Tuesday 24 January 2012

Cataloguing a century of community service

It is the New Year and our opportunity as Archives students at the University of Liverpool to experience new things at the Cheshire Record Office. We are part way through the Archives course and this is our chance to put theory into practice with a two week cataloguing placement.

The Warrington Council for Voluntary Service (WCVS) supported and enhanced the work of local voluntary and community organisations in Warrington for 102 years; however, by September 2011 it had closed, and their office at The Gateway, Sankey Street needed to be cleared. As part of Cheshire Archives’ work in looking after archives for Warrington, an archivist had visited the premises and identified records of historical value. WCVS staff had brought in additional material of potential interest, and a considerable quantity and variety of boxes and binders had arrived at the Record Office.

This was the collection we would catalogue from start to finish. We began our task by unpacking and looking through all the records to give ourselves an overview of the collection, to see how things had worked and how to arrange them. Records included minutes of the various committees, reports, newsletters, advice registers and some photographs. It became apparent that the majority of the records were from the WCVS, but there were also a small number of records from related and affiliated organisations, for example ‘Learning Together Cheshire and Warrington’ and the Thewlis charities.

Coming across this photograph was an unexpected surprise as the majority of the records that we had been looking through had been administrative in nature. It brings to life the Shaw Thewlis charity’s donations of clothing and blankets to people in need.

The records told us the history of the organisation and it became apparent, as we traced many name changes, that our task of description is very important. These descriptions, once entered into the database that delivers the online catalogue, are what will allow users to search, find and have access to this part of the history of charitable support in Warrington.

We hope that our catalogue tells the story accurately and that the collection as a whole will help remember the important work that the WCVS did within the Warrington community and its impact over the past century.

With thanks for this guest post and work on the WCVS collection (D 8214) that is now available in our online catalogue.

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