In March 2021, the COVID-19 Archives Fund awarded grants of up to £50,000 to 25 organisations. You can find a summary of the projects that were funded below.
Wirral Archive Service
The records management and archives services of Wirral Council have been very involved in recent months in assessing and clearing out records from a number of council buildings across the Wirral. In the Treasury Building in Birkenhead, they found two long abandoned basement rooms, which contained old financial records that had over the decades gone extremely mouldy.
Most of the records were of no value, but among them were 52 Rate Books and 11 Superannuation Registers, which are archival records and of interest to those researching house history and family history. The COVID-19 Archives Fund grant will allow these records to be conserved and transferred into Wirral Archives to be made available for study.
‘As Council Heritage Champion, I would like to highlight the vital work carried out by Wirral Archives to preserve Wirral’s past. The importance of this work from a social/educational/heritage and tourism standpoint is immense. The COVID-19 Archives Fund grant will allow more priceless archives to be preserved and looked after by our archive service.’ – Councillor Jerry Williams
City of Westminster Archives
‘We are delighted to have received this funding from The National Archives to help Westminster Archives proactively safeguard the history of smaller businesses under threat at this time due to the economic impact of COVID-19. Our city is incredibly diverse and local businesses have been integral to creating iconic districts and the unique character of Westminster. Some of these businesses have served local communities and visitors alike for decades and it is sad to see some well-loved ones brought low by the pandemic. To be able to preserve their incredible contributions to the history of our area is extremely important.’ – Councillor Timothy Barnes, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Cabinet Member for Children’s Services
Tower Museum Derry
The project by Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Tower Museum will focus on a collection at risk, a unique audio visual collection owned by well-known Derry cameraman, Vinny Cunningham. The project is a partnership with Vinny Cunningham of Northland Broadcast and the Museum of Free Derry. The collection will be catalogued, digitised and made available through a variety of engagement opportunities.
‘This grant programme allows us to focus on a collection whose historical integrity and uniqueness lies in its completeness. It contains mainly analogue material covering subjects as varied as protests, civil unrest, music and sporting events. It can help to tell the story of the region through visual histories. Vinny’s knowledge of the collection and commitment to making the collection available was integral to the development of the application. Much of the material, in particular the interviews and oral histories, have never been seen publicly.’ – Bernadette Walsh, The Tower Museum Archivist
Spetchley Park Gardens Charitable Trust
Spetchley Park Gardens Charitable Trust has been awarded funding from the COVID-19 Archives Fund to purchase vital conservation supplies to help preserve recently discovered material from the archive of renowned horticulturalist, photographer, writer, musician, collector and proto-feminist Ellen Ann Willmott (1858-1934).
The material was found in a damp cellar prior to essential building works at Spetchley Park and salvage work had only just begun when the pandemic and subsequent lockdown intervened. This meant that further deterioration of the material’s condition was inevitable but now action can be taken.
‘The Willmott collection is significant for many areas of historical research including gender history, gardening and photography, due to Miss Willmott’s wide-ranging interests. She is almost unknown today, but this grant will help us preserve her papers and, in due course, open up her archive to researchers, including to the author of a new biography that will be published in spring 2022.’ – Karen Davidson, Spetchley Estate Archivist
The Keep, East Sussex
The COVID-19 Archives Fund will make a huge difference to the accessibility of The Keep’s collection of tithe and estate maps. Due to the recent COVID-19 restrictions, it has been challenging to have enough staff on site to undertake anything more than the most essential collections maintenance. This fund will enable the conservation team to treat the issues with a section of our holdings that is currently not available to the public, researchers or even our own team, and will support the long term preservation of our county’s historical record.
Royal Society of Sculptors
The Royal Society of Sculptors is an artist-led membership organisation. Our archive, dating back to our founding in 1905, includes certificates and deeds, meeting minute books, annual report booklets 1919-1969, newspaper cuttings about the society and its members, and correspondence relating to previous society presidents. It is deteriorating rapidly due to dire environmental conditions at our headquarters, Dora House.
