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My Archive Journey - Part Two

Learning to structure a catalogue for an accession at the Royal Voluntary Service

In my last blog I wrote about my first experience of the accession process, for the Royal Voluntary Service Archives & Heritage Collection, as I unpacked the extensive records of the Ebley Silver Threads over 60s Club, that had been collated by Mary Curtis the leader of the Gloucestershire Club from 1966 to 2008. In this month’s blog however I turn my attention to my first encounter of structuring and cataloguing, which began after the receipt of a signed gift agreement from the collection custodian to transfer the documents to the archive.

The first step was to design a suitable structure, so that the collection could be incorporated into the searchable archive, based on the initial review of the contents. It would have been a daunting task were it not for the helpful beginners guide to hierarchical archive structures, included in volume 6 of the WRVS Heritage Bulletin, and the comprehensively mapped out catalogue structure helpfully pinned to the archive storeroom wall. In the course of reviewing the documents it had become apparent that despite the inclusion of the personal records of Mary Curtis, detailing her association with the WRVS over 46 years, it should be classified as the records of a local office as it covered the activities of the Stroud and Gloucestershire group over an extensive period.

This meant that the collection Fonds (WRVS) and Sub Fonds (LO) levels of the catalogue structure were quickly in place, and the Series based on the location of the activity could be determined. As Ebley is situated in the Stroud region of Gloucestershire the question was therefore only whether the village was in the rural or urban area. Surprisingly however, this was not a straightforward answer as it appeared to be referenced both ways, but ultimately it was decided that it was most often classified as being in the Stroud Urban District and so the Series abbreviation was settled upon (STD UD). An abbreviation of Ebley Silver Threads over 60s Club could then be slotted easily into the Sub Series (E-ST) level.

Thereafter, the catalogue structure only needed to be developed into Files, Sub Files and if appropriate Items. To aid this construction process a large sheet of paper was found and an outline of what the collection should look like was mapped out from the notes taken during the preliminary review.

As the bulk of the collection was made up of the photographic records of the week long Club holidays around the United Kingdom, which many members of the Club participated in between 1970 and 2007, this became the first File (HOL) with the individual locations as Sub-Files. This meant that the Sub File abbreviations could adopt an existing structure used elsewhere in the archive. Other Files were also incorporated for the Club Activities (ACTV) which were not associated with the holidays, such as Easter Bonnet making or the more frequent activities such as Christmas parties and day trips. For Member linked activity (MEMB) such as gatherings for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and departures another File was added.

As a WRVS Local Office there were also circular notices (CN) and regional publications (PUB) to include (which would have a wider relevance within the archive) as well as the Club records such as meeting minutes (MIN), general administration (ADMIN), finance (FIN), publicity (PBY). All of these were references which had been created previously in other catalogued projects and consequently the utilisation of them for this collection helped maintain consistency across the catalogue.

Finally there also needed to be space to incorporate the personal records of Mary Curtis (CURM). This File included Sub-Files for all the letters and correspondence (CORR), newspaper cuttings (NEWS), ideas and reminders (NOTES) she accumulated in her role as Club Leader, as well as the recognition (AWARD) she received over the course of her work with the older citizens of Ebley from 1962 to 2008, as a dedicated member of the WRVS.

Once the structure was complete the processing could begin with items carefully gathered together and referenced in accordance with the entry into the archive catalogue (CALM). Throughout this process the original order of the collection was maintained in the physical files. Whilst the majority of the documents received were incorporated into the catalogue, with only those not connected to the WRVS Club or which were available in other archives excluded, only a selection of the photographs from each of the holidays were included. No restrictions were placed on how many photographs could be included in the final catalogued collection but images were selected based on content or if annotations had been added. Overall the selected photographs for cataloguing were those which it was felt could visually record, describe and place the activities of the Club.

I have now finished processing this accession (phew!) and the catalogue records will be online next time we update the Archive Online pages. Until then I will be applying my new skills to the Aylesbury Local Office Collection!

Posted by Elaine Titcombe, Volunteer at 11:00 Monday, 11 September 2017.

Labels: Catalogue, WRVS, Darby and Joan, Stroud, Gloucestershire, Archive

My Archive Journey Part One

Learning to deal with an accession at the Royal Voluntary Service

Following my initial introduction to the wide array of resources held by the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection, and the subsequent publication of my first Heritage Bulletin blog at the beginning of February 2017, my primary experience of an accession to the archive came in the form of a collection accumulated by the leader of the ‘Ebley Silver Threads over 60's Club’, Mrs Mary Curtis. This submission to the archive followed directly on from an interview for the ‘Voices of Volunteering’ project conducted by the Deputy Archivist, Jennifer Hunt, with Mary late in 2015.

The collection, which had been maintained by Mary between 1962 and 2008, first in her capacity as a member of WVS and subsequently as the club leader after 1966, had arrived at the archive in January 2016 following an enquiry from the custodian of the documents. It came in a hefty and bulging briefcase, along with two large and very full cardboard boxes. My first task was consequently to unpack the collection, whilst maintaining the original order, so that a preliminary assessment of the contents could be made.

Initially it had been thought that the collection was comprised mainly of the photographs and the personal records and mementoes of Mary in her association with the WRVS (now Royal Voluntary Service) and the Ebley Silver Threads club, but during this review it soon became apparent that rather than a personal collection, it would be better categorised as the records of a local office. The Ebley Silver Threads over 60's Club’ had been formed in 1966 by Mary and a few other members of the WRVS upon their recognition that no social group existed for the older members of their local community in the urban region of Stroud, Gloucestershire. Whilst identified as a local club by its members, it was nevertheless part of the wide range of older persons’ welfare work conducted by the organisation, belonging to the service originally known nationwide as the ‘Darby and Joan Clubs’.

As a consequence included amongst the documents were several WVS Circular Notices such as, "Model Rules for the Constitution of a Local Darby and Joan Club run by WVS", “"WVS Darby and Joan Clubs, Notes for the Guidance of Leaders" and “WVS Insurance in Darby and Joan Clubs”. In addition there were blank ‘Older People's Club’ membership cards which recorded subscription payments, and a WRVS newssheet on “Meals on Wheels and Lunch Clubs”.

At the club level there was a minute book of Committee Meetings and the Annual General Meetings between 1971 and 2008, extracts from the financial records and statements, in addition to copies of the letters and correspondence sent and received by Mary in her role as club leader. Whilst the bulk of the collection related to the holidays and activities organised for the club members, and was made up in particular of the photographs taken of the group, there were also records of the recognition paid and awards given to Mary by the WRVS and her local community for her work and commitment to the older citizens in Ebley and the surrounding area.

Overall there was no doubt that this collection fitted with the collection policy of the archive and that it would be a valuable addition. As a consequence a gift agreement was therefore sought from the custodian to allow work to proceed to incorporate it into the archive.

Look out for my next blog in September when I will describe my next stage of the journey: learning to catalogue the collection.

Posted by Elaine Titcombe, Archive & Heritage Collection Volunteer at 09:00 Monday, 07 August 2017.

Labels: Accession, WVS, WRVS, Gloucestershire, Stroud, Darby & Joan