Training grant – Lincoln Unlocked: What to do with Early Printed Books

I was lucky to receive an AIM Training Grant to fund my travel and overnight stay for a place I had gained on a residential course held at Lincoln College Oxford, entitled ‘What to do with Early Printed Books?’ in March 2022. Without the training grant, I would not have been able to cover the cost of accommodation in Oxford and travel to the course: it was instrumental in ensuring that I was able to take up my place. The librarians at Lincoln College – Sarah Cusk and Lucy Matheson – had designed training specifically for smaller and independent museums and libraries with significant collections of early printed books. This focused on developing skills in cataloguing, describing bindings and conserving collections, and encouraging discussion and skill-sharing. We received talks from leading experts in the field – such as David Pearson on book bindings and armorial stamps – and then applied this knowledge in practical sessions, alongside librarians from across Oxford colleges and the Bodleian Library.

Chawton House has a collection of over 4,500 rare books and manuscripts written by women from 1600 to 1860. In my role as Curator & Collections Manager I care for this collection, make it accessible for researchers, and interpret it for visitors. We have transformed from our original setup as a research library, to integrating research into our wider offer as an historic house and independent museum that tells the story of early women writers and the Knight family, who chose Jane Austen’s brother Edward as their heir. With Museum Accreditation as a key goal for the coming years, it is clear that we need a new Collections Management where we can catalogue all of our different collections together. Sarah and Lucy gave really useful advice on this and the flexibilities and inflexibilities of different systems, as well as the latest guidance on cataloguing standards.

A hugely valuable part of the course was the opportunity to meet other Curators and Librarians from smaller and regional venues like my own. With attendees from across England and Scotland (including from other AIM members like the John Bunyan Museum in Bedford), we have now established an informal network via email where we can continue to share ideas and ask questions.

The skills I developed, the contacts I made, and the inspiring environment of staying in an Oxford college led to a truly amazing experience. I am now better placed to select a new collections management system, and have tools for training volunteers in upcoming cataloguing. Without the AIM grant it would have been very hard to go on this course. I would encourage anyone in a similar position to make an application to this fantastic scheme.

Emma Yandle, Curator & Collections Manager, Chawton House

AIM Training Grants are available to support member museums to develop the skills and expertise of their workforce, either paid or voluntary. Click here to find out how you can apply for a Training Grant>>