‘We are delighted to have been awarded this grant, which will enable over 50% of the collection to be moved off site, conserved and safely stored while we formulate a more orderly solution for the remaining archive and reignite our halted capital project.’ – Clare Burnett, President of the Royal Society of Sculptors
Archives and Records Council Wales
The COVID-19 pandemic has a number of implications for enabling sustainable access to archives across Wales. The economic impact has resulted in threats to the continuing operation of businesses, charities and other community organisations, with many closing with little warning. This grant will fund a project to identify and prioritise those records most at risk, with steps taken to ensure that they are deposited with an established archive service.
‘Thanks to this generous grant, we will be able to lead on the development of a national strategy to identify vulnerable records across Wales and ensure that they are safeguarded for future generations.’ – Hayden Burns, the Chair of Archives and Records Council Wales
In late 2020, Lancashire Archives was approached for support in safeguarding the records of Pearson and Associates, an architecture practice based in Lancaster since 1904. Three generations of the Pearson family had worked to create residential, civic and business premises locally, nationally and internationally. More than a century of architectural innovation is reflected in the designs, plans, and other records, and we needed to move swiftly to protect the collection. Thanks to funding from the COVID-19 Archives Fund, we are now able to bring the collection to Lancashire Archives, provide vital conservation treatment, and store the records in bespoke packaging, securing its long-term future. These actions, as well as ongoing cataloguing and development activities, mean that for the first time this unique and valuable resource will be available to the public.
‘This is a great opportunity to start vital conservation treatment on historical building plans and designs in Lancashire that date back to 1904. Thanks to The National Archives’ fund, the records will now be rescued from the garage where they are currently being stored and saved from the elements of the British weather. I’d also like to thank the owner of the collection, who agreed for the records to remain part of Lancashire Archives forever.’ – Councillor Buckley, Lancashire County Council Cabinet Member for Community and Cultural Services
West Dunbartonshire Archives
West Dunbartonshire Council recognises the importance of its heritage collections and is focused on ensuring its historic archives are kept safe and in good condition for future generations. This grant will help in this objective by enabling the purchase of remote WiFi-enabled data loggers. These will be used to monitor the temperature and humidity of archive locations. This technology will ensure that we are able to identify and address issues quickly, and will provide long-term data to help preserve our collections.
‘I would like to thank The National Archives for this grant which will enhance the excellent work already being undertaken by the council’s archivist to ensure we preserve the heritage of West Dunbartonshire for many years to come.’ – Bailie Denis Agnew, Convener of Cultural Services
The Ballast Trust
Throughout 2021, the Ballast Trust’s Surveying Officer will implement FIELDWORK: Mapping Scotland’s Business Archives. This project will identify business archive collections of local and national significance in Scotland which are at risk as a result of the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘The Ballast Trust is delighted to receive funding from The National Archives for our project FIELDWORK: Mapping Scotland’s Business Archives. It will allow the Ballast Trust to deliver a project that is ambitious in scale and will enable a strategic response to the unique challenges of COVID-19 for the business archives sector.’ – Dr Kenneth Chrystie, Chairman of The Ballast Trust
Worcestershire Archives and Archaeology Service
This grant will help secure the archives of Worcestershire County Cricket Club (WCCC) and protect them from threats of flooding and loss. In environmental archive strong rooms at the Hive, they will be assessed, monitored and cared for, pending wider access to the public.
‘We are very pleased that the COVID-19 Archives Fund will help secure the safe future of the archives of WCCC and we look forward to being able to make them available for research and display in due course.’ – Tim Jones, Historian, Worcestershire County Cricket Club
Northamptonshire County Council
A unique and fascinating collection of archives, originating from Northampton Borough, will be rescued by Northamptonshire County Council with this grant. Thousands of negatives taken by the Borough Engineer prior to slum clearances between the 1960s and 1980s show streets not otherwise photographically recorded. The accompanying deeds and papers tell the stories of the people who lived in these streets across hundreds of years.
