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The difference between a library system and an archive system is all to do with the relationship of the items in the collection. I learned this at Alnwick Castle. In a library application, items are catalogued based upon subject. There has been a library classification system, the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) in place since 1876, which tells librarians and their customers exactly where a book can be found on the shelves.

For archives however, items are classified in relation to each other. A paper might be in a folder, which is in a file which is in a box and so on in a sort of Russian doll principle. The important point is that the item is part of a whole.

It is amazing what you learn and how you can apply this to other things, such as the important stuff you have at home. Unfortunately I have been treating my own data like cobblers shoes.  Until now, I had never thought of archiving my own paperwork (yes, I do have some).

Over the last few months I have been thinking about how I look after what is important at home. At work I always push the importance of backing up data in case something serious happens and the live copy is lost, yet this is something that I have never really done at home. Yes, I back up my data but store it a home. I insure all of our possessions yet have not kept a record of what they are but rather an estimated value.

I have made amends however, by photographing all of the rooms in the house, with items in situ. I’ve saved these files onto a removable hard drive and backed up a copy to another one which is now at another property. If we were ever to lose the house I now have a record of what is lost.

As for my archive, I am working through all the important papers that are not already electronic and saving them in the same way. I am filing them in relation to each other with all house deeds, for example in one file structure. I am applying archive principles and practicing what I preach.

I hope it never happens but at least I can sleep a little easier.

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