BAC Cataloguing Grant for Business Archives

Applications for the 2017 BAC cataloguing grant for business collections have now closed and the winning collection has been selected. 

Once again, the judging panel were impressed with the high standard of the applications received from across the country, but ultimately decided to present the award to the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust (BMIHT) for the archive of Lucas Industries, a Birmingham-based manufacturer of motor and aerospace components. Lucas was a leading supplier of electrical equipment to the British motor industry for nearly 100 years and – together with notable subsidiaries such as CAV, Girling and Rotax – played a major role in the development of the motor car, commercial vehicle and aircraft industries.

In the 1850s, Joseph Lucas began selling paraffin oil from a basket skip which he wheeled round the streets of Birmingham to support his family. Twenty years later he was manufacturing a range of items, most famously the ‘Tom Bowling’ ship lamp. Soon Joseph's eldest son, Harry, joined his father’s enterprise and they began trading as Joseph Lucas & Son. Together they exploited the newly developing cycle industry, marketing a hub lamp for the ‘ordinary’ bicycle which they called ‘King of the Road’ – a name which quickly became associated with other Lucas products. The company grew with the transport industry and Joseph Lucas Limited was formed in 1897 before developing into the major supplier of electrical equipment known as Lucas Industries.

The collection is an exceptionally comprehensive company archive containing extensive business and family records, product development papers, catalogues and manuals, company publications, photographs, moving film, audio and artefacts. The collection also contains a wealth of material about the family which founded it, their business practices, and what it was like to work for them. 

The affection for, and significance of, the company was evident from the application and letters of support. The archive is a rich source for social history as well as automotive researchers, which will be opened up to wider audiences through this cataloguing project (for example, to support BMIHT’s education and community engagement projects for all ages). 

The project will focus on improving descriptions of approximately 2940 items relating to the social and industrial aspects of the company. This will bring together extensive work already undertaken by staff and volunteers, making the information accessible digitally for the first time and enabling proper searching. 

Lucas Industries gifted the collection to BMIHT in 2002 and since then there have additional acquisitions of subsidiary records, showing that this is a dynamic and growing collection.  The panel were impressed with the obvious commitment shown to preserving and describing the collection to date under challenging circumstances. BMIHT will fund promotion of the archive and use the project to further build partnerships with former employees of Lucas. 

Overall, the judging panel concluded that the cataloguing project provides value for money, and has great potential to increase usage of a varied and comprehensive business archive. 

The project will begin in September and the project report will be submitted at the end of March 2018, whereupon the resulting catalogue will be searchable on Discovery.

Find out about the projects of past winners:

2016 - Lancashire Archives

2015 - University of Manchester Library

2014 - Gloucestershire Archives

2013 - West Sussex Record Office

2012 - Durham County Record Office

2011 - Norfolk Record Office

2010 - Dorset History Centre and The National Railway Museum