Thursday 27 January 2011

Business Archives

Last week Archive staff attended the launch of the National Strategy for Business Archives in Scotland. A significant proportion of our records were either created by or related to businesses, so the strategy is something that we welcome.

Dundee was once the most important centre of jute processing in the world and our records relating to the textile industry are one of the largest such collections in Europe. As well as the companies which manufactured and imported jute, we have the archives of several engineering companies and other related industries.
Jute Industries Group Newsletter. 1966
The focus is not just on Dundee, but also on Dundee's international links with particular strengths lying in the records relating to India. Dundee played a prominent role in the manufacture of jute in Bengal for well over a century and it was not until 1976 that the final company managed from Dundee withdrew from Calcutta.
Bundles of jute being taken to be pressed in India

The business collections do not only concern jute. We have records of companies which were played a major role in the everyday lives of Dundonians such as the department store G. L. Wilson. Other businesses with an international impact are represented such as the fascinating collection of the Alliance Trust, currently the largest generalist investment trust by market value on the London Stock Exchange. One major aspect of the trust's business that is particularly well documented in the records is the mortgage business, which was centred on agricultural areas of the western United States (especially Oregon, Idaho and Texas). The company also established a successful business leasing mineral rights of properties in Texas and Oklahoma to prospectors, as well as investing in a number of other ventures in the UK and further afield.

The business collections we hold are used by a wide range of researchers from economic and social historians to those interested in family history as well as researchers looking for evidence of contemporary ownership and rights. We strongly support the aim of the National Strategy to 'ensure that business archives in Scotland continue to be valued, representative of economic activity and innovation, accessible to all and supported and developed by strong networks and partnerships'.

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