Anna beats off 100,000 to help save our paper heritage

Anna Starkey working at Lancashire Archive.
Anna Starkey working at Lancashire Archive.

A keeper of some of Lancashire’s most treasured documents is off on a European adventure to learn how to preserve them.

Anna Starkey, 26, who works in the Lancashire Archives, has become a Winston Churchill Fellow after being awarded a travelling grant.

Paper has changed the world, the designs for computers were written on it and as long as you’re able to read and the paper is kept in good condition you’ll always know what it says

Anna

She will use the £6,000 to visit France, Italy and the Netherlands to research traditional papermaking techniques in June.

Anna, who beat 100,000 applicants to win her place, said: “It’s a real honour to have been selected.”

The archives contain papers from as far back as the 12th century, including an eye-witness account of when the gunpowder plot was discovered, says Anna.

“That’s my favourite,” she said.

“But if they’re not kept in the right condition these documents can deteriorate so it’s up to us to maintain them and make sure the temperature is at the right level.”

Anna, who is originally from Longridge but now lives in Penwortham, says the archives have more than nine miles of paper and it’s up to her and a small team to repair it.

Now she will head off to Europe to look at how others around the world make, repair and maintain documents.

Anna admits she’s very passionate about it.

“I really do love my job and I can’t wait to share my knowledge when I get back,” she said.

“Paper has changed the world, the designs for computers were written on it and as long as you’re able to read and the paper is kept in good condition you’ll always know what it says.”

Anna’s boss, Mark Walmsley, has been working at the archives for 33 years and after announcing his retirement this year, she hopes to be able to take over the reins.

She said: “I can’t thank him enough and he’ll be missed here. He was the one who said I should apply for the fellowship.

“It’s a really big deal for me to get the money and to be going. I’m so excited to be going on the trip.”

Matthew Hood, an assistant headteacher from Lancaster, also received a grant and will be going to the USA to learn from graduate schools of education.