My time on placement at the BRNC Archive - Britannia Museum, Britannia Royal Naval College

By: Irene McKenzie
Added: 12 December 2019

Despite having lived in Devon for nearly 15 years, I admit that I knew very little about BRNC. I’d visited Dartmouth and seen the big gates and vaguely looked up at the big building at the top of the hill but nothing more so had no idea of what to expect when I was told that I would be there for my MA Archival Practice work placement.

Where to start? With its magnificent façade, polished floors and maze of corridors my main concern was not getting lost (which I did, but only once!). Up in the clocktower though is a whole different world and I could happily get lost in the stories hiding in the archive. From the Line Books put together by cadets with their thoughts and activities throughout the years to Midshipman’s Journals and albums and boxes full of photographs, there is a wealth of material for so many aspects of research from Family History and Naval Education to the Royal Family.

I was fortunate enough to catalogue a new accession to the archive which contained diaries, sailing logs, a handwritten cook book and other items that had once belonged to a Surgeon Captain. I came to the conclusion that I will make a very slow archivist as I immersed myself in his world and, in that short time, learnt lots of new things such as what the conditions were like on WWII hospital ships, how to cook on a yacht and the best places to stop on a sailing cruise from Dartmouth to the Channel Islands.

My lasting impression is that this is not just an archive full of old documents, it's an archive full of people waiting to tell you about a little part of their lives.