2014 BAC Cataloguing Grant Winner

The Business Archives Council is delighted to announce the winning applicant of the BAC cataloguing grant for business archives for 2014. Launched in April 2010, the grant is in support of the National Strategy for Business Archives. The Council intends to make the grant available annually during strategy implementation, 2010-2015.

The BAC were pleased that yet again a significant number of applications of a high standard were received. The applications came from local record offices, museums, universities and a specialist repository, from a variety of localities and representing a range of businesses. The judging panel on behalf of the Council has awarded the grant to Gloucestershire Archives for the cataloguing of the archives of Listers of Dursley, engineers.

Listers was founded in 1867 by R A Lister in premises in Dursley, a small town in the south Cotswolds. Initially the business concentrated on agricultural machinery and by the 1890s Lister was working with Danish inventors (particularly Mikael Pedersen) on supplying cream separators for the dairy industry. From the 1900s Lister’s developed and manufactured a variety of engines and built up a reputation for their reliability and economy - from sheep shearing equipment bound for Australia and New Zealand to engines for irrigation systems and electricity generators throughout the Commonwealth. A key innovation came with the introduction of diesel in 1929: Lister’s cold start diesel engines became enormously popular worldwide. ‘Go and start the Lister’ became a blanket phrase for whatever make of engine was involved - much as ‘Hoover’ was used to cover all types of vacuum cleaner. Lister engines are featured today in numerous museum collections overseas as well as in the UK and they appear regularly at touring exhibitions, fairs and rallies.

In its heyday Lister’s employed several thousand people and drew its workforce from an ever-widening field – in the First World War women were employed as munitions workers and in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, Poles, Italians and Eastern Europeans were taken on. The firm (latterly ‘Lister Petter’) has been very much at the heart of the Dursley community and when it eventually closed down there in 2014, local people took immediate action to ensure the archive was saved from destruction and transferred to the safe-keeping of Gloucestershire Archives.

The Lister Archive Collection covers the 1890s-1990s and comprises directors' minutes; share registers; transfers of ownership; accounts; assignments of patent rights; company policies; staffing records; production and sales records; photographs and other publicity material. Until now these records have not been available to researchers so they offer an important new resource for the engineering heritage of Gloucestershire.

It was clear to the judging panel that the cataloguing of the collection would benefit many. The application highlighted the importance of the company, especially to local people, but internationally too. Research could include regional economic growth, industrial innovation, the impact of family owned businesses, wartime industry, and the commercial history of the Commonwealth. The records will offer support to several organisations, including - as identified by the application - the Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology, the Dursley Heritage Centre and the Internal Fire (Museum of Power). The project was realistic too, having the aim of cataloguing the whole collection to series level and making use of volunteers with relevant knowledge to add detail at item level. Gloucestershire Archive hope the work will be done alongside conservation on the collection (a further grant allowing). The judges believe the project will be good value for the grant.

Read the report of the project completion.