Aberystwyth University Archiving Project

09th July 2019

Aberystwyth University Archiving Project

A common item in the Bute collection are letters with drawings, this one includes ‘The Good Easter Egg’!

Each year Information Studies students from Aberystwyth University delve into Mount Stuart’s archive to catalogue papers as part of their course. This year the team of students have been cataloguing material related to Gwendolen, 3rd Marchioness of Bute and they’ve chosen some highlights to share with you!

As soon as we set eyes on the contents of the boxes, it was clear we had a lot of work to do! Faded photographs, loose book spines, rusty staples and more often than not, small nails impaling the sheets, which were still surprisingly sharp given their age! Some of the collection had already been catalogued, but we realised that all of this needed to be retroconverted - a process of digitising paper-based information.

We had a choice of CALM (an open source archival descriptive software) or AtoM (abbreviated from Access to Memory, another open source archival descriptive software) to use in cataloguing the papers. There are pros and cons to using either software but after experimenting with both we came to the conclusion that AtoM would be best for our purposes.

A few members of the group were given the task of retroconversion while the rest of the group created a record of the other boxes’ contents using Excel. With as much as a thousand individual records per box, we were unsure how long the process would take. Each item had to be numbered, but only every tenth needed to be recorded in the official record.

So what have we found?

This letter includes a drawing which are entirely made from one line, as this one proudly states. We are unsure of whether this was a fashion, or whether the author was keen to set themselves challenges. Either way, it’s an amusing find and gives us an insight into the playful personality of the author.

Finally, here’s a set of postcards with collages made from real pressed flowers from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem! By the colour that some of them have retained to this day, it is clear that these must have been so beautiful when they were first made. The 3rd Marquess of Bute, Gwendolen’s husband, converted to Catholicism in his 20s and after his death in 1900 he requested his heart be interred on the Mount of Olives within view of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre so items like this, sent over his lifetime, are common in The Bute Collection.