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4.3 Archival Cataloguing and Preservation, Including Digitisation

 

4.3.1 Accessions and Digitisation

The immense interest and activity generated by the project are reflected in the high number of accessions and in the volumes of digitisation which were achieved. New accessions were expected, and archive boxes and other storage material were included in the project budget because of this; but the volume of activity significantly exceeded expectations.

 

The graph below shows the number of accessions which have come in to the Archive and Study Centre each year over the past ten years. The high bars of the project years 2010-2011 graphically illustrate the impact of the Heritage Lottery Fund support.

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In fact, in the two years before the project began, accessions were actually dropping: From an eight year high of 100 in 2007 the number fell in 2008 to 61, and fell again in 2009 to 51. These two years coincide with the intense period of preparation involved in application for the HLF grant, and may reflect the time and attention required of the archivist and therefore a withdrawal from outreach and other work. If this is the case, the investment was more than rewarded in terms of new material, as accessions rose to a total of 101 in 2010, and to an extraordinary 198 more during the ten months to the end of the project in October 2011. Rather surprisingly, accessions not relating to the HLF-funded project, representing what might be considered the normal business of the Archive, also rose in both periods: From 51 at the end of the last pre-project year, to 56 by the end of 2010, to an even higher 58 by the end of October 2011.

 

In total, 157 of the 299 accessions during the 22 months of the project came as a direct result of the project. Of the remaining 142 accessions, 33 were also related to the history and heritage of therapeutic child care. These 33 would have come into the Archive anyway, and can be said to represent the normal activity of the Archive in relation to the history and heritage of therapeutic child care. If this is the case - if 33 over two years is taken as the normal baseline for accessions related to therapeutic child care, then the total of 157 new accessions which came in as a direct result of the project represents a 476% increase over normal traffic, constituting a significant increase in the number of accessions related to the history and heritage of residential therapeutic child care located, accessioned, and provided a permanent home as a result of the HLF funding.

 

There is a similar story with digitisation, which was the primary form of preservation and the main source of materials for presentation in the project. The final total of 3,490 newly digitised items, generating a total of 5,401 new digital files, was almost ten times the original project target of 350 newly digitised items, which was based on the experience of pre-project Archive "Weekends".

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These figures tell their own story, even without taking into account the project's oral history recordings and video. As a consequence of HLF funding, and significant interest and help from volunteers and donors throughout the heritage community, a substantial amount of heritage material related to therapeutic work with children and young people - far more than anticipated - has been gathered and preserved, and much of it has begun to be made available. The additional work and cost implications for the project, discussed in Section 5 below, shrivel in comparison to what has been gained.

 

4.3.2 Positive consequences of cataloguing and dissemination

As indicated in 5.5, below, the project archivist catalogued and oversaw the cataloguing of a substantial amount of material, with priority given to collections relating to those focal communities which had not previously engaged with the Trust and their heritage through the archives, so as to make it possible to give greater support during Archive "Weekends": Red Hill School, Bodenham Manor, and Shotton Hall. The cataloguing process led to suggestions and insights for future directions of research, as indicated in 7.1. Uploading collection summaries and information to the website had the positive effect of generating further contacts and networking.

 

Two of the three collection summaries uploaded to the project website were detailed descriptions of materials relating to the Birmingham Society for the Care of Invalid and Nervous Children. The Society had established and for many years was responsible for Bodenham Manor School, and several Bodenham contacts were made through these entries. However, the Society had also pioneered a system of therapeutic boarding and fostering. One of the principal resources used by the Society was Aston House at Aston-Munslow near Ludlow in Shropshire, or more precisely, the Price sisters who farmed there. First contacted by the predecessor Birmingham Society for the Care of Invalid Children in 1924, by the time boarding out came to an end in 1958, the Price sisters had looked after 150 children. Featuring in the collections descriptions and a subsequent 'Archive Moment' (invented by the project archivist, oral historian, and admin support/transcriptionist: A brief illustrated web entry or story highlighting a discovery from the archives), the entries drew the attention of Janet Adetunji, who had frequently stayed at Aston House as a child, and whose aunts the Price sisters were. Her discovery of the project led to the gift of new material related to Aston House and the Price family, which in turn led to the creation of an Aston House website as one of the community websites within the overall project website; which led to the recording of further memories (see 4.7). Ultimately, those online entries also led to Janet Adetunji taking part in the performance-related visit to Trinity Catholic School: demonstrating the productivity which can follow from cataloguing and dissemination.