Building and Preserving Your Corporate Collections

Exterior image of Guelph Civic Museum at night with the Church of Our Lady in the background.

Guelph Civic Museum, 2012 , Mario Madau Photography

A corporate collection reflects an organization’s culture and its current role and historical relevance to the community.

Corporate collections can include:

  • foundational documents and letters patent
  • business ledgers
  • written and photographic documents
  • manufactured products, including prototypes
  • marketing and advertising materials
  • digital materials

Organizations are primarily focused on daily operations and many are not yet building and preserving their corporate collections. We encourage organizations to think about their impact in three strategic ways to help to define or further shape corporate collections, illustrated by three case studies drawn from the Guelph Museums’ collection.

What is your service or product?

Matthews-Wells Company 1931-1968Interior of Matthew-Wells Pickle Factory

  • Located at Victoria and York Roads
  • Produced jams, pickles and condiments under the Rose Brand – sold nationally
  • 1959 bought out by Nabisco, sold in 1968 to Robin Hood Flours who closed the plant
  • Our collection includes photographs, promotional materials, jars, recipes and company documents
  • We use the collection materials to tell the story of the company, its impact on the city, its value to the neighbourhood it was located in and its employees

How does your organization contribute to Guelph’s history?

Bell Organ and Piano Company 1864-1929Bell Piano Factory, circa 1910

  • Located on Carden Street
  • Largest producer of pianos and organs in the British empire with factories all over the world
  • Queen Victoria and the Sultan of Turkey owned Bell organs
  • Bell’s legacy is a wide and long standing one – we get requests all of the time for material on the company
  • Unfortunately, we are missing the corporate records, especially serial numbers and catalogues that would further increase the historical and research value of the collection

What impact will your organization have on Guelph today and tomorrow?

Guelph Elastic Hosiery Company 1922-2006Protex Cotton Vital Zone Support Date Circa 1950s

  • Located on Waterloo, Northumberland, and Speedvale
  • Produced athletic support garments
  • Best known for inventing the jock strap in 1922 – a patent they held until 1956
  • In the early 1920s they held a community contest to name the garment and the winner was given $5.00 – a large sum at that time!

Digital Materials

Unidentified Men Writing on a Cast of a ValveWhen collecting, don’t forget about digital materials – they hold valuable content concerning the development of a company and should be preserved. For example, we hold over 300 photographs and slides related to the Guelph Engineering Company (1939-1990). Contemporary organizations are producing thousands of digital photographs but are they being preserved today in the same way that photographic materials were saved yesterday? If you don’t preserve your digital materials now, how do we tell your story 100 years from now?

Have questions about your collection?  Speak to us, we can help!

Dawn Owen, Curator: [email protected]

Check out our collections database online.