House of Fraser Archive

The House of Fraser Archive offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of one of Britain's leading department stores and is an outstanding source for the history of British design, fashion, tastes, lifestyles, consumerism and consumption from the early nineteenth to the end of the twentieth century.

Image in the catalogue showing the 'largest cheese in the world'
Image in the catalogue showing the 'largest cheese in the world'

The House of Fraser Archive offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of one of Britain's leading department stores. House of Fraser has a long and distinguished history. Founded in 1849 as a small drapery shop on the corner of Argyle Street and Buchanan Street in Glasgow, it expanded rapidly, acquiring some 200 different stores, and opening branches in many parts of the world. The Archive is an outstanding source for the history of British design, fashion, tastes, lifestyles, consumerism and consumption from the early nineteenth to the end of the twentieth century. The physical Archive is held at Glasgow University Archive Services.

The aim of the project was to create a dynamic and flexible finding aid that could cope with complex records with multiple provenance and was responsive to the needs of individual researchers. The project's premise was that most finding aids are rigid, mono-hierarchical lists, which cannot adequately reflect the multiple contexts and complex inter-relationships of records. The project took a more flexible approach, by using the Australian 'series' based approach to description. In this approach, records are listed at series level rather than grouped by fonds. The result is a set of stand alone series descriptions which we are then free to link to any number of different contexts. These contexts might be the organisation(s) or person(s) who created or used the record, the specific activity or activities that gave rise to the record, or the relationships with other records.

The House of Fraser Archive was used as a test bed. This is because it is a large and complicated collection. Over time, some two hundred stores have joined or left the House of Fraser Group and it has acquired at least nine separate store chains. This makes it a particularly challenging and complex collection to list. The records have complex relationships with each other and multiple and changing provenances, all of which are impossible to represent adequately in a traditional hierarchical list.

Project website: https://www.housefraserarchive.ac.uk


Main contact: Victoria Peters

Developers: Brian AitkenGraeme Cannon

Start year: 2006

End year: 2009

Funded by: AHRC

Subject areas: Archives & Special CollectionsInformation Studies

Keywords: Digital CatalogueHistoryXML

Record last updated 2020-01-17