Boots launches free online archive

By Rosemary Collins, 15 June 2017 - 1:51pm

The high street pharmacist has put around 20,000 items online

Boots became a successful high street chain after the first store opened in 1849. Images: Boots Archive

High street pharmacy chain Boots has announced it is creating a new free online archive covering the history of the business.

The new Boots digital archive, funded by a Wellcome Trust grant, holds around 20,000 items with plans to release around 100,000 in stages over the next four years.

The archive traces the history of Boots over almost 170 years, from when John Boot opened a small herbalist store in Nottingham in 1849.

In 1927 Boots purchased a 279-acre site in Beeston, where the Boots UK Support Office is still located, and by the mid-1930s there were over 1,000 Boots stores in the UK.

“The range of activities which the business has been involved in is quite extraordinary and so this makes for a really interesting and eclectic collection,” Sophie Clapp, Boots archivist, told Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine.

The archive includes pictures of Boots workers

She added that although the collection only contained a small number of personnel files, there was a range of other useful documents for family historians interested in tracing ancestors who worked for Boots.

These include employee magazines dating back to the First World War, which contain career and biographical details, images and letters from colleagues.

There are also staff training records, early salary ledgers, documents charting the employee sports and social club activities and a large collection of photographs.

Boots is a long-standing major employer in Nottingham, and the collection also contains information on all its key buildings, some of which are Grade I listed, as well as photographs of its sites and stores, which document the physical changes to the city.

In addition, the archive holds business papers, product packaging, advertising, price lists and catalogues, store plans, research papers, product recipes and formulations.

Boots employees formed their own sports clubs

The Boots archive, established in the mid-1990s, is one of the largest retail archives in the UK, with half a million items in total.

In December 2014, American pharmacy company Walgreens purchased Alliance Boots, leading to the creation of the Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA).

Since then, work has been underway to extend the archive and find new additions in order to reflect the history of the wider WBA Company.

The archivists have also created a database of Boots employees who served in both world wars, although it currently only includes those who died in service in the Second World War.

The database includes photos and biographical information where available, but the archivists would love to hear from anyone who has more information about the men.

To see all the names, type ‘WWII*’ into the database's ‘Any text’ box, and to find a specific person, type their name into the ‘Name, title or position’ box as well.

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