Explore Your Archive: Woolworths

As part of the Explore Your Archive campaign, we’ve been looking at the role of archivists. Here we look at the work involved in dealing with a newly acquired collection, and preparing items for use by researchers.

Woolworths was a major retailer of books, clothes and pick and mix sweets. Shoppers in the UK considered ‘Woolies’ British but the brand was global, originating in America as F W Woolworth to include more than 3,000 stores around the World. There were 800 shops operating in Britain in 2008 but in 41 days all the shops were closed.

The Woolworths archive was offered to the University of Reading. After consideration it was agreed to accept the collection for two reasons; because of the significant academic support and as it would complement the WH Smith Archive which is already held in the Special Collections.

The archive arrived on 4 pallets covered in shrink wrap in August 2015 after being stored at the headquarters of Shop Direct.

Woolworths pallettes

As soon as we started to unpack the items, it became clear that they had not be loaded onto the pallets in any particular order and that they were dirty.

Woolworths CG

All the items need to be cleaned. We have started this process but it is time consuming.

Woolworths conservation

Then we need to create order from the chaos and box the items ready for cataloguing to allow access to the collection.

Woolworths collection

The archive contains minute books, premises records (including plans and photographs) and ledgers showing sales from each store.

Woolworths floorplan

We hope to make the collection available for research during 2016. Contact the reading room at merl@reading.ac.uk for details.

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