Treasury Island: the film

Screenshot showing how T1 is arranged by ranges of numbers in Discovery.

T1 is arranged by ranges of numbers in Discovery.

We are always looking to make the records we hold as accessible as possible, particularly those which you cannot search for by keyword in our catalogue, Discovery. And we are experimenting with new ways to do it.

The Treasury series, T1, is a great example of a series which holds a rich source of information but is complicated to search. T1 covers a wealth of subjects (from epidemics to horses) but people may overlook it as most of it is only described in Discovery as a range of numbers, meaning it can be difficult to search if you don’t know how to look.  There are different processes for different periods dating back to 1557 so we chose to focus on records after 1852. Accessing these records requires various finding aids and multiple stages to access the papers. It’s a tricky process to explain in words so we thought we’d try demonstrating it.

We wanted to show people how to access these hidden treasures, by providing a visual aid that would work in conjunction with our written research guide. Armed with a tablet and a script, we got to work creating a video.

Our remit was:

  • to produce a video guide no more than four minutes long
  • to improve accessibility to these records through a simple, step-by–step process
  • to highlight what the finding aids and documents actually look like

These records can be useful to a whole range of researchers, from local historians to military historians to social historians, given that virtually every area of government action involved the Treasury at some stage. We hope this new video, which we intend to be watched in conjunction with the written research guide, will also be of use to any researchers who are new to the Treasury records.

Adding video guides to our written research guides are a new venture for us and so we are very keen to hear your feedback. Did you find it useful? Do you like the film format? Do you have any suggestions or improvements? Let us know by leaving a comment below!


  1. David Matthew says:

    Whilst the video is good, I would personally have chosen the search for David Livingstone (some of which are catalogued, others aren’t!) there are several points I would like to make.

    The example is an easy one to search but a number run over several years and the catalogue does not always reflect that, i.e. it only lists the last date, e.g. 1881 instead of 1879-1881. A number of subjects like the Great Exhibition and the Crystal Palace are not easy to find, it is actually under the letter ‘I’ Miscellaneous, as it was the Great Exhibition to promote industry.

    A number of the documents were removed from their original places in the T 1 series and became the ‘Long Bundles’ ranging from 1790-1840 and some of these bundles were transferred back to their originating places and there are a number of documents that went missing long ago. The T 108 Subject Indexes cover only the registered papers and some of the unregistered papers have been listed, there were in addition a number of papers that ended up lining the Treasury Kitchen and Chimney until this practice was stopped in the 19th century.

    The T 1 records are in a large number of cases as it was not until the introduction of typists and women in the 1870s that copies of outgoing letters were placed on file, prior to this handwritten copies were entered in the Out-Letter books by the ‘Boy Copyists’. These books run to around 1920, later ones were destroyed or sent to the department they concerned. Until about 1879 Treasury correspondence was tied up into bundles but from that time a file jacket was used which indicated action, with draft Treasury Minutes and draft replies to departments, organisations and individuals.

    In some cases documents were not transferred in order where a large bundle was kept and they were removed to become additional boxes.

    Whilst Treasury’s interest in virtually everything the records themselves do not always intertwine, T 1 researchers need to be aware of the Treasury Minute books (recording important decisions of the Treasury Board) in T 29 and T 99 until 1870, the various Warrant Books (both financial and non-financial) and towards 1920 a number of the T 1 records were incorporated into the 1920-1948 series of Treasury records (T 160-T 164 and T 268).

    The catalogue entries for T 1 are not actually correct as when transferred the last file number in a year was not listed by Treasury and since not all files were kept they do not always have all of the documents in them.

  2. […] Treasury Island: the film by Lauren Willmott, Boyce Keay, and Beth Morrison. […]

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