2007 Conference

Initiatives and Innovation: business archives today and tomorrow

First time BAC conference delegate Clara Anderson of The Baring Archive has kindly written up her experiences of the day.

This year’s conference took place at Barclays Headquarters in Canary Wharf and had a wide range of speakers all on the theme Innovation and Initiative.

We were welcomed to Barclays by Group Archivist Maria Sienkiewcz who then gave a presentation on “Big Business, Local Links. Delivering a corporate exhibition to a local community”. Maria explained how Barclays archive team had embraced the opportunity to mount an exhibition at Gunnersbury Park Museum and used it as an opportunity to redevelop their travelling panels for branch histories. Maria recommended to us the benefits of working with a range of professionals including a museum curator, a copywriter and a museum education officer in order to bring the Barclays brand to new audiences. Delegates were pleased to hear that the exhibition is a success and had been opened on 21 September by Barclay’s Group Chief Executive John Varley.

David Rayment then followed with his talk entitled “Enduring life: preserving the historic archive of the Equitable Life Assurance Society”. Following an introduction to the history of the Actuarial Profession and an overview of its collections held at Staple Inn David modestly recounted the momentous achievement that was the acquisition by purchase of the archive of the Equitable Life Assurance Society. The 2007 acquisition ensured that the archive was not sold off piecemeal. David reported that material pre-1830 had been retained at Staple Inn while material after that date is stored at the Guildhall Library. The entire collection has been listed by Kate O’Brien and Stacey Gee and the catalogue is available via www.actuaries.org.uk.

Yvette Burrows then gave a presentation on the MLA’s Designation Scheme, explaining its purpose and benefits. It was pointed out that business archivists could leverage on external recognition in order to promote their archive both internally and externally. MLA hopes that all designated collections will be identified by 2010.

In the last slot before lunch Richard Coopey of the University of Aberystwyth gave the keynote address, “Non-Archives, Wary Archives and Transient Media: Research in the Popular Music Industry.” Richard communicated his excitement about his new venture researching the synergies between the creative sector and the economy. He explained the influences and working practices that make the pop industry unique and described his wide-ranging search for source material keeping us entertained with video clips from YouTube featuring Brian Epstein, Bob Dylan and a colourful clip of Peter Grant, manager of Led Zeppelin.

After lunch Kate Murphy’s infectious enthusiasm for her topic “On an Equal Footing with Men? Women in the BBC 1922-1945” held our attention. Kate told the stories of BBC women including Marie Slocombe, Kathleen Lyons, Kathleen Edwards, Olga Collet and Elise Sprott. We were treated to audio clips of some of these voices from the past while Kate also discussed the obstacles that the BBC put in place in order to prevent married women from continuing to work. She also explained how the BBC itself sought to work around these obstacles in order to retain those it could not afford to lose!

Cheryl Bailey then spoke about her work “Documenting the Workshop of the World”, a 3 year project of cataloguing, digitization and outreach for the Black Country Archives, www.blackcountryhistory.org. As the Black Country was a highly industrial area business records were a crucial aspect of the HLF funded project. Cheryl’s presentation included an entertaining case study of the tube-making company Accles & Pollock of Oldbury, who began as a manufacturer of bicycle tubes and ultimately supplied specialist tubes to the aerospace industry.

The last formal presentation of the day was by Steve Capes, Matthew Hall and Jim Aston of the Cambridge Community Archive Network. Steve and Matthew, the manager of the project and the Community Archive Officer respectively, explained how a network of 40 Community Access Points had been set up. Jim then shared his perspective as a member of one of the groups and was also able to show us some of the pictures he had put up on the website documenting his local area including a picture of wonderful invention called a dicycle!

All in all it was an interesting day and a great opportunity to experience the wide-ranging diversity of the business archives sector.