Kentish publisher’s archive saved for local history

When a business becomes insolvent and is wound up, it is rare that its records are kept for posterity, as a lasting legacy of its contribution, in a publicly accessible archive. Many business archives can be vital to understanding changing landscapes, product lines and trends in society. One of the biggest challenges for archivists and academics on the Crisis Management Team (CMT) for Business Archives is ensuring that records at risk are identified and retrieved quickly once a business is liquidated. Often premises need to be sold or given up quickly, and material can be in immediate danger of disposal.

In order to raise awareness to administrators and liquidators of businesses, the CMT contacted the IPA to promote CMT guidance. As a result, the IPA placed a link on their website to the CMT’s best practice on the website Managing Business Archives, and published an article in their newsletter.

As a result of reading the guidance, Maxwell Davies, liquidators, contacted Richard Wiltshire, Business Archives Council representative on the CMT, on 21 June to let him know that Mail Publications Limited, a local publisher near Maidstone, Kent, would be going into liquidation the following week. Richard contacted Mark Bateson at Kent Archives and Local History, who went to survey the records on 24 June. Six days later, Mark returned to Mail Publications Ltd with KALHS Service Manager Sarah Stanley. Helped by the company’s co-founder and co-owner Claire Proctor, the two of them transferred relevant material to the Kent History and Library Centre.

Founded in 1997, Mail Publications was a major local news publisher and supporter of campaigns in the Maidstone and Malling area. The company’s main title was Downs Mail, (the reference being to The North Downs, the range of hills overlooking the paper’s distribution area). Mark and Sarah were able to rescue Downs Mail almost in its entirety, along with some minutes and financial records. Sadly, the firm’s photographic collection had been disposed of some years previously.

As in so many liquidation cases, speed really was of the essence – thanks to that proactive call from Maxwell Davies, the CMT was able to alert Kent Archives and Local History, who sprang into action with real momentum, ensuring that this unique local resource will be preserved for future research.

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