Safeguarding Nationwide's history
Sara Kinsey, Nationwide’s head of historical archives, explains why getting dirty is just part of the day job.
Nationwide's hidden history
I joined Nationwide at the end of last year to bring our archives out of the dark. The Society has a fantastic history which has had a huge influence on who we are today - but until now it has been hidden away. Over the years many of the archives have found their way to the basement of our admin centre in Northampton, and I’ve been working my way through this hoard to find out what we have and how we can make more of it. It’s a very hands-on role, and you will often find me covered head to foot in dirt and dust.
The role our history has in shaping our story today
In amongst the piles of ledgers and minute books I was delighted to find some documents from our very earliest days. The hand-written proposal to set up Nationwide’s direct predecessor, the Co-op Permanent, was a particular highlight, and uncovering our connection with the first-ever Garden City at Letchworth was another welcome surprise.
The story of how we were founded was used as the basis for one of our recent ads, and if you look very carefully at one of the scenes you will be able to spot a pile of items from our archives on a table just behind the poet. We were also able to use these gems from our history in our recent employee events in Birmingham.
“ The feedback has shown that our story has the power to inspire and motivate present day employees who have welcomed the opportunity to understand how we have been building society, nationwide since our very early days. ”
Changing formats over time
Most people think archivists live in the past, but we are actually very forward-thinking. We are constantly asking ourselves difficult questions about the archives of the future – what should be in them, how will people will access and use them? A big part of my job involves looking at Nationwide today, and deciding how to represent this in the archives, making hard choices about what is - and what is not important – and what people will want to know in years to come.
The formats of today bring their own challenges too. It’s pretty easy to check whether a book on a shelf is deteriorating but not so easy to see if a folder of digital documents is corrupting whilst sitting on a hard drive. Alongside this, I’m still busy trying to discover if there are any other hoards of archives stashed away in Nationwide offices up and down the country.
“ We are also keen to take in material from members or retired employees – somebody turned up last week to donate his collection of money boxes to the archives! ”
We have inherited an amazing Society from the generations that came before us. I want make sure our current members and employees know how inspiring that is, and how much we are still holding true to the aims of our founders.
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