The Rugby Football League Archive cataloguing project as funded by the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives is drawing to a close this week so it is a good time to look back on what has been achieved – and look forward to future work on the collection.
In February 2014 the dedicated Collections Access Officer for the Rugby Football League Archive began work on the 900 containers (either boxes or loose items) of material. With such a large collection it was fortunate that two dedicated volunteers, David Gronow and David Thorpe, had begun listing sections of the collection in 2012.
The Collections Access Officer began by taking a crash course in the history of rugby league (referring extensively to the invaluable studies by Professor Tony Collins) and getting an overview of the collection – looking at lists and exploring the shelves and boxes!
The next phase was to develop a structure to arrange the current collection and be robust enough to accommodate records created by the Rugby Football League in the future. This process took considerable time and thought but will ensure that the cataloguing project will not have to be repeated – even if the Rugby Football League restructures its organisation the catalogue structure should still accommodate its records.
Once the catalogue planning phase was underway it was time to begin the long process of arranging and describing the records onto the electronic catalogue, repackaging them into robust archive boxes quality along the way.
As part of the cataloguing process the Collections Access Officer and volunteers working on the collection have removed hundreds of duplicate records – totalling 22 boxes! This has freed up valuable shelf space but will also have other benefits. The Heritage Quay Engagement Officers will use some of the duplicate records in activities for adults and children, while others may be sold by Rugby League Cares to help support future heritage and charitable work.
During the cataloguing project there were some exciting additions to the collection including the Dai Jenkins Collection and the Mike Stephenson Collection. After all the reboxing, additions, and removal of duplicates, the number of boxes now stands at 568 boxes!
Once the cataloguing work was completed, information files (which are known as authority files) on people, places, organisations and events related to rugby league were attached to the records to allow links to be made between records. As records are used over time, and more information becomes available, these links will be expanded – for example, if an interesting reference to Dai Jenkins is found in a programme then the information file for Dai Jenkins will be linked to that programme to assist future researchers.
The Rugby Football League Archive is now catalogued to international archival standards and can be searched online at www.heritagequay.org/archives
The cataloguing project was only funded for a year, so not everything in the collection could be described in huge amounts of detail. Over the coming months and years Heritage Quay staff will continue working with volunteers and rugby league heritage groups to enhance the catalogue – combining the expert subject knowledge of the rugby league community with the technical expertise of the Heritage Quay professionals.
While 2015 marks the end of the dedicated Rugby Football League cataloguing project, it is the start of a new collaborative phase in making the Rugby Football League Archive accessible to anyone who wants to see it. 2015 also marks 120 years since the foundation of the Northern Union (later renamed the Rugby Football League) so watch this space for exciting anniversary events and activities!