AuthorsFlint, Alison Claire
AffiliationUniversity of Derby
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AbstractThis paper investigates the interrelationships between the nineteenth-century cataloguer, the twenty-first-century archivist and the historian, by focusing on the letter. Taking up Steven Fischer’s maxim to look beyond the obvious the paper considers the little used and un-investigated correspondence of the Ogston Estate families. A critical evaluation of the collection has indicated that this group of records can deliver more than a concise male orientated genealogical record or history of a Derbyshire country estate. The analysis questions why the majority of the surviving familiar letters in the Ogston collection were written by women, principally the wives, mothers and daughters of the Turbutt family. However, what makes this collection ever more interesting for the historian and most importantly to this study is it offers a unique insight into the methodologies adopted by one nineteenth-century family archivist, Edith Sophia Turbutt. Edith Sophia Hall married into the Turbutt family in 1879; twenty-five years later in 1904 Edith Sophia began to catalogue and record the history of her adopted family, the Turbutt family. The paper questions the nature and purpose behind Edith Sophia Turbutt’s agenda in cataloguing the ancestral correspondence of the Turbutt family line and asks was it a gender related pastime. It explores both the negative and positive impact of the methodologies used by Edith Sophia Turbutt in cataloguing the letters into bundles comprising individual family members rather than chronologically as a whole and asks what as a result is lost or gained. The paper investigates whether letter questions remain unanswered or replies appear as simple unrelated fact or if the continuity through the generations and extended family connections becomes distorted or indeed lost. In addition it inquires if Edith Sophia’s methods were the fashionable norm and further explores how and why gentry families were managing their own histories. The paper further argues that the modern archivist who accepts the early nineteenth-century cataloguing without attesting the dates or contents is not only compounding any past inaccuracies but adds further to the distortion of the evidence as whole, and as such, it considers the impact of such action on future generations of the family, and the historian; it goes on to question whether in recreating an/the imagined past the family historian or archivist past, present and future is guilty of misrepresenting the true nature of the facts.
CitationFlint, A., (2015) ‘Archivist, Cataloguer and Historian’, Female Agency, Activism and Organisation: Women’s History Network Annual Conference, University of Kent, September
PublisherWomen's History Network