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Churchill Archives Centre

Churchill Archives Centre

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The Churchill Archives Centre (CAC) is one of the largest repositories in the United Kingdom for the preservation and study of modern personal papers. It is best known for housing the Churchill Papers, the massive archive of Sir Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

, as well as the private papers of Baroness Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

. Yet it also holds a whole range of political, diplomatic, military and scientific collections including great personalities of the modern era such as : Ernest Bevin
Ernest Bevin
Ernest Bevin was a British trade union leader and Labour politician. He served as general secretary of the powerful Transport and General Workers' Union from 1922 to 1945, as Minister of Labour in the war-time coalition government, and as Foreign Secretary in the post-war Labour Government.-Early...

, Enoch Powell
Enoch Powell
John Enoch Powell, MBE was a British politician, classical scholar, poet, writer, and soldier. He served as a Conservative Party MP and Minister of Health . He attained most prominence in 1968, when he made the controversial Rivers of Blood speech in opposition to mass immigration from...

, Lord Kinnock
Neil Kinnock
Neil Gordon Kinnock, Baron Kinnock is a Welsh politician belonging to the Labour Party. He served as a Member of Parliament from 1970 until 1995 and as Labour Leader and Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition from 1983 until 1992 - his leadership of the party during nearly nine years making him...

, Sir John "Jock" Colville, Lord Hankey, Admiral Lord Fisher, Field Marshal Lord Slim, Sir John Cockcroft
John Cockcroft
Sir John Douglas Cockcroft OM KCB CBE FRS was a British physicist. He shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for splitting the atomic nucleus with Ernest Walton, and was instrumental in the development of nuclear power....

, Sir James Chadwick
James Chadwick
Sir James Chadwick CH FRS was an English Nobel laureate in physics awarded for his discovery of the neutron....

, Professor Lise Meitner
Lise Meitner
Lise Meitner FRS was an Austrian-born, later Swedish, physicist who worked on radioactivity and nuclear physics. Meitner was part of the team that discovered nuclear fission, an achievement for which her colleague Otto Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize...

, Dr Rosalind Franklin
Rosalind Franklin
Rosalind Elsie Franklin was a British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who made critical contributions to the understanding of the fine molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal and graphite...

 and Sir Frank Whittle
Frank Whittle
Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle, OM, KBE, CB, FRS, Hon FRAeS was a British Royal Air Force engineer officer. He is credited with independently inventing the turbojet engine Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle, OM, KBE, CB, FRS, Hon FRAeS (1 June 1907 – 9 August 1996) was a British Royal Air...

.

Located in the grounds of Churchill College, Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, itself the National and Commonwealth Memorial to Sir Winston, the Centre has been awarded ‘Designated’ status by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council
Museums, Libraries and Archives Council
The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council is a non-departmental public body in England and a registered charity with a remit to promote improvement and innovation in the area of museums, libraries and archives...

. It is open to the public and welcomes enquiries about its collections. The mission of the Centre is twofold: to preserve the collections in its care so that they can continue to inform the debates of future generations, and to strive to make those collections as accessible as possible.

Collections


Although it is the papers of Sir Winston Churchill that give the Churchill Archives Centre its name, this institution houses more than simply Churchilliana; nor is it limited simply to the papers of politicians and statesmen like Churchill. Instead, the nearly 600 collections at the Archives Centre are delightfully diverse, containing the records of lives lived as soldiers, sailors and airmen, journalists, reformers and activists, public servants, diplomats, physicists, chemists and biologists, not to mention as the wives, mothers, fathers, siblings, and children of these figures. Between them, the collections span the world, offering a multiplicity of perspectives of twentieth-century history.

Subjects


This range in the nature of the collections means that a similarly wide array of subjects can be explored through them. For instance, most aspects of the Second World War can be traced in the archives, while records pertaining to both the birth (with Churchill’s so-called Iron Curtain
Iron Curtain
The concept of the Iron Curtain symbolized the ideological fighting and physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1989...

