You may have been wondering what I’ve been upto for the past six months or so. Well, after having shuffled around a lot of boxes and complied various lists, I got down to the task of arranging and cataloguing the papers for real.
The papers are stored in boxes on shelves in what is called a “rolling stack” and without a good cataloguing system, all the boxes look the same and nobody would be able to find anything!
Another, really important consideration is that I have to try and keep the papers, or records as they are called in archive terms, in the original order that they were produced by whoever created them. If I don’t, some of the information about their background, meaning or the context in which they were created may be lost and I could mislead researchers by putting them together in an order which could give them a different meaning. Hmm, tricky stuff!
As the papers seem to have been reorganised a few times in the past, the original order is sometimes not very clear and a little detective work was needed to match up the handwriting, dates, bleaching process or the subject concerned. Occasionally, it took a while to sort out material which wasn’t part of the collection at all.
The picture on the right shows a plan of cemetery plots bought by new owners and arraged alphabetically. It is stored in box 1588 with some Bealey plans and drawings. As it is not catalogued in another collection yet, after some deep thought and head scratching, I finally concluded that the Bealey’s were not involved in this particular venture.
After that, it was time to start entering information about the papers onto the archive management software system called Calm. Unlike the entries in a library catalogue, each individual item in an archive collection is unique and has a relationship to other items in the collection (remember, the original order should be kept) and so when it is catalogued, to show this relationship, a heirarchical structure is produced which looks a bit like a tree.
And below, this is what it looks like for me as I catalogued on the Calm screen – the tree is on the left.
And this is what it looks like on the online catalogue which is available at http://archives.bury.gov.uk/
The heirarchy of the tree also creates the reference number, BBY/1/1/3/1/1/9 which in this case is quite long. The BBY bit refers to the collection, Richard Bealey & Co., and then the number after each slash indicates the next level down until the item number is reached at the end, which for this record is number 9. If you look closely at the entry, you will be able to see that this is 1 bundle of 18 closely related documents. It is still called “an item” though!
The cataloguing of the Bealey collection is now almost complete and I have catalogued 6168 items! Whew, that’s an awful lot of reference numbers…and this is not a very big collection!