These so-called slum clearances of the 1960s to 1980s have not yet been fully researched or understood. Associated with the clearances were compulsory purchases of whole streets in the town, evidenced by a vast archive of title deeds and associated papers, many of which include information about the relevant properties dating back several hundred years. It is virtually unprecedented for the deeds for whole streets to survive together, so this will be a vital source for piecing together the history of the county town. Together these records have the potential to tell us many new stories about Northampton and its community heritage. The grant will help fund the conservation and digitisation of this material in order to make it accessible.
‘We are delighted that The National Archives has enabled this important collection to be rescued so that we can ensure it is looked after and made accessible to the local community. This will be an amazing resource for local and family historians as well as for education and academic study. We look forward to sharing the outcomes of the project with local people.’ – Councillor Sandra Naden-Horley, Northamptonshire County Council Cabinet Member for Corporate and Community Services
Alfred Gillett Trust
Ownership of the C. & J. Clark (Clarks) collection has recently transferred to the Alfred Gillett Trust, a charitable organisation that aims to make the archives of one of the country’s most significant Quaker manufacturing enterprises accessible to the public. Funding from the COVID-19 Archives Fund will be used to retrieve this collection from its current location in a deteriorating ex-shoe component factory, for immediate removal to the trust’s site in Street. The grant will allow for a more stable storage environment through the installation of shipping containers.
The trust will feed back to the sector about the suitability of this low-cost option for heritage collections storage. These containers will enable improved access and better, safer, working conditions for staff to process the collection faster, in advance of its transfer to the archive.
‘This vital support from The National Archives will help safeguard these collections by allowing us to relocate the business archives to more suitable accommodation, improve their condition, and enable us to make this important Quaker business collection publicly accessible.’ – Cato Pedder, Chair of Trustees, Alfred Gillett Trust
Wheal Martyn Trust
Wheal Martyn Trust holds a unique archive which covers all the activities of Cornwall’s largest mining industry since the late 18th century. The archive consists of records of the former company English China Clays and its associated industries and is the largest single collection relating to this industry, shaping the economy and lives of people in mid-Cornwall and beyond. The archive is currently housed in declining conditions and this project will enable the collections to be relocated to Wheal Martyn Clay Works. It will also enable the cleaning and consolidation of much of the archive, working with volunteers from our China Clay History Society to re-establish access to the collection.
‘We are absolutely delighted to have been awarded a grant by The National Archives’ COVID-19 Archives Fund. The challenges faced by our archive have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that our limited resources have been focused on the charity’s immediate survival. This has constrained our ability to tackle the plans we had in place to safeguard the archive. This grant will make an enormous difference, enabling work to happen now with the input of vital professional expertise.’ – Colin Vallance, Director of Wheal Martyn Trust
London Metropolitan University
London Metropolitan University’s Library and Special Collections has been offered a substantial business archive from E & A Wates, which perfectly fits the university special collections’ intended subject profile of furnishing industry history. Initially founded in 1900 as Complete House Furnishers, E & A Wates added removals, cabinet-making, furniture restoration and re-upholstery to their services, expanded to three stores, exhibited at the Ideal Home Exhibition, undertook interior design and corporate work, fulfilled overseas commissions and has been an important part of the London boroughs of Wandsworth and Lambeth for over 120 years.
The archive will complement other current collections held at the Wash Houses documenting the history of the furnishing industry: Frederick Parker & Sons Ltd company archive, The Atkins/Atcraft archive and London College of Furniture. The rescue project will cover transportation and preservation material costs, and consists of a survey to identify the records for transfer. The project will also include the cataloguing and digitisation of the collection.
