Thursday, 19 November 2015

The importance of charity archives

This year’s Explore Your Archive campaign from The National Archives runs from the 14th - 22nd November and aims to get more people aware of archives and what can be discovered within their collections. It’s also a reminder that archives are everywhere. Not just within the large libraries and universities of the country but also within small businesses, charities and even within the family home. It ranges from the thousand of records stored at the National Archives in Kew through to the family letters hidden in the drawer of a writing desk, or the hundreds of email correspondence of a long standing publisher.

Part of the Together Trust Archive collection

The Together Trust, as regular readers of this blog will be aware, has a substantial archive collection starting from its conception in 1870. The records are well preserved, partly due to its transference to Manchester Library in the 1970s. With its all singing, all dancing storage facilities, boasting optimum conditions for archive collections, the preservation of this important collection of Manchester history is thankfully in hand. But this is not the same for all charities.

The history of charities and the work carried out by them, plays an important part in the understanding of social history. Particularly when the Together Trust started in 1870, it was the charities that were making the large strives in the area of child welfare and social reform. This continues today as charities campaign for changes in all aspects of social welfare. Consequently their records help show what conditions were like, how changes were made and the individuals who were helped. To lose this record would result in a large black hole in our collective memory. 

The importance of preserving our collective memory
But unfortunately this is happening on a regular basis. For many charities the resources are not there to provide expensive facilities for their collections. Not only are these important records not accessible to researchers but they are also not being properly preserved, meaning the likelihood of them surviving for future generations diminishes every day. Some, like our own collection, are fortunate enough to be guarded over by other established archives. But as space is at a premium it is not always easy for a library or university to be able to accept another organisation’s records, nor put resources into making them available.

So as charities close down, the question remains as to what happens to their records. And if the answer is nothing, does this mean that a whole part of our collective memory is erased and our perception of history is altered? So as the world of archives promotes its collections this week it is perhaps a good time to shout about those little collections that make such a difference to the bigger picture. The Together Trust always welcomes people to come see its own archive. We are fortunate to still have it, we’d love you to come see it!

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