As August 10th-16th is National Allotment Week what better time to introduce myself and project. My name is Paul and I have recently started in Archive Services as Cataloguer for the Wellcome Trust funded project working on the papers of Victor Webb (1915–2004). This collection is made up of the records from a number of allotment societies, such as: The Scottish Allotment and Garden Society (SAGS); Scottish Allotment Scheme for the Unemployed (SASU); and The Federation of Edinburgh and District Allotment and Gardens Association (FEDAGA), to name a few.
SASU is the organisation that makes up the bulk of the collection. The Scottish Allotment Scheme for the Unemployed was introduced in the 1930s in response to the global depression. The scheme sought to combat inactivity and fight off the perceived threat of communism by enabling the unemployed to obtain allotments and cultivate food.
The SASU papers are of particular interest in the current climate of austerity, especially with the current appreciation of the potential health implications of long term unemployment. The SASU scheme highlighted the health benefits allotment keeping had on the mind and body of participants; a subject which has been further argued in contemporary medical journals. With the funding provided by the Wellcome Trust to make this collection fully accessible, these points can be further explored.
Visual material is in abundance in the collection; and photographs from the 1930s through to the 1960s display the evolution of space and communal gardens. They provide snapshots of plots as being as individual as the people who worked on them; makeshift and found materials resourcefully used in a way that makes one think of Jonathan Meades’ images of rust cult scrap shacks from the Outer Hebrides [Off Kilter 2 – The Isle of Rust (2009)]. Beyond the visual appeal of certain items the collection has been used in the past by Geology and History undergraduates from both Edinburgh and Glasgow, and it is currently being used by Hannah Baxter, an AHRC funded PHD student here at the University of Glasgow. The papers stand as a unique and important collection for those wishing to research a number of subjects varying from land reform and planning, to economics and sociology, as well as those interested in gardening, food production and allotment practices.
The collection still resides in the bankers’ boxes, and order, that it was received in over fifteen years ago. One month into the project I am putting the final touches to the structure the catalogue will take. After this fundamental groundwork is complete, the arranging and repackaging of the collection is next on the task list.
– Paul Han-Lei Choi
Follow our progress on Twitter @GUarchive where we will be Tweeting a regular #FridayFlora – a weekly choice pick of the collection.
If you want to enquire about the collection or cataloguing project please contact Archive Services on firstname.lastname@example.org