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Geoff Holman Collection

Cataloguing the collection


I joined the Mills Archive as a volunteer back in 2011 after graduating from university. Archives appealed to me as a potential career, and my work here, including a project as part of the Vodafone World of Difference scheme in 2012, convinced me that archives were the way to go. I began a distance learning archives qualification from Aberystwyth University in 2013 whilst working part time at the archive, and for my second module one of the assignments was to catalogue a small collection. At the time the Archive was putting a lot of work into completing Geoff’s book, but nobody had yet catalogued the collection. It seemed the obvious choice to pick, and it was just the right size for the assignment.


The Holman collection was one of the last to be catalogued before we launched our current catalogue. At the time we used a Microsoft Access database with a bespoke piece of software, so filling in the catalogue entries looked like this:

Geoff had already given us some scans of some of his photos, and these were already in the catalogue along with earlier versions of some of the draft chapters of his book. I removed these entries and added the information they contained to the new entries I was creating.

Among the digital files we got from Geoff there was a spreadsheet listing the Holman photographs. I imported this into Access and used it as the basis for the item level entries in that series.


A general principle of cataloguing archives is ‘arrangement by provenance’ – keeping items together which originate from the same creator. In this case the contents of the collection came from two creators, the Holman Brothers firm and Geoff himself. The first question, therefore, was whether to split the whole collection into two.

As I looked through the collection, however, it became clear that Geoff himself hadn’t kept these two sets of material separate. He was clearly more interested in subject than provenance, and arranged and added to the remnants of the company archive he inherited in a way which reflected his own interests. The Holman photographs are the most obvious example. The material comes from Holman Brothers but the arrangement is Geoff’s, whilst his additions do not stand alone but are best understood in the context of the Holman Brothers material with which he placed them. For instance, alongside old photos of the Holman Brothers yard Geoff placed this photo he’d taken of a sign advertising the apartments later built there:

In the light of this I decided against splitting the collection up, but arranged it into series as described under ‘archival history’ in the catalogue entry for the whole collection. This has a precedent in the John Holman collection at the University of Kent, which also contains both corporate and personal material; whilst cataloguing our Holman Brothers material as part of the ‘Geoff Holman Collection’ helps distinguish it from the main Holman archive at Canterbury Cathedral.


As I worked through the collection I repackaged it in archival folders and boxes.

Looking through the collection
Looking through the collection

At a later date I worked with volunteers Cara Sheldrake and Kate Doughty to go through and digitise the photographs and upload them to the catalogue.