Information for researchers
The Business Archives Council of Scotland is not a repository and does not hold records of business or industry. We are happy to provide advice to researchers on potential sources of information that will help their research.
Many important collections of business records are held by public archives and are easily accessible. This section of the site provides links to useful websites and sources of information. If you have a specific query about business archives or require help locating suitable records, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our best to help.
Owners right to control access to material
Please remember that in most cases there is no statutory right of access to business records. If archives are in the private possession of families, individuals or businesses, and even if a survey of the records has been completed and sent to the National Register of Archives (Scotland), they are still the possessions of the holder, who is completely within their rights to deny access to the documents. This can be for a number of reasons: lack of space to make the material available without disruption to their work; commercial confidentiality; current use of the material for business purposes by their own staff or a lack of supervisory personnel.
Sometimes, material is held within a public archive service for safekeeping but ownership is retained by the organisation. Access may also be denied for reasons that should be clearly defined e.g. commercial confidentiality.
Archives in private hands
National Register of Archives for Scotland – The NRAS maintain an online register of records held in in private hands. The NRAS operate an enquiry service and can attempt to arrange access to these records on your behalf.
Discovery at The National Archives – This is an online index for the UK of records held in both public and private hands. Where available, links to full catalogues have also been included.
National Records of Scotland – The NRS holds significant collections of business and estate records for Scotland and their searchable catalogue is available through their website. Notably national collections such as those of the shipbuilding, coal and steel industries are held by the NRS, although some records, such as those the the Clyde shipyards, are held on the NRS’s behalf by other repositories.
National Library of Scotland – The NLS holds significant business collections in its manuscript department. In particular, it holds a number of archives of publishing companies as well as families and individuals connected with them.
Moving Image Archive – Is a national repository for the moving image in Scotland and forms part of the National Library of Scotland. Its collections include amateur and professional film of business and industry. Their catalogue, including film clips, is available on their website.
Universities also hold large collections of business archives which are accessible to the public. Consequently, a good means of locating information on these is through the Archives Hub website.
University of Glasgow Archives and Special Collections is the largest repository of business archives in Scotland. Their website is full of useful information regarding business records. Their online catalogue is also available.
Local authority archives
Scottish local authority archives hold a wealth of material related to businesses and industry in their local area. The diversity and nature of their collections reflect the richness of the local community’s industrial heritage and their historical strengths.
Collections include solicitors, estate and land agents, undertakers, architects, retailers and publicans records as well as industrial and manufacturing records. These provide a rich source of information on the local economy and of the working lives of the population.
The Scottish Archival Network (SCAN) site includes descriptions of many of the collections held by local authorities.
A list of all archive repositories in Scotland, including those of local authorities, can also be found on the Archives Online (ARCHON) site.
Subject specific sites
Capturing the Energy – A initiative looking to record the North Sea oil and gas industry. The first fruits of the initiative has been a project, based at the University of Aberdeen, to document the Frigg field that straddles the Norwegian and UK sectors of the North Sea.
Scottish Textile Heritage Online – a website devoted to collections of records documenting Scotland rich textile history, including a searching database of collections of textile records and objects.
Private business archives
Lloyds Banking Group – Lloyds Banking Group Archives manages the historical records of the UK’s largest retail bank. Dating back to 1695, the archives include records of the company’s main brands (Lloyds Bank, Halifax, Bank of Scotland and Scottish Widows), together with those of their many historical constituents. It is a rich and internationally important collection. The Bank of Scotland records 1695-2001 were inscribed on the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register in 2011.
Natwest Group Archives – The Natwest Group holds the records of the Royal Bank of Scotland – an extensive collection of records relating to the activities of its constituent banks and their owners, staff and customers over three and a half centuries.
The following companies also have archive repositories based in Scotland: