What do knickers have to do with an archive, you ask? We found a pair recently. White cotton bloomers, neatly hand sewn by the aunt of the lifelong collector of local and family memorabilia whose collection we were sorting. It was mostly documents, but a few other “things” had crept in, including a miniature cricket bat and a couple of boxes of matches (such a sensible item to keep with papers!).
These days we refuse to take items of memorabilia, and where we find unexpected items in a collection we return them. We do not have the right conditions to store “things”, and once put into an archive box they will probably never be seen again, other than by members of staff looking for something else in the box. In the past our predecessors were obviously less particular, and a number of strange things are lurking among our collections. We have an army uniform, various medals and cap badges, a knife made out of shrapnel rather euphemistically described as a “paper knife”, samples of lace, souvenir bricks, locks of hair, and most bizarrely of all, a small piece of human skin.
Open an archive box and who knows what you might find inside!