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Archives and Special Collections: Opening up the Archives (Collection Highlights)

Introduction

On 30 October 2018, the University of Exeter Special Collections teamed up with Digital Humanities and Arts & Culture for a unique 'Opening Up the Archives: Think! See! Do!' event to explore the riches of our archives and how you can use them for research and impact.

The day included lectures, digital demonstrations, and a workshop with artist practitioners. A selection of archives and rare materials held by Special Collections were also on display.

 

Below you will find information about some of the collections that were displayed and discussed at the event, as well as suggestions for potential research.

For more information about the collections or to make an appointment to visit our reading room, please contact Special Collections at libspc@exeter.ac.uk.

Twentieth-century diaries

Special Collections holds a considerable number of diaries across several different collections. These diaries provide fascinating insight into daily life in the twentieth century, and also offer an opportunity to compare and contrast shared experiences, such as life in South West England or life during wartime. The collections include diaries kept by politicians, Navy captains, historians, writers, poets, and religious communities.

Journals and appointment diaries of Patricia Beer, poet and writer (EUL MS 335/PERS)

The personal papers of Patricia Beer include appointment diaries, dating from 1980 to 1999; three volumes of personal journals, dating from c 1969 to 1993 and containing observations and ideas for poems; and two travel journals, dating from 1976 to 1981.

Diaries of Arthur Caddick poet and writer (EUL MS 124/3) 

One scribbling diary and six pocket diaries containing various notes, appointments and contacts. The diaries date from 1980 to 1985.

Diaries of Charles Causley, poet, teacher and broadcaster (EUL MS 50a/PERS/2)

Charles Causley's papers include diaries from 1938 to 1943 relating to his time as a coder in the Navy during the war, and appointment books covering the years 1985 to 2000. There is more information on our archive catalogue

Diaries of Jack Clemo, poet (EUL MS 68/PERS/2)

The literary and personal papers of Jack Clemo contain an almost complete run (except 1939 and 1940) of Jack Clemo's personal diaries from 1935 until his death in 1994. The diaries record various observations and comments on issues such as health problems, literary output, personal relationships, faith, mood changes, and world events. The diaries are available to search at item level on the archives catalogue.

Copies of diaries of Charles Dalrymple-Belgrave, knight; colonial officer and financial advisor (EUL MS 148) 

The Charles Dalrymple-Belgrave collection consists of copies of the personal diaries of Belgrave, from his arrival as advisor in Bahrain to the time of his departure during the Suez crisis. They date from 1926 to 1957 (with a gap for 1937).

Diaries of Ronald Duncan (EUL MS 397/15/1) 

Writer, poet and librettist Ronald Duncan's pocket, desk and engagements diaries from 1951-1982. The diaries show appointments, travel arrangements, visits with friends, performances and launches of Duncan's work, deadlines and other events. Some contain drafts of poems or other additional notations

Diaries of Rose Marie Duncan (EUL MS 397/18/1) 

Diaries kept by Ronald Duncan's wife Rose Marie Duncan from 1940-1989 describing family life. Detailed entries surrounding farming, the community farm initiative at Gooseham and the impact of the war in Devon. The diaries frequently record responses to historic events of the day along with mentions of performances and publications of Ronald Duncan's work.

Diaries of Bianca Duncan (EUL MS 397/15/1/32) 

Three diaries from 1939-1943 written by Ronald Duncan's sister Bianca (Bunny). The diaries primarily contain descriptions of family life, work on 'Townsman', farming, and passing mentions of world events.

Copy diaries of John Fowles, author (EUL MS 102) 

Copies of diaries kept by John Fowles, dating from c 1949 to 1990.

Diaries of Cecil Harmsworth, liberal politician, businessman and the first Baron Harmsworth (EUL MS 435) 

Cecil Harmsworth's papers include original diaries and transcripts, dating from 1900 to 1974.

Diaries of Captain H E Hillman, Captain in the Royal Navy (EUL MS 52/1) 

The papers of Captain Hillman include six diaries, dating between 1920 and 1926. The diaries are principally composed of details of the leisure activities of Hillman and his wife Minnie, plus daily weather reports. Some significant events are noted in detail such as the arrival of the French, American and British around the world flight crews in 1924, and the violence of the Shanghai 'Crisis of 1924-25'. 

Desk diaries of Sir William Luce, Knight; Governor of Aden; politician (EUL MS 146/1/7) 

Desk diaries dating from 1953 to 1956, 1961 to 1966, and 1970 to 1971. The contents are confined to brief details of appointments, travel dates and meetings, both personal and political.

Diaries of Ernest Martin, writer and social historian (EUL MS 309/3/1) 

One typescript diary dated 1961, and two pre-printed diaries, dated 1988 and 1990. Entries mainly relate to the weather, Martin's daily business and current events.

Journals of A.L. Rowse, historian, poet, diarist, biographer and critic (EUL MS 113/2)

There are several parts to Rowse's famous 'diary', and they are formed of numbered volumes, dating from the 1920s to 1990s.The papers of A.L. Rowse also include engagement diaries and dream diaries.

Community diaries of Syon Abbey, a community of Bridgettine nuns (EUL MS 389/ADM/5)

The Syon Abbey archive contains 100 diaries that were kept by the community between 1890 and 2004. They record daily life at Syon Abbey and include entries relating to the sisters, worship, the estate, special events, current affairs, visitors to the Abbey, and the weather. The diaries are available to search at item level on the archives catalogue.

 

Syon Abbey archive

Syon Abbey was a monastery of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour, also known as the Bridgettine Order, which was founded in 1415 in Twickenham. The enclosed community – governed by an abbess and comprising both nuns and monks - was renowned for its     dedication to reading and contemplation. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Syon community spent over half a century migrating through the Low Countries and France, before eventually settling in Lisbon, Portugal in 1594. In 1861, the sisters (the last brother having died in 1695) returned to England. The community spent its final century living in Devon, first in Chudleigh and then in South Brent. Syon Abbey closed in 2011.

The Syon Abbey Archive, now in the care of the University of Exeter Special Collections, is a rich resource for research, especially for anyone interested in the history and lives of women religious, ecclesiastical history, or women’s studies. The archive comprises a wide range of material dating from 1467 to 2018, which relates to members of the community, spirituality, management of the abbey, history, and external relations.

The Syon Abbey archive has great potential as a resource for a broad range of research interests. Listed below are some possible areas of research, but if you have a particular topic in mind, please contact Special Collections at libspc@exeter.ac.uk to chat about whether this collection would be useful for your research.

  • Women's history - The archive provides an opportunity to explore six centuries of women who entered religious life at Syon Abbey, including records about their daily life, worship, decision-making, relationships, leisure activities, and management of the Abbey.
  • Daily life in a modern religious community - A variety of materials - including community diaries, correspondence, photographs, minute books, customs books, creative works, and personal papers - can be used to gain insight into day-to-day life at Syon Abbey in the 19th and 20th century.
  • Social networks – The large amount of correspondence in the archive offers an opportunity to explore the community’s extensive national and international networks with laypeople, other religious communities, members of the clergy, and ecclesiastical authorities.
  • Place and identity – The community had to relocate more than ten times after leaving its medieval abbey, and it can be argued that these 'wanderings' during its period in exile significantly shaped the community’s sense of identity. The forging of this identity can be explored in early modern papers in the archive, as well as through the community's own research into its history.
  • Women's readership - Research in the Syon Abbey archive can be be complimented and combined with research into the Syon Abbey Medieval and Modern Manuscript Collection and Syon Abbey Library Collection, also held at Special Collections. Many of the manuscripts and books are inscribed with the names of those who wrote or read them, and the archive can be consulted to discover the nuns behind the names, providing greater insight into women's readership.
  • Family history - If you have a relative who entered Syon Abbey, the archive may be able to shed further light on their life. The archive includes the vows of sisters dating from 1607 to 2010, as well as admission papers, vows, wills and death certificates of sisters who entered Syon Abbey between the mid-nineteenth and twentieth century. 

