It was arriving at Sandi’s flat for the first time, that I realised just how exciting and interesting this project was going to be, and that was before I’d even seen the archive. The walls of Sandi’s flat are covered from floor to ceiling with flyers and posters from events that have shaped her life in Liverpool and beyond, almost all of which I would have loved to add to the collection at Liverpool Central Library had they not been fixed so securely to Sandi’s walls. The archive itself was being kept in the backroom of Sandi’s house and for the first day on the job, it was myself, project manager Tim and Sandi that began an initial sort, with some advice before we started from Liverpool Central Library archivist Helena Smart.
It was a slow process at first, Sandi’s photographic archive was vast and we needed to decide what would come to the library to be held as part of the collection and what would remain there as part of Sandi’s own personal collection. We opted to tackle the photographs already labelled and/or in wallets first and we began to sort them into just two categories, potentially for the archive and definitely not for the archive. Within the first couple of wallets this process was throwing up it’s first challenges. The easiest of these challenges to deal with was the issue of wallets containing photographs from more than two or more events and only one of the events being relevant for the archive. We opted to keep these photographs together and take them to the library for the second sort, at this stage we didn’t have folders or extra boxes to move photographs into and this was undoubtedly the best way to prevent any loss or damage of photographs.
The second challenge and the most difficult to overcome was setting that boundary between what is suitable for the archive and what is best left for Sandi’s own personal collection. Finding a place to draw the line was proving to be difficult, especially when so much of Sandi’s personal life is wrapped up in the community groups and events that will shape the archive. The custody battle in which Sandi was told she wasn’t fit to raise her three daughters but would keep custody of her son because she was a gay woman, gives an indication of how life was for the LGBT community at that time and how Sandi came to have close ties with members of that community in Liverpool. Her close ties to the Liverpool music scene resulted in its prominent figures in the 1980s organising fundraisers when her son Bobby had cancer in order to send him on holiday to Tunisia. It was these and so many other stories that made it increasingly difficult to agree on which category certain photographs would fall into.
Over the next few weeks, I met with Sandi at her flat on several occasions and we continued to sort through the boxes of photographs she had taken over the years, at this stage I began to create a draft but invaluable spreadsheet of the photographs we had decided to keep. This time not only gave me a chance to think about the more practical side, how to approach the organisation and structure of the archive, but it also gave me the opportunity to hear more of Sandi’s story, which in turn allowed me to make more sense of the photographs I was looking through, gaining more understanding of the importance of the time which Sandi has documented.