The second post in this series features a guest blog by our Institutional Memory Project volunteer, Jess Conway, who has been helping us to catalogue material relating to college estates records:

“I have been a volunteer at the Archives and Special Collections Centre since September. I enquired about volunteering upon completing a MA in English Literature, having decided to explore archiving as a career because of my passion for how information is collected and organised so as to best facilitate research and preserve history.

I have been working on the Institutional Memory Project, which seeks to preserve the history of the University of the Arts London through cataloguing hundreds of items relating to the University’s colleges, including prospectuses, student union publications and newsletters, and academic governance and institutional records. I have been involved in the cataloguing of fourteen large boxes of unsorted records relating to the institutions estates administration. This has involved listing the contents of each box so that the records can be evaluated and a decision made on how they should be catalogued so as to make them most useful to researchers.

Many of the records already had clear reference numbers, evidencing a previous cataloguing system, but by considering the material as a whole it became clear that these numbers weren’t comprehensive enough to organise the records by, and we decided to organise them instead by the specific UAL college that they pertained to. Once this decision had been made, I was shown how to use CALM, the archive’s cataloguing system, to create new records and accurately describe the item in question. This was a substantial task, as I was working with over 150 files, each of which contained large amounts of correspondence, plans, and other documents that I sifted through to establish crucial information such as the timespan and subject matter of the documents.

The dates of the records have ranged from the 1930s – several decades before the London Institute was established – up to the early 2000s. The most recent items are in relation to the design competition Central St. Martin’s held for architects to design the new premises at Kings Cross that the college moved to in 2011. It was interesting to be able to see the competition entries that didn’t make the cut!

It’s been fascinating to be able to build a picture of the formation of UAL through the administration of its buildings, and fulfilling to contribute towards the preservation of an important part of London history. I’ve found it rewarding to be involved in the cataloguing process from the beginning to the end, and am glad that I have contributed towards such a vast and ambitious project.”