Every repository has a collecting policy outlining the kinds of records they will collect. Some of these policies can be found online. As a reader, you won’t need to worry about this but thinking about the association between a repository and their collections can help you to know what to expect when carrying out research.
There may be subtle differences in the ways various County Archives are run but they tend to have similar collecting priorities. The Cambridgeshire Archives and Local Studies Service collecting policy states the geographical area they will collect documents relating to (taking into account that county boundaries have changed over time) and mentions a number of classes of record they accept, including
- Records of Cambridgeshire County Council and its predecessors.
- Records of parish churches and of rural deaneries for which it is the appointed diocesan record office within the diocese of Ely.
- Records of other public and private organisations, businesses, churches and other faith groups, charities, societies, estates, families and individuals whose activities are relevant to the history and life of Cambridgeshire.
The King’s College Archive Centre’s collecting policy is not published online but is briefly described at the beginning of the online catalogue. It can be summarised as follows:
Papers relating to the history of the King’s College. These include the papers of the governing body, administrative records, academic and tutorial records and the papers of clubs and societies etc. Among the administrative records are records relating to the King’s College site, its buildings and the estates the College owned throughout the country.
These are the papers of individuals, most of whom studied or worked at King’s College. Particular ‘collection strengths’ include the Bloomsbury Group (a group of friends, most of whom were writers, artists and intellectuals) and early 20th century economists.
Many readers who are researching a Kingsman (somebody who has been a member of King’s College) find relevant records in both the College archives and the Personal papers.
You will see from these two examples that the institutions these archives are associated with (a county council and a Cambridge college, respectively), have an impact on the kinds of records they preserve. Although both archives are based in Cambridge, they complement each other rather than collecting the same types of records. If a researcher wanted to know about what life was like for a student in Cambridge at a particular time, he/she might use both of these repositories.
If a person had associations with various places or institutions, his/her papers may be in more than one repository. Letters the person sent may also appear in the collections of other people, as we shall see later. This means researchers shouldn’t assume all the documents they need will be in one place.