I’ve written here quite a bit recently about some of the things from our collection of accumulated material from the last century. While a great deal of our material relates more or less directly to our own project and will be considered for retention as an archive when the project is wound up, other things are simply unrelated to the project and find themselves with us through historical accident.
Anything which is not going to make it into our final collected archive needs to be disposed of to the right home, and the sooner the better. Sometimes this is straightforward disposal to recycling (e.g. multiple copies of mundane administrative documents), when necessary via a shredder. In other cases it seems that the material is likely to be worth preserving by someone but not us: when in years to come a researcher might wish to find things in this category, they will need to be held in a place where someone looking might conceivably expect to find it, and often that is clearly not going to be in the DMLBS archive.
The Balliol memoranda are an exemplary case in point. No one interested in that kind of material is going to look up the DMLBS archive, wherever it happens to be at the time, if these are what they are looking for: they will expect to find them at Balliol College. Nice though it might be for us to hold on to such documents for the ‘colour’ they provide to our material, they are of much greater value and usefulness in their rightful home.
As I work through our materials I am therefore contacting people, institutions, and companies up and down the country to see whether they wish to have material that seems like it would best live in their collections. In some cases, they already hold copies or originals for the materials and are happy for me to dispose of ours. In other cases, they don’t have them and are grateful to receive them. Thus, the Balliol documents have gone to Balliol College. Other materials have gone to OUP and to Jarrold Publishing (the successors to the publishers of Ronald Latham’s 1946 book, In Quest of Civilization).
Among other institutions contacted so far from whom responses have yet to come are The National Archives (as the PRO, where Ronald Latham worked as an Assistant Keeper and then Principal Assistant Keeper, and also home to the DMLBS project for most of its history), Royal Grammar School Newcastle (attended by Ronald Latham in the 1920s), and Penguin Books (publishers of Latham’s translation of Lucretius, De rerum natura).
Thanks to the internet, identifying suitable recipients to contact is usually relatively straightforward, but even now it is surprising how many websites omit the relevant information that would actually allow me to make contact with the right department, or even any department, for dealing with my enquiry: in fact so far the difficulty of making contact correlates with the amount of time I have waited for replies, which is probably no coincidence.