If you are interested in the history of Livingston, you might want to consider using the Livingston Development Corporation archives for your research. There is over 300 metres of material in the archive, which translates into around 20,000 records, of which about 5,000 are photographs and architectural plans; the remaining 15,000 are paper files! Unsurprisingly, these records contain a wealth of information on how Livingston was created.
Archival documents are records created by persons or organisations in the course of everyday activity. These records are no longer relevant for day to day business, but contain information of enduring value and have been retained because of their long term importance. It is the duty of archivists to manage records that have been deemed worthy of retention, so that these records are both preserved for future generations and, at the same time, are accessible for researchers today. Research in archives varies widely from collection to collection. Archives can be used in any number of academic disciplines, but they are also popular with genealogists and local history groups who are interested in how our predecessors lived and worked.
When it became know that the Development Corporation was to cease to exist by March 1997, planning was started to decide what to do with the assets of the Corporation. One such asset was the information and records that the Corporation had created and used whilst it had been responsible for developing Livingston.
What is in the Archive
The five Development Corporations in Scotland were issued advice on which records to preserve and which to destroy, by the National Archives of Scotland (as of 2012, the National Records of Scotland):
“Records are selected for permanent preservation if they provide unique evidence of important decisions or activities. This includes documents illustrating the structure, functions and policies of departments, e.g. organisational charts, departmental publications, publicity material and management reports. A sample of more routine documentation is also preserved to illustrate the work of the different departments. Generally speaking, the procedure is to start with the highest level of records (board papers, policy and strategy documents etc) and to supplement with selected files and particular instance papers which give details on subjects of interest. As far as possible, the selection should also reflect accurately the functions of each department.”
Based on this advice, therefore, a substantial quantity of records was destroyed by the Corporation prior to transfer to the Archives and Records Centre. Very little weeding of records has taken place within the Archive.
The collection then, as deposited by the Corporation contains the papers that detail what the Corporation did, why they did it and how they did it.
For those of you interested in genealogy and who have family from Livingston, it is unfortunate that most records relating to individual tenants, and of staff employed by the Corporation, were destroyed when the Corporation wound up. The collection, therefore, extensive and detailed as it is, contains little material useful for family history though we do have indexes of names employed by the Corporation.
The records cover every aspect of the work carried out by the Development Corporation – from how they planned to build a thousand houses a year using industrial techniques, to how they tried to entice foreign and domestic companies to invest in the area, to how they helped create a community that had as much strength, unity and identity as a town that has existed for hundreds of years. Livingston may be a New Town, but it is already 50 years old and a good portion of its history can be found in these papers.
If you want to use the archive for research, or just because you are interested, please get in touch with staff at the Archives and Records Centre. Contact details for the archive are available here.