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We can learn from the past

05 March 2009
We can learn from the past

Peter Crome, managing director of the Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle andMaster Innholder, urges modern hoteliers to keep good archives

In the library at Skibo are 40 large, leather-bound books which contain copies of letters sent out by the estate over a period of 80 years. These books have been a great source of interest to me in understanding how the estate was run and they also provide a rare glimpse into the life of one of the richest men in the world, Andrew Carnegie.

Looking at the books made me question how those who follow me in 100 years' time are going to discover what life was like in the hospitality industry in the 21st century.

During the late 1970s, I was HR manager at a well-known London hotel. Since the early 1900s, the team had kept a large book, aptly named "the bible" which recorded the names of all staff who had served there. I, like my predecessors before me, kept it up to date as it was a wonderful reference for any enquiry about past employees.

A few years later, I returned to the hotel and visited the HR office. When I asked if they were still using "the bible" they told me they had thrown it out, as it had no relevance to their operation.

In today's world, where everything is on IT systems and archive records are removed to make way for other, "more important" things, how carefully are we serving history?

When I was general manager at the Savoy, I once spoke to a guest who remembered that, as a boy, he had stayed at the hotel with his governess in 1926. I excused myself and slipped down to the archivist and within 10 minutes she had in her hand the very history card relating to that stay. I presented a copy to the gentleman who was completely overcome.

Researching your family past is fascinating and so too is investigating the history of your own business. Fortunately many around us have kept good records of events. I would encourage you to do the same: we owe it to the future.

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