Monday, 12 October 2009

Lets come to an arrangement

Now that we have a complete list of what's included in the collection it is now time to create an arrangement for the catalogue. There are two main principles that an archivist has to adhere to when arranging a collection. The first is provenance, which requires that records are listed according to the organisation that created them. The records of different organisations or departments and branches within those organisations should not be mixed. This theory also extends to the subsidiary companies of an organisation, which are separate legal entities and should be treated thus. The second principle is original order. Ideally, the records of an organisation should be arranged in the order they had when last in active use. So far, so sensible.

Yet, when these theories are applied to a real life collection whose structure has been adapted many times during the 150 year life of the company, the arrangement is not so straightforward. In the case of the Chance collection, the original order is not discernible. The records were boxed at random and have occasionally been re-arranged by members of the Chance family when researching the history of the company for speeches and publications. So, should the current grouping of records be maintained or should I attempt to re-construct the original order? The records of subsidiaries are also often combined with that of the parent company, for example, the salaries ledgers include details of workers producing rolled plate glass for Chance and workers producing submersible pumps for the subsidiary company, Sumo Pump. Should records regarding subsidiary companies, therefore, be separated from the parent company records when in other series they have been combined? Dilemmas, dilemmas!

I have decided that the most practical solution is to structure the catalogue according to a classification scheme, which sets out a clear, neutral structure for the collection according to the functions that it performed (e.g. share records, employment records, production records, etc.). I now need to decide whether I should separate subsidiary company records and the records of distinct departments, such as the Lighthouse works and the Optical division from the main company records........already, I feel a headache coming on........wish me luck!


  1. Hello Laura.
    It's good to hear the archive is being catalogued. I have restored a Chance Brothers Airway Beacon and look forward to learning more.
    Tony Waites.

  2. Hi Laura,
    Congratulations on your appointment and the progress you've made so far (despite the 'red dust' storms).
    I'll be following your progress with interest and hopefully find time over the next month to come to the library and have a 'browse'.
    Keep up the good work Laura.

    Richard Chance