Digging Around in the Archives

Storage at the Derbyshire Record Office

A small section of the storage areas in the Derbyshire Record Office

In the past month, I’ve been lucky enough to visit the County Record Office in two different parts of England, although both are ‘shire’ counties (note to non-UK readers: England is divided into either 48 or 83 counties depending on definition, and likewise the term shire can be used in a number of contexts to differentiate a group of counties with some similarities from the others).

Having created more confusion than I’ve cleared up with the above, we’ll move on to the easier part. A County Record Office exists to store stuff (paper books and documents and scans thereof, as well as audio and video recordings in a whole host of formats depending on the individual Office) so that people can visit and study the contents of the archives. Generally the records stored are specific to the local area, but some Offices may also house special collections relating to a national organisation based in the county or to a trade that took place elsewhere as well but was particularly associated with the county. One of the biggest problems facing County Archivists is knowing when to refuse a donation, because it may well get thrown away but on the other hand no one’s archival space is without its limits. Continue reading

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