A number of different models of local archives provision developed: some
justices and clerks of the peace protected the records of quarter sessions;
city and borough authorities maintained their records; and public libraries
acquired manuscripts alongside printed materials. In a few places, privately run
antiquarian societies, trusts and museums collected archives in the absence
of, or sometimes in conflict with, official bodies. The new county councils,
formed after the Local Government Act 1888, began to provide for their county's
records. By the early 20th century the forerunner of the modern local archives
could be found in the clerk to the council's department holding official deeds
and records of the council and its predecessors. These offices quickly developed
into acquisitive archives, collecting the archives of families, estates, churches
and other organisations in the locality and providing cultural, historical and
research services to the community. Led by record agents or historians, reliant on
individual enthusiasts, attached to local authorities structurally and financially,
lacking legislative legitimacy, local archives were subject to local vicissitudes of
policy and funding. Only a few saw a role in managing records for the council's
Bedfordshire can claim the earliest established county archive, appointing its
Records Committee in 1898 and establishing an archive in 1913.16 In 1909
Dr George Herbert Fowler, a professor of zoology at University College London,
retired from marine zoology to concentrate on gardening and local history. In
1912 Fowler founded Bedfordshire Historical Records Society and was elected to
the county council. He became chairman of the Records Committee, in effect
county archivist, a post he held until his death in 1940. Fowler introduced sliding
steel presses in the store rooms, prepared destruction schedules for current
records and devised a classification scheme. He had a vision of an acquisitive
historical archive, holding county, parish and private records. In many ways,
Bedfordshire (and Fowler) were pioneers.
Bedfordshire became an important training ground for the archivists who were
to oversee the development of the new county archives. Fowler noted in 1922
that there is 'no school of training from which an efficient archivist could
be drawn' so he had 'to train on the spot some young person who has a natural
bent towards historical study, who is orderly, methodical and neat fingered'.
F G Emmison was trained in Fowler's approach, and in 1938 became the first
county archivist of Essex. Fowler also trained at least three other future county
archivists. Fowler published his book The care of county muniments in 1923,17 just
a year after Jenkinson's Manual of archive administration, 'to draw the attention
of County Authorities to the value and interest of their Records'.
An exclusive professional organisation
The third theme is the existence of professional associations for archivists
and records managers, which establish standards of practice and ethics, build
ELIZABETH SHEPHERD ARCHIVISTS IN 21ST CENTURY EUROPE: EMERGING PROFESSIONALS?
16 Joyce Godber 'Local archives of Great Britain I: the County Record Office at Bedford' Archives 1:1 (1949):
10-20. Patricia Bell Freddy Stitt 'George Herbert Fowler and county records' Journal of the Society of
Archivists 23 (2002): 249-264.
17 G. Herbert Fowler The care of county muniments London: County Councils Association (1923).