Photograph of the new wing of Churchill Archives Centre as it neared completion. Photograph supplied by TCC Architects.
On 30 October 2002 Baroness Thatcher was guest of honour at Churchill College for the opening of the new wing of the Churchill Archives Centre. She performed the ceremony in the presence of a large gathering, which included patrons, friends and supporters of the Archives Centre drawn from the worlds of politics, industry, the services and academia.
The Churchill Archives Centre was purpose-built in 1973 to house Sir Winston Churchill's Papers: some 2500 boxes of letters and documents ranging from his first childhood letters, via his great war-time speeches, to the writings which earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The Churchill Papers, though, served as the inspiration for a larger endeavour - the creation of a wide-ranging archive of the Churchill era and after, covering those fields of public life in which Sir Winston played a personal role or took a personal interest. Today the Centre holds the papers of some 570 important figures and the number is still increasing.
The Archives Centre has been a victim of its own success in attracting important new collections of papers. The arrival in recent years of high profile and large accessions, such as the papers of Baroness Thatcher herself, Neil Kinnock and Sir Frank Whittle quickly filled the existing strongroom areas.
A site adjacent to the current strongroom was identified as suitable for a four-storey extension which would provide additional storage capacity to enable the Centre to continue collecting papers. Sir John Boyd, Master of Churchill College, launched a multi-million pound appeal in 1998 to fund the costs of constructing this new wing and to provide for its permanent endowment.
From the outset Baroness Thatcher gave the appeal her full support and the Centre is grateful for her very generous assistance to the project. Her name and the names of other donors are recorded in perpetuity on a band of carved stone running along the length of the new wing.
The new wing adds over 4,600 linear metres of mobile shelving (provided by Thistle) with the capacity to store around 45,000 archive boxes, linked by an internal lift and stairwell. The whole building has been designed to comply with British Standard BS5454 and the latest guidelines of the Historical Manuscripts Commission. We are deeply grateful to the HMC for all the advice they have given over the last three years. They have made a major contribution in securing a final design which has not only delivered a building which meets our specifications, but also one that fits in well aesthetically with adjacent College buildings. Professional colleagues based in a number of other modern record office buildings were also very generous with their time and advice.
Environmental conditions within the new wing are controlled by a full air conditioning system which is already delivering stable temperature and humidity levels. The construction of the building, which started in August 2001, benefits from "dry" construction techniques which have already helped to make the building fit for the introduction of archival materials.
The exterior of the building, including all glazing, is at minimum two-hour fire resistant, although many areas have four-hour resistance. There is also an advanced fire detection system linked to an Inergen gas fire suppression system, while the whole building is covered by 24 hour security protection.
Photographs of the refurbished reading room supplied by Roger Lloyd.
During refurbishment of the Archives Centre's Reading Rooms, all the books in the Roskill library were taken off their shelves and laid out in sequence in the Jock Colville Hall.
|A passenger lift has been installed linking the Centre's entrance to
the main reading rooms on the first floor. This provides disabled access
to the Centre and also facilitates easier transportation of archives from
the strongroom areas to the Conservation Workshop.
Further refurbishment took place in the public Reading Rooms in August 2002 with new carpets, bookshelves and new furniture. Each reader space now has a power point for plugging in a laptop computer and increased space to lay out archival material.
Behind the scenes the Centre's existing strongroom now benefits from upgraded fire detection and suppression systems, security and air conditioning systems. The Conservation Workshop has also been refurbished. Specially designed furniture and equipment units, provided by Magpie, have been installed, with the layout redesigned to reflect best working practices.
The completion of the new wing allows us to continue collecting important archive collections and develop further our cultural and educational mission in the 21st century. In the past few years the Centre has completed its electronic catalogue of the papers of Sir Winston Churchill and launched a pilot internet version of the catalogue. We have also overseen a major exhibition programme of the Churchill Papers, with major displays in Cambridge, Edinburgh, London and Manchester, while we have also taken a major exhibition to the United States.
The Centre's future direction is already being mapped out with the recent appointment of Allen Packwood as the Centre's first full-time professional Director. Staff have embarked on a five-year cataloguing, conservation and access project which will co-ordinate the cataloguing of our unlisted collections and make available more collection level and catalogue data online.