The end of summer weeding

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.

students
Our 2017 team of Sheriff Court Record ‘weeders’

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).

disposing of weeded material
The students disposing of ‘weeded’ material

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.

 

Weeding Scotland’s Courts

Every summer, a team of NRS archivists visits Sheriff Courts all over Scotland to collect historical records for preservation and storage.

Case records must be retained for decades after the cases finish for future appeals, cold case reviews and police enquiries, so it’s vital they are kept safe and secure. Centuries from now, these cases will provide an insight for research and understanding of Scottish law, culture and society.

Between May and August each year, our Court & Legal Team visits up to six of Scotland’s 39 Sheriff Courts to collect records that are 25 years old or over. This isn’t a glamorous process as the records must be removed box-by-box, and they’re stored in attics, basements, turrets and other hard-to-access places. Continue reading “Weeding Scotland’s Courts”