Here’s one of our first in a series of insights into our collections care work at the museum. I’ve been working my way through some retrospective cataloguing projects resulting from the archive move…
Info on the Collection I am working with:
Currently I am working with a collection from the archive which is collectively titled ‘Historic Information’.
I came across this collection when an individual document from the collection was requested to be viewed by a researcher in the Search Room. The whole collection is made up of a variety of different material from a wide timescale, containing both primary and secondary sources of historic information. From DOC/ETC/1/256 ‘Agreements relating to the Provision and Maintenance of a Submarine Telecommunication Cable System between the United Kingdom and Canada’ (1959) to DOC/CW/12/186 ‘Introduction to Telecommunications’ (1991).
What the problem is:
The problem stems from the bulk accessioning of the collection, and the fact that the documents are contained in ring binders.
The 37 ‘Historic Information Binders’ run in alphabetical order from ‘A’ to ‘WXYZ’, and had been placed into 13 transit boxes (as a temporary measure) during the archive relocation in May earlier this year (2013).
There are 1,101 entries on Filemaker (our digital catalogue and searchable database) for this collection, and in reality there are more documents which are still without Filemaker entries (estimating 1,500 documents). Although the individual documents have been placed into acid free envelopes the items are at risk of damage whilst still held within the ring binders. Also the composite materials of the ring binders could easily have a negative impact on the documents, so archival envelopes and boxes are preferred.
Some of the envelopes are not labelled, and some items do not have document ID Numbers, which makes locating documents very difficult.
Another problem is that there is missing descriptive information on the catalogue entries for existing documents with ID Numbers.
What the solution is/what I am doing:
I have started by re-housing the items into more suitable acid free Archive Boxes. I am then able to update the information in existing Filemaker entries. I have also started assigning un-labelled documents new ID Numbers and creating new database entries with descriptions and location information.
Why? Benefits and impact:
The benefits will be that there is more information available to researchers, volunteers and other members of staff when searching the Archive database.
Re-housing the collection will better protect individual documents long term, and checking for missing document information will help with managing the Archive in the short term.
This collections care project is a composite of lots of smaller tasks and it could prove to be quite time consuming, but definitely worth it in the end.
Eleanor Mills – Collections Management Assistant