As one of 25 people who attended the Society of Archivists / Business Archives Council of Scotland training day on Financial Records, I'd like to thank David Powell (BACS Surveying Officer) for organising the sessions and HBOS plc for hosting the event at their Museum on the Mound. The day was very well-structured and balanced.
In the morning we started with a very useful background talk from Alan Cameron, Convenor of the BACS, on the development of double-entry book-keeping and the ways in which it was innovatory compared to what went before, which also introduced us to the accounting equation and the stages which take us from the books of first entry to the audited accounts. Clare Paterson (Assistant Archivist (Scottish Business Archive) at Glasgow University Archive Services) and David then took us through both the main books of account and other financial records from an archivist's perspective. We learnt how to identify the various types of record and how they interrelate. Just when we might have been nearing saturation point, we were given the welcome opportunity to follow transactions through some actual financial records ourselves, from cash book or journal to the double entries in the ledger, as Clare, David, and Reto Tschan of HBOS plc had taken the trouble to look out examples of the process for us. After lunch Reto gave us an interesting insight into the way the theory of the double-entry book-keeping system was applied to the setting up of the Bank of Scotland's initial books of account, with a story of embezzlement for added human interest. We ended with the academic's perspective, with Prof. Sam McKinstry of the University of the West of Scotland giving us guidance on the information that researchers are looking for, the records which are useful to them, and the problems that they can face (largely when only sections of the full set of books of account survive). He reminded us that useful accounting information can be found outside accounting records, in board minutes and annual reports.
Since the course I have been inspired to practice following through some transactions from journals to ledgers. I will need to do some further reading to get over my haziness with credits and debits, but the course has been invaluable in giving me the confidence to start engaging with this type of record.
Assistant Archivist, Glasgow University Archive Services
The presentations and some of the practical tasks from the training event have been made available on the BACS website at www.gla.ac.uk/archives/bacs