One of my very first posts on this blog was about our annual survey of collecting, known as ‘accessions to repositories’. It’s a crucial way we keep in touch with hundreds of archive services across the UK, finding out what they are collecting and how the archival map is evolving. Archive services’ collections grow constantly: they add items to document more recent history, and also when new collections become available, whether because new relationships have been built, or because of a major event, as when a company has closed or an owner has died and the records need a safe new home.
The survey is also the single most important way we grow our information resources about the wider archives sector, to help you to discover which archives are where. When I wrote that early post, there were 221,140 entries for companies, people and organisations on the National Register of Archives, each of which tells you where at least one set of their historical records survives – sometimes there are dozens of known surviving collections spread across the UK and beyond. Since then, we’ve added over 3,000 completely new entries for people, companies and organisations to the Register, and much of that extra archive information is due to the accessions survey 1. Updated and additional information on many more collections has been added to existing records, as archive services tell us they have acquired related collections or received transfers of more material to add to collections they already hold.
As an annual survey, accessions is always with us as part of our work. Returns come in through winter and spring and are added to the Register, highlights from the survey are published in summer, and in autumn we start planning for the new year. We are currently sending out a quick questionnaire to archive services, making sure that we continue to contact archive services in the most effective way and that what we include on the Register reflects their key new accessions and the ways they describe them.
If you’re an archivist who regularly contributes to the accessions survey, or would like to be, do let us know your views! (If you think you should have had a survey, but have lost it, my colleague Samantha Meunier will cheerfully send you out a new link. It’s open till 14 November.)
In a few weeks, the accessions survey itself will go out and we will learn what new treasures came into archive services over the course of 2012. The cycle really does begin again…
- 1. As of 8 November 2012, the Register lists the known and surviving records of 224,348 people, organisations and companies. As usual, it will be a larger number by the time this post goes live. ^