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Introducing the new Archives Graduate Trainee

Elisabeth Thurlow
29 October 2012

Read about the first few weeks of our new trainee and the story behind the travels of Kew's Japanese Gateway

Introducing Elisabeth

Hello. My name is Elisabeth and I am the new Archives and Records Management Graduate Trainee joining the Archives team at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Image of Elisabeth in the archives

Elisabeth in the Kew's Archives Store

About me

Before arriving at Kew I studied for a Contemporary History MA at the University of Sussex. Whilst working for my degree I gained relevant experience through volunteering at a number of archives. I volunteered weekly at the University of Sussex archive, cataloguing the University’s own collectionand was later employed by the University to repackage the directives sent out by the Mass Observation Project– a unique study of everyday life in Britain. Alongside this I volunteered for the National Trust at 2 Willow Road. Designed and occupied by the modernist architect Ernö Goldfinger, it now houses the archive of the Goldfinger family. Here I gained experience invigilating researchers and was involved in the early stages of digitising the collection.  

New at Kew

I learned about the graduate trainee role through Kew's website and was attracted by the chance to build on my experiences and learn more about the day-to-day running of an archive.

As the new archive graduate trainee my duties include responding to enquiries, identifying and retrieving items for researchers in the reading room and managing reprographics orders. I will also be working on a number of projects, including the repackaging of some of Kew’s archival collections.

One of my first tasks was to prepare a display for the recent London Open House weekend held in September, celebrating the architecture of the buildings at Kew. 

See the LAA Open House display

Open House archive display at Kew

The Japanese Gateway

Whilst finding archive items for the display I learned a lot about the history of the buildings at Kew – including the charming story behind the origins of the Japanese Gateway or Chokushi-Mon. 

 

The Japanese Gateway today 

Chokushi-Mon, ‘the Gateway of the Imperial Messenger’, is a four-fifths size replica of a gateway in Kyoto, the imperial capital of Japan. The replica was built for the Japan-British Exhibition, held in London in 1910. The intricate carvings on the gateway portray oriental legends and the exhibition proved hugely popular, attracting more than 8 million visitors.

The extract below is taken from a letter, from Keisuke Niwa Esq., representing the Kyoto Exhibitors’ Association, sent to David Prain, the then director of Kew, informing him of the decision to present the gateway as a gift to the Gardens. Happily accepted, after the exhibition closed, the gateway was dismantled and reconstructed at Kew. 

Japanese Gateway Letter
Extract from Letter - Dated 12 September 1910 (archive reference: QX/KPG)
 

This is just one of the fascinating stories that make up the history of the Gardens. I’m really looking forward to learning more about the archive, the Gardens, and the people involved in making it such a wonderful place to spend a year’s archive trainee-ship today. 

- Elisabeth -

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