It is hard to believe that a year has passed since the start of the Art of Selling project. In this time over 500 boxes have been sorted and over 13,000 (and counting) items have been catalogued. The aim of this project was to make previously uncatalogued records available to the public for the first time in a searchable catalogue, and that brief has been met. Through the catalogues, family tours, and reminiscence packs, the press and sales material will reach audiences that may not have engaged with the material previously. This project was made possible through an ‘Archives Revealed’ grant, a scheme sponsored by the National Archives and The Pilgrim Trust. This scheme enabled the British Motor Museum archives to hire a project archivist to work on the press and sales collection and open it to the public.
The final part of the puzzle as boxes receive their proper labels which will identify
their location in the catalogue entries.
We moved on to phase 2 of the project in March 2019. The first phase was the organisation of the collection into its relevant categories. This process also provided the opportunity to rebox the collection into archival standard boxes. This is in order to help preserve them for many years to come. The next stage was to catalogue the material using an Excel spreadsheet designed by the National Archives to facilitate uploading the catalogues on their Discovery website. Cataloguing is the process of describing items to allow the public, and the archive, to identify what we have. This makes it easier to give access to relevant documents. The fields that are included in the description are the title, creator, content of documents, and date. I was not alone in this vast cataloguing task and was helped by the Deputy Archivist, Charlie, and Archive Assistants, Sarah- Jane and Mollie. We also had a small team of volunteers to help. In addition to Lyn and Les, who have been volunteering on the project from the start, we also gained Pat, David and Jen. After a crash course on archival description and arrangement they enthusiastically took up the task of cataloguing sections of the collection. Through all this hard work an immense number of items have been catalogued for the first time. These catalogues are still being worked on and so the number of items made available will continue to grow.
‘Barry Wheeler’, British Leyland salesman, attempts to convince a lady driver that
an Austin Maxi is just the car to meet her needs.
Thankfully, we were able to step away from the computer for a bit through our outreach activities. Working with the education department allowed the use of archival material in a creative way through the Summer family tours and Museum Explainer interactions. With a project called the Art of Selling what better character than Barry Wheeler, car dealer. The family tours embraced all eras of cars to highlight the innovations in car manufacturing including the evolution from hand signals to indicators. This tour took in the Austin Seven, Austin A30 convertible and Wolseley Wedge. The explainers, however, embraced the seventies in all its glory with Barry Wheeler being the stereotypical salesman in a British Leyland Dealership. Basing their patter on archival material, the Explainers attempted to sell unsuspecting visitors an Austin Maxi, Wolseley ‘Wedge’, and Austin 1100. Barry Wheeler has been such a popular character that he will be used again in future activities.
The archive and education teams choose items to include in reminiscence boxes.
We have also worked closely with the Education Department and Community Volunteers to create reminiscence packs. We will have two types of reminiscence packs. The first is two boxes, one based on buying a car and the other on travelling, which will be used by the Community Volunteers in their engagement with community groups both at the museum and in the local area. The second type is reminiscence packs which will be sent to local care homes with guidance for their use, these will be kept by the recipients. Both comprise duplicate archival material, high quality reproductions, and tailor made guidance notes and talking points. These packs aim to start conversations on a range of topics, including those not limited to cars. In testing the material with an Alzheimer’s group we found topics of conversation included fashion, families, dogs, trips they have been on, and their driving tests. They also brought back memories of cars they have had throughout their lives, including their first car, their family car, and even the car they went ‘courting’ in. We have also included material that will stimulate their senses including trim samples, and objects. This ensures that people who are visually impaired can also participate. These packs will hopefully encourage people to reminisce and discuss their past while also creating new memories.
One of our volunteers, working on the final phase of project cataloguing
The culmination of our project will be that this once inaccessible collection is opened up to the widest possible audience. Traditional archive activities such as boxing and cataloguing will combine with imaginative outreach initiatives. This is the purpose of the Archives Revealed scheme, and we hope that future recipients of these grants will find it as rewarding an experience as we have done.