 Speech) and death of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 are found in CAC archival boxes.

In addition to serving as a valuable resource for military
Military history
Military history is a humanities discipline within the scope of general historical recording of armed conflict in the history of humanity, and its impact on the societies, their cultures, economies and changing intra and international relationships....

, political
Political history
Political history is the narrative and analysis of political events, ideas, movements, and leaders. It is distinct from, but related to, other fields of history such as Diplomatic history, social history, economic history, and military history, as well as constitutional history and public...

, and diplomatic history
Diplomatic history
Diplomatic history deals with the history of international relations between states. Diplomatic history can be different from international relations in that the former can concern itself with the foreign policy of one state while the latter deals with relations between two or more states...

 as well as the study of international relations
International relations
International relations is the study of relationships between countries, including the roles of states, inter-governmental organizations , international nongovernmental organizations , non-governmental organizations and multinational corporations...

, the collections at the Churchill Archives Centre are as relevant for research into aspects of social
Social history
Social history, often called the new social history, is a branch of History that includes history of ordinary people and their strategies of coping with life. In its "golden age" it was a major growth field in the 1960s and 1970s among scholars, and still is well represented in history departments...

 and cultural history
Cultural history
The term cultural history refers both to an academic discipline and to its subject matter.Cultural history, as a discipline, at least in its common definition since the 1970s, often combines the approaches of anthropology and history to look at popular cultural traditions and cultural...

, colonialism
Colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

, as well as labour, science
History of science
The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world and the domains of the social sciences....

, and women’s history. This is particularly true of these themes as they pertain to the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 context, with countless files of letters from constituents, correspondents, fans and opponents to political, military and scientific personalities, not to mention their own letters penned to family and friends, as well as personal diaries and scrapbooks. Many such series read like an issue of National Geographic as diplomats, secretaries, journalists, and society wives travelled the world photographing and noting down their experiences.

Types of documents



The collections at the Churchill Archives Centre include speeches, memoranda, reports, minutes, letters, postcards, diaries, appointment books, telegrams and memoirs, diagrams, maps, sketches and doodles, audio and video recordings, and photographs. The Archives Centre attempts to preserve these whilst rendering them accessible to the public. Examples of the figures, events, themes or broader topics in CAC's holdings:

People

>
Politicians Scientists Diplomats & Civil Servants Military/Intelligence Various
Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

Frank Whittle
Frank Whittle
Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle, OM, KBE, CB, FRS, Hon FRAeS was a British Royal Air Force engineer officer. He is credited with independently inventing the turbojet engine Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle, OM, KBE, CB, FRS, Hon FRAeS (1 June 1907 – 9 August 1996) was a British Royal Air...

Nicholas O'Conor
Sir Nicholas Roderick O'Conor
The Rt. Hon. Sir Nicholas Roderick O'Conor, P.C., G.C.B., G.C.M.G., was a British diplomat...

Alexander Denniston Clementine Churchill
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

Lise Meitner
Lise Meitner
Lise Meitner FRS was an Austrian-born, later Swedish, physicist who worked on radioactivity and nuclear physics. Meitner was part of the team that discovered nuclear fission, an achievement for which her colleague Otto Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize...

Percy James Grigg Jackie Fisher William Deakin
William Deakin
Frederick William Dampier Deakin, Sir William Deakin was a historian, World War II veteran, and literary assistant to Winston Churchill....

Enoch Powell
Enoch Powell
John Enoch Powell, MBE was a British politician, classical scholar, poet, writer, and soldier. He served as a Conservative Party MP and Minister of Health . He attained most prominence in 1968, when he made the controversial Rivers of Blood speech in opposition to mass immigration from...

John Cockcroft
John Cockcroft
Sir John Douglas Cockcroft OM KCB CBE FRS was a British physicist. He shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for splitting the atomic nucleus with Ernest Walton, and was instrumental in the development of nuclear power....

