City Making History

In 1212, York was first granted the right to have a mayor and pay its own taxes to the Crown, establishing the beginning of self-government and local democracy. 800 years later, the city is marked this anniversary in 2012 with “York 800”, a year-long festival of events, and the York: A City Making History archive cataloguing project is one of the legacies of this celebration.

Rolled, wrapped plans sticking out of shelvesThe York civic archive contains 210 cubic metres of volumes, documents, maps, plans and photographs – most of which are unique and irreplaceable. This is a very large collection! There are a number of existing finding aids for individual parts of the archive, but it has never been systematically catalogued as a whole.

The collection is open to the public, but it is very difficult for researchers to find the material they want, or even to know if it exists. The York: A City Making History project addressed this by creating the first digital online hierarchical catalogue, researched and designed by a professional archivist following international cataloguing standards.

Aisle in archive strongroom with rolling racks
Records in the old archive store at the art gallery.

Due to the size and complexity of the collection, it would take at least ten years to describe every item individually. So instead, the project has been inspired by an archival approach called “More Product Less Process” where the focus is on breadth rather than depth. The idea is to describe the overall structure and content of collection as a whole so it can be opened up to users as soon as possible, who can then explore the material and locate areas of interest to them. Once this foundation is in place, further detail can be added in over time. You can check out my “MPLP” page to find out more about this approach and why it has been chosen.

The funded element of the project ran from June 2012 (when this blog was first setup as a project blog) to November 2013. The cataloguing and processing work continues throughout 2014, when the digital online catalogue will launch as part of our service reopening at the end of the year.

2 thoughts on “City Making History

  1. in all my time at schools in York from Micklegate Bar, Scarcroft, Priory Street Higher Grade I never remember having a history lesson that really concentrated on York. I do remember going to the new Kirk collection and finding it very exciting with the Street layout. I took my children years later, many times, they loved it. It was free then.
    I walked the Museum garfdens and its Museums, the Kirk collection in the old buildings,plus the castle on its hill, walked the walls to get to the Library, or the St. Georges Baths. I roamed the Staithes, the Shambles and Walkgate, Fossgate and the other historical streets.
    Im 84 now and have lived in the USA for some years. When I show my gt. Grandchildren the pictures or tell them about York and the age of buildings there that people walk around they are very impressed.

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