Top 10 Tips for Synagogue Archives

Duke Street Synagogue • London Metropolitan Archives

Nicola Avery, from the London Metropolitan Archives, gives us her top ten tips for maintaining a synagogue archive, as we prepare for our Treasures from Britain’s Synagogue Archives live event on Sunday October 18 at 6pm.

What to keep in an archive

  1. Minutes are gold mines for historians so always keep them. Write into a book or keep digitally. Do not print and stick into a book – Sellotape, glue and over-filling will all damage books.
  2. Do not use albums where photographs need to be stuck in – albums are good as photos can be arranged and labelled but the ones where photos are slipped in are best. Always label each photograph with date, event, names of people if possible but preferably not on the back of the photograph. Digital photographs can be kept electronically.
  3. Always keep items of interest to people wanting to trace their family: ketubot, marriage registers, circumcisions, burial registers etc
  4. Publications: newsletters or other publications produced by your organisation. Keep one copy in the archive. If you have multiple copies these can be retained for lending, teaching etc but not in the archive.
  5. Financial: keep ledgers and account books. Do not keep bills, receipts, cheque book stubs, invoices etc once they are no longer required for business purposes.
  6. Property: keep old deeds and leases even if they are expired. Also plans of buildings

How to keep your archive

7         Keep documents in their original format – if they were produced on paper keep them on paper – no need to scan; if they were created as a digital file (ie ‘born digital’), keep and store them as a digital file – no need to print out. The exception is emails which should be printed and kept on paper, but only emails showing important decisions should be kept.

8         Keep ‘born-digital’ items like minutes, accounts, photographs etc on an external hard drive or a memory stick (well labelled). If you deposit with a record office they will take the digital files and return your hard drive.

9         Keep your paper archives in thick cardboard or plastic storage boxes with lids, to keep out dust and insects, and keep them as cool and dry as possible.

10         Organise your archives by type – keep all the minutes together, all the ketubot, all the photographs together etc. Within those sections arrange them chronologically.


Join us for an in-depth look at synagogue archives on Sunday October 18 at 6pm.


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Hidden Treasures: Celebrating the documents, photos and artefacts in British archives that tell the story of Jews in Britain