‘We are thrilled that the grant will help to make this extraordinary collection available for the very first time to diverse audiences within academia, the furniture industry community, local historians and beyond.’ – Professor Don MacRaild, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange, London Metropolitan University
University of Bristol Theatre Collection
The performing arts sector is under pressure due to COVID-19 and there are significant threats to the survival of the archives of both organisations and individuals. A project at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection will seek to identify important theatre and live art archives that could be at risk and ensure they are supported and preserved. The Theatre Collection will be raising awareness of the value of theatre and live art archives among record-holders, developing an ongoing response to the situation, and sharing its findings with the wider sector.
‘We are grateful to The National Archives for awarding a grant to the University of Bristol Theatre Collection in response to this urgent situation; the project has the potential to make a material contribution to the history of theatre and live art in Britain which might otherwise disappear.’ – Karla Pollman, Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Bristol
The Ruskin Library, Museum and Research Centre at Lancaster University is home to the leading collection of the works of John Ruskin (1819-1900), artist, writer and radical thinker. This grant will support the centre to store The Ruskin Whitehouse Collection temporarily offsite, while they undertake vital capital works to increase public access to The Ruskin’s iconic building which houses the collection.
‘As we traverse new ways of working, learning and living post-pandemic, our nation’s collections will continue to contribute new knowledge and understanding of the social, cultural and environmental challenges of the 21st century. At Lancaster, we are proud to be the custodians of a collection of national heritage status and global significance and, with the support of The National Archives, we look forward to sharing The Ruskin Whitehouse Collection with more people than ever before.’ – Professor Paul Connolly, Dean, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Lancaster University
This grant will support the consolidation and stabilisation of the An-Viet Foundation, an unquestionably unique resource offering an unrivalled insight into the migrant experiences of Vietnamese refugees and their children. Our project will involve the consolidation of the collection and emergency conservation work on its most at-risk elements. The project will also lead to the formation of a community steering committee to make important decisions about the future of the collection, including finding an appropriate long-term home for the material.
Centre for Policy on Ageing
The Centre for Policy on Ageing (CPA) will use its grant to protect its unique collections at risk. The CPA archive documents organisational development and activities over the last 74 years, including the setting up of early housing associations. The archive also records the growth of policy work in social gerontology in the UK, the setting up of centres of gerontology in universities, and the changing perceptions of older people from negative to positive over the last 25 years.
CPA was established in 1947 by the Nuffield Foundation as an adjunct to the welfare state. Initially called the National Corporation for the Care of Old People (NCCOP), it was later transformed into an independent charity – CPA – to promote the social interests of older people through research, policy analysis and information dissemination. The centre’s information service collects and disseminates research evidence and good practice for users through online services, including its specialist library collection, and is unique in being the only UK organisation systematically collecting data for bolstering more effective ways of working with an ageing UK population.
‘We are thrilled to have been awarded a COVID-19 Archives Fund grant. This will ensure that our valuable and at-risk archive collection can be preserved for future generations.’ – Gilly Crosby, Director, Centre for Policy on Ageing
Loughborough Bellfoundry Trust
During restoration work in the Bellfoundry tuning shop, a chest containing drawings dating back to 1894 was discovered revealing how the Taylor family developed the bell shape that enabled the harmonic tuning of bells. Techniques developed in 1896 dramatically improved the musicality of bells that sound to this day around the globe.
From Europe to Australasia, harmonic Taylor bells cast in Loughborough now ring out as a call to prayer, for celebration or as a carillon in concerts and recitals.
The drawings, which chart experimentation with the bell profile, will be restored with this grant and will shortly take their place among the Taylor Archives managed by the Trust. The Loughborough Bellfoundry Museum and Archive is undergoing an extensive redevelopment, part of which will tell the story of the Taylor family and their discovery of harmonic tuning. These drawings will become a significant part of that project.
‘This was a very exciting find and we are entirely grateful to The National Archives for their support in restoring these drawings after years of damage and neglect. They will make an important contribution to the story of the Taylor family in Loughborough.’ – Andrew Wilby, Trustee
Midlothian is the local government area to the south of Edinburgh. The council’s Archive and Local Studies Service holds records documenting the history and culture of the local area. Many of the records in these collections are unique and cannot be found elsewhere. The archival collection spans from circa 1660 with title deeds and papers for Dalkeith properties to the present-day records produced by Midlothian Council. Its materials are invaluable if you are interested in Midlothian, including family history.
