While this blog has been silent, the archives project has continued as normal! In spite of exams at the end of last term, we have pushed forward with the sorting of our documents. This term, sorting has ended and we are looking forward to moving on to digitising and bringing the archive to its final form.
Nearly 20 boxes of material have been sorted into 7 thematic categories split into merely 6 boxes: Fieldwork, Mail & Finance, Administrative, Administrative Books, Term Cards, and Miscellaneous. Mail and Admin have been by far the most exciting categories, but interesting information can be gathered from all other types of documents. Miscellaneous is the only category that remains inherently problematic, as it is completely made up of objects unrelated to the OUAS – but somebody, at some point, saw fit to archive them. Thus the case may be that these objects could referenced in some letter or minute book or financial document and cannot be thrown out until we check all of our documents.
We hope to be able to do that as we digitise them, but for now other matters are more pressing. While the documents themselves are organised, they are mostly sorted into non-archival safe folders. Up next for us then is to purchase archival safe folders and move all of our sorted material in them, ensuring that they are preserved well into the future. As of now, around 66% of our folders must be replaced. Moreover, we need special book sleeves for our numerous minute books, and we also need special boxes for term cards, dinner invitations, life member’s card registry, and archaeological finds. This will undoubtedly be a pricey investment, but ultimately worth it. Some of the books and documents in our archive date as far back as the end of the 19th century, and thus deserve to be preserved.
The questions that arise then are ‘what happens after the documents are properly stored and digitised?’; ‘what will happen to the archive in the future?’. It is foreseeable that from now on, there will be extremely few objects that will have to be stored in the archive. In fact, since 2008 there have been less than 5 documents added! Since mail has become e-mail, and financial records and publications have moved on-line, the bulk of the documents that make up our archive are now digital. We see no point in printing them off and storing them in the physical archive, especially since most of our present efforts are concentrated to digitising what we already have, and thus we have set up an on-line platform where all of our documents will be archived from now on.
The physical archive will continue to exist, but it is unlikely to grow. In the event that any physical documents do show up in the future, archivists and secretaries will be encouraged to scan them and keep only the digital copy. All the documents of the society will be stored on-line and will be available to the members of the Committee and, pending Committee approval, to researchers. We hope that this course of action will allow the archive to keep developing in a way that is easy to maintain and sustainable!