In September 2014, the construction and engineering company Collen Group Limited generously donated its archive to the Library, together with funding for a one-year cataloguing and conservation project. From its formal origins in County Armagh, to the opening of a Dublin branch, and the formation of Collen Brothers (Dublin) Limited in 1949, the Collen Archive charts the history of a family-run business through the generations. It is an important lens through which to view aspects of Ireland’s social, economic and cultural development.
Ensuring the preservation of and accessibility to the Collen Archive is the central aim of the project staff, Claire Allen (archivist) and Sylvia Steven (conservator). The Collen family have been involved in the building trade since the early 1800s, and the records, (which date from around 1879 to 1987), include over 50 volumes of financial records, minutes, and letter books, more than 3,000 photographs and negatives, as well as some loose papers, slides and cinefilm reels. Many of the records have lost their original order, and several items have suffered physical deterioration over the years. A catalogue structure has been drawn up by Claire, who is allocating item reference numbers and creating descriptions. As many of the photographs lack dates and captions, some detective work will be required. Fragile items are being stabilised by Sylvia, and the entire collection is being re-housed for future protection. As several volumes are mould-damaged specialist treatment is underway. An article about the project appears in the current issue of ARC magazine, the publication of the Archives & Records Association of the UK and Ireland.
Completion of the project will make the Collen Archive publicly available to support and inspire teaching, learning, research and innovation in Trinity College and beyond. It will be of interest to academic researchers and the wider public, including family historians, engineers and architects.
Claire Allen & Sylvia Steven