University opens historic charity records for the first time

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Documents from the Aberlour archive

The University of Stirling is to archive more than a century’s worth of records from Aberlour Children’s Charity – making the historic documents accessible for the first time.

The move, which has been enabled by a grant from Archives Revealed, will improve access to historical records for those with direct experience of care and for researchers.

The new Archive, which will include administrative records, case files, annual reports, photographs and issues of the charity’s magazine, will preserve a detailed record of the organisation’s work caring for children across Scotland since the establishment of its first orphanage in 1875.

Karl Magee, University Archivist, said: “We are delighted that Archives Revealed have supported our work to open up access to Aberlour’s archives. The historic collection will be transferred to the University where it will be fully catalogued by our project team, its preservation being ensured with a programme of cleaning and repackaging. Old rusty paper clips will be removed, volumes will be cleaned and the collection will be transferred to archival storage.

“This work will ensure that a full and detailed record will be available for those seeking to find out more about their time in care. This new resource will also bring significant benefits for the research community, contributing to improvements in both record-keeping and social care, with the history of Aberlour brought together in one place for the first time.”

SallyAnn Kelly, Chief Executive of Aberlour Children’s Charity, said: “The archives will make a significant difference to individuals with a personal connection to the organisation through direct experience of growing up in the orphanage or through having a family member raised there. They will enable us to supplement and enhance our responses to individual’s requests for access to their records in line with data protection, with photographs, contemporary magazine articles or other information about life in the orphanage.

“Records of the lives of children in the current care system are much more comprehensive than in the past and we aim, through these archives, to enhance knowledge and insight for past residents and for their families.

“As well as being an important source of information for our 150th anniversary reflections, (due in 2025) these archives are important for their potential contribution to our collective understanding of social care and social work history.”

The cataloguing of the Aberlour Children’s Charity Archive is being funded by a £26,954 grant awarded from Archives Revealed. Archives Revealed is a partnership programme between The National Archives, The Pilgrim Trust and the Wolfson Foundation, and is the only funding stream in the UK dedicated to cataloguing and unlocking archives. 

The Archives Revealed funding programme focuses on transforming access to archives for a wide range of users, enabling more people to engage with the UK’s rich documentary heritage. Alongside University of Stirling Archives, seven other organisations received funding in the July 2021 round of cataloguing grants: Archives and Cornish Studies, London Metropolitan Archives, Manchester Art Gallery, Culture Perth and Kinross, Yorkshire Film Archives, University of Liverpool, and Acme.

Dr Valerie Johnson, Director of Collections and Research at The National Archives, said: “The phrase ‘cataloguing a collection’ only begins to hint at the immense impact that these projects will have for communities and researchers. By cataloguing archives, we can reveal hidden stories representing the lives of people across the UK and, most importantly, we can help people access these records for themselves for the very first time. We’re delighted to be working in partnership with The Pilgrim Trust and the Wolfson Foundation to make these discoveries possible.”

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