The archives of Oldham Garden Suburb

Our latest blog looks at why archives are important and how they can be preserved. It is by guest blogger Glenn Mellor from Oldham Garden Suburb Association

About June of 2016 I visited the Oldham Local Studies and Archives to look for information about Oldham Garden Suburb so that I could try to make our website more interesting. During my visit while looking at archived photographs of the area I started to realise that over the years I had accumulated quite a large amount of documents and photos of Garden Suburb plus I was aware that we had minute books dating back to 1914 in a cupboard at the Pavilion.

It also occurred to me that if something wasn’t done about preserving all these records they would eventually be lost forever. At our next committee meeting I mentioned my concerns to the rest of the members and it was agreed that I make enquiries at the Oldham Local Studies and Archives regarding their preservation. I visited the Archives again and was told that the person I needed to speak to was Joanne (Jo) Robson and given her contact details.

I contacted Jo and we arranged to meet soon afterwards, at our first meeting Jo explained that there were three options available to us. The first option was for us to keep the records and Jo would advise us how to archive and protect them, the second option was for us to loan the records to Oldham Local Studies & Archives and the third option was to donate the records. I took this information back to the committee and it was agreed that we would donate the records to Oldham Local Studies & Archives so that the information would be available to any interested parties.

I informed Jo of our decision and arranged to drop off all the records etc so that Jo could assess them and decide on the next steps to be taken. When I met up with Jo again she thanked me for all the records and said that it would be really helpful if someone from Garden Suburb with some knowledge of the traditions etc was willing to attend the archives for a couple of hours on Tuesday afternoons and sort all the records adding relevant and interesting information where possible. As I had retired a couple of years earlier and had been on the committee of the Residents Association for over thirty years I said that I was happy to help out as much as possible and on 16th August 2016 I attended the archives as a volunteer for the first time.

When I first attended Jo met me and gave me guidance on what they wanted doing which including sorting through all the records and entering them as either individual or grouped items into an Excel spreadsheet which she had already set up. Jo also asked me to look out for items such as metal pins and paper clips etc which may damage the records and make a note on the spreadsheet so that she could go through later and change/remove them. I have now been working at the archives for several months and the odd times I have been there when I have not been needed for the Garden Suburb archive I have been helping out where possible with other tasks.

I have thoroughly enjoyed helping out at the Oldham Local Studies and Archives and have already offered my help on other projects. In the meantime I will continue with my own research for the Oldham Garden Suburb website and I have told Jo that I will keep my eyes open for any other information that can be linked to the Garden Suburb Archive.