Jeff James visits M&S

Jeff James, Chief Executive and Keeper of The National Archives visited the M&S Company Archive at its home at the University of Leeds this week as part of a nationwide tour of archives in his position as Historical Manuscripts Commissioner.

The Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts is celebrating its 150th anniversary after being appointed under Royal Warrant in 1869 to make enquiry as to the places where manuscripts and private papers of historical interest were located and to report on their contents. The terms of reference were extended in 1959 to include the commission’s current functions. With the creation of The National Archives in April 2003, the warrant was amended to allow the Keeper of Public Records to become the sole Historical Manuscripts Commissioner.

The M&S collection contains more than 71,000 items, dating from 1884 to the present day and comprises not only written, photographic and digital records of the company’s development, but also artefacts which represent key aspects of the company’s activities.

During his visit, Jeff met M&S General Counsel and Group Secretary Nick Folland, Company Archivist Katharine Carter and the archive team, and was shown highlights from the archive collection.

At the end of his visit, Jeff said: ‘I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring the M&S journey from Penny Bazaar to the present. It is the history of a business but also our wider social history, and I enjoyed seeing the clothing, food and homeware that I and many others grew up with.

‘I am particularly impressed by the way in which M&S opens up its archives to audiences today and works with different groups and communities to profile the company’s history and to highlight the importance of archives. This truly is an archive for everyone.’

The archive was awarded Archive Accreditation in March 2018.

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