Who are our Archivists?

Val Illingsworth (seated) and Pat Shotton

What do they do?

I trained at Denman College in 2003, under Ann Stamper, as a Federation Archivist in readiness for when I retired from the Executive Committee in 2004. This was a new venture for the WI when it was realised that precious records of village life were being lost through our ignorance of how, why and what we should be keeping. In that first weekend, Friday to Sunday, we covered what should be a 3-year post-graduate university course, so you can imagine that our heads were spinning with the amount of information being thrown at us.

Pat Shotton joined me on numerous ‘refresher’ courses and we have worked together ever since, sorting, recording, repairing and storing the records of the various WIs in North Yorkshire East which have closed since the division of the Yorkshire Federation in 1983.

I obtained a grant from the ‘Awards for All’ scheme to provide an acid free archive box for each WI in the Federation at the time, and we held workshops around our county to explain how to keep our current records and what we should be keeping as curators of our WI history.

What is special about an archive box?

It is made from acid-free board and fastened with brass staples, so the box itself will not contaminate what is inside.

What is the difference between a document and an archive?

A document is merely a piece of paper recording an event or occurrence. It becomes an archive when interesting information regarding that event is added to it, developing a simple fact into a story worth preserving; much like adding manure to a small plant to make it grow into an attractive specimen.

Because we are all trying to cut down on the amount of time spent on business at our WI meetings, the minutes are becoming briefer. This reduction has meant a decline of information being recorded which would be useful for research purposes, and research is one of the reasons that we are anxious to safeguard all our information for generations to come.

An item becomes an archive when it is no longer in current use and so your box should contain:

  • Record of Meeting books or numbered loose leaf papers, dated and signed.
  • Committee Minute books – (as above)
  • Annual Report forms and Secretary’s annual reports
  • Annual Financial Statements
  • Any correspondence of interest relating specifically to your WI.
  • Photographs, fully labelled with names, event and date.
  • Charity Law dictates that all financial paperwork should be kept for six complete years before being treated as archival material.

If you have loose documents use acid-free folders or inert polyester envelopes, or brass paperclips and store flat. Try to use a good quality paper.

DO NOT USE – ordinary plastic files or pockets, ring binders, staples, glue, Sellotape, rubber bands or paperclips other than brass. Do not laminate.
All these things will react with the paper and cause damage to your archive.

Archiving is a fascinating hobby. Be warned, it can become addictive!
Val Illingsworth