Image above: Patricia Evelyn Hutchins (1942-2017), illustrator and writer: artwork
Image credit: Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books (Ref: NEWCB:2021.002)

237 archive services responded to the annual accessions to repositories survey. This number is close to the level of respondents prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the resilience of the sector. Many archive services closed and had staff on furlough through the first year of the pandemic, limiting the work and level of collecting that could take place. However, most institutions are starting to recover, and are again building their collections. Overall, the number of collections accessioned, at just over 11,500, has remained a little lower than pre-pandemic levels, but is heading in the right direction.

Accessions vary greatly and cover a wide range of topics. Many archives have continued to collect contemporary records, and there were over 260 collections related to COVID-19. There were also some notable additional deposits to Black Lives Matter collections. However, there has been surprisingly little on Brexit and the effects of the UK leaving the EU.

There were a number of collections on the theme of science and technology, such as Cambridge University Library’s accession of the scientific and research papers of Stephen Hawking (1942-2018), mathematician and theoretical physicist.

Other highlights include the Wellcome Collection’s topical accession of a Spanish broadside mandating the smallpox vaccination for children, dated May 1818. The mandate was intended to be posted in public places in Spain and the colonies. The preamble to the document suggested that the lower classes were inherently less caring for their children and therefore bore more responsibility for the spread of the disease.

And, among the oldest documents collected last year, the National Library of Wales acquired a royal charter, dated 1209, of King John, for Philip, son of Wastellion, confirming the gift of an estate in Wales in exchange for feudal service to William de Braose, and a knight’s fee to the tenure of Abergavenny Castle.

Continue t Part 2: Collecting trends

Continue to Part 3: New in archives