A project run by volunteers at Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies to catalogue and make available the records of a local chartered accountancy firm has won a national award.
The ‘Taking Account of our Past’ project is cataloguing the collection of Smith, Son and Wilkie, based in Wolverhampton. The collection, dating from 1863 to 1989, covers over 60 businesses and nearly 30 families who employed the firm to oversee their finances.
The 18-month project began in July 2011 and has made available details about many local well-known local companies like lock manufacturer Benjamin Walters and Company, brick manufacturers Adam Boulton and Co Ltd, carbon steel manufacturers A E Jenks and ironmongers like the Stockless Anchor Association and the Priestfield Iron and Brick Company.
The efforts of volunteers working on Taking Account of our Past have been recognised by the Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland) and WV11 were lucky enough to attend an awards presentation yesterday which saw staff and volunteers (including Â archivist Heidi McIntosh who writes for the site about local history in Wednesfield)Â presented with the National Archive Volunteering Award for 2012 at the Archives and Local Studies serviceâ€™s base at the Molineux Hotel.
The project has allowed Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies Service to extend their volunteering programme dramatically, with the addition of about 20 new volunteers who were chosen because of their shared interest in local heritage and research.
The volunteers improved their skills and knowledge while completing work of great value to the collection and its future users. Since their recruitment for the project, the volunteers have been based in the City Archivesâ€™ public Searchroom at the Molineux Hotel and also working behind the scenes.
City Archivist Heidi McIntosh said: â€œFew businesses make provision for their historic records. We hope this project highlights the importance of business records within local history.
â€œIn the case of most of the businesses represented in this collection, no other material seems to have survived, so this project has broadened the range of research possibilities on the industrial and commercial history of the Black Country.”
The project was made possible by grants totalling nearly Â£40,000 from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives and the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust and allowed the employment of Kimberley Benoy as full-time cataloguing archivist on the project. She has also carried out the substantial conservation work needed on parts of the collection.
Chair of the 2012 judges Geoff Pick, ARA Board member with responsibility for public engagement, said: “There is so much to praise here. This highly motivated and diverse group of volunteers, with expert guidance and encouragement from professional archivists, have brought to life what might have been thought of as a dull collection of papers.
“They have invested thousands of hours of work, used blogs, Twitter and Facebook to engage others and made a lasting contribution to the local history of a region.”
WV11 would like to congratulate all of the staff and volunteers at the Archives on their award!
To find out more about Taking Account of Our Past, please visitÂ www.takingaccountproject.