Marjolein Platjee, Weston Library

Hello everyone! I’m Marjolein and I am the new digital archivist trainee at the Weston Library. The Weston Library, or originally the New Bodleian Library, was built in the 1930’s in order to house all the books and collections that no longer fit in the Old Bodleian. However, by 2010 the Bodleian’s holding’s had outgrown this building as well. The decision was made to move the majority of the material to Swindon and to completely renovate the New Bodleian. The library reopened under the name Weston Library in 2015, and is now home to the special collections. It has two large reading rooms where readers can consult the material in these collections.

The Weston Library

So now you know where I work, but I bet you are wondering what it is I actually do. Well, I have a job that offers quite a bit of variety, which makes it exciting. On Monday mornings you can find me in one of the two reading rooms of the Weston Library to answer questions that readers have, give out archival materials and books etc.

I am also being taught how to catalogue both digital, paper and hybrid collections. This involves making a boxlist (where you list what is in each box of a collection brought into the archive), creating a cataloguing proposal, arranging the material in a way that is logical for readers who wish to consult it in the future, cataloguing it and publishing it online. So far I have really enjoyed making boxlists, as you never quite know what material you come across… The most exotic items I have encountered are undoubtedly temporary tattoos and multi-coloured, gold inscribed corkscrews. That’s right, archiving doesn’t just involve books and piles of loose paper.

Me getting materials out of the stacks whilst wearing the protective and “ever so stylish” Bodleian bobcap.

Speaking of publishing catalogues online, I am currently helping my colleagues to reformat the XML (i.e. code) behind the online catalogues of the special collections. We are doing this to transfer them to a new, better system, which will help readers navigate the online collections more easily.

Next to this, I also spend quite a bit of time digitizing media such as CD’s, cassette tapes etc. using forensic software so that the information is preserved for posterity.

Apart from all of the above, I also work on the Bodleian web archive, where we archive entire websites so anyone can still consult them after their owners have taken them offline. We are currently writing a Libguide to accompany our collection, to help readers navigate the collection and to refer them to other web archives that might be of interest to them.

I am really enjoying my time here and definitely am not getting bored with all the exciting and interesting tasks I have to do. I cannot wait to see what else there is to learn!

Elizabeth Back – Archives Assistant (Trainee), Oxford University Archives

Hello all, I’m Elizabeth. I’m in my first month working with the Oxford University Archives.

Tower of the Five Orders

For those who don’t know, OUA hold the administrative records of the University. We are housed in the Tower of the Five Orders in the Old Bodleian, guarded by James I who sits on his stone throne outside the Lower Archive Room. If Wikipedia can be believed, ‘the Tower is so named because it is ornamented, in ascending order, with the columns of each of the five orders of classical architecture: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite.’ If you look at the capitals on the columns you can see the differences in the five classical styles so, in this instance, I am inclined to believe them! The tower was likely finished between 1615 and 1619, but the tower as we see it today owes much to restoration work in the 1870s.*

View of the Weston from my desk.
View of the Weston from my desk.

We also have stacks in the new Weston library and any external readers who have requested to view something from our collections are invited to do so in the Rare Books and Manuscripts reading room over here. We also assist internal University departments as many of our documents are still relevant and useful to them.


Like other Library and Information Services roles, it’s a job that can require a lot of lifting and handling of sometimes heavy materials but this particular role also involves a lot of stairs. I don’t think I’m going to need a gym membership to keep me fit this year!

I am really enjoying my placement so far. There are some real gems in this collection and I’m looking forward to getting to know it better. My favourite item so far is the Proctorial Cycle (1628) as it is beautifully illuminated with birds and flowers, and bears the signature of King Charles I. It is a calendar organising the order in which the colleges would have the privilege of electing a University proctor from their ranks. The role of Proctor still exists at the University and if you want a less dry introduction to what they do there is an Oxford Student article where the then Proctors were interviewed here.

As you may know, the University does not have an official founding date but the earliest University document held in the University Archives dates back to 1214 (you can see it here). It details privileges conferred by the papal legate following a dispute between town and gown (in which, I understand, a woman was alleged to have been murdered by a scholar and the town sought retribution by hanging two University clerks. They didn’t have Morse back then, so the Pope had to settle it).

Many of our records are much more recent than these and I have enjoyed helping family and local historians trace their ancestors. We often hear from people interested to know if their grandfather or great grandfather came here and I really enjoy it if I can tell them that they did and perhaps give them a few details.

I hope this has been an illuminating insight into what I do. By the end of this year I am sure I will be full of facts about the University’s history. I find it all fascinating so I hope I don’t get carried away with anecdotes that no one wants to hear!


* Cole, Catherine, ‘The Building of the Tower of Five Orders in the Schools’ Quadrangle at Oxford’ in Oxoniensia Vol. XXXIII (1968) pp. 92-107