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Key Records

Introduction

Bills register of the 1930s. Image courtesy of HSBC Archives

Bills register of the 1930s. Image courtesy of HSBC Archives

The records that companies generate vary across sector, business type, size, structure and scale, and of those records only a select fraction will be useful as archives. The list provided on this website is not exhaustive, and should be used as a guide only, and adapted to your individual needs and experience.

This list may exclude some record types that are unique to your business and it may include some old-fashioned records created and kept by companies trading at least 30 years ago. In addition to paper records, the categories will include multi-media records such as audio-visual, photographic and film and electronic records.

As a rule company archives are kept permanently and so should only contain information that explains and illustrates the key development and activity of your business over time. Think about how you want to exploit your archive [see example case studies] and the information you will need to save to do so.

The list contains some statutory records that all companies must keep. They give you essential information such as when and where your company first started trading. This information is useful for parent companies as well as subsidiary companies. Smaller companies may find that much of their eventual archive is made up of statutory records, with additional specialist records representative of their particular sector or niche skills base.

For further information about business archives in general please see these notes put together from a variety of sources by Stacey Harmer, formerly Gee, Archivist when at the former Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section (now part of London Metropolitan Archives, City of London).

The National Archives have published guidance on deaccession and disposal, useful for records that are not considered to be part of the archival collections. The guidance also includes advice on legal, regulatory and ethical issues, a practical framework for decision-making, and case studies from the sector. 

If you want to discuss your own companys records or need advice on the selection process to create your own archive please contact the Business Archives Advice Manager at The National Archives asd@nationalarchives.gsi.gov.uk ; telephone 020 8392 5270.



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