From June 2013, two members of the Collections Management Team and a small number of volunteers have been working on the Corporate Archive Project. This involves the reorganisation of all records produced by or associated with Gloucestershire County Council. It is a large collection consisting of over 5000 boxes worth of material. However, the size of the archive clearly reflects the importance of the Council’s role in the lives of all Gloucestershire residents since 1889 up to the present day.
Council services are all encompassing but often go unnoticed in everyday life. Decisions made by the County Council affect our roads and footpaths, our education and schools, our health, care and safety and our rural and urban surroundings. Services administered by Gloucestershire County Council can be said to touch every point connected with civil life.
County Councils were created as a result of the ‘Act to Amend the Laws relating to Local Government in England and Wales’, more routinely known as the Local Government Act of 1888. A council was established in every administrative County to manage the administrative and financial business of its area.
Inevitably, since 1889, the organisation of the County Council has altered considerably. There has been local government re-organisation, imposed by Central Government, most significantly in 1974 and 1991. At various times over the last century, duties have been transferred to other public bodies. There have been changes in responsibilities, structures and committee titles. Consequently, keeping track of all records associated with the Council had become quite a difficult task. However, we felt that central basic functions of the Council had remained the same. Therefore, we decided to re-arrange all County Council records into seven distinct functions, namely Social, Education, Environment, Community, Legal, Administrative and Council.
The main aim of the Corporate Archive Project is to unlock the true potential of the records we hold in order to fully respond to all types of public enquiry. We are also now removing records that are surplus to requirements or not relevant to the main County Council collection.
The first series of records currently being catalogued under the new system are the minute books. Under the new arrangement, we are extracting much more information about each volume rather than just the title of the committee meeting and covering dates.
All volumes relating to the Council and Social Care functions have now been re-listed and those which fall under the Education function are in the latter stages of completion. All finished volumes have been given the prefix ‘GCC/*’ reference.
Already, we have unearthed some gems. For example, few people would have realised that the ‘Maternity and Child Welfare Sub Committee minutes’, dating from 1933-1948 not only contain information about legislation relating to the care of mothers and infants but also have detailed reports on individual cases that rival any episode of the BBC drama series ‘Call the Midwife’!
Staff are now focussing on minutes relating to the Environment and the Community functions. It is a long job but one that is well worth doing as it enables us to fully see and appreciate the way we are governed at local level.