It’s all very well being aware there are institutions known as archives, which collect together, preserve and make available records from our past. Another piece of the puzzle is knowing what’s actually held in the archives – and The National Archives ‘Discovery’ catalogue is a great starting point for this.
What happens after that is up to the researcher: you all come to the archives – be they physical or virtual, as in our case – with your own questions and interests. When we put this project together, we knew what we wanted to do – make the details found in the state’s worker accident reports between 1911 and 1915 more easily available. We wanted this to help all sorts of different groups – railway enthusiasts, family historians, the current rail industry, occupational health and safety professionals more widely, museums specialists and academics. We also wanted to make sure the volunteers who did the hard work gained, whether it was new skills, new information or exposure to new ideas. We talked to representatives of as many of these groups as possible, to get their insight and to make the project as useful as possible, as it’s crucial to involve interested parties at the design stage. Hopefully this shows through in the resource that we’ve produced.
What do we want to do next? Well, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the available material that we’re aware of. There’s a continuation of the accident reports from the railway inspectors when things resume from 1919. There’s all sorts of material produced by the railway companies themselves, as well as things from the trades unions, plus compensation records, newspaper reports, coroner’s inquests … And this is just the material of which we’re aware. We believe there is other material, uncatalogued, held in archives across the country, which will be just as revealing about the nature of work and accidents on the railways at the time of the First World War and beyond. Can you help us find it? We’d love to hear from you!
For now, the hard work of putting the spreadsheet together for 1911-15 is complete and it’s publicly available, so now we’d love to know what you think about what we’ve done and what you want from our project. So, a few questions to prompt your thoughts:
* What should we do more of?
* What have we done well?
* Would you like greater coverage, in an extended spreadsheet that covers a longer period?
* Is there anything missing from what we’re doing?
* Would you like to be able to submit your railway worker accident documents, to build the spreadsheet up?
* Should we be including other types of accident records, not just the state reports?
* What else would you like to see on this blog?
We can’t promise to do all of these things – yet! – but we would like to. With your support and feedback we’ll be able to make a stronger case to potential funders about why making railway worker accident records more accessible is important and should be funded.