Many clubs accumulate material that relates to their interest, such as drawings, books, records, models, parts, trophies and so on. Many FBHVC clubs are close to celebrating their half century (if they haven’t already done so) and so their own documentation such as magazines and minutes of meetings, have an historic interest in their own right.
Club officers obviously have a responsibility to ensure these items are preserved and protected for future generations of members, but the more material that is accumulated, the more difficult this can be, not only because of the space required for storage, but also because of the difficulty of keeping track of what is being kept where, and the need to keep it insured.
FBHVC cannot advise individual clubs on how they should handle this problem, but the notes below may assist club officials in deciding how best to proceed. Articles on this topic appeared in Newsletters 4/2009 and 5/2009.
Identify and record
When the club acquires an item, either by way of purchase or as a gift, it is clearly important to identify that object as belonging to the club, rather than to whoever may be charged with looking after it. Documents and books can be identified with a discreet stamp. Invisible marking can be used.
It makes sense to identify items with a unique reference number and to keep a log of what each number refers to. This is especially important if items are being stored in members’ homes to avoid the risk of muddling club items with similar items that may belong to the member personally. If the collection is like to grow in future, it may be worth going one stage further than a simple register and establishing a cataloguing system that can grow.
A copy of the register (or catalogue) should be kept by someone other than the person looking after the items as a precaution against problems arising in the event of a fire or a sudden death.
Historic archives and artefacts can have significant value and should be properly insured. Club officers need to tell their insurers what they have and how it is stored. Individuals who store club property at their home should inform their own insurers what they are doing even if the club property is actually covered on a club policy, because holding high value items could increase the risk of break-in.
Few clubs are lucky enough to be able to have a dedicated club HQ where archives can be kept, but a successful club that has been going for twenty or more years is likely to have a accumulated more material that can comfortably be accommodated by an individual member. Commercial storage is a possibility, and is not especially expensive but before entering into a storage agreement it is wise to check first that the storage conditions are appropriate for the material being stored (it’s no good storing documents or photographs anywhere where there is any risk of damp – and that includes members’ lofts) and what charges may be made for access to the material.
There is little point in a club acquiring, or accepting gifts of, material if members either do not know that the club has it or they are unable to access it. Access can be troublesome if the material is held at a member’s home or if it is in permanent store. Thought needs to be given to how the material is to be made available to members.
If material is to be sold, perhaps as a result of a duplication of items or a need to reduce material to fit the available storage space, thought should be given to offering any donated items back to the original donor before offering them form sale. Should members have first chance to buy anything being sold? If a substantial part of a collection is being sold, should it first be offered to an appropriate transport museum or transport archive before being offered for open sale?