W H Allen vital records
Some records are vital for an organisation to function. Precautions need to be taken to ensure that in the event of a disaster these records are available so that normal service can be resumed as soon as possible. For example, the flooding of New Orleans earlier this year highlighted how important it was to be able to gain access to medical records in spite of the turmoil. The best way of ensuring the availability of records is to make sure copies are stored away from the main business premises. In these days of computer systems this often involves making daily back-ups that are then stored by specialist companies, but paper records may also need to be copied and stored elsewhere.
In 1938 W H Allen, Sons & Co Ltd of Bedford created a new fire proof records store away from the main works 'having learnt that some our opposite numbers have lost their records by fire.' When first opened the store held 60,000 drawings in steel cabinets and 2,000 cases of correspondence. The firm hoped it would 'cover our requirements over the next 30 years.' However, shortly after this step had been taken the company, as part of its Air Raid Precautions, also undertook a major duplicating scheme for these records.
The photograph below [Provisional reference: AQ6/6/P1/2752] shows the set up used for taking photographs of the engineering drawings; further photographs in the series, part of the AQ collection currently being catalogued, follow the processing and storage of the films. It is worth noting that the man on the ladder is probably not the photographer, who after all was taking this picture. Given the importance of the records and the efforts being made to protect them from fire it is perhaps ironic that the man is smoking a cigarette!