librarian is a much more specialised role than any of us realised; it requires intimate knowledge of the field in order to help barristers find case reports and any other material they may need, often at very short notice.

Source: The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn (

It is this rich and fast-paced environment which makes law librarianship so unique. We were told that the Inns of Court in London each have libraries which are based on Oxbridge colleges! The Inns of Court offer library traineeships too (like Lincoln’s Inn, where the Deputy Librarian of Pembroke did their traineeship) which are well worth looking into. When they are advertised, they will be listed here, along with any other UK traineeships!

The Deputy Librarian explained how the courts are structured in the UK using this handy flowchart (see below); it was a stark reminder of how little I actually know about court structure, and just seeing this chart has helped me better understand the law books and serials I receive for the law library here at Trinity!

Source:  Courts & Tribunals website

Other kinds of law libraries can include commercial law firm libraries, which can be high-pressure and fast-paced, as well as academic law libraries, like the Squire Library here in Cambridge, or smaller college law libraries, which usually form one branch of the main library. Lots of law reports and other material can be found online through databases or sites like Westlaw, but many law libraries prioritise retaining physical copies where possible, because this makes referencing and browsing cases easier, though there are benefits to both! Online case reports can be edited and updated and sometimes provide more information or links for cross-referencing. I am trying to give both the physical and online resources a good presence for our law students at Trinity by advertising the latter more visibly in the library.

The Deputy Librarian told us about an association called BIALL, the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians. It’s like CILIP, specifically for law librarians! Here, you can find a host of information about law librarianship, how to get into it, job vacancies, and various conferences and events being held. It was eye-opening to see how far-reaching and how absolutely vital librarianship is in a variety of fields, and the role it plays in upholding justice in our legal system. It really is about more than just books!

After a thoroughly enjoyable cross-examination about law libraries, we accompanied the Pembroke trainee on a tour around the rest of Pembroke’s glorious library. It is a modernised Victorian library, originally designed by Alfred Waterhouse in 1877-78. We were stunned to see that the centrepiece of the library foyer is Waterhouse’s original desk, which used to belong to the librarian when their office was located in the upper reading room. It now houses the librarians’ book of the week display and the pen-recycling box!

Outside Pembroke Library as the sun sets.

You can really pick out the layers of history in the building; the Waterhouse desk is only the beginning. The stationery cupboard next to the foyer has transparent flooring so you can see through to the original tiles; we all thought this was very cool (if a little vertiginous)! And when the building was extended, developers left the outer wall of the building in its original state, now forming the inner wall of the modern extension. The gorgeous floral stained-glass windows made me feel like I’d stepped straight into a classic Disney movie, and the iconic modern stained-glass window, designed by Hans von Stockhausen, continues the botanical theme beautifully!

The Hans Von Stockhausen botanical window (Pembroke trainee for scale…)

The window was originally commissioned because, when Pembroke purchased the land on which the library now stands from Peterhouse, it was on the agreement that nothing was built that would overlook the Peterhouse Master’s Lodge and garden. The window itself admits light but does not allow you to see through to Peterhouse—and who would want to when the window alone is so gorgeous? Van Stockhausen based the design on the works of two eminent Pembroke botanists, Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712) and William Turner (1508-1568). You can find some of the woodcuts and text from their early print books layered with mellow splashes of colour to create a bibliographic spectacle! Not your average staircase window…

Details from the Hans Von Stockhausen window.

At the top of the stairs, we came to the Yamada Room, another gorgeous space with panoramic views of Pembroke—bliss! Yamada was the founder of the Nihon University in Tokyo, and is commemorated here due to his generous contribution to the building of the library extension. This room is a veritable shrine to Ted Hughes and features another window designed by Hans van Stockhausen, this one featuring Ted Hughes’ poems and imagery, and an unsettling bloody handprint—but alas, I cannot show it due to copyright (scroll up and look at the other one again instead!) Hughes’s desk, chair and many of his books are housed here. I loved hearing about how experts have tried to determine whether Hughes was left- or right-handed based on the ink stains on his desk.

View from the Yamada Room.

The Upper Reading Room is part of the original Victorian building and is a stunning panoply of dark wood beams and stacks upon stacks of lovely books. The bay window is where the Waterhouse desk would have originally sat, in what was the librarian’s office, but the entire room is now a dedicated space for books and students. There are plenty of nods to Ted Hughes up here too, including a bust with an exacting stare, and a display case full of Hughesian treasures!

Victorian window and Ted Hughes themed display case in the upper reading room.

After a wander down some spiral stairs, we found ourselves at the Rosenthal Art Library. Also housed in the Victorian part of the building, half of the books kept here comprise a single donation from Tom Rosenthal. Readers come from far and wide to consult the art books here and, as such, the staff treat them as a special collection. It forms the largest art history collection in all of Cambridge (besides the Art History faculty library, of course)!

The Rosenthal Art Library.

It’s clear that Pembroke Library really is one-of-a-kind, from the tip of the beautiful clock tower to the Victorian tiles beneath the floor!

We want to thank Grace and her wonderful colleagues at Pembroke for having us to visit!

GDPR Training in the Pembroke Archives

Last week, the trainees had our first official training visit together! We were greeted at the gates by the Pembroke Graduate Trainee, and the College Librarian, who joked that she could tell we were the library trainees because we were all so punctual (not to mention the bookish pins on our lanyards–it’s called fashion, darling). She delivered us safely to the wonderful Archivist, who had prepared an illuminating presentation about the importance of GDPR in library and archive work.

GDPR stands for ‘general data protection regulation’, and it basically addresses the ways in which data is gathered, used, stored, processed and deleted by institutions like the various colleges and companies we library trainees work for. Turns out, we have quite a significant responsibility as library workers, because a huge part of the job is processing and holding data about e.g. library users, donors, people whose personal items form part of archives. And the rules around how we use this data is not as straightforward as it might seem. The archivist gave us some thought-provoking scenarios specific to libraries and archives, such as whether it is okay to share a user’s borrowing history; the short answer is NO, definitely not, because this information can point towards more personal, protected data about an individual. She also introduced us to certain exemptions from GDPR regulations which are afforded to archives, such as data retention, even sometimes in the case of deletion requests, because such records are kept in the public interest. They might be historically significant, linked to the will of the individual, useful for education or commerce etc. The discussion really opened my eyes to how much responsibility an archivist holds; they are the guardians of people’s memories and histories–even if such memories are sometimes deeply personal, problematic or embarrassing.

Another part of the conversation I found especially useful was focused on situations in which data falls into the wrong hands. Data breaches can range from accidentally sending an email to the wrong person to a full-on data hack; big institutions like Amazon have paid millions due to large-scale data breaches, thanks to recent legislation which makes financial punishment proportional to the size of the company. Because these situations can be so nuanced it takes some careful judgement to know how to deal with each situation. In any case, though, the safest thing to do is to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office for advice. (Here’s hoping we trainees won’t have to do anything that serious! But it’s important to know what to do just in case).

After some tea and biscuits, and a look at some Pembroke archive items (including a matriculation photo featuring the well-known alum, Tom Hiddleston!), our conversation continued. Some good housekeeping tips we learned included simple things like keeping a tidy desk, being aware of who can see your computer screen, and turning it off when you aren’t at your desk. Also, checking email addresses are correct, not sharing passwords and familiarising yourself with any data policies your workplace has are good things to practice. One of the most useful takeaways for me was the archivist’s suggestion to imagine that the data in front of you is your own; how would you want it to be treated? There is a lot of logic and common sense behind GDPR regulations, but there are always pitfalls and blind spots which it can’t hurt to prepare for!