Diamond days to remember

PUBLISHED: 10:43 11 February 2014

Archivist Anne Lovejoy with items from the RNAA collection. Photo: Bill Smith for EDP Norfolk

Archivist Anne Lovejoy with items from the RNAA collection. Photo: Bill Smith for EDP Norfolk

Archant © 2013

The year 2014 is one of celebration for the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA) as it marks the 60th Royal Norfolk Show at its Costessey showground.

The Norfolk Showground, was purchased by the RNAA as a permanent site in 1952. The first Royal Norfolk Show took place just two years later in 1954, when HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother was President.

Sixty years on and following significant investment in the almost 400-acre site, the Norfolk Showground is now regarded as one of the region’s top indoor and outdoor venues, hosting more than 100 events each year. Most recently, at a cost of almost £1.5m, the 3,000-square-metre Arena building has been re-fitted as the largest exhibition and performance venues of its kind in the area.

“Sixty years of highly successful Royal Norfolk Shows is a momentous milestone. As a forward thinking and progressive agricultural association we are proud of the way we have managed the land for the benefit and enjoyment of our community over the decades,” comments Greg Smith, chief executive of the RNAA.

“In order to see how far we have come we must go back to the beginnings of our time here at the Norfolk Showground. To do this we have been working with the Norfolk Record Office to provide an archive of our past which began when we were formed in the middle of the 19th century.

“It’s a fascinating collection that not only provides an historic account of how far the agricultural community has progressed in terms of farming practice and technique, but also offers an unique glimpse into the social history of our county – and where better to see all aspects of Norfolk life over the years than at the show?”

The job of cataloguing and organising the hundreds of archive materials belonging to the RNAA is the role of Anne Lovejoy, archivist at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO).

“The history of the RNAA is so important because it tells the story of the Royal Norfolk Show but also a story of Norfolk through its agricultural roots – and all this can been seen in the archive. It is vital that the RNAA records are preserved and made accessible to people in Norfolk because it is a record of our shared past.”

As an archivist based at the NRO’s headquarters at The Archive Centre, next to County Hall in Norwich, Anne evaluates records to determine their historic value and their preservation needs. The RNAA archive contains more than 160 years of material, including photographs, advertising and show catalogues, as well as the business and administrative records of the association. The earliest records date from 1847 with the creation of the Norfolk Agricultural Association, making it one of the oldest county associations in the UK. The honour of a Royal prefix was granted by King Edward VII in 1908.

“We can see from the records that before the RNAA purchased the Showground, the show itself was held throughout the county with the help and support of landowners and town councils. Advertising materials held at the Record Office show the variety of sites and locations used.”

The teams of archivists and conservators at the NRO also help with the physical preservation of archival records. This includes ensuring paper records don’t deteriorate; they are stored in acid-free folders and placed in acid-free boxes. The strong rooms where the archives are stored must maintain a constant temperature between 16°C-19°C and have strict humidity controls.

As an archivist, Anne and her colleagues are also on hand to ensure anyone interested in accessing the RNAA’s records can use the archives to their fullest potential. “It’s really important to all of us working at the Norfolk Record Office that members of the public feel they have ease of access to all the materials we store here.

We provide reference assistance from an archivist like myself who can help find records, show how to properly handle archival material and find any other archive collections that might be relevant or helpful. We don’t simply store materials here — our archives exist to be shared and used!”

The Royal Norfolk Show has evolved over the past 60 years but, as the archive beautifully reveals, nothing brings to life and depicts our county better than the show.

The RNAA Archive is open to the public from February 3 by visiting Norfolk Record Office at The Archive Centre, Martineau Lane, Norwich, NR1 2DQ.

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