Wayfinder Woman’s group of enthusiastic volunteers for the ‘Women of Influence in Eastbourne’ Heritage project had a very interesting visit to The Keep in Falmer on Monday.
The Keep is a big, modern purpose built building which contains all the historical archives for Sussex and the local areas. There was a lot to take in. We were given a tour of the facilities by Isilda, which included a chilly visit to the cold room. Here we were shown the prize of their collection; a vellum parchment with a painted wax seal on it, which was almost 1000 years old!
We were also shown how to use the old map collection. Everyone poured over these as we looked at a local section covering the area from around Paradise Drive over to Hampden park, starting with maps from the 1800s and going up to the 1970s. We wondered why there was a pile of white pillows,and what looked like snakes and sausages! We learnt they are for holding delicate papers and documents open.
Isilda then gave us training on how to use the scanners, microfilm readers, and the website, as well as showing us various parts of the extensive libraries. She said not to worry if we couldn’t remember it all, as there are always staff members there to help.
I found the website quite difficult to use as I am more visually orientated, and it was many layers of words,and in small type, eventually leading to a place where you can order documents; or see them at The Keep, if they are there. I much preferred looking at the maps, and other books and hands on document. It was amazing to see how much historical archives there are. The best part for me was the cold room and the ancient parchment.
For anyone who is doing historical research, or indeed is interested in our history generally or locally, The Keep is certainly worth a visit or two. You can join as a reader online as well. Its easy to access via train;only 10 minutes walk from Falmer station, or by bus from Brighton. There are facilities like this all over the country, so whatever part you live in you will be able to access local historical archives.
You can find The Keep online at www.thekeep.info