Alexander Cadogan William Slim William Thomas Stead
William Thomas Stead
William Thomas Stead was an English journalist and editor who, as one of the early pioneers of investigative journalism, became one of the most controversial figures of the Victorian era. His 'New Journalism' paved the way for today's tabloid press...

Florence Horsbrugh James Chadwick
James Chadwick
Sir James Chadwick CH FRS was an English Nobel laureate in physics awarded for his discovery of the neutron....

Jock Colville William Reginald Hall
William Reginald Hall
Admiral Sir William Reginald Hall, KCMG, CB, RN was the British Director of Naval Intelligence from 1914 to 1919...

Maurice Hankey Rosalind Franklin
Rosalind Franklin
Rosalind Elsie Franklin was a British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who made critical contributions to the understanding of the fine molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal and graphite...

Ernest Bevin
Ernest Bevin
Ernest Bevin was a British trade union leader and Labour politician. He served as general secretary of the powerful Transport and General Workers' Union from 1922 to 1945, as Minister of Labour in the war-time coalition government, and as Foreign Secretary in the post-war Labour Government.-Early...

Neil Kinnock
Neil Kinnock
Neil Gordon Kinnock, Baron Kinnock is a Welsh politician belonging to the Labour Party. He served as a Member of Parliament from 1970 until 1995 and as Labour Leader and Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition from 1983 until 1992 - his leadership of the party during nearly nine years making him...


Events and broader topics

Political Scientific Military Various
Appeasement
Appeasement
The term appeasement is commonly understood to refer to a diplomatic policy aimed at avoiding war by making concessions to another power. Historian Paul Kennedy defines it as "the policy of settling international quarrels by admitting and satisfying grievances through rational negotiation and...

Jet Engine
Jet engine
A jet engine is a reaction engine that discharges a fast moving jet to generate thrust by jet propulsion and in accordance with Newton's laws of motion. This broad definition of jet engines includes turbojets, turbofans, rockets, ramjets, pulse jets...

Yalta Conference
Yalta Conference
The Yalta Conference, sometimes called the Crimea Conference and codenamed the Argonaut Conference, held February 4–11, 1945, was the wartime meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, represented by President Franklin D...

Eliza Armstrong case
Eliza Armstrong case
The Eliza Armstrong case was a major scandal in the United Kingdom involving a child supposedly bought for prostitution for the purpose of exposing the evils of white slavery...

UK General Strike of 1926
UK General Strike of 1926
The 1926 general strike in the United Kingdom was a general strike that lasted nine days, from 4 May 1926 to 13 May 1926. It was called by the general council of the Trades Union Congress in an unsuccessful attempt to force the British government to act to prevent wage reduction and worsening...

Nuclear Fission
Nuclear fission
In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts , often producing free neutrons and photons , and releasing a tremendous amount of energy...

Battle of Gallipoli
Battle of Gallipoli
The Gallipoli Campaign, also known as the Dardanelles Campaign or the Battle of Gallipoli, took place at the peninsula of Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916, during the First World War...

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is an anti-nuclear organisation that advocates unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United Kingdom, international nuclear disarmament and tighter international arms regulation through agreements such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty...

Iron Curtain
Iron Curtain
The concept of the Iron Curtain symbolized the ideological fighting and physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1989...


Access


The Churchill Archives Centre is open to the public, though appointments must be arranged in advance to guarantee a place in the Reading Room.

The aim of the Archives Centre is to open up as much material for research as possible, but there may be closures on conservation, personal, or official grounds. For material which is open, they boast an average delivery time of five minutes following the placing of a request for a file.

Preservation and conservation


A core policy of the Archives Centre is to preserve archival material as far as possible in perpetuity for the use of present and future generations. This policy impacts on almost every activity within the Archives Centre and is quite a challenge given that some collections are used very heavily while others contain badly damaged items.

