Yesterday Archive Services welcomed HATII Information Management and Preservation students and their teacher, Lesley Richmond (who is also the University Archivist), to the searchroom to appraise several collections. The searchroom was filled to the brim with over one hundred boxes and sixteen students. Whilst one student only had a single box to look at, another was faced with over twenty boxes! However the difficulty of appraisal is not in the number of boxes but in their content.
Some described the initial shock of being confronted with so much material as “overwhelming”. Without a doubt being faced with not one but two ancient slide projectors, as Mark Jervis was, must be perturbing. As well as the standard archival documents students faced lantern slides, photos and plans. One set of papers contained an eclectic mix of poetry and notes on shipbuilding. Each collection posed its own set of questions about the process of appraisal.
“Is it unique?”
One question Clair Millar was advised by Lesley to ask herself about items in the records of the Scotch Whiskey Association was, “is it unique?”. Sometimes this can apply very simply to within the collection itself: any duplicates are obvious candidates for disposal. It also applies to outside the collection, whether the records are held elsewhere or not. Indeed these items may be of more use when looked at somewhere else, another archive service may have e a fuller record with better context. However it is important to consider access too, as it can be difficult to access some records and archive services.
Mathai Abraham explained the policies of different archive services and how the course has demonstrated the impact that this has on appraisal. Different archive services have different policies as to what they would like to preserve as part of their collections. This, combined with the presence of a record elsewhere, can have an impact on whether to keep an item or not.
The fact that the class was held in the searchroom gave the students a chance to visit Archive Services and see what we have to offer. Gavin Mitland, who has a particular interest in photography, social history and digitisation, discovered that we hold the photo albums of William Fulton Jackson. Jackson was the General Manager of the North British Railway Company whose photographs captured the life of the Edwardian middle classes, a perfect record for someone interested in social history and photography.
The experience also made the class think about other archival issues outside of appraisal. Michelle O’Hara explained that she believed some of the records she was looking at to be prime candidates for digitisation as they contained information about two of Scotland’s most important historical industries, shipping and railways.
Everyone agreed that the practical experience of appraisal was both interesting and useful. The opportunity to work with a new collection and sort through its material with an expert there to help certainly was invaluable.
Categories: Archive Services