Back in March, when the pandemic took hold in Ireland and the first lockdown was introduced, it was clear that we were living through unprecedented times. In Dublin City Library and Archive, we were keen to collect and preserve Dublin’s experience of the pandemic for posterity.
We put out a call through the press and via our social media channels, and were bowled over by the response we received! People submitted photographs of empty streets and got in touch with personal stories and diary entries. We received pieces of creative writing inspired by the pandemic, as well as school projects and drawings by children. We heard from businesses impacted by the restrictions, and from older people who were cocooning. People got in touch with photos of socially distanced weddings, and with stories of not being able to get home to other countries to see loved ones.
We are now processing the material that we’ve received, and as part of Explore your Archive week, we wanted to put together a short video to showcase a small selection of the material that was submitted.
We’re really grateful to the people of Dublin who have helped us create this collection, which will doubtlessly be of interest to researchers of the future.
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.
LINKS TO FILMS
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.
In May, History Begins at Home was launched. This national public-facing campaign delivered via social media – Facebook @historybeginsathome and Twitter @beginshistory –uses archives to improve wellbeing by encouraging new audiences to explore the past they are directly connected to.
The idea behind the campaign is to encourage people to connect or re-connect with members of their family, friends and neighbours, through conversations about the past, discovering previously unknown facts or stories, sharing memories, experiences and expertise, and capturing these conversations and findings for future posterity. We also want people to continue the conversations by sharing stories online.
Central to the campaign is the aim to actively support mental health and wellbeing. The campaign embodies the principles of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing (Connect, Be Active, Keep Learning, Give, and Take Notice). Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, mental wellbeing was a major issue; now it is more important than ever.
Archive services can help to address many of these challenges – we all appreciate the benefits that can come from connecting with the past. History Begins at Home provides a great way of engaging in a positive way not only with current archive users, but also with future audiences. If you spark an interest and they want to find out more, they will need to explore their archive.
Based on a series of themes – coming soon fashion, which will no doubt include some clothes we have been trying to forgotten – each fortnight we will encourage followers to start a conversation about it, engage in an activity relating to it, record something about it and, if they like, share what they’ve found out on our Facebook or Twitter feeds. We will also have a website – www.historybeginsathome.org – where we will keep prompts for questions from each campaign and top tips for capturing the conversation. Although we are promoting a new theme every fortnight, we want to keep all the conversations flowing.
History Begins at Home is a campaign promoted by the Chief Archivists in Local Government Group and the Archives for Wellbeing Network. Primarily it is there to deliver a public benefit – everyone needs to look after their mental wellbeing – but it also about proving that archives can make a positive contribution to an this incredibly important agenda. Archives provide an opportunity for sustained engagement with a past with which people have a personal connection. This wellbeing benefits of this can last a lifetime. Engaging people through History Begins at Home can only help.