The archives here at the Centre for Business History are primarily used by the companies themselves, but many others also show an interest in them. Regardless of who asks, our “Images & Facts”-service desk handles their questions.
Jessica Wahlén and Anna Zeuthen are two of our archivists who service the companies who have deposited their historical material with us. They also service other interested parties, who asks general questions about Swedish business history or have an interest in a specific business archive. Often it is about researchers who wish to have access to a certain archive, but it can also be journalists, writers, students writing essays or, for example, genealogists.
It is always the companies themselves that decide on their material, so a large part of the archivists’ job at the service desk involves sending requests and approving permissions. And if everything is ok, they then help pick up the material that the questioner can then take part in in the Center for Business History’s reading room.
How many questions do you get?
– About 150 requests every month. And we receive approximately 650 visits to our reading room every year, says Anna Zeuthen.
Some questions are a little out of the ordinary. It can be particularly difficult things to find out or exciting projects that need help with producing materials. For instance, the fashion company H&M, which has its archive at the Center for Business History, got in touch when they were looking for material about the founder Erling Persson. Film and photos from the opening of various stores were primarily requested. No film sequences could be found in the archive, but the archivists were able to find the founder’s speech scripts, which were collected in a folder.
– It’s fun to see that a company like H&M really uses its archive. Not least when it comes to keeping history alive within the company, says Anna Zeuthen.
Another request came from legendary motorcycle manufacturer Royal Enfield in England. They were looking for a particular book published by Albert Bonnier’s publishing house in 1931. The book, Through the Land of Adventure by Bertil Hult, is about a trip the author made on a Royal Enfield motorcycle through the Sahara in 1929. The motorcycle company had sponsored the trip and was now looking for pictures of the adventure. Here, too, the service desk was able to help through Bonnier Publishing’s archive, which is deposited with the Centre.
– After this, a French newspaper, Road Trip: les carnets de voyage motos, heard about it and made an article about Hult’s adventure, with several pictures. We notice this type of “rings on the water” effects quite often, says Jessica Wahlén.
What’s the most fun about your job?
– You learn new things all the time. There are so many different issues to deal with, says Anna Zeuthen.
– Yes, no two days are the same. And we also get great appreciation for our work, says Jessica Wahlén.
The article was published in our magazine Företagshistoria 2022 nr 3.