You can now search the archive in our online archives catalogue, or find out more about the Syon Abbey archive and manuscripts in our project blog.

Middle East Collections

The University of Exeter is fortunate to hold substantial collections relating to the Middle East. The archives are particularly strong in the area of the Persian Gulf, with notable collections including the papers of Sir William Luce (1907-77), British Governor of Aden (1956-60), Political Resident in the Gulf (1961-66) and Special Representative for Gulf Affairs (overseeing Britain’s withdrawal from the region) from 1970-72;  Sir Charles Belgrave (1894-1969), Advisor to the Rulers of Bahrain from 1926-57; the working papers of journalist Jonathan Crusoe (1953-91) relating to Iraq and Kuwait, and a small selection of documents and photographs belonging to diplomat Sir John Wilton (born 1921) relating to Qatar and Kuwait.

Material specific to Oman includes the personal papers and photographs of John Shebbeare (1919-2004), British advisor to the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, and the extensive collection of research papers and Omani manuscripts of John Craven Wilkinson.

Other highlights include the research papers of Egyptian scholar Nazih Ayubi (1944-95), the papers of journalist and Middle Eastern specialist Michael Adams (born 1920), copies of the papers of  Richard Howard Stafford Crossman (1907-1974) on Palestine in the late 1940s, material – including recorded interviews – relating to Professor Abdullah al-Fattah Muhammad El-Awaisi’s thesis on the Muslim Brotherhood, the personal diaries of Admiral G.H.P. White (1819-38), the papers of British diplomat and academic Sir John Richmond (1909-90) relating to the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, a large collection of copies of political documents, papers of Henry Michael Barker relating to his family’s centuries-old involvement in Egyptian commerce, plus correspondence and reports relating to the political activities of brothers Nabih Al-Azmah (1886-1972) & Adil Al-Azmah (1888-1952) and the Kurdish research papers of Omar Sheikhmous.

The Middle East material held in our archives can provide historical and political insights into a region that remains of crucial significance to international affairs, global economic development and world peace. As the source of most of the world's petroleum, the location of the birth of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths and a perennial flashpoint for religious, ethnic and political tensions, the Middle East continues to demand compelling scholarly interest across almost every field and discipline. The diversity of our archival collections could support a wide range of research projects, particularly if such research is pursued across different archives along either thematic or geographical lines. 

  • Relations between the Middle East and the West. The recent murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi has drawn worldwide attention not only to the conduct of the House of Saud but also to the reasons for the long-standing support offered to the Saudi regime by America and the UK. The ability to analyse contemporary political events and policies relies upon an understanding of the complex array of alliances, oppositions, armed conflicts and economic collaborations that have taken place during the last two centuries and beyond, and our archival collections contain a great deal of material on British involvement in the region, from Charles Belgrave's activities as 'Adviser' to the Sheikhs of Bahrain to John Richmond's diplomatic work in Kuwait and Sudan, as well as Sir William Luce's role overseeing the withdrawal of British forces from the Persian Gulf in the early 1970s and his efforts to balance regional stability with the maintenance of Britain's interests and influence. The personal nature of these archives present opportunities for researchers to obtain candid and unexpurgated opinions on key events and personalities. What is the relationship between British perceptions of Iran in the 1930s and current support for Iran's political opponents? How much of the contemporary geopolitical map of the region has been determined by Western activities in the Middle East, and what are the implications of this for the future? Material to answer these questions can be found not only in papers dealing directly with military intelligence, administration or diplomacy in the region itself, but also in the wealth of academic writings, conferences and groups such as the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) or Arab-British Chamber of Commerce through which such relations continue to be promoted.

