Every January, I am required to report to the National Archives on the deposits we have received at HARC over the course of the previous year. The National Archives collect this information from 268 different archive services across the country and they use this to study trends in collecting, in terms of format and subject. They also produce a report, and that for the 2017 survey can be found online at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archives-sector/projects-and-programmes/accessions/results-from-previous-surveys/.
We used to send quarterly summaries of these surveys to the friends and display them in the search room, but pressure of work has prevented me doing this for a while. So, after a long gap, I thought it would be useful to provide some information and statistics about our recent accessions and highlight some of the collections. A full list of accessions is available in the searchroom.
The National Archives ask us to highlight collections which we feel have the strongest evidential, cultural and societal impact for our stakeholders, and this year I have chosen to highlight the following for the reasons explained under each collection:
DB89: Bellows and Woodhouse Ironmongers records
We do not get many business records deposited with us and business sectors including local and smaller businesses are a gap in our collections highlighted in our Acquisition and Collection Policy. This accession contributes towards filling that gap and includes records of apprentices who served at the company, correspondence, valuations of the company stock and plans and elevations for their Ironmonger’s shop.
DC53: Photogravure negatives of Hereford United Football Club players.
These are interesting for their representation of the photogravure process and the fact they feature a popular local football club and players that many local people will know. They are significant too because they are alleged to be the only survivors of a much larger collection of photographs, used by the Hereford Times, that were lost and buried during a past redevelopment of Hereford.
DC61: Herefordshire Tourism photographic slides
Photographs are often of interest to local people and these are negatives produced by Herefordshire Tourism (now Visit Herefordshire), showing many of the local landmarks and features of the county. They were also very mouldy when deposited, and considerable effort has already gone in to cleaning them by our conservation team.
DC94: Deeds for the Crystal Rooms
These are over 100 years’ worth of documents relating to properties in a particular area of Hereford City, namely Bridge Street and Gwynne Street. Included amongst them are documents relating to the Royal Oak Inn. Deeds in themselves, records of Inns, and records relating to Hereford City; are records that many people enquire about but that often either don’t survive or are not deposited with us, and this makes a notable exception that could be popular with future researchers.
DC99: Records associated with Sidney Box
Another gap in our holdings highlighted in our Acquisition and Collection policy is records of trade unions, politicians and political organisations. This deposit features records of this nature, as Sidney Box is believed to be the founder of the Labour movement in Herefordshire. This collection not only includes personal records of his including family photographs and poetry he wrote, but also rules and guidance written for the Herefordshire Labour Party or Workers Union.
- In total, over the course of 2018, we took in 134 new collections.
- Of these; 39 were additions, or accruals in archive terminology, to collections we already hold.
- The new material adds 127 boxes to our collections.*
- The equivalent in linear metres is 28.2
- The largest collections accessioned were 13 boxes of Herefordshire County Council Education Department Files and 13 boxes of research papers originally belonging to Constance Radcliffe Cooke, which were given to us by Keele University. The smallest deposits were a single letter relating to Whitney Toll Bridge and a single line engraving showing the Wye Bridge and Hereford Cathedral.
- 34 of the 134 collections were local government deposits, 14 were parish and 86 were private deposits. There were no Diocesan or Public Record deposits during 2018.
- The oldest document deposited dates from 1479 and the most recent dates from 2018. 46 collections feature documents from the 21st century, 98 feature documents from the 20th century, 25 from the 19th century and 9 from the 18th century, but only two feature any pre-1700 documents.
- Six collections feature plans and five feature maps and last year’s accessions include six C.Ds, five packs of postcards, three individual postcards, two photograph albums, 77 individual photographs, one slide, one magic lantern slide, one floppy disk, one memory stick and one piece of embroidery.
- Note that this figure does not include any items that were smaller than a box, which it is difficult to quantify. The actual number of boxes will be higher. The linear meterage however includes everything and gives the equivalent of 156.67 boxes, but this total will include oversize items which do not fit in a box.
A full list of the 2018 accessions is available in the searchroom. Note, however, that accessioning records into our collections does not make them immediately available for public access. We would usually wait until they are fully catalogued. This is firstly because until this is completed, we not fully know what each collection constitutes and therefore a document could go missing without us knowing. Secondly, for similar reasons, we run the risk of personal data or confidential information being leaked out, which can lead to hefty fines.
To give some idea of one of our current predicaments, during 2018, the equivalent of only 38.5 boxes or 6.93 metres of records were fully catalogued. This of course means, that what we term the cataloguing backlog is actually increasing.
You will also notice that we do get accessions in digital form, which also presents many challenges; not the least the lack of any floppy disk drives, which sums up a much wider problem of access to old file types and formats.
I am currently looking at both the problems explained above and hope to be able to report back on progress later this year.
Richard Wade, archivist