Keeping of old documents

Old minute books, bank statements and catalogues can take up many feet of shelf space, especially for a society with a long history. So, what does one do when the inevitable urge comes to start weeding old files? Is it really necessary keep papers going back over dozens of years?

Starting with the easy, there is statutory requirement to keep financial records for seven years. However, it is better to make sure that records for the last eight years are kept, in order to ensure that year ends are available. Beyond the eight-year point, there is little justification in keeping bank statements, cheque stubs etc, unless there was an incident which was of particular significance.

Old membership lists may have some historical value and/or statistical value, but it is debatable whether lists more than about ten years old are particularly useful. Out of date Constitutions come into the same category and details of changes will be included in AGM reports. However, there may be a historical interest in retaining original versions where possible, as societies often display such documents as part of commemorative exhibitions to mark centenaries, half/quarter centuries since inauguration.

Show catalogues can provide a veritable gold mine of information and statistics, as well as forming an important historical record. The more complete the set, the better. These should definitely be kept. Show entry forms must be retained for twelve months after the show.

Committee minutes and documents relating to AGMs and SGMs must be retained. They provide the definitive record of all club business together with the decisions made and policies agreed. It is surprising just how often cases of precedent are sought in an attempt to resolve sticky situations.

The moral is, think very hard before throwing away historical documents. Rather like clearing out the garage at home, you can be certain that within weeks of the rationalisation exercise, you will be hunting urgently for something that was consigned to the dustbin. But it is not necessary to keep two copies of everything – one will do.

Online free cloud storage website are available e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox, Apple iCloud, Sync to name a few and worth considering.