Harris Tweed Authority project update

It’s been a whole month since my last blog post on the Harris Tweed Authority (HTA) cataloguing project! A wee update is definitely overdue.

Following on from my time looking through the many boxes of HTA material, matching up what’s in each box with existing lists, I moved on to thinking about how I’m going to arrange all of this into a sensible catalogue. Archive catalogues have a hierarchical structure: the collection or fonds sits at the top of the hierarchy, and within this there are various series of records. In the case of a business or an organisation, series are often described by function – for example ‘personnel records’ would contain papers relating to employees. Another means of arrangement for certain parts of collections is by format; there might be a series called ‘photographs’ or ‘plans’.

Thinking about the different types of records in the collection

Thinking about the different types of records in the collection

Depending on how large and complex the collection is – and the HTA collection is fairly large – there may be sub-series under the series. Within the sub-series (or the series, if dealing with a simpler collection), there are files, and below files, items. Many archive catalogues do not contain descriptions of individual items, as it would take far too long to create them!

When arranging a collection, archivists attempt to respect the ‘original order’ of the material – keeping closely to the way the person or body that created the collection organised it. There may be reasons for records being kept together that are not immediately obvious to an outsider. It’s also relevant in the case of individual files. For example, a group of handwritten letters may have a photograph attached to each letter. In this case, extracting the photos to create a separate series called ‘photographs’ would not make sense. Even if the photos do not appear to be referred to in the letters, an archivist would usually keep these items together – someone may discover the link at a later date. However, it is often the case that a collection has become disordered over the years, meaning that original order is difficult to discern, and this is the situation with the HTA records.

Besides thinking about the catalogue structure, last week I also returned to the HTA offices in the Town Hall to re-box and transfer the extra material – which I wrote about in my previous post – to the Tasglann. I condensed and transformed it from this…

Boxes of records in the HTA offices

Boxes of records in the HTA offices

…to this!

Re-boxed, newly-arrived HTA material

Re-boxed, newly-arrived HTA material

HTA material ready for freezing

HTA material ready for freezing

On arrival at the Castle, the twelve boxes were placed in quarantine, along with other new archive collections. New accessions are kept separate because material that has been stored elsewhere might have brought insects or creepy-crawlies along with it. To eliminate this problem, all material that is suitable – including papers and textiles, but not photographs – is then frozen down to -40⁰C for a week. This is done in freezer bags with the air expelled so that any little creatures that might be hiding don’t have any air pockets in which to survive – as Shona described in her Christmas blog! As soon as the extra HTA archive material arrived into the building, I prepared the first batch for freezing…voila!

In the next few weeks I’m looking forward to finally getting on with the actual physical arranging and cataloguing process – putting my planned catalogue structure into action!

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