Business Archives

The records of Scottish businesses, business-related bodies and industrialists provide crucial commentary not only on Scotland’s economic, political and social development, but also on that of the UK and many countries around the world.  It is vital that they are valued, representative of economic activity and innovation, accessible to all and supported by strong networks and partnerships. The Scottish Council on Archives supports business archives in Scotland by working in partnership with the Business Archives Council of Scotland (BACS), The Ballast Trust, the Scottish Business History Network and a range of archive services.

The Scottish business archive community is in a strong position thanks to many years hard work led by the National Records of Scotland, and the University of Glasgow Archive Services. Scotland has a well-established corporate archives sector and a wealth of business and related records are in the custody of public archives, museums, universities, libraries and communities. Many businesses retain their own records which have been surveyed and made accessible through the National Register of Archives for Scotland.

Enterprising Scotland

Part of SCA’s role is to advocate for the value and diversity of Scotland’s archives to organisations, decision makers and communities. SCA worked with the Business Archives Council for Scotland to produce the publication Enterprising Scotland: A Celebration of Scottish Business Archives. Offering an overview of the history of business archives in Scotland, included are case studies highlighting how collections have been used to support intergenerational projects, corporate identity and social history research.

Enterprising Scotland: A Celebration of Scottish Business Archives

Surveying

Business archive surveys can be carried out on behalf of a variety of bodies, including businesses, archives and individuals. For a survey to take place, there must be authorisation from the legal owner of the records.

A survey includes:

  • determining the aims and objectives of the survey
  • scoping the extent of the material
  • scoping the location of material
  • determining which records are considered archival
  • determining which records are retained by the depositor
  • creating a survey of the records in report format
  • providing recommendations for a suitable place of deposit

A survey may be carried out or requested for a variety of reasons. It may be that the records form the corporate history of a company that they wish to preserve and make accessible in a suitable place of deposit or in-house in archival compliant storage areas. Records might have been cared for by family members or staff members and now need to be deposited with a repository.

‘Applications for the Next Agency, from ‘Ledger No 99’’ (c.1915) – Image Courtesy of Lloyds Banking Group Archives

Business Archives Surveying Officer

The Business Archives Surveying Officer role was established in 1977 to carry out surveys of business records to ensure that the records most valuable to Scotland’s business heritage are preserved. The Surveying Officer offers advice and guidance about the management and use of business archives to businesses, archivists and public sector organisations. The role of the Business Archives Surveying Officer is funded by the Ballast Trust and contributions from businesses.

Rescue of Records at Risk

The Surveying Officer will also work to protect records at risk of being destroyed or damaged. Often surveys are conducted when a company goes into liquidation and the assets are being dispersed. In these circumstances time is an important factor and finding a suitable location to store the records quickly.