Business Archives Council Scotland Supporting Scottish businesses for 60 years.

2020 marks the 60th anniversary of the Business Archives Council of Scotland (BACS).

BACS started as the initiative of Sydney Checkland(pictured) who, in 1957, was appointed the new Professor of Economic History at the University of Glasgow. He immediately started raising funds from the business community in Glasgow to establish a Lecturer in Business History – the Colquhoun Lecturer. His task was also to survey historical business records of firms in Glasgow and the West of Scotland. The first Colquhoun Lecturer was Peter Payne, in post from 1959 to 1969. Working with assistants he established the Economic History Department Business Record collection. From 1970 the then Scottish Record Office along with the National Register of Archives for Scotland funded the appointment of several Regional Registrars as business surveyors.

In 1977 the BACS Executive Committee, matching funding from the Scottish Record Office, appointed a Business Surveyor to continue the work of the Regional Registrars. Between 1977 and 2011, a period of 34 Years, fifteen Surveyors worked on behalf of BACS to locate, survey and find a home for business records often at risk of destruction. This initiative has contributed nearly 900 surveys to be deposited with NRAS and many hundreds of collections deposited with public archives.

In 2014 surveying activity was reinstated when BACS raised funds in collaboration with the Ballast Trust, the Lind Foundation, the University of Glasgow Archive Services, and the University of Aberdeen’s Capturing the Energy project to appoint a new Business Archives Surveyor. From 2016 this post has been funded by the Ballast Trust with strong links to the BACS.

Today BACS is primarily a networking organisation for creators, custodians and users of business archives. Our activities include an annual conference, training workshops and our corporate connections events for members. We also publish a regular newsletter and our journal – Scottish Business and Industrial Heritage (first published in 1977), which contains articles by professional historians and independent scholars, covering a wide range of topics on Scotland’s business and industrial past. Past issues of the journal 1977-2014 are available to download from our website.

We started this year with lots of plans to celebrate the anniversary particularly using social media and were pleased to take part in the ARA Scotland #Archive30 campaign throughout April. We were assisted in this by University of Glasgow student Alexandra Foulds who created a series of tweets to tie in with the daily themes and showcased our anniversary and history at the same time.

Unfortunately, our remaining plans to celebrate the anniversary were somewhat derailed by COVID, but the executive committee have been working from home offices and kitchen tables to engage with our members and we’ve extended our activities into 2021.

Members may have noticed that this year we’ve adopted a whole new look for BACS and launched a brand new website. Our ‘look’ actually comes from our own archive as we re-visited BACS’s first logo and updated it! As part of the celebrations we also commissioned three new videos to highlight the breath, depth and value of business archives in Scotland. Thankfully filming for the videos was completed before lockdown and the videos are now available. In the videos we answer the question – What are Business Archives? We explores the types of records held by Business Archives and the different ways they can be used. We also reflect on the community that BACS has created and how it has changed since the Council was established.


What is a Business Archive?

History of BACS

Business Archive Collections

We are also working on an anniversary edition of Scottish Business and Industrial Heritage, which will look back at the history and achievements of BACS. It will be published in May 2021 to mark the anniversary of our first AGM. We also hope to have a launch event/birthday party then if possible.

Leading to May next year we will be running a BACS moments Twitter campaign #BACScot60, please follow us for interesting facts about BACS and key moments and collections from Scotland’s business archives.

Finally, unfortunately we have to end on a more sober note. Today and for the months to come businesses across the UK are facing unprecedented hardship. The full impact of COVID 19 restrictions and Brexit are still to be felt but there is a real danger that records of historic or culturally significant businesses will be lost or destroyed. With this in mind, BACS has worked with the Scottish Council on Archives to create new guidance, titled Collecting in a Crisis: A Guide to Rescuing Business Records. We hope that this step-by-step guidance for dealing with a crisis management case will be helpful to the archive community.

Amanada Noble (BACS Chair)

Kiara King (Ballast Trust)

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