Engineering the Archive: Cataloguing the Halton Mill Collection

The Halton Mill Collection Archive played out across a table in the Mill.
The Collection

The creation of the archive

Work towards ‘Engineering the Archive’ of Halton Mill was led by freelance archivist James Towe. The aim of the project was to make documents safe, catalogued and accessible. From the outset, it was clear the collection was a goldmine of interesting documents, but it was not organised or easy to access. Thankfully, most of the artifacts were in good condition, perfect for repackaging and preservation.

A varied collection

Once put together, the material consisted of six boxes, a good few days’ worth of work! The archive has become a lively set of photographs, news articles and business documents, all collated in 2018 for anniversary celebrations. Volunteers did the work listing and repackaging documents after an online training session run by James Towe. The collection is currently held at the mill but will end up in the Lancashire archives to allow for free and easy access.

The importance of the archive

There are no other papers related to Luneside Engineering anywhere else, and details the links to World War II and the immigrant polish workers at the Mill. This makes the archive highly important to the history of Halton, Lancaster and Lancashire as a whole. 

Cataloguing

The catalogue is arguably the most important part of archiving work, as it creates a structured, organised list of a collection’s contents. It details what items are and when they were made, with each given a reference number. These items are sorted into sections such as press releases, staff records, orders and photographs. It follows an agreed format following the ISAD(G) standard, and will be accessible on LANCAT, the Lancashire Archives Online Catalogue. 

Preserving the material

Materials are placed in inert acid free packaging, with acid free card files, clear polyester sleeves and brass paperclips which do not rust. Any packaging which can deteriorate, like rotting rubber bands or typical paper clips, are carefully removed. All but the technical drawings were already in good condition, with the drawings likely to need attention from an archive conservator. Everything was carefully done, even down to using a 2B pencil to ensure no damage when marking materials. 

The work of the volunteers

Volunteers have been vital in ‘Engineering the Archive’, with the detailed listing, translation and repackaging done by them before being collated and edited by James Towe to be sent to the archive. Volunteers can take their time and will have a more detailed knowledge of the place as they are from the organisation and can contribute language skills.

Hear more from archivist James Towe below:

>> Click here for information on Immigration and the Mill <<