Many people associate archives with libraries and although, on a superficial basis, there are some similarities at least between local history sections of the latter and archival institutions, both tend to work along quite different lines. For example, libraries collect material and classify them according to set categories or systems of organisation which can mean that historical material accepted by them is ultimately split into a library’s separate classes of books and records. On the other hand, archives use the principle of ‘provenance’ (or the origins of the records being collected) to maintain the collection as a whole to provide historical context for the archives.
Another key difference is that archival material is almost always original and therefore unique and as such is never thrown out like old library stock and replaced by new; archives are ever-expanding!
ECA grew by a total of more than 30 linear metres last year alone which constantly brings challenges in terms of storage capacity but challenges which have to be faced in order to meet our obligations to collect, preserve and make available to the public the records relating to Edinburgh City Council and to the economic and social history of the city as a whole. The more than 40 separate donations of records we accepted are clearly too numerous to be detailed fully in this short article but a few of them are outlined in what follows.
Although we by no means hold all educational or school records for the Edinburgh area we do have custody of quite a few: in 2014 we also took in records relating to Abbeyhill Primary School, 1879-1993; a single Davidson’s Mains School log book, 1927-1951 and various items relating to Trinity Academy and Leith School Board. Furthermore we received additions to our already voluminous collection of Wellington School archives, an institution dating back to the 1850s and now closed.
We also acquired the records of some of the sporting activities of some prominent schools in Edinburgh. These were the records of the Royal High School Athletics and Cricket Club, 1921-1977 and those of the Stewart’s Melville Royal High School Cricket Club, 1973-2014.
On the social history side of the Capital’s life we took in Edinburgh Festival Society agendas, minutes, correspondence and related papers, 1976-1991; a copy petition of February 1976 by Edinburgh Playhouse Society to Edinburgh District Council and a petition to save the Playhouse Theatre in Edinburgh both of which appear to have had some impact given that it’s a thriving and well-used venue today.
Many of our accessions of course are textual but we do still receive donations of a more pictorial nature. We brought in a sizeable collection relating to Granton Gasworks comprising mainly a large collection of photographs. One last item worth mentioning is also a photograph; a black & white image taken sometime during World War II which shows the assembled and largely named company of Edinburgh City Chambers Static Post Attached 6th Battalion Home Guard.
So, a mixed bag of accessions but all part and parcel of the ever growing volume of historical material which all adds to Edinburgh City’s Archives collections and helps elucidate the Capital’s long and continuing history.