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Archives catalogue description

Card catalogue

Archives catalogue

When people start collecting information they remember what they have and hopefully whereabouts it is. As more information is collected and when more than one person looks after it, that becomes more difficult so they start creating lists. As more information arrives that becomes more difficult. Professional archivists have the same problem and over the years they have developed standard ways of describing what they hold and related information about managing the material.

With the advent of computers these have been used to manage this information and specialised software has been developed for the job and for transferring information between different archives. Nowadays they have a web interface so that researchers can discover what is held in an archive prior to making a visit. This of course is the archives catalogue. Note that there is a definite distinction between the information in the catalogue and digitised copies of the information itself. The starting point is to record in the catalogue what information is held in a repository an the exact location where to find it. Digitised copies of selected information is a separate exercise and most catalogues provide a link to digitised copies.

The software we are implementing to provide a catalogue for the Lytham Heritage Group Archives is a package called ArchivesSpace which provides a lot of functionality and is free. So far we have added information about some of the information we hold taken from a very basic old computer system. Over time we plan to add information about more items and provide a better description.

However we seem to have a problem in that even after a lot of attempts this system has never been described to the archivists even though it taken quite some effort to convert the old information into the new format that made it easily accessible. It was also kept secret that in parallel some of the archivists were also frustrated with the old system and spent quite some effort producing an alternative system based on a spreadsheet. That technology does have a number of limitations and is not a format that can be easily made available to researchers. However we are now looking at ways to resolve this probably based upon cleaning up the spreadsheet system and then using that information to replace what is currently here in ArchivesSpace. It will of course take some time to achieve. In the meantime that data here still gives an overview of a reasonable amount of the items we hold.

We have some more detailed information about maintaining our catalogue provided for our archivists, who will use the Staff Interface to manage it.