The council understands the importance of safeguarding its archive, one of its most precious assets, and decided to relocate it to an archival facility that can provide it with the environment and care that it needs. However due to the pandemic this plan came to a sudden stop. This grant will enable the council to ensure the safety of its archival collection by moving it to a secure location on a temporary basis, until a time when it can be relocated to its permanent repository.
‘We are delighted and grateful for receiving this grant as this will enable us to move forward with our plan to secure our collection without any further delays.’ – Midlothian Archives
Brent Museums and Archives
Brent Museum and Archives are incredibly grateful to have been awarded a grant from the COVID-19 Archives Fund to support the safe storage of the ‘BRENT 2020 – Borough of Culture’ collection. As it will be the first major collection for Brent Museum and Archives to be almost completely digital in format, we are delighted that we will be able to take significant steps towards ensuring secure storage and technical support for the collection.
The records created during ‘BRENT 2020 – Borough of Culture’ are reflective of the social and cultural histories and practices of one of the most diverse boroughs in the UK. The collection includes the nationally significant and internationally recognised ‘No Bass Like Home’ reggae archive. This archive pulls together Brent’s contribution to reggae history through a collection of oral histories, including interviews with high-profile individuals such as General Levy, Don Letts, Seani B and Robbo Ranx. This funding represents our first critical step to ensuring the story of ‘BRENT 2020’ will be digitally preserved and made accessible for years to come.
East London Mosque
The East London Mosque Archives is launching an initiative to rescue Muslim archives from organisations that are at risk of losing valuable records of unique women’s activism in diaspora communities.
‘This is so exciting for East London Mosque archive service, which hosts important collections covering over 110 years of history in a purpose-built strong room. In addition to the records of the East London Mosque itself, our collection has been growing with other deposits and acquisitions. It is of the utmost importance that Muslim historical records are preserved, as they show how British Muslims have enriched this country and society. The case is even more so for records on Muslim women, whose stories are often marginalised and forgotten.’ – Sufia Alam, Manager of the Maryam Centre at the East London Mosque
Royal Institute of British Architects
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) recently acquired the archive of Dixon Jones, an architectural practice founded in 1989 by Sir Jeremy Dixon and Edward Jones, who met as students at the Architectural Association. The practice is best known for its master-planning, civic and cultural buildings, including the Saïd Business School in Oxford, the Ondaatje Wing of the National Portrait Gallery, and the redevelopment of the Regent Palace Hotel in London. It was dissolved in September 2020, after 30 years in operation.
Thanks to the COVID-19 Archives Fund, the RIBA has been able to secure appropriate storage for the practice’s significant quantity of digital material. This material is one of the largest digital acquisitions to the RIBA Collections and represents a major step forward in the RIBA’s long-term digital acquisition and preservation strategy, paving the way towards greater access for researchers and the wider public.
West Yorkshire Archive Service
The West Yorkshire Archive Service exists to preserve the local heritage of historical documents and to help members of the public make use of them. The service has offices in Bradford, Calderdale (Halifax), Kirklees (Huddersfield), Leeds and Wakefield.
‘Like so many heritage organisations across the UK, access to West Yorkshire Archive Service buildings was curtailed for a significant time in 2020 and we were unable to carry out environmental monitoring or our usual checks on the condition of the collections. We are thrilled to have been awarded this grant which will allow us to start essential collections care work that had been delayed during the pandemic.
The funds will be used to employ two members of conservation staff, working alongside the Leeds archive team, to survey the contents of over 17,000 containers of archive material covering the 12th century to the present day. A programme of cleaning will run throughout 2021 and will be completed at a speed which we would have been unable to achieve on our own, thereby ensuring that the records remain accessible to researchers now and in the future.’ – Teresa Nixon, Head of Heritage, West Yorkshire Archive Service