In November 2020 I was made aware of an appeal on social media to rehouse the history, mythology and folklore archives of Chris Jenkins - a massive collection amassed over many years. This is the photo that accompanied that post.
Over the years, the accumulated knowledge of many folklore collectors has been lost because there were no instructions left. For example, the entire archive of Barbara Spooner, a folklore collector from Cornwall, was lost because she lived alone in council accommodation. When she passed away, the whole lot was put in a skip. I could not run the risk of that happening here, when at first sight it appeared that there was a lot of work here.
And so, I got in contact with Debbie, the lady who had put out the original appeal, and plans were made for the archive to be retrieved. One damp weekend in December, myself and a kindly neighbour went off to Totnes, in South Devon, where the collection was stored, to bring it back. Between us and our two cars we managed to get half of it on the Saturday. A further trip on the Sunday morning just managed to secure the rest.
Sorting this archive into some form of accessible catalogued order is going to be a vast undertaking. Chris was obviously a passionate collector and there is a lot of paper in the collection to go through. Each box is stuffed full of foolscap folders, and there are more than 50 boxes to go through. It is not going to be a quick process, By all accounts, Chris was something of an eccentric and at first glance some of the cataloguing might be reflective of this! But, it is important to do the collection justice.
There are complications however. The collection was housed in a rather damp facility for some time, and it appears that aside from Chris, some mice were also quite keen to access some of the boxes. As a result, parts of this collection are in quite poor condition. There has not yet been time to carry out an in-depth analysis but it is clear that large parts of this will need to be digitised to be saved.
There are many goals with this collection. It will need to be amalgamated into my own archives but at the same time it is important that it retains its identity. For me, this means that it needs to be named as 'The Chris Jenkins Archive' and needs to be catalogued clearly so that the materials that sit within it are apparent. It needs to be accessible for research - at the least by making database listings of the contents available. Eventually, an ultimate goal would be for all of the Folklore Podcast library and archives to become a public folklore library. But, one step at a time!
In order to make sure that this collection has its identity, it is important for me to learn more about the collector, who I never met personally. And so, enquiries are being made among those who did know Chris. In the next post, I'll be able to tell you more about the person behind the collection. To make any enquiries about this project, please email the podcast.