At the beginning of September, we said a fond farewell to our five summer legal students, who are employed each year to assist us with processing the vast amount of Sheriff Court civil records that we take in each year.
Archivists aim to visit 5-6 courts every year and bring back records that are over 25 years old. We keep a record of every case that goes through the courts, but the sheer bulk of the papers concerned means that we have to make informed decisions about what we can dispose of from amongst the huge amount of papers that go along with every court case.
This is where our legal student team come into play. They are usually drawn from the ranks of 3rd or 4th year students from one of the Scottish Legal degree courses, and they spend twelve weeks sifting through and ‘weeding’ the civil court papers to allow us to dispose of papers with no enduring historical interest, or evidential value.
In practical terms, this means that we are able to retain the pertinent information about every case (the people involved, the case details, the judgements, etc.) but that we are not overburdened by keeping case papers which are simply multiple examples of similar types of cases (e.g. simple payment cases).
This year, the students helped us to process over 400 meters of records from Edinburgh, Elgin, Falkirk, Haddington, Hamilton, and Peebles Sheriff Courts.
We anticipate that, by the time we finish cataloguing these records, the ‘weeders’ will have helped us to reduce this down to around half of the original amount – saving us a huge amount of space, and allowing us to efficiently preserve and catalogue the records which will help to inform future generations.
We wish our summer students all the best success with their future endeavours, and send our thanks for their help.