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House of Lords Case Records Become (Micro)Film Stars

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The following is a guest post by Agata Tajchert, one of the collections technicians in the Processing Section of the Law Library’s Collection Services Division.  Agata heads up our preservation efforts to microfilm material that is too fragile to remain in paper form.

A few years ago, after a major inventorying project, the Law Library’s collection of United States Court of Appeals Records and Briefs was sent to our state-of-the-art off-site storage at Fort Meade for safekeeping.  Last month we started a new project to preserve our collection of case materials submitted to the United Kingdom‘s House of Lords.

An unexpected opportunity enabled us to provide much needed reformatting for additional archival titles, such as: 19th century Malaysian Sarawak gazettes, German Bundesanzeiger (federal gazette) and lastly, the final cases handled by the House of Lords before its role as the final court of appeal was taken over by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, newly created in 2009.

Previously the Law Library’s collection of briefs for cases submitted to the House of Lords, containing briefs from 1925 to the 1970s, was preserved on microfilm in 1974. Since then hard copies were shelved in our closed stacks. We managed to gather a pretty complete collection of over 20 years’ worth of material (1986-2008). Its sheer volume was overwhelming.

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Ken with trucks and piles full of the House of Lords cases

Most of the credit for tackling this project should go to Suneewan Creech and Ken Sigmund, who spent several weeks organizing and researching this title. Their job wasn’t easy as many cases, especially older ones, did not have docket numbers, which weren’t easy to find even in the House of Lords’ online archives. Also, very often individual files for the same case became separated and were mixed with others, so finding and gathering them all together was a long and tedious process. Frequently, units – which eventually become microfilm reels – had to be rearranged to incorporate newly discovered material and at the same time stay within the page limit allowed per unit (each page is a future microfilm image, and each reel fits only a certain number of pages).

Work on the House of Lords cases was not completely tedious though. We had some interesting cases, such as [Michael] Douglas and another and others v Hello! Ltd., [2007] UKHL 21 and Polanski v Conde Nast Publications, Ltd., [2005] UKHL 10, where celebrities sued paparazzi and Vanity Fair’s publisher for invading their privacy and making false claims (respectively).

We also had files with interesting supplementary materials. One example, a brief from Designer Guild Limited v. Russell Williams (Textiles) Limited (Trading As Washington Dc), [2000] UKHL 58, had ten samples of fabric included. Unfortunately colors are lost when microfilmed, so after the images are made, this particular brief will come back to the Law Library and will be kept in our collection to supplement the microfilmed material.

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Designer Guild Limited design
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Russell Williams Limited design









Similarly, the VHS tape, “Welfare Aspects of Shooting Foxes”, attached to the Scottish case of Whaley and another (Appellant) v Lord Advocate (Respondent), [2007] UKHL 53 will remain as a supplement to the microfilm.

“The House considered claims that the 2002 Act, which set out to make the hunting of wild mammals with dogs unlawful, infringed the claimants’ human rights, in that it contravened international treaties requiring the support for traditional practices and cultures.” (David Swarbrick on

The photographs below, however, will be preserved only on microfilm even though the color will be lost.

Jif Lemon Case Photos (from Reckitt and Colman Products Limited v Borden Inc. and others, [1990] UKHL 12).
Because of the huge amount of these House of Lords records and briefs, we will be sending them gradually for reformatting and preservation while staying up-to-date with the microfilming of our regular material as well.

Nonetheless, the House of Lords cases are becoming the Law Library’s newest (micro)film stars.

(All photographs taken by Agata Tajchert)

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