My PhD has grown from the work I'm involved with at the BSU Archive, and there are days when the two things are so intertwined that I lose sight of the goals slightly.
However, there are other days when this is a great help.
Here's an example: We have established contact with Anne, daughter of the College head gardener in the 1950s, and her good friend Bill, who is Mary Dawson's nephew. Bill used to spend holidays with his Aunt Alice (her full name was Alice Mary Dawson)
The two have been friends since their childhood days in the 1950s, when they had the run of the Newton Park grounds. During the meeting we had a couple of weeks ago, they reminisced happily about playing in the ice house, boating on the lake and exploring together.
Beyond this initial meeting, both Anne and Bill have offered further help. Bill has family photographs and information about his aunt, the sight of which will allow me to build up a fuller picture of her in situations away from her professional life as College Principal.
Anne, a former teacher herself, is a keen family historian with access to further sources through her own college. She attended the Froebel Education Institute in London, where Miss Dawson had links, and on her recommendation. The Institute had connections with Whitelands College (Miss Dawson's previous job had been as education tutor there.) Both were later incorporated into Roehampton University.
True to her word, Anne has forwarded census data, birth certificates and teacher registration documents, using her Ancestry UK membership. In addition, she has made personal contact with the archivist at Roehampton; something I had tried last year to no avail.
So getting in contact with these two people has proved enormously helpful already. Its exciting to speculate where their contributions will lead me next.