Hello dear readers, I am really sorry to have neglected my little blog for so long, but 2016 hasn’t been an easy year.
This is a photo of the crematorium at Yardley Cemetery in South Birmingham. The cemetery opened by the Yardley Burial Board in 1883 and was taken over by the Birmingham Corporation in 1911 as part of the Greater Birmingham Act. The area was originally 8 acres, but it has been extended several times to a total area of 64 acres. This, the second chapel was built in 1934 (designed by Birmingham Architect J. A. Swan) and was converted into a crematorium in 1952.
This is not my photo, because although I have visited this crematorium three times this year, none of those visits was for research. I lost my granddad in January, my nana in April and tragically my Dad’s girlfriend Marie also passed in June. Perhaps understandably, cemeteries have been low on my list of places to visit. I even missed the cemetery research group colloquium because I was attending a funeral.
I also spent a few weeks at the end of April and into May without a computer, and an even longer period without a camera because both were stolen, when my bag was swiped from the office at work. The thief was eventually apprehended and prosecuted but my netbook was never recovered. Due to a faulty external hard drive cable most of my files from late 2015 onwards were not properly backed up, and I lost at least 2-3 months work on my PhD. Let that be a lesson to you all folks – multiple back up copies are essential! In July I decided to take 6 months out to get my head together and so I’ll be back to my PhD in the New Year.
This year hasn’t all been doom and gloom however, I’ve had some amazing career opportunities come my way. As well as doing more local history work, including some exciting archival stuff, I’ve also changed my role in museums, much for the better. I began training as a volunteer tour guide at The Coffin Works just before I lost my granddad and found a lot of the training very cathartic – especially visiting W. H. Painters funeral directors to ‘dispel the myths’ about the funeral industry, although I did opt out of the crematorium tour, given that it just happened to be Yardley, a week before the funeral.
I began giving tours shortly after and volunteered as often as I could until April when the season at Sarehole got underway. I even applied for a weekend job at The Coffin Works, but wasn’t initially successful. Luckily the job went to one of the amazing girls I had worked with at Thinktank! In August she landed a fantastic new full time role elsewhere and I got a phone call asking if I still wanted the job. I jumped at the chance, especially as during my leave of absence from the PhD I could work 6 days a week and build up my savings. After an unsuccessful job interview for a full time role that would have taken me back to the Museum Collection Centre, it seemed the universe had other plans for me… I found out on that very day that my line manager at The Coffin Works was leaving for pastures new, and was quickly told that the organisation structure would be changing. Did I want a 4 day a week role, taking over part of the old managerial role? Of course I did! I’ve now been doing that job for 2 weeks, and while it’s been sad to leave Sarehole Mill, it feels incredible that I get to work in such a unique museum, which aligns so closely to my field of interest.
I’m taking it as a sign that, at least on a personal level, 2016 is ending on a positive note, setting me up for a 2017 in which I can hit the ground running with my PhD.
I am making no promises, but I hope to be back here too, as often as I can be. So watch this space and thank you for reading.
Birmingham City Council, no date, ‘Yardley Cemetery and Crematorium’, available at https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/directory_record/462/yardley_cemetery_and_crematorium, accessed on 28/11/2016
McKenna, J, 1992, In the Midst of Life; A History of the Burial Grounds of Birmingham, Birmingham City Council Library Services.