The Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive was established through grant funding which enabled a two-year project to develop the service. Led by a Lead Archive Volunteer, they have established a methodology and workflow to catalogue their rich collection and upload it to Discovery using Manage Your Collections.
Brief introduction to your archive and collections
Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust (CPHT) Archive comprises a community archive and a business archive. The community archive holds analogue and digital collections containing artefacts, documents, artwork, photographs, media etc. pertaining to the history and heritage of Clevedon Pier and, to a lesser extent, the town of Clevedon. The business archive holds analogue and digital collections of documents, drawings, plans and correspondence to do with the financial and administrative history and heritage of building, managing, restoring and maintaining a pier since 1860 to the present day.
Deciding to use Manage Your Collections
The archive was set up during a two-year project run by volunteers supported by the Trust’s Volunteer Chairman and financed through two grants. The challenge of how the pier’s archive would create a professional catalogue was a real one right from the beginning of the project. We investigated several professional cataloguing systems but were daunted by the complexity of using them as well as the cost. As a volunteer run archive we had neither the funds nor the level of IT expertise within the volunteer team to resolve that challenge.
The approach to using Manage Your Collections (MYC) was very pragmatic with local decisions on the catalogue structure being made by the volunteer archive team supported consistently throughout with the advice of staff in Archive Sector Development (ASD). The entire Pier Archive volunteer team benefited from 2 days of hands-on training by members of ASD.
Around the same time the CPHT Archive won a Business Archive Council development grant to catalogue the CPHT Archive’s business collection. This grant gave provision to pay for a cataloguer and a professional archiving advisor who also gave extremely useful guidance on developing the catalogue structure.
Your approach to cataloguing collections for publication online
The first decision was to establish the high level catalogue structure as follows:
Fonds: Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust Archive
Sub-fonds: Community Archive
Sub-fonds: Business Archive
The second decision was to make the series and sub-series catalogue structure suit the specific needs of both collections. This allowed the series and sub-series cataloguing for the community archive fonds to closely follow and reflect the work already done in inventorying the themed collections. It also allowed the series and sub-series for the business archive to evolve in way which reflected the learning from the cataloguing work done under the Business Archive Council grant and professional advisor.
As a consequence, the archive volunteers’ knowledge of, and experience with, the collections came strongly into play when beginning to populate the MYC catalogue. This approach also helped the volunteer team come to realise their own strengths and weaknesses when using an excel spreadsheet and to identify how, in future, they would like to contribute to cataloguing.
Ultimately, the decision was made that the core community and business archive catalogues are the responsibility of the Lead Archive Volunteer to add, amend, delete or corrects entries. A second volunteer is being trained up to fulfil the same level of cataloguing duty. Separate pieces of cataloguing work are done by the volunteer team, using their own working copy of the MYC spreadsheet held in their own named folders on the archive’s laptop.
When a chunk of cataloguing work is complete the Lead Archive Volunteer is alerted and it is checked over, discussed with the volunteer creator and amendments made as required. It is then cut and pasted into the core catalogue – community or business – and saved in 3 places for safe storage – the archive laptop, the Trust’s server and the archive Dropbox account.
There is a further core catalogue which holds the entries of many thousands of catalogued photographs originally logged on access and transferred to the MYC Excel template. There is a photograph series and sub-series listed within the community archive catalogue but the enquirer is directed to the photograph catalogue for detailed cataloguing information.
What value do you see in getting your collections information published via an online platform?
The Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust is focused on maintaining the pier and having it open to visitors in order to earn income. The Trust uses paid and unpaid staff to deliver those primary aims. The Trust’s Archive Service is a secondary function within that operational model and is, and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, an entirely volunteer-led activity.
Nonetheless, at the beginning of the Archive Project, a priority aim was to get information about the archive and its collections known – preferably online. A feature of that aim was to try and control levels of public access demand that having the catalogue online might generate. The adopted method of publishing collections information online is:
- to publish the Trust’s MYC Catalogue to series level on Discovery
- to offer interested parties the opportunity to contact the Archive Service for more detailed enquiries into the community, business and photograph catalogues
Using the MYC cataloguing system has, without any shadow of a doubt, played an important role in moving the Pier Trust’s Archive and its cataloguing aims along in a professional and speedy and easy to use fashion. We are truly grateful for the opportunity to be able to use it. We may not be creating a catalogue with every field complete but we hold a catalogue with almost everything held in our collections catalogued and searchable and findable. An enormous relief at the end of our archive project and pleasing to be able to move forward into an archive service with this in place.
Contact the archive
Bette Baldwin, Lead Archive Volunteer, firstname.lastname@example.org