Chairman's Statement 2010-2011
Chair's statement to the 2011 AGM, November 2011
1. The Business Archives Council and the Strategy for Business Archives
Your Council continues to play its part in promoting the National Strategy for Business Archives, in association with The National Archives, ARA, and others. One of our principal responsibilities was to establish and manage the strategy website, managing business archives.co.uk. New case studies were added, and an updated list of British companies which invest in in-house archives was produced. The Council continues to actively support the work of the crisis response team set up to act more quickly whenever collections are threatened. This has proved to be an effective way of responding to archival problems created by merger or receivership.
One of our innovative contributions to the strategy has been to initiate a cataloguing grant for business collections. The applications were so good that the judges decided to make two awards: to the Dorset History Centre (Cousens of Weymouth); and to the National Railway Museum (railway engineering and small business collections). Thanks to Mike Anson, Alison Turton and Richard Wiltshire for acting as judges.
We have also supported a new business history online venture called Business History Explorer: a Bibliography of the History of UK Businesses and Industries, compiled by John Orbell and Richard Storey, with the assistance of Francis Goodall. This is the result of many years of complex and dedicated work by the authors. Our support has been by means of funding the development of an online application to hold the data, and by agreeing to its publication on the Council's website. A hard copy summary of the bibliography, arranged by business name in alphabetical order, will also be published. The launch will be next spring, and access will be available by subscription, with a 12-month offer of a reduced rate for BAC members.
Another new initiative under the Strategy was to survey archives in something of a problem area for historians is Architecture, Building and Construction. This survey, mounted in collaboration with The National Archives and concerned with archives in England & Wales, is now up and running, and will be fully reported on next year.
Our regular issues of Business Archives were published: Volume 100 (Principles and Practice) and Volume 101 (Sources and History). Our milestone number 100, edited by Mariam Yamin, began with Mike Anson's reflective piece on '"History in firms' documents": 75 years of the Business Archives Council'. The number also included articles by Susan Gentles on 'The Pensions Archive Trust and London Metropolitan Archives'; by Liza Giffen and Kirsty Shields on the 'Going back to our roots: the partnership between the Marks and Spencer Archive and the University of Leeds'; by Katey Logan and Charlotte McCarthy on 'Commercial impact of an archive exhibition'; and by Alex Ritchie on 'Taking forward the National Strategy for Business Archives'. This journal also included the select bibliography of new publications in 2009, compiled and edited by Emma Stagg, and book reviews, edited by Moira Lovegrove. Number 101, edited by Mike Anson, began with an article by Michele Blagg on 'The Royal Mint Refinery : a business adapting to change, 1852-1968'. This emerged from the first collaborative doctoral award made by the AHRC, and the programme was the subject of two further articles, by Melanie Aspey on 'The collaborative doctoral award and the archivist', and by Michael Kandiah on 'The collaborative doctoral award and CCBH@King's'. There were four further contributions in the number: by Lucy Newton and Francesca Carnevali on 'Researching consumer durables in the nineteenth century: the case of the piano'; by Geoffrey Owen on 'The Courtaulds story: how cellulosic fibres made the company's fortune, then contributed to its demise'; by Kevin Tennent on 'Business archives and changes in popular music distribution and retailing in the United Kingdom, 1950-2000'; and a source note by Claire-Amandine Soulie entitled '"We will become known": James de Rothschild and the founding of De Rothschild Freres: sources in London and France'. This journal also included the 2009 edition of the bibliography in business history, compiled by Richard Hawkins; the list of business records deposited, compiled by Mike Anson; and book reviews edited by Roy Edwards. We are extremely grateful to all the editors and contributors for their work.
Once again, four editions of the Newsletter were produced by Alan Gall. The website was further enhanced thanks to the work of Claire Twinn and the oversight of Moira Lovegrove. My thanks to Moira, Alan and Claire.
3. AGM and Conference 2010
The AGM and Annual Conference were held on 11 November 2010 at the Freemasons' Hall, London. The theme was 'Business archives: the unexpected!' Here the focus was on unusual collections and their potential. The delegates were welcomed by Susan Snell, from the Library and Museum of Freemasonry. Linda Ellis of Renaissance in the Regions spoke on the contribution of West Midlands' museums to the business archives project entitled 'Documenting the Workshop of the World'. Andrew Newnham, from Nottingham City Museums and Galleries, spoke on the John Player archives, and Kevin Matthias, of Denbighshire Record Office, talked about the papers of the Llangollen International Eisteddfod. Finally, Sarah Chubb, from the Sandwell Community History and Archives Service, gave a paper on the historical potential of the records of the glassmakers Chance Brothers. The conference opened and closed with lively workshop sessions, chaired by Mike Anson. These will continue to be a feature of our conferences. Susan Snell also organised a tour of Freemasons' Hall. Our thanks to Susan, to all the contributors, and to Lorna Williams and Judith Wright, who acted as conference organisers.
4. BAC Wadsworth Prize for Business History 2009
The Council's Wadsworth Prize was awarded to Peter M. Jones of Birmingham University for his book Industrial Enlightenment: Science, Technology and Culture in Birmingham and the West Midlands, 1760-1820 (published by Manchester University Press). The prize was presented by our President, Sir Geoffrey Owen, at a reception held at Freemasons' Hall immediately after the conference. Our thanks to our hosts for their generous hospitality, and to our independent judges - Martin Vander Weyer, Professor Michael Moss, and Dr Geoffrey Tweedale - for their hard work.
5. Bursary 2010
The winner this year was Dr Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb from the Said Business School of Oxford University, for his research on 'Puff pieces and circulation scams: how British newspapers and advertisers learned to co-operate in the 20th century'. The award was announced at the annual conference of the Association of Business Historians in York University in July 2010.
My thanks to Roy Edwards for organising the Wadsworth Prize and Peter Scott for organising the bursary judging.
6. Other Activities
Our contribution to training continued in 2010-11. We organised a well-attended session of 'Meet the Archivists' at HSBC in November 2010, hosted by Tina Staples, and ran a business archives training day at The Baring Archive in January 2011, which was attended by over 70 students from University College London, Aberystwyth and Dundee. I should like to thank all concerned for making these events such a success.
7. On a sad note, I feel I should refer to the fact that we have recently lost two major contributors to our work who both died in September: Professor Leslie Pressnell, who supported our work, in particular, in the field of banking archives; and Sharon Quinn-Robinson, who was our office manager from 1990 to 2003, and maintained our activities at a high level during this period. Fuller appreciations will appear in our forthcoming publications.
8. Vote of thanks
Our thanks to Jeannette Strickland and Unilever for generously hosting both the AGM and the Conference, and later on in the day, the BAC Wadsworth Prize reception.