Cataloguing and collection processing policy

1. Aims, purpose and objectives

The mission of Churchill Archives Centre is to collect, preserve and make available archival material. This policy states and communicates the principles that guide collection description activities and the creation and publication of finding aids.

The objectives of the Cataloguing and Collections Information Policy are:

  • to document the creation of finding aids which support information discovery and ensure wide and effective use of the Centre’s archival collections
  • to document relevant professional archival standards used at Churchill Archives Centre
  • to document collection description activities to help ensure consistent practice
  • to record the systems and software used for collection processing, finding aids and the publication of collection information

This policy is subordinate to the Churchill Archives Centre Mission Statement.

2. Background

Churchill Archives Centre has an increasing collection of personal archives. Currently there are more than 600 collections ranging in size and historical significance. The Centre’s professional and para-professional staff produce digital finding aids in accordance with professional archival standards and publish them online to make them accessible to researchers all over the world at all times. Finding aids are also essential to the Centre’s staff for answering enquiries, locating information and outreach activities. The Centre has been collecting archival material since 1965 and so many of its collections were catalogued before the advent of archival standards and computers. The Centre also has a backlog of uncatalogued collections. This policy explains our approach to creating finding aids providing information about our collections.

3. Professional standards for archival description used at Churchill Archives Centre

  • General International Standard Archival Description, 2nd edition, September 2000 (ISAD(G))
  • Encoded Archival Description (EAD)

For ‘controlled access’ (or index) terms, the Centre uses:

4. Software and systems

Catalogues are currently produced in house ArchivesSpace, an ISAD(G) compliant database for the hierarchical cataloguing of archives, hosted by the Cambridge University Library.

5. Publication of finding aids and digital images

The Centre also publishes digital images of its collections, usually through partnership working. The Churchill Papers (catalogue, digital images of documents and research guides) have been commercially published by Bloomsbury Academic.

The catalogue of the open sections of the Thatcher papers is available on ArchiveSearch and the catalogue is updated each time material is released. A selection of key images from the open sections of the papers are available, with commentary, on the official website of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.

Collection and finding aid information is also supplied to the National Register of Archives.

6. Availability of collections information

6.1 Full Guide

There is basic information about all the Centre’s collections (including uncatalogued collections) available on our website as part of our Full Guide, eg.

AGAR, Alan
Papers on the history of the Electron Microscope, 1945–98.
AGAR 13 boxes
With link to full catalogue on ArchiveSearch.

6.2 Cataloguing

A catalogue is a comprehensive, high quality, enhanced description of a collection which includes access points (to aid searching) and detailed descriptions of the collection. For an example of a detailed catalogue, see the catalogue to the Papers of Leo Amery.

6.3 Retrospective conversion

As well as creating new catalogues, we also continually work on retrospectively converting our older typewritten lists, bringing them into line with standards and publishing them. About 80% of our typewritten catalogues have been fully converted in this way. For the 20% remaining, we already have a detailed collection level description plus descriptions of the series (sections) within the collection (see: The Papers of Sir William Deakin for an example)

6.4 Box listing (basic listing)

Some of the Centre’s collections have not been fully catalogued but nearly all collections are box listed on arrival at Churchill Archives Centre. Box lists are often used as a preparation for cataloguing but in some cases these brief inventories serve as a finding aid.

7. Cataloguing backlog and assignment of resources

The Archives Centre has a methodology for assessing collections and prioritising work and resources on them. In deciding which collections (or parts of collections) should be fully catalogued (which entails a high level of resource) the following criteria are taken into consideration:

  • Historical importance and likely research interest
  • Ownership
  • Access (eg can the collection be made available within the next 5 years?)

Reviewed by: Andrew Riley
Date: September 2023
Date of next review: October 2024