The Georgian Papers Programme: How to catalogue archives

Meet Emma. She is a Metadata Creator at the Royal Collection Trust in Windsor. Here she describes her role and why it’s so important.

How to catalog archives

Throughout the Georgian Papers Programme Emma catalogues all of the papers in the collection.

Once you open a book, or a volume or a diary - you never really know what you’re going to find. That’s exciting.

“Day-to-day, you've got the papers, which are then scanned as images and then you need some data which tells you what the image is about. That’s what I do - I put the data to the images,” she explained.

Once the papers have been scanned by an imaging technician, they come to Emma.

She has to carefully take them out of their boxes, record any necessary information such as what the paper is, who created it, what it refers to and any particular subjects and individuals of significance.

Finally, and most importantly, she carefully puts them back in the box to be preserved.

Georgian Papers programme volume

“You've got to be very patient and accurate, be thorough and methodical,” she explained.

In total, between March and September 2016, she handled 3,183 documents and 44 volumes of work, such as account books or diaries.

Archives are very fragile and the best way to preserve them is to not handle them. So this project is also about preservation.

“These documents are three hundred years old and they haven't previously been stored in the best of conditions, they were kept in a basement – now they are in our custody we want to ensure their longevity and preserve them in the best possible way."

The Georgian Papers Programme does that. In storing the archive in a digital format not only does it make them accessible to millions of people around the world, it also means that historians and academics won’t need to handle them as often.

One of the more surprising collections Emma work on was that of Queen Charlotte, King George III’s wife.

“It’s was so interesting to read Queen Charlotte’s letters to George, Prince of Wales, who was later The Prince Regent and George IV,” she said.

“They were just notes such as wishing him happy birthday or making arrangements for his wedding and enquiry about health. Normal really for a mother and son, but they are fascinating.”

She explained how The Georgian Papers Programme is an ambitious and wide reaching project.

“It makes me feel like my work contributes in a small way to that,” she added.

And now those archives are available for people at home to explore and discover.

You'd be surprised at the range of subjects covered. Just go online and have a look.

Find out more about the Georgian Papers Programme and explore the papers for yourself on the Royal Collection Trust website.