Snow far, snow good! Cataloguing the Ski Club of Great Britain archive

I’m afraid you can expect a few more poor winter-related puns over the next six months because I have just started work on the Ski Club of Great Britain (SCGB) collection, the first of four sports archive collections I will be cataloguing over the course of the next two years for the ‘Unboxing the Boxer’ project.

In 2018 DMU Special Collections was successful in its bid for a grant from The Wellcome Trust under the Trust’s Research Resources Awards In Humanities and Social Science funding scheme, which helps “collection and information professionals develop library and archive material for humanities and social science researchers”. DMU is a leading centre for the study of sport history and academics and students from the International Centre for Sports History and Leicester Castle Business School’s Business Management in Sport MSc have already been conducting research into the Ski Club collection since its arrival in March 2018. Cataloguing the collection in detail will develop the material for further research by making it easier in future to navigate, understand and search.

I began the process of cataloguing by physically looking at the collection to get an overview of the kinds of material I could expect, which is very varied! There are lots of objects in the collection, from trophies to skis, as well as the administrative records you would expect to find in the archive of an organisation which is over one hundred years old.

My next step was to analyse the existing box list (a sequential list of everything in the collection) to identify like material and patterns which would suggest the main functions and activities of the organisation. I used colours to distinguish different areas.

From this, I sketched out a rough hierarchical structure for the catalogue, to reflect as far as possible the way the organisation arranged its own records while they were in use. The benefit of such an arrangement is that the researcher can get a sense of how the organisation operated and how different documents are related to each other, preserving connections which might be lost if the items were catalogued as isolated entities.

With my rough structure in place, I began the cataloguing of individual items. I have started with the corporate administrative records because they tell me a lot about the formation of the Club, its purpose, its rules and its key figures, which is the essential background information I need in order to understand the meaning of all the other items I will go on to catalogue over the course of the next six months. Corporate records also give information about high-level decision-making and changes in policy, which I also need to be aware of because I am likely to find evidence of the impact of those decisions in the records of the day-to-day activities of the organisation.

There are about 150 administrative items to catalogue and I have made a start by physically arranging them into their different series. There is not always the space to do this with a large number of volumes, but I am lucky enough to have a spare couple of desks to spread out on!

I am now working on creating a description for each item from scratch and assigning each a unique reference number using our cataloguing management system. I am also adding in key names, places and subjects as access points so that future researchers can browse the catalogue by theme or person as well as by keyword searching. You never know when there might be a name you don’t expect to find!

This is the first in a series of blogs, so watch this space for more winter fun as the cataloguing progresses!