Although most of the archive material is in the form of loose papers, it also includes large photograph albums, posters and plans, cine film, and artifacts such as one of Lady Thatcher’s handbags.

Only a small proportion of the papers are significantly damaged, but these require attention to make them usable. Often, they will need intervention to render them more chemically stable for long-term preservation. Sometimes the damage is extremely disfiguring and dramatic.

Conservation staff at the Archives Centre undertake the following treatments to conserve damaged archive material:
  • Surface dry cleaning to remove abrasive, oily and acidic dirt
  • Relaxation of creased/warped items and flattening
  • Washing out acids or impurities from paper and photographs to stabilize them chemically
  • De-acidification of acidic and brittle papers and the addition of alkaline 'buffers'.
  • Repairs to tears or weak areas using fine acid-free tissues/papers and reversible adhesives.
  • Removal of pressure-sensitive tapes, mounts etc. which can cause damage over time.
  • Stabilization of moldy material
  • Housing in conservation bindings


Key to preserving the archives at the CAC is the specially equipped storage facility or strong room, which features a sophisticated fire detection system that suppresses fire using a mixture of inert inergen
Inergen
INERGEN is a blend of inert atmospheric gases that contains 52% nitrogen, 40% argon, 8% carbon dioxide, used for fire suppression system agent. It is considered a clean agent for use in gaseous fire suppression applications. Inergen does not contain halocarbons, and has no ozone depletion...

 gases. The strong room, which is monitored against insect pests, provides a stable, cool, and relatively dry strong environment with clean filtered air.

The archives themselves are stored in protective packages made from high-quality, acid-free (alkaline buffered) paper and card and sometimes inert polyester film. This not only protects archival materials physically, but also provides a safe, non-acidic environment. Sturdy boxes are used to further shield files from light, dust, and disaster.

To maintain the physical integrity of the archives, all staff and visitors or readers are instructed regarding appropriate handling procedures while exhibition of original material is strictly controlled.

History


Churchill College began to collect papers in 1965, with the papers of Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

 being the first collection. The Archives Centre was purpose-built in 1973 to house the papers of Sir Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

. His papers dealing with his life after 1945 were given to the college by his wife but the papers dealing with his life pre-1945 remained in family ownership (though housed in the Archives Centre) until 1995 when they were bought for the nation. The grant to purchase the papers also included funding for a dedicated team of archivists to catalogue the papers. This task took a team of five archivists five years to complete: the catalogue to the Churchill papers was finished at the end of 2000 and was made available online 12 months later.

Meanwhile the Centre had continued to collect personal papers from other figures from the fields of politics, the military, diplomacy, technology and science. By the end of the twentieth century, the Archives Centre was running out of space in which to store these archives. In 1997, Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 gave her papers to the Archives Centre. Funding was raised to build a new wing of the centre to house the Thatcher papers and to ensure that the Centre could continue to add to its collections in the 21st century.

The Archives Centre has collaborated with organisations around the world on projects and exhibitions about Winston Churchill. One highlight has been a joint exhibition with the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

. Another milestone for the Archives Centre was reached in 2006 when catalogues to all the collections (excluding Churchill and Thatcher) were made available online via the Cambridge-based JANUS webserver.

For a detailed history of the Churchill Archives Centre, please consult the official website.

See also

  • Churchill War Rooms in Westminster
  • The Churchill Centre
    The Churchill Centre
    The Churchill Centre and Churchill Museum at the Cabinet War Rooms was founded in 1968 to educate new generations on the leadership, statesmanship, vision, courage and boldness of Sir Winston Churchill. Thousands of members around the world work together to impress the record Churchill's life and...

     and Churchill Museum at the War Rooms
  • Chartwell
    Chartwell
    Chartwell was the principal adult home of Sir Winston Churchill. Churchill and his wife Clementine bought the property, located two miles south of Westerham, Kent, England, in 1922...

    - Churchill's family home, now administered by the National Trust

External links