M.M.O.I. Archive - located at Fancroft Mill, Roscrea Co. Tipperary
Voice from Fancroft - Tom Lonergan - Grist to the Mill, MMOI Newsletter 33, Spring Edition 2018
It was a cold, dark December day. Christmas was less than ten days away, I had just finished a project and I was sitting looking at the walls wondering what I should do with myself when the sharp ping of my phone echoed around the room. I reached over, flipped on the phone and suddenly light flooded through, pushing out the December darkness and cold and bringing in opportunity and possibilities.
“A project” it said
“Tipperary” it mentioned.
“Bed and board included!” it declared.
I stretched my arms above and around me as a smile spread across my face.
“Ah” I thought “Easy living in the countryside … sure why not?” And so I found my way to the beautiful and bright gardens of Fancroft to tackle the records of the MMOI.
So first of all, what are archives and why are they important? The National Archives of the U.K. and Northern Ireland describe archives as “… collections of information – known as records.” These records can come in many forms including, but not limited to, maps, letters, photos, digital files. Archives are hugely important as items of accountability for students, employees, politicians and businesses. One of the most important functions that an archive can serve is as a repository for items of verifiable research. It has been argued by minds greater than my own that institutions and disciplines that do not approach record keeping in a cohesive way will not only fail to maintain acceptable standards of record keeping, they will also lose the trust of those who may have otherwise accessed their records for future research. This is last factor is particularly relevant to archives such as that of the MMOI.
 The National Archives, accessed 15 Jan 2018, http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/start-here/what-are-archives/
 Kalpana Shankar and Kristin Eschenfelder, “Sustaining archives over time”, p. 249
As can be seen from the photos above the records of the MMOI were in a “small” bit of a disorganised state when I went to view them and the challenge of organising this was put before me. So how does an archivist approach a situation such as this? Well one begins to create what is known as a “Finding aid”. There are a number of different levels to a Finding Aid depending on the requirements of the given archival collection. These levels are as follows;
Fonds (overall collection)
Series (as needed)
Subseries (as needed)
File (as needed)
Item (as needed)
I always find that the easiest way to describe a Finding Aid is to compare it to a family tree. Except this family tree is composed of historical records rather than of people. Using the MMOI collection as an example of this one could think of the Society as the patriarch of this particular family of records with the Series as the children. Some of the Series, or children, of this Patriarch include ‘Academic works relating to mills and milling’, ‘Research papers of William Hogg’ and ‘Periodicals of Irish and international mills and milling societies’. These Series are further broken down into Subseries, which could be related to grandchildren, Files, great-grandchildren, and Items, great-great-grandchildren. The diagram below, which is only a partial representation of the MMOI archive, will give a clearer depiction of my meaning.
Each of these levels is recorded using a number of descriptive fields of which six are mandatory. These fields are designed to help both the researcher and the archivist. They give the researcher a flavour of what the record contains, and so will help in deciding whether they need access to the information for more in-depth analysis. They also help the archivist maintain control over the collection. The mandatory fields are
Level of Description
Extent and Medium
Scope and Content
And at the end of all of that you have your finding aid (Incomplete at present but a work in progress)
Page from MMOI Finding Aid.
And you move from this to this
I would also like to take this opening to thank Irene and Marcus for their wonderful hospitality and the opportunity given to me with this project. Fancroft is a truly beautiful place, the meals I received there were absolutely delicious, the gardens a pleasure to see, and I look forward to getting back there again sometime. So thank you Marcus and Irene.
The National Archives of the U.K. and Northern Ireland
Kalpana Shankar and Kristin Eschenfelder, “Sustaining archives over time”