Posted by: kbenoy | January 4, 2012

The Project – Six Month Review

Happy New Year! The start of 2012 signals the completion of one third of the Taking Account of Our Past project to catalogue the papers of Smith, Son & Wilkie chartered accountants. Today, I’m going to look back at the last six months of the project and what has been achieved so far.

I started on this project funded by the National Cataloguing Grants Scheme in July 2011 and at that point very little was known about the content of the Smith, Son & Wilkie collection other than it contained some locally and nationally significant papers. My first task was to have a look through the 196 boxes and make a preliminary list of the records within the collection to start to form some idea of the content. This list indicated the collection contains information on over 50 businesses and over 30 families as well as the records of the accountants themselves. This box list also made it possible for me to locate items within the collection.

D-SSW Boxes

Using this information, I started to form a plan of how to catalogue these records and how to organise the collection. I decided to divide the collection into three sections:

  • internal records of the accountants and their families
  • business and company records
  • family records

Cataloguing Plan

This scheme seems to be working well for the records in the collection, although cataloguing is a fluid process so small changes are made frequently.

I have been lucky enough to recruit about 15 volunteers to assist with the project. Mainly, they are carrying out research into the background of the businesses and companies with records in the collection. The work they have completed so far is excellent with over thirty businesses or companies researched or in progress. The information they find will not only add richness to the collection but also make it easier for me to catalogue the records as I can establish what the records represent for each business.

Group Photo of the volunteers with Kimberley

Since July 2011, volunteers at Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies have contributed over 700 hours of work. This includes all the volunteers, not just the work for the Taking Account of Our Past project although the majority of volunteer work has been on the project.

Volunteers also helped with the box sort during the closed period where we got all the boxes containing the Smith, Son & Wilkie collection out, sorted through the records and reboxed them in order. This was a massive undertaking as it involved moving the entire collection into a meeting room, going through each box to find all the records relating to each business or family and reboxing them together. Each box had to be relabelled and new references were created for each business or family represented in the collection. This task took 4 days and when completed the 236 labelled and sorted boxes were moved back to the strongroom.

Records waiting to be sorted

Cataloguing work is ongoing. So far the catalogued records include:

There is still a large amount of cataloguing work to be completed but I am hoping it will be much easier and quicker now all the records are sorted.

As well as the cataloguing work, conservation work is also ongoing. Jon, the Conservator, repairs and stabilises items as I catalogue. This system works well as once an item is catalogued and conserved it is ready for use. We have recently received a grant from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust to help fund the conservation work on the project. This is a great help as many of the items in this collection need sunstantial work to make them usable. This grant has helped to pay for the boxes required to store this large collection and many of the packaging materials used to preserve the records.

I think the last 6 months have been very sucessful. The project has got well underway and I am in a good position for the remaining 12 months. I would like to thank all the volunteers and staff at Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies who have helped me get this far and the National Cataloguing Grants Scheme for funding the project and the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust for supporting the conservation and preservation needs of the project.

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