Emily is LJMU’s Archivist and Special Collections Librarian, responsible for looking after the university’s collection of rare, unique and distinctive books and archive materials. It was during her time at school that she first began thinking about a career working as the custodian of such special documents, publications and artefacts.
“I always had a love of history, and first became aware of the possibility of working in archives during a work experience placement at Bristol University library while I was still at school. I was able to spend some time in their Special Collections and Archives while I was there, and absolutely loved it – the seed of a career was planted!”
Looking at ways to realise her career hopes, Emily studied History and Classics at Keele University (1997-2000), then came to Liverpool to study Archives and Records Management at the University of Liverpool (2000-2001).
“There are only a handful of archive courses in the UK, and for me it was a choice between Liverpool and London – I’d never been to Liverpool before, but I’ve stayed in the region ever since.”
London’s loss was certainly Liverpool’s gain, and it was in 2007 that Emily joined LJMU, and she has been here ever since.
“I was coming towards the end of my contract at the time, and this job sounded really interesting, and quite different to other archive jobs I’d seen advertised. My previous archive jobs after qualifying were for a local authority and then the National Trust, so I was interested to experience working in a university. My job was 50% archivist and 50% librarian when I started at LJMU, so I had to learn the library side of things pretty quickly.”
“I am very lucky to work with an incredible team, who are all unfailingly enthusiastic and each bring their own unique skillset to the team. The collections we hold are amazing, and it is always lovely to be able to share them with new audiences, whether that be LJMU students, academics, external groups, or the general public.”
– Emily Parsons
In the 16 years that Emily has worked at LJMU she has seen many changes, from the expansion of the team itself to the actual collections. The archives now cover five main themes; arts, photography and fashion, Liverpool theatre and writing, popular music and counterculture, LJMU’s history and special collections.
“My job title has changed a few times since I started at LJMU, but I have always had archivist as part of my role. In the last couple of years, the Special Collections and Archives team has expanded, so that we now have an Archives Assistant, Digital Content Co-ordinator, Assistant Archivist and myself (LJMU Archivist and Special Collections Librarian) as dedicated staff, plus the Academic Liaison Manager and Head of Academic Services managing the team. It’s a far cry from when I started in 2007 when it was just me, and part of the Head of Academic Services’ role, and even then it was only half of my job. The collections have expanded greatly in that time as well – we now have over 60 different collections.”
A typical day for Emily might involve answering enquiries, setting up for a student workshop with the collections, meeting with academics to discuss potential projects, whether they be internships, research projects, or exhibitions (both physical and digital), working on the archive catalogue to make more collections accessible to students and researchers, supervising volunteers and interns, monitoring the environmental conditions of the stores and planning for the next exhibition or event.
“I am very lucky to work with an incredible team, who are all unfailingly enthusiastic and each bring their own unique skillset to the team. The collections we hold are amazing, and it is always lovely to be able to share them with new audiences, whether that be LJMU students, academics, external groups, or the general public.
“We have run a lot of events over the years, such as Light Night, Heritage Open Days, events for Being Human, the centenary of the start of the first world war, and of course the Bicentenary of LJMU this year – these are always great fun, and enable us to reach people that would otherwise not be aware of our existence.
“Memorable snippets include sampling the ‘War Cake’ from the FL Calder Archive (a very dense fruit cake with a slightly meaty aftertaste, thanks to the copious amounts of dripping involved), drama students recreating ‘The Four Mary’s’ from Bunty, hearing Willy Russell become Shirley Valentine (when reading excerpts of his work at the archive launch in 2013), and meeting some of the many artists, writers and musicians whose work we hold in the archives.”