FindersKeepers 2009-2016: job done!

Our home-based volunteer project, FindersKeepers, has finally reached its goal!  That means that our entire stock of catalogue lists is available online.  Or to put it another way, there are no remaining archive collections with catalogue lists that you can only check by looking at a paper copy in our searchroom.

Credit for this achievement is due to our volunteers:


This project has added over 100,000 entries to our online catalogue, opening up Derbyshire’s history to the world.

We are already thinking about where we can go from here to make our records even easier to get at, especially when it comes to helping you work out which of our 7000 or so collections is the most likely to be useful in your research. So expect to hear about new opportunities for home-based volunteers in the new year.  Let’s call it FindersKeepers phase 2…

Completion of this project is a big deal to those of us who work here.  However, I have to admit that a lot of visitors to Derbyshire Record Office start with the assumption that the online catalogue must already be comprehensive – why else would we have it?  The reason so many people have had to invest so much effort in the catalogue just to make it match that starting expectation is because record offices were invented before computers, so we had a lot of catching up to do.  Cataloguing software was introduced to Derbyshire Record Office in 2000, and it soon began to supplement the long-established system of paper catalogues with an online version.  The trouble was, the online catalogue only contained details of new accessions as they arrived – so that, in a record office which had been busily collecting archives since the 1960s, the online version was but the tip of a substantial iceberg.  And the rest of that iceberg, to extend the metaphor, was made of paper.

The paper iceberg drifted this way and that over the succeeding years, its electronic tip growing as more materials arrived at the record office – and as The National Archives project known as a2a (Access To Archives) led to a lot of our larger lists being included.

Then Derbyshire Record Office decided to set about importing all its existing stock of lists into the online catalogue.  That meant that we needed to know which collections had already had been catalogued with a paper list, and which ones were already in our computer system.  If that doesn’t sound complicated, have a look at this flowchart, dreamed up in 2009:


The flowchart is just one of the procedural documents that our staff worked with as they gathered information about what had been done and what remained undone.  Then we made a start on the task of typing up and reformatting thousands of lists.  And I am quite certain we would not be half-way through if not for all the home-based volunteers listed above, and all the hours of work that they have put in.  (I am also certain there are names missing from that roll of honour – so please let me know if yours is one of them!)

Everyone sets tremendous value on their free time, so we really, truly appreciate the contribution of so many people to help us get to this stage.  Once again: thank you.

FindersKeepers: the end in sight!


When posting one of these updates, I normally say that it’s not too late to join the FindersKeepers effort. But this time, I think it probably is! However, we are always going to need to improve the quality of our catalogue, so when devising a follow-up project I will do my level best to think of something that can powered by the energies of home-based volunteers. As ever, we owe our volunteers a huge debt of gratitude.