Diamonds and Rust: Re-housing the Student Records

One of the largest components of the Department of Social Work’s archive is a collection of over 1000 student admission files from 1928, when the school was transferred to the university, to the mid-1950s.

This is a wonderful set of records. As well as telling us about the backgrounds, interests and careers of the students they are also a rich resource for social history. The files cover a period of social reform and change – World War 2, the introduction of the welfare state, immigration and changing population. They make it possible to build up a picture of the personalities involved in the profession at any given time and, through the inclusion of descriptions of jobs for which the students are applying, we can see the advancement of social work as a field during this period.  Our previous blogpost “A New Profession” looks at the contents of these files in more detail.

This short post looks at the process of re-housing this material.

Archival boxes and folders

Paperclips and Pins

The first task was to remove all rusty paperclips, staples and pins. Not only do they pose an injury risk to those looking at the material, they also make it difficult to view the material without folding or tearing the pages and over time the rust will further stain the paper. Where necessary metal paperclips are replaced with archive friendly plastic ones.

Tool for removing staples



Folders and Boxes

In their original state, the admission files were housed in overcrowded file boxes. The boxes were dirty and too small resulting in the contents of the files being subjected to wear and tear over the many years of being removed and returned. Moreover the files were stored vertically meaning much of paper was becoming distorted.

Once all staples and pins had been removed each file was re-housed in an archival standard folder. The files consist of many different sizes of paper and so they have been re-housed in four-flap folders which will keep all the contents secure but also easily accessible.

Several files were housed in one overcrowded folder……

…..and multiple folders squashed into overcrowded boxes

Archival 4 flap folder

New folders in archival box

Where photographs were present they were placed in protective see-through pockets.

Photograph in protective sleeve (plastic paperclip for scale)

Similarly any pages that have been “repaired” with sellotape were placed in archival polyester sleeves so as to prevent the sellotape leaking onto other pages as it degrades. In the future these pieces of sellotape will hopefully be completely removed.

Research Assistant Sarah helping with the re-housing – thanks Sarah!

Rust removed, double click on the images here view just some of the diamonds uncovered during the process.







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