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Our Archive Assistant’s Perspective: Preservation and Access

My name is Barbora Vackova Gillies and I have recently joined Holocaust Centre North as an Archive Assistant. In my role, I am working in close partnership with our Archivist, Hari, to ensure that each item within our collections is handled with the greatest care and reverence, reflecting their irreplaceable historical significance and the narratives they encapsulate. This means ensuring not only that they are carefully preserved, but also available to future generations as crucial testimonies of the Holocaust and its impact on the lives of individuals, families, and communities.

I am particularly thrilled at the opportunity to be working more closely with Tom Kubie’s personal papers. This is currently the largest collection we have and includes many types of materials that tell us about the life of Tom and his family, including photographs, objects, letters, postcards, marriage certificates, travel tickets, textiles and many more.

Letters sent by Tom’s relatives from Theresienstadt ghetto-camp.
Courtesy of the Kubie family

Tom spent what he describes as a happy childhood in Czechoslovakia in the city of Brno, which he, his parents, and two brothers managed to flee in July 1939, just before the start of the war. The family eventually settled in Ayr, Scotland, maintaining their Jewish identity, faith, and lifestyle, while gradually learning how many of their less fortunate relatives were killed in concentration camps.

As a Czech national who relocated to the North of England four years ago, I find a personal connection to those who once left our homeland to build new lives in the UK under vastly more challenging conditions than my own. It is this connection that fuels my enthusiasm for the Tom Kubie collection within the Homeward Bound project.

Currently we are physically preserving each item of Tom’s, aided by our dedicated volunteers. Following this, I will embark on a thorough description of the items, identifying their nature, age, origins, and interconnections. I am excited to make a good use of my knowledge of Czech and German here! The detailed description will enable me to subsequently arrange the collection in a way which respects how the items were once stored or used, while being practical and enabling the users of the archive quick orientation and ability to find what they need.

Some of Tom’s collection pre-conservation.
Courtesy of the Kubie family

The final step will be the digitisation of the entire collection. I am eager to preserve and share this rich tapestry of history, to ensure that it continues to convey its powerful message about the experiences of displacement, loss and trauma, as well as the resilience, solidarity and moments of joy amongst those who survived the Holocaust.

Holocaust Centre North Archive.
Courtesy of the Kubie family

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