  • Energy, Resources and Development. The discovery of oil in the Persian Gulf in the 1930s transformed not only the Middle East itself but also Western policy in the region. Charles Belgrave's diaries chronicle the dramatic changes in Bahrain's landscape, economy and culture as the oil industry developed, as well as the influx of Western visitors that descended upon the island in consequence. Although the development of Isa Town in Bahrain was undertaken after Belgrave's departure, there are several items on the construction of this desert town in the Luce collection. Comparisons could be made between Belgrave's relationships with the rulers of Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia and those of Sir William Luce two decades later, as the flourishing oil economies shifted the balance of political power as well as western attitudes towards Kuwait and Iraq. The papers of Jonathan Crusoe contain a wealth of material on the Iraqi oil industry in the 1980s up till the end of the Gulf War in 1991, as well as detailed information on other industrial, commercial and agricultural practices in the country. We also hold a substantial collection of working papers belonging to John Craven Wilkinson, who worked in the oil industry in the Middle East before devoting much of his later career to writing about Oman. 

  • The Kurds: independence and identity, isolation and integration. The Kurdish people are a large ethnic minority who live in an area - sometimes referred to as 'Kurdistan' - that spans the borders of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Armenia. They have their own culture, literature and language, with two main dialects - Sorani, which is written in Arabic, and Kurmanji, the dialect spoken in Turkey and written using the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. The Kurdish people have been victims of ethnic repression throughout the 20th century, facing forced assimilation in the countries where they live. We have a uniquely valuable resource for Kurdish studies in the papers of Omar Sheikhmous, a founding member of  the 'Patriotic Union of Kurdistan' (PUK) who has dedicated his life and career to political, academic and cultural activities on behalf of the Kurds. The collection includes pamphlets, press cuttings, conference papers, unpublished writings and original archival material relating to Kurdish political resistance movements. There is also a smaller collection of material in the Crusoe archive relating to the activities and welfare of Iraqi Kurds.

  • Pan-Arabism. While the papers of Charles Belgrave and William Luce reveal the extent of British fears about the growth of the Pan-Arab movement - an ideology that espouses cultural and political unity for all Arabs under the banner of a single Arab nation - and the Crusoe collection contains valuable documentation on the history of the Ba'ath party and the Pan-Arabism of Saddam Hussein, researchers seeking to study the Pan-Arab movement should read this material in conjunction with that held in the archives of Nazih Ayubi, Nabih Al-Azmah and Adil Al-Azmah. Their involvement in the politics of Syria, Egypt and other Arab countries is documented in reports, correspondence and other records, as well as research papers and draft publications.

Material from these collections can be located using our online archives catalogue, and more information on specific archives is periodically posted on our blog page.

Northcott Theatre Archive

The Northcott Theatre and Arts Centre was conceived of by G.V. Northcott after the demolition of Exeter’s Theatre Royal in 1962. The theatre opened with a production of The Merchant of Venice on 2nd November 1967. Early directors were known for fostering new writing talent and many famous actors performed there early in their careers. 

The Northcott Theatre archive comprises operational and production records spanning the period from its opening in 1967 to its threatened closure in 2010. These include administrative, legal and operational records, information on the technical management of theatre productions, promotional literature and press coverage. There is also a collection of photographic records of productions and actors, along with records of film productions from the earlier Theatre Royal in Exeter.

This collection is currently undergoing a cataloguing project. You can search the archive as the cataloguing progresses in our online archives catalogue, or follow the progress of the project in our project blog.

The Northcott Theatre Archive has great potential for interdisciplinary researchers, particularly touching on areas of history, drama, sociology and business. Some possible areas of interest to early career researchers are listed below, though the archive provides rich ground for many other areas of research.

  • Censorship in the Theatre - The first two years of the Northcott Theatre fell in the period before the abolition of the official censor. A small collection of scripts can be found in the collection bearing the Lord Chamberlain's licence, often contingent on specified corrections to the script to remove offensive phrases.Early show files also contain

  • Regional sensibilities in Theatre - As a small regional theatre the Northcott often faced push-back against new writers and productions that attempted to expand the boundaries of theatre. Correspondence, contracts and other materials show low take-up and canceled performances at touring venues as many small theatres self-censored productions that they felt did not fit their audiences regional sensibilities.

  • Set design and staging- The archive contains a large collection of set plans and designs for a wide range of productions, in addition to many annotated prompt books and some annotated scripts. Prompt books and show files may also contain small sketches, notes, contracts and other material related to staging and set design. These materials are a valuable resource to understand the vision behind different productions and the varying approaches that were taking by different directors to the same play.

  • Publicity and criticism - An expansive collection of posters, programmes and press cuttings forms the centre of the Northcott Theatre Archive. Differing approaches to the design of publicity material can be identified through the years, while albums of press cuttings show the changing representations of the Northcott Theatre in the press throughout it's lifetime and record critical opinion on many of its major productions.

South West Writers

This collection includes Causley's literary manuscripts, including working notebooks, manuscripts and typescripts;  extensive correspondence with many authors including Ted Hughes, Siegfried Sassoon and Jack Clemo; personal photographs and diaries including his time in the Royal Navy during WW2. 

Further information on the collection can be found on the archives catalogue.

This collection is the complete literary and personal archive of Jack Clemo. Included are all his manuscript notebooks and typescripts for prose work as well as poetry. The collection also includes personal letters, diaries, photographs, reviews, newscuttings and files of correspondence.

Further information can be found on the archives catalogue.

The du Maurier family have a fascinating history, with many of its members leading distinguished and well-documented careers. The collection includes several early manuscripts by Daphne du Maurier, including notebooks relating to 'Rebecca' and 'My Cousin Rachel'. Many of her later works are represented in either original typescript or proof. 

Further information on the collection can be found on the archives catalogue.

The William Golding collection consists of notebooks, manuscript and typescript drafts of Golding's novels up to 1989 including the original manuscript and typescript of Lord of the Flies. 
Further information on the collection can be found on the archives catalogue.

The Ted Hughes collections contain manuscripts relating to Cave Birds and Under the North Star and collaborative work with Leonard Baskin for the Gehenna Press, as well as correspondence with other South West writers. Further information can be found on the archives catalogue.

Ronald Duncan Collection

Ronald Duncan (1914-1982) was a productive West Country author whose literary career encompassed journalism, fiction, poetry, libretti, film scripts and plays. He is best known as the playwright of 'This Way to Tomb' (1946), poet of 'The Horse' (1964) and librettist of 'The Rape of Lucretia' (1946). He was also a farmer, horse breeder and pacifist who lived in Welcombe, Devon for most of his life.

Duncan left the legacy of a fascinating archive of literary and personal papers, The Ronald Duncan Collection, which was donated to Special Collections at the University of Exeter in 2016. This archive is the largest collection of Duncan documentation in existence and is a valuable resource for research on mid 1900's literary and artistic culture, the cultural heritage of the South West, the establishment of The Royal Court Theatre, literary and musical composition, modernist poetry, literary criticism and literary/artistic relationships.
This collection is currently undergoing a cataloguing project. You can search the archive as the cataloguing progresses in our online archives catalogue, or follow the progress of the project in our project blog.

Possible topics of research within the Duncan Collection are extremely wide ranging given the size and breadth of the collection. Some possible areas of interest to early career researchers are listed below, but if you have a particular topic in mind then contact Special Collections to chat about whether this collection would be suitable for your research.

  • Censorship in the Theatre - Many of Duncan's plays ran contrary to the popular morals of the time, particularly his play 'The Catalyst' about a menage a trois. Press cuttings, correspondence, programmes, scripts and other materials tell the fascinating story of this play, the performance of which was banned by the Lord Chamberlain's Office for 6 years.

  • Literary, Musical and Artistic Circle's of the 1930s-1980s - The list of Duncan's friends and collaborators reads like a who's who of literary, musical and artistic scene of the day. Diary entries from Duncan and his wife, correspondence, draft manuscripts, photographs, press cuttings and other materials show the changing relationships of these circles, providing new viewpoints on many famous figures and giving tantalizing glimpses of the possible collaborations that could have been.

  • The Place of Science in the Arts - Somewhat of a polymath, Ronald Duncan began an epic poem 'Man' in 1961, spending years researching and writing this ambitious work which charted the evolution of human consciousness through five volumes (published 1970-1974). Duncan also co-authored a popular collection of essays from famous scientists, titled 'The Encyclopaedia of Ignorance'. Correspondence, manuscript drafts, research materials, press cuttings and many other materials show a fascinating glimpse of the notable scientists and scientific theories of the day; including a particularly amusing letter from Stephen Hawking, sadly declining to write and essay for the Encyclopaedia.

  • Pacifism - Duncan became interested in Pacifism at University, working in a mine near Chesterfield and later writing a pamphlet for the Peace Pledge Union which prompted an invitation to stay with Mahatma Gandhi in his Wardha ashram in 1937. During the Second World War Duncan set up a community farm at Gooseham in Welcombe, Devon. Diary entries, correspondence, published works, photographs and other materials shed light Duncan's pacifist politics and on the war years in Devon. 

Gale and Morant family papers relating to Jamaican slave plantations

The Gale and the Morant families came to Jamaica separately in the seventeenth century soon after the island was seized in 1655. Major John Gale (1637-1689) was buried there, as was John Morant who died in 1683. Various marriages linked their families, as they both acquired plantations, large estates, and great wealth. In 1754, John Morant owned 4,631 acres in Clarendon and 3,582 acres in Vere. Five members of the Gale family owned more than 6,000 acres of the island.

In 1759, John Morant's great-grandson Edward (d 1791) moved to England from Jamaica, where the family had built up extensive estates. He bought the Brockenhurst estate in Hampshire in 1770, and his eldest son John Morant (d 1794) purchased the Manor of Ringwood from Henry 8th Lord Arundell in 1794. The Jamaican estates were handed down to subsequent generations of the family. Edward Gregory Morant (1772-1855) inherited his uncle William Gale's estates in Jamaica. Death duties on the death of a later Edward Morant in 1910 forced the family to sell the Ringwood properties in 1916. Many of the Brockenhurst estates were sold in 1951 and 1959.

The collection includes the correspondence, accounts and other papers of the eighteenth century generations of the family. By far the bulk of the correspondence concerns the business affairs of William Gale (d 1784) who married Elizabeth Morant (d 1759). The accounts are of particular interest for the light they shed on slavery and the life and work of Jamaican sugar estates.

 

Papers in this collection, such as accounts, are an invaluable resource for research into slavery and the life and work of Jamaican sugar estates. For example, the list of 388 slaves for the York estate in 1820 noted each slave's name, age, country of origin, occupation, physical condition and value. Plantation account books show items such as purchases of food, clothing and other items for the slaves, and payments to doctors for medicines and attendance on slaves and white bookkeepers and overseers. These kinds of papers have particular potential for research in cultural geography and area studies, history and medical humanities.

This collection is available to search via our archive catalogue using the reference numbers: EUL MS 44 and EUL MS 44 add.1. A small selection of these papers have been digitised and are available here.

Common Ground archive

Common Ground is an arts and environmental charity, which was founded in the UK in 1982. From the beginning, Common Ground's two main objectives have been: 'to promote the importance of our common cultural heritage - common plants and animals, familiar and local places, local distinctiveness and our links with the past; and to explore the emotional and spiritual value these things have for us by forging practical and philosophical links between the arts and the conservation of nature and landscapes' ('Holding Your Ground: An Action Guide to Local Conservation', 1985).

Common Ground has pioneered many innovative projects to raise awareness of environmental issues through the organisation of cultural activities. These projects have sought to celebrate the relationship between people and everyday places, as well as to empower people to care for their local environment.  Common Ground often collaborated with writers, poets, artists, sculptors, photographers and composers. Many of the projects - in particular, 'Parish Maps', the 'Campaign for Local Distinctiveness' and 'Apple Day' - have proven to be highly sustainable, and their impact has continued long after Common Ground's active involvement in them ceased. The output from the projects has included publications, artistic commissions, exhibitions and events.

The Common Ground archive comprises a range of material created and collected by the charity in the course of its activities between 1982 and 2013. It includes: correspondence, notes, financial papers, reports, press clippings, research material, photographs, audio recordings, sheet music, publications, and promotional material. Material in the archive is mainly organised into sections according to project, reflecting its original order and use by the team at Common Ground. The projects are: 'Second Nature', 'Holding your Ground', 'New Milestones', 'Trees, Woods and the Green Man', 'Parish Maps', 'Orchards' including 'Save Our Orchards' and 'Community Orchards', 'Flora Britannica', 'Apple Day', 'The Campaign for Local Distinctiveness', 'Gardening and Local Distinctiveness', 'Field Days', 'Rhynes, Rivers and Running Brooks', 'Confluence', 'England in Particular', and 'Producing the Goods'.

The Common Ground archive has rich potential for interdisciplinary research on a wide range of areas, including geography, literature, the visual arts, and business studies. Some possible areas of research are listed below.

  • Environmental issues in the UK - Research material relating to a range of environmental issues - including the climate emergency, pollution, deforestation, flooding, droughts, natural disasters, the use of pesticides, and habitat loss - can be found within the archive. The archive also includes a variety of responses to these issues such as ideas for and examples of local conservation, as well as reports, policies and strategies by the British Government and environmental organisations. 
  • Project planning - The archive contains project planning papers for each of its projects, from the early 1980s to 2013. This material includes planning notes, project proposals, grant applications, meeting minutes, correspondence, and project reports. These records can be used to understand how arts and environmental are planned and organised, as well as provide insight into Common Ground's practices in particular.
  • Sustainability - Common Ground has pioneered several projects that were designed to be sustainable and encourage long-term local action without extra support from the charity, in particular, the ‘Parish Maps' project and ‘Apple Day’ The success of the sustainability of Common Ground projects can be researched through reports, correspondence, and press clippings in the archive.
  • Relationship between nature and culture - Common Ground believes that the combination of nature and culture makes each place unique, and this forms the basis of its work to stimulate public interest and enthusiasm for the commonplace in our localities. Research into archive material relating to the different projects can shed light on how Common Ground explored the links between nature and culture, especially through its commissioning of artwork, prose, music, and poetry, and organisation of cultural events.
  • Sense of place -  Sense of place has been explored by Common Ground through the concept of 'Local Distinctiveness', a term developed by the charity in the early 1980s to examine the relationship between places, people, nature and identity. Correspondence, notes, essays and promotional material relating to the 'Campaign for Local Distinctiveness' can provide more insight into the development of this concept.
  • British culture and landscape - In its mission to raise awareness of what makes our everyday places distinctive and unique, Common Ground collected a vast amount of research material on British landscapes, wildlife, buildings, art, music, literature, customs, history, heritage, and folklore. Research material, promotional material, correspondence and more in the archive, which was arranged by Common Ground alphabetically by subject, can be used to research contemporary Britain.

This Common Ground archive is currently in the process of being catalogued. You can search the archive in our online archives catalogue as the project progresses, or find out more about the archive and the cataloguing